COLUMN: In defense of the ticket scalper
Not only was the limit unjust for reasons unrelated to the effects of ticket scalping, the arguments typically given against the practice rely on a fundamental misunderstanding about how it impacts event-goers.
It should be painfully obvious illegal ticket scalping — selling for more than $0.50 above face value — was a victimless crime. No person at any point of the process is aggressed upon or made to act against their own free will. In the first transaction, the original seller freely sells the tickets to the original purchaser. As soon as the ownership of the tickets passes to the soon-to-be scalper, he is free to do with them as he chooses.
He can go to the game himself, give the tickets to his friends, make them a prize for some contest or even flush them down the toilet in an episode of nihilistic abandon. The tickets belong to him, and he can use them or not use them as he sees fit.
The only situation in which the scalper wouldn’t retain the right to determine the tickets’ use is if the tickets were used in a coercive way — if I sold tickets to you after a game that already had passed, giving you the false impression that they were for a future game. This would be fraud and thus constitutes an act of coercion against you by skirting around earning your money via free transaction.
The point of the process by which the tickets are “scalped” — when they are sold by the first buyer to a second buyer — does not constitute such an act of coercion. No one forces the second buyer to buy the tickets nor is he misled about what he is buying. The first buyer values the money more than the tickets, and the second buyer values the goods in reverse. This constitutes a mutually beneficial trade.
Not only is the ticket-scalping process one that should be considered legal, it’s also one that should be considered moral by any rational standard. I might even go as far as to call the ticket scalper an unknowing hero.
Ticket scalpers provide a valuable service. After all, the fact someone is there to buy the tickets shows there’s someone who otherwise would not have been able to go to the game had it not been for the ticket scalper. By acquiring tickets to later sell, scalpers provide a service of allowing for last-minute purchases.
You might ask if those last-minute purchases a result of people like scalpers hoarding tickets once they go on sale. Indeed, ticket scalping can cause tickets to sell out quicker than they might otherwise, but it’s not as if the tickets are going to sit around doing nothing, permanently unattainable for anyone wanting to actually go to the game. Instead, they are made explicitly available for those unable to get them during the original sale.
Yes, scalped tickets typically also are sold at higher prices. But it hardly seems unfair for the scalper to charge for the service of keeping them available. Furthermore, higher prices can potentially help someone who values them much more than the original price to get them instead of someone who only valued them at the original price but is just quicker with his computer mouse.
Of course, the ticket scalper doesn’t perform any of these functions out of some civic duty or benevolent spirit — he's just trying to make money. Which is why ticket scalpers are unknowing heroes for the service they provide.
Perhaps they do exploit an opportunity, but they create a process that can in turn be exploited by others to acquire something that would otherwise be unattainable. They gain money, and those who want sold-out tickets get to see the game.
Jason Byas is a philosophy junior.