Sadly, we are experiencing a time of painful inflation, a cyclical phenomenon. As in the past, we can apply the adage “… and that too shall come to pass.” But we are also seeing price gouging, not something unique to current conditions. As recently noted in newspaper reports, price gouging has affected sports and entertainment, with ticket prices reaching extreme highs.
A little history: Nine years ago, a true sports hero, Derek Jeter, retired. As holder of a Yankees partial season ticket, I knew I was going to be in attendance at his last home game. I have great upper deck seats, averaging $35 a game. The fans sitting to either side were not season ticket holders and purchased their seats on the resale market for over $600 per seat. Such is the life of online legal ticket scalping.
Fast forward to 2023: We live in an age of computer automation for the ticket business. There’s a buying race between us, the fans, and high-speed computer “bots,” automated programs that launch as soon as tickets for an event go on sale. We lose! As recently reported, this is likely what occurred for those seeking tickets to the James Taylor concert at Tanglewood, no different from last summer with Taylor Swift events. Once purchased, the tickets are listed on the resale market for as much as 1,000 percent of face value.
In 2016, Congress enacted the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, which established high penalties for companies engaging in the practice (this act does not regulate individual ticket holders from demanding high prices). So why is this still an issue? While some companies have faced the music and been penalized, most of the current violations originate online by unreachable foreign parties: organized international crime.
Online ticket vendors are constantly improving security to prevent criminal actions, but it has become something of a carnival “whack-a-mole” game. Given the high stakes, the bad guys are always changing tactics. Part of the problem lies in the way the ticketing system operates. A 2016 study by the New York Attorney General’s Office found that over 50 percent of tickets to events are not made available to the public; they are reserved for insiders or special groups based on credit card use or other criteria. This means that a venue with about 6,000 seats might only have 3,000 available to the public.
As a ticket buyer, there are some basic considerations before making the purchase. The first is value: Is the ticket worth the asking price? Ticket prices on the secondary market are driven by supply and demand, so lower demand results in lower prices. Next, reputation: Stick with reputable firms. True, you might pay a higher ticket price, but that comes with some guarantees and customer service. Beware of tickets or “deals" from unknown website vendors, on social media, and particularly offers on Craigslist and eBay. The scammers get to work when demand is high and legitimate websites sell out. Some disreputable online vendors are known to double-sell tickets, providing one customer with physical tickets and another with online tickets.
In other situations, tickets are never sent to buyers. In summary: 1) Try making ticket purchases directly from the venue; 2) Be cautious using a lesser known ticker vendor. Check it out with the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) or the National Association of Ticket Brokers (verifiedticketsource.com); 3) Validate the website. Scammers are adept at creating fake websites. Make sure you are connected to a legitimate site; 4) Know the refund policy; 5) Pay by credit card, never gift card, money wire, Venmo, Zelle or crypto currency. Credit cards have built in protections against fraudulent activities.
Report the incident if you are a victim of ticket fraud or feel the vendor has violated the law: Federal Trade Commission, ftc.gov or regional office, 877-382-4357; Massachusetts Attorney General, mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources, 617-727-8400; New Hampshire Consumer Fraud Protection, doj.NH.gov/consumer; New York, dos.ny.gov/consumer-protection, 800-697-1220; Vermont, ago.vermont.gov/cap, 800-649-2424.