…on Ticket Touts (and other leeches)

leech |liːtʃ| noun
1 an aquatic or terrestrial annelid worm with suckers at both ends. Many species are bloodsucking parasites, esp. of vertebrates, and others are predators.
2 a person who extorts profit from or sponges on others : “they are leeches feeding off the hardworking majority.”

Kylie Minogue is on tour in the UK again next year. Her tickets go on sale to the General Public in 24 hours time, although fans have been able to buy through her website for a couple of days, and more general tickets went on sale to O2 customers 24 hours ago for the O2 Arena gigs. But yes, General Public doesn’t get access to the tickets until tomorrow morning (if there are any left to sell by that point). So in theory, all the current ticket sales would be to dedicated fans.
So why is it that as I write this, 24 hours before the tickets go on general sale, there is a site for touts and associated leeches which has upon it 875 (I counted) tickets for that exact gig already for sale? How can 875 tickets have been accidentally bought by fans who subsequently (i.e. within a couple of days at the most) discovered they didn’t need those tickets after all? I mean, we are not talking the odd individual tickets here – one individual is selling TEN tickets in a block via that site! You can’t accidentally buy 10 too many tickets (especially as one is only supposedly able to buy a maximum of 6 per cardholder / address).

Of course, those 875 tickets are not being sold by fans who’ve had a mate drop out unexpectedly.
No, they are being sold by unpleasant leeches who make a lot of money by snapping up tickets en masse, and then flogging them again at inflated prices to those unlucky enough not to have been able to get through to the official box office when they went on sale (in many cases, not being able to get through precisely because of these leeches).

Taking this individual concert as an example. Tickets were priced at £65 and £85 (the vast majority at the lower price). Yet the leeches are currently demanding prices ranging from £94.05 to £1,979.40 per ticket. Yes, some nasty piece of work is asking a few quid short of two GRAND for a ticket which cost them £85 (actually, they have 2 which they are trying to sell at that price). OK, the site itself takes 10% commission, so in that example if they sell the poor leech will only make just over £1,700 profit per ticket – that’s over 20x mark-up! And they call banks crooks?!

This blatant extortion by these leeches isn’t limited to just Kylie’s tickets of course, this is just one example – pretty much any big name gig will attract that sort of unpleasant action. They are just a bunch of people screwing money out of fans with not even the pretence of offering some sort of service in exchange. They are contemptible. Freeloaders. Leeches.

So what to do about them?

Given these are all tickets paid for on credit or debit cards, the solution is obvious. When turning up at a gig, the card-holder must be one of the ticket-holders and must present their card (or other suitable ID) to prove they bought the tickets; in addition, all of the ticket-holders bought via that one transaction must present themselves together as a group to gain entrance to the venue – if you are not with the card-holder, you don’t get in.
Pretty simple to do, and prevents the leeches from reselling their tickets (unless they are also going to the event, of course, but it does make it rather harder for them to organise things).
It would mean queues would be a little longer getting in to the venue, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility to accommodate this, especially in larger venues where the outer doors can be opened earlier, letting people wander round outside of the actual arena itself (and thus giving them more opportunity to spend money on Merchandise and over-priced dodgy burgers).
Indeed, one could make it a requirement that instead of presenting the tickets, one presents one’s card to gain entry – a simple swipe and you are done (there are venues who already scan the tickets, so it’s not a major leap).

What about the genuine cases of people buying tickets and then finding that their friend drops out or is ill or bought tickets at the same time due to confusion over who was buying (I can understand those happening – all three I’ve experienced over the years).
Here is where the venues and promotors need to do a little bit of work.
Currently the general rule is once sold, the tickets are yours and no refunds (unless the event is cancelled). Mind you, many also say you are not allowed to resell your tickets, but they don’t do anything about that…
Instead of this policy, what could work is that people who want to buy tickets buy them; once all tickets are sold,. people can place their names on a waiting-list. Then, if someone discovers they have too many tickets, they can contact the box-office and if there are people on the waiting list, they may return their tickets for a refund and the tickets are resold to the next one the list. A far simpler, safer and less exploitative way of doing this. Cuts out the leeches and their massive profits-for-doing-nothing.
There is the risk that a gig might not be sold out and thus there is no-one on the waiting list when you find you need to return a ticket or two and are thus unable to get your money back, of course. But you know what? If the gig isn’t sold out, you’re unlikely to be able to offload your tickets anyway so you lose nothing!
This way, more genuine fans get to see the gigs they want; people can have an official authorised route to return excess tickets if they find themselves in that position; and the leeches and other lowlife have to find another way to make their money instead of ripping off the fans.
Win-win all round!

Now all that’s needed is for promotors and venues to actually do something like this.
Which is where the flaw lies – there’s nothing in it for them,alas. Sure, the genuine fans would be very grateful, but until such time as a promotor actually cares about the fans we’re stuck.

Still, on the bright side for me, I got my Kylie tickets (through Kylie’s website the day they went on sale), so I’ll be there, as close to the front as I can get! I just hope that those around me didn’t end up having to pay the leeches in order to get there.