Monday, March 30, 2009

a few choice words on SCALPING

It's no secret among people who know me that I like the band, Phish. I came to like them during a very impressionable part of my life (early college), when they were still a bar band. The first time I saw them was at The Haunt in Ithaca, NY in 1990 (The Haunt was on Green Street back then). There couldn't have been more than 200 people there. Today, you can't see them with less than 20,000 people - and it has been incredible to follow them throughout the years and be a part of their growth.

I've always admired their taping policy, which basically allows fans to record shows and trade them for personal use (not for profit). Not many musicians allow this, and this has greatly contributed to their popularity - and the fact that they try to make each show a unique experience. On the same note, they have a "strict" policy on scalping tickets called "A FEW CHOICE WORDS ON SCALPING". It reads:
Phish Tickets has a zero tolerance for scalping and insists that all patrons of our service abide by our policy stated herein. Tickets made available through this site are intended only for fans who are actually planning on attending the shows requested. It is strictly prohibited to resell any tickets obtained through Phish Tickets for more than the purchase price. If you are found to be reselling, trading or brokering tickets that you purchased through our site for profit, Phish Tickets may at its discretion cancel your ticket order and all other pending orders in your name. This cancellation will result in a refund of the total price for the tickets minus a $7.00 per ticket processing fee and any shipping fees that have been incurred with respect to the order. We reserve the right to investigate all orders suspected to be in violation of this policy. (Source)
Before the proliferation of the Internet (and at the most basic level), this may have meant under cover cops posing as fans in the parking lot before a show trying to find someone who will sell them a ticket for over asking price. Today, they have to contend with over the asking price sales of tickets taking place on Craigslist, Ebay, StubHub (just to name a few) months before the event.

My latest experience in trying to obtain tickets the "right" way for the Summer 2009 Tour confirmed; Phish isn't doing nearly enough to prevent scalping. They can spin their wheels all day trying to take down individual ebay auctions or StubHub postings and cancelling people's orders for a mere $7 penalty - but being so reactive is a complete waste of time and barely makes a dent on the problem. Phish needs to find a way to sell tickets so that more people who actually intend on going to the show are the ones receiving the tickets.

I did everything right to get tickets to some summer tour shows:
  1. I ordered via pre-order and followed the rules. My order was for the number of tickets I actually needed. Result? DENIED.
  2. I waited to the exact second that tickets went on sale to the public and tried via phone AND internet to order. Result? DENIED.
I can go on about how both TicketMaster and LiveNation do not have sufficent web applications that can handle the demand of selling for a show that sells out in 5 mins (It was a HORRIBLE website sales experience full of errors). Phish should just completely eliminate allowing TicketMaster and LiveNation to sell tickets - b/c they clearly can't handle the load on their websites. I digress though...

So after being denied tickets by the legitimate avenues, I of course had no problem buying tickets for DOUBLE the face value on StubHub. There were hundreds of tickets available on StubHub for double and I had no problem ordering, but I could not not obtain a signle ticket through the legitimate channel - and I'm the target audience!!! (a fan doing everything right). What's wrong with this picture?

I sent Phish an email expressing my displeasure with their ticketing process (Here's someone else who did the same thing). This was their response:
Dear Fan,
We are aware that tickets to the Hampton shows are being resold on EBAY, StubHub,, etc. We went to great lengths to cancel any suspect or fraudulent ticket requests before the successful orders were selected.
Now that the ticket request period is over and the public on-sale has commenced, we cannot confirm the source of a given auction.

Please understand that the only way to eliminate scalping is to simply not cooperate with it.

Phish Ticketing Customer Service Dept
So this means, Phish, that you were basically reactive to the problem. You are just chipping away at the top of an iceberg. How about thinking of a proactive solution to prevent so many tickets going to scalpers to begin with? Check out how FIFA sells tickets for the World Cup. Eliminate TicketMaster, LiveNation, and the like.

Also, your advice that the "only way to eliminate scalping is to simply not cooperate with it" is noble. I have never sold a Phish ticket for more than the face value. But now that I am left without a ticket myself, does that mean I should BOYCOTT the shows? Does this mean I should just give up and not go? What if everyone did that? Then what you'd have, dear Phish, is a CANCELED TOUR because there would be tons of tickets on sale for double the price (or more) and no one going to the shows!

Scalping has become the backbone of the Phish ticket sales process! What is Phish going to do about it? (other than cancel people's orders, refund money, and penalize $7 - oohh big deal).

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