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This is remarkable.

Concert tickets are also being bought this way by bots for scalpers.

Ebay sniper bots are commonly used.

High Frequency trading is the high end this.

Perhaps it is unavoidable, perhaps other means for selling things online should be sought out, text messages with semantic replies required or something?

This is why we can't have nice things.

On the topic of scalpers, Louis CK apparently hired [0] scalpers to help build some anti-scalper checks (I assume it is similar to fraud detection rules: multiple purchases from the same IP, out of town billing addresses) that runs on his website where he now sells all of his tickets. If you get flagged by a rule, the ticket goes to will-call, so you have to show ID and the credit card at the event. That small step to prevent it significantly reduces the resale value for a scalper who can't attend the event.

Here's the interesting part: It worked! Roughly 25% of all tickets for major shows fall into the hands of scalpers. On Louis CK's last tour, of all 125k+ tickets he sold, than than 1% were scalped. [1]

What's really terrible about the whole scalping business is that it would be solved, but only by the people who care least: The venue has a perverse incentive allowing scalpers to buy every last ticket they can get their greedy little hands on. As long as a ticket gets sold, they don't care. Screw the fans.

Possibly NSFW language in these links. [0] http://www.wbur.org/npr/162514765/louis-c-k [1] http://boingboing.net/2012/07/06/louis-cks-direct-sales-conc...

> The venue has a perverse incentive allowing scalpers to buy every last ticket they can get their greedy little hands on. As long as a ticket gets sold, they don't care. Screw the fans.

Everything I've seen trying to explain the scalping phenomenon appeals to the idea that this is completely backwards from true. Specifically, the theory is that the venue's incentive is to fill seats, which is why tickets are so dramatically underpriced (price too low -> shortage of seats -> all seats get filled -> the act appears to be popular). From the venue's perspective, a seat sold to a scalper is a seat they lose money on and that might not be filled during the performance (since the scalper's incentive is to charge a realistic price), which is a double loss to the venue.

In sum, selling tickets to scalpers gets the venues an amount of money they don't want (they were guaranteed to sell out anyway), in order to generate an effect they don't want (some seats will be empty during the performance). Where's the perverse incentive?

Exactly, Scalpers are just buying "seat futures". If venues are selling these future contracts so low that they yield absurd profits, don't blame the scalpers...

I really don't get the outrage against scalpers. They're just buying commodity futures, taking a bet on the future value of the tickets. If the value goes up, they make a profit, if the band suddenly become unpopular or whatever they lose.

We're in a capitalist system, the price you pay the scalpers is the "real" price of the concert: it's the law of supply-and-demand.

Now, if scalpers win every time, this is an issue with the original ticket sellers, not the scalpers!

If Shell started selling petrol at half standard price and some guy comes round to fill up a tank and then sell it to people at 95% standard price, that's Shell's mistake, not evil behaviour on his part.

To the average fan, the comparison between a ticket to see Act X on a specific date in their town is nowhere near the same as pork bellies or orange juice. They're called 'commodities' because they're interchangeable. Tickets are extremely specific to a single date and location and act.

Good point, I guess tickets would be "infungible commodities"... But the fact that you can take market bets on them doesn't change

The outrage at scalpers relates to how people feel what something is 'worth' against what you pay for it.

The existence of scalpers is curious. Artists could get the money they do. There are reasons why they still exist, one of them being that artists use scalpers to get cash in hand.

There is a really good episode of Planet Money that looks at why there are scalpers, how they work and what can be done by artists if they don't want them to make money:


They are creating monopolies (cartels) and creating artificial demand by cornering the market. Things most capitalist systems regulate/limit.

They are speculators. People have instinctive dislike for speculators as they produce nothing and in scalpers case provide no benefit (such as liquidity) to society.

Scalpers do provide a benefit though: If you have more money than time, scalpers enable you to easily buy the best tickets, those which would probably have been sold out within a few hours if everyone could buy them at the artificially low prices set by the venue.

Speculation is just another word for betting, I don't think that's an inherently bad thing.

That's why I stopped buying things via auctions and stick only to "buy now" solutions. Sniper bots combined with friends bumping up prices on auctions means that a typical auction is a waste of money (price bumped up) and time (you can't win with 10 sniper bots aiming for the very millisecond the auction ends).

Yeah, playfield got leveled because now everybody and their dog can use snipers (hey, where's the reward for technical competence?). So the "game" looks similar to before automation, but is more complicated. A positive feedback loop of increasing complexity if you like. For me, "the only winning move is not to play". </rant>

>Sniper bots combined with friends bumping up prices on auctions means that a typical auction is a waste of money

This doesn't make sense, really. You enter the price you're willing to pay in an auction; what everyone else bids is irrelevant to you.

If you are getting outbid, it's because someone is willing to spend more money on the item, bot or not. Don't bid low trying to get a deal. Bid what you are willing to pay, and it works every time. It's a very efficient system.

If I wanted to I could just as well buy the item in a shop. The entire point of an auction is to get a good deal.

I hate auctions now, too. Instead I just shop around for the best deal.

Agreed. My bigger problem with auctions is that you can rarely get a deal that's worth the added risk.

The "solution" to sniping is only in eBay's hands; either sealed-bid auctions (which they effectively are today) or a policy of extending the auction one hour past the last bid.

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