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Undercover Journalists Claim Ticketmaster Holds Formal Agreements With Ticket Scalpers

Scalpers, for those not familiar with the term, are individuals who make money through early purchases of good, valuable tickets to popular shows at moderate prices and the resale of those tickets at far higher prices.

And according to a pair of recent investigations, one by CBC NEWS and the other by The Toronto Star, Ticketmaster may be making some formal, but hidden-from-public-eye agreements with these individuals, resulting in more profit for them but also in a very unfair and deceptive method of ticket sales.

These two journalists went undercover to gather info about how Ticketmaster deals with scalpers. And according to the journalists’ findings, they don’t.

Representatives from Ticketmaster told the journalists that Ticketmaster’s systems do not target and ban users who use AI-controlled fake accounts to buy out tickets and resell them at a higher price. In fact, according to CNET, Ticketmaster themselves developed a tool just last year called Tradedesk, a tool that makes the purchase and rapid resale of tickets faster and easier than it has been before.

The catch? With the tool, Ticketmaster earns an extra bit of cash off of the resale if you use this tool, adding even more incentive than normal for them to give the tickets to scalpers. But even if the scalpers don’t use the tool, the entire situation is a win-win for Ticketmaster: Allowing scalpers early access will guarantee that a large number of their tickets will get picked up every show, and Ticketmaster won’t be eating a loss if a scalper can’t sell the tickets. On the other hand, people who were looking to go to the show anyway will be stuck with the slightly-worse seats… but who cares? They were going to the show anyway, and most of them won’t turn down the opportunity just because they didn’t get into the front row. Ticketmaster ensures that more of its lower-value seats get sold due to the higher-value seats being guaranteed sells from the start.

In conversations with the Tradedesk executives, they told the undercover reporters that they do not investigate what gets bought and sold on that account “at all”, and don’t care about what users do with their accounts, which further evidences their willful acknowledgment and allowance of ticket purchase and resale from Ticketmaster.

However, Ticketmaster has spoken to CNET and highly opposes the information presented by these two journalists. They say, “It is categorically untrue that Ticketmaster has any program in place to enable resellers to acquire large volumes of tickets at the expense of consumers.” They also refute the statements the undercover journalists had made about the claims of their own representative, on the grounds that “the conduct described clearly violates our [Ticketmaster’s] terms of service.”

Ticketmaster has been accused of similar practices before. A 2017 lawsuit had one company, Prestige Entertainment West Inc., claiming that the business was using its site to fool consumers and using the profit from the double resale towards the furthering of their own company growth. Unsurprisingly, Ticketmaster denied these claims.

Ticketmaster says it has been working on and will continue to improve its own automatic detection algorithms that allow it to determine which users are using bots and which users are reselling tickets.

However, it should be noted that Ticketmaster does not feature any kind of bot detection systems, such as the commonly seen “I am not a robot” checkboxes, prior to the point where a user is able to secure their tickets. After this point, the purchase process may require a more human interaction, but the very action of ‘securing’ the tickets does not and keeps them from being selected by other onlookers.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Prasun Srivastava

    January 27, 2019 at 3:06 pm


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