Monday, February 16, 2015

Red Maryland, Regulation, and Ticket Resales

So the "Conservatives" over at "Red" Maryland have come out in favor of a new bill requiring that all tickets sold for public events be on a general-issue basis, that is, they cannot be restricted to any one person, purchaser or otherwise. As Brian Griffiths, the author of the piece, is a well-known of Baltimore sports, this is just another example of Red Maryland's penchant for self-dealing.

Under what is known as the "First Sale Doctrine", a seller of a product restrict the resale of a product, so if someone buys a book, car or toaster, they can sell it to anyone else without restriction. But when someone buys a ticket, they aren't buying the ticket itself - instead they are buying access to an event. (But if anyone is interested in paying hundred of dollars for fancy strips of paper, I can make you some.)

Ticket sales are simply a means to control access to events to a paying audience only. Venue owners and their agents have this right enforced by trespass law. If owners or agents want to restrict access to only the people who directly purchase tickets, that's their option. But they don't.

The only reason that they require a show of ID, credit cards or otherwise, is to eliminate ticket scalpers. Ticket scalpers, for those fortunate to not know, purchase tickets in bulk from the venue holder, hold them until the event, and sell them at vastly inflated prices to people who were unable to purchase them. But that's the intentional result of scalping - buying up the tickets to prevent people from buying them in order to just turn around and sell them back to the people they prevented from buying them in the first place.

Venue operators don't like it for several reasons; their customers either start the event feeling ripped off and in a foul mood or don't go because they couldn't get tickets and didn't want to gamble in hopes of scalped tickets, empty seats and lost concessions from tickets that go un-resold, and frustrated fans that feel they couldn't get tickets because resellers bought them all. Anyone would be annoyed if they opened an event to a large number of empty seats but fans who couldn't get in because the event was "sold out" (to scalpers).

SB 700 would make every measure designed to counter scalpers illegal. This is a bill with unintended consequences clearly know in advance. It outlaws a free-market solution to a difficult, long-standing problem. This bill is exactly the kind of harmful, top-down, heavy-handed approach that actual Conservatives object to. But "Red" Maryland supports the bill that would benefit one of their own.

So the first bill that "Red" Maryland endorses on their website is a heavy-handed, centralized plan governing all entertainment ticket sales, a bill that is pro-scalping and in direct contradiction to standard market practice, including for airlines and other non-entertainment sales.The only benefit will be to people like Brian Griffiths, in that he'll be able to resell the tickets he can't use more easily.

And in a special irony, they tagged their endorsement under the category "Free Market".

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