Pundit says online ticket scalping should be made legal

TOKYO —

In the jargon of the Japanese underworld, it’s common to reverse the syllables of words. For instance, take the term for “ticket scalper,” which is formed by taking the word “fuda” (meaning a ticket or token), reversing it to read “dafu,” and then adding -ya, a suffix used to indicate a person’s business or occupation.

Writing in Yukan Fuji (Dec 19), business critic Hajime Yamazaki points out that while this practice—such as hawking tickets outside of stadiums or theaters—is regarded as a public nuisance and prohibited by a variety of local ordinances, it is, in most cases, a “victimless” crime. After all, the buyers who purchase tickets at inflated prices want to gain entry to events badly enough that they are willing to meet the sellers’ prices.

The scalping problem has come under increased scrutiny of late because of the recent tour of Japan by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and planned tours next year by Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and other major stars.

The authorities’ justifications for legal controls against the scalpers are: 1) many practitioners either belong to underworld gangs or pay a cut of their revenues to the gangs in order to operate, so profits from sales go toward funding the activities of anti-social organizations; 2) they neither report their income nor pay taxes on it; 3) by buying up large numbers of tickets in advance, they can block legitimate fans from attending an event; and 4) their presence at events tends to detract from the atmosphere by making it look sleazy.

Enforcement of the laws banning scalping, points out Yamazaki, has been piecemeal. But if the police were to crack down to the degree that they eliminate the more obvious violations, it’s more likely this will only drive it underground. Greater risks assumed by sellers will demand greater profits, and this may lead to a situation not unlike the U.S. law prohibiting alcohol in the 1920s, which ultimately resulted in widespread corruption and enrichment of the mafia.

In Yamazaki’s view, the enabling of services to act as middlemen to conduct ticket sales, and to earn legal profits from such business, would not necessarily be a bad thing.

In recent years, scalpers have expanded their business to the Internet, leading to creation of the neologism “netto dafu-ya.” Yamazaki is of the opinion that the legal restraints on such operators should be dropped, allowing them to engage in secondary ticket sales, on which they will be obliged to pay taxes. (Naturally those who don’t pay would be treated as offenders.)

Another advantage would be that since sales via the net are far less labor-intensive, online businesses would be able to compete effectively against the men who loiter outside stadiums, theaters, etc, in terms of cost. And people who wish to attend an event would be able to secure purchase of tickets via the Internet, before leaving their homes, therefore enabling them to avoid the disappointment of going all the way to a venue only to learn that the tickets were sold out.

Allowing the Internet scalpers to operate legally would largely eliminate the problems of 1, 2 and 4 mentioned above. And as for 3) (blocking legitimate customers from attending an event), is this not a reflection on flaws in the current methods of ticket pricing and sales? Rather than fixing prices based merely on the grade of seats, it might make more sense for promoters to engage in sales by auction, by which the best seats in the house would naturally sell at higher prices. In Yamazaki’s view, by diversifying ticket sales between the conventional box office, legalized secondary sales and auctioning, a more practical means of balancing supply with demand could be realized.

  • 1

    kaynide

    If this is such a problem the solution would be quite simple really... do it like airplanes do- require ID on purchase and ID on entry.. in the event of a cancellation (eg getting sick), allow refunds and allow the vendor to resell the ticket.

    Will never happen though because A) This would require meetings/review for a few decades and B) somebody in the system is probably getting a cut.

  • 1

    Pandabelle

    There's already semi-legitimate scalping on the net - look at the auction sites for tickets. Sure, they obscure the seat numbers but otherwise it's a straight transaction. It's the only way to get certain popular tickets.

  • -1

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Once in Osaka I wanted to get in the sumo arena on the last day of a tournament, and there was a guy outside the entrance who had 2 tickets for sale at what appeared to be a reasonable markup. Of course, he might have just been someone who got his hands on some tickets and wanted to convert them to cash -- there's no way of knowing. He was polite and I can't say with any confidence that he looked like a Yakuza, but being in Osaka, about every fifth man on the street looks like one, even though most aren't. Anyway that was my sole experience with a "dafu-ya" in Japan.

  • 0

    zootmoney

    Wouldn't legalizing scalping lead to even fewer chances for less well-off fans of very popular acts to grab a ticket? I can imagine a lot more punch perms at the head of every one of those ticket lines.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    Ticket resellers create artificial shortages by buying up huge blocks of tickets for an event. They are "legal" scalpers because they then use that scarcity of remaining tickets as justification for ratcheting-up the per-seat price far above the ticket's face value. Before the authorities start addressing the organized crime aspect, they need to address the organized legal business aspect of scalping.

  • 0

    Kabukilover

    Disagree. Scalpers are amongst the lowest of the low whether they work in the street or on the Internet. They horde tickets and then sell them at inflated prices. Legitimizing this sort of thing would only make a bad situation worse.

  • 0

    Ayesha

    Sell all tickets (including personal resales of tickets) by internet auction. This should remove the scalper margin, and ensure that performers are paid their full value.

  • 2

    gogogo

    They going to shut down Yahoo auction and the ticket stores all over Tokyo? This "law" seems totally stupid, it should be scraped.

  • 0

    randomenigma

    If the scalpers weren't able to sell tickets, they wouldn't buy tickets. If they didn't buy tickets, the number of available tickets would increase because all purchases would be people who actually wanted to go. If more people who wanted to go are getting tickets themselves, then they only have to pay the normal price instead of inflated prices.

    The victim in this crime is, depending on your viewpoint: (a) the person paying multiple times what they would have paid had they obtained the ticket directly, or (b) the person who would have won the ticket which the scalper acquired.

    You don't have to shut down auction sites to enforce this sort of thing, you just have to check ID at the door.

  • 0

    TrevorPeace1

    Good one, randomenigma! As a retired performer I think all scalpers suck pond water.

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