Opinion: Will Ticket Suppression Stop Scalpers?

By Mike Wheeler

In December 1980, at Western Springs in Auckland New Zealand, I went to my first rock concert. It was Kiss, it was the start of summer, and to be fair, they were average on the night, but it was still an unforgettable experience, and one that still burns in the memory for too numerous reasons to go on about here.

By Mike Wheeler

In December 1980, at Western Springs in Auckland New Zealand, I went to my first rock concert. It was Kiss, it was the start of summer, and to be fair, they were average on the night, but it was still an unforgettable experience, and one that still burns in the memory for too numerous reasons to go on about here.

My biggest memory of the concert other than the event itself, was trying to get a ticket. A friend and I didn’t know if it would sell out or not (it didn’t – the crowd was about 25,000, well short of the 75,000 David Bowie would attract on his Serious Moonlight tour of 1983 or the 80,000 that saw ZZ Top and Jimmy Barnes play in 1987), so like any serious fan I queued up so as not to miss out. I queued with a raft of other try hards three hours before the doors opened at the local record store to buy my NZ$13 – no Ticketek, Ticketmaster or any other online way  of buying tickets back in those days.

Fast forward 32 years and it was time to head off for another concert. The last one had been Bruce Springsteen at the same venue in 2003, and seeing The Boss was coming to Sydney, thought I would once again happily pay the $150 odd bucks for a ticket, along with my wife and two sons who were keen to go too. Luckily my wife is one of those super organised people so, this being the digital age, she had joined Ticketek, which offers up tickets to certain events before they go on sale. So she logged on, bought the tickets to above average seats and seven days later we received them in the post.

A couple days after buying the Springsteen tickets I get a call from my wife saying Manchester United are coming out, she’s online ready to buy tickets, am I keen? Even  though I’m an Ipswich Town supporter, the thought of my soccer-mad boys seeing some of their heroes play made the decision an easy one. Even though the cynic in me says that some of the superstars of that side will have ‘injuries’ at the end of the EPL season, the squad has enough depth that I doubt we’ll come away too disappointed.

So all is fine and dandy. However one of my bug bears in life – and why I rarely go to events whereby I have to buy tickets via Ticketek or TicketMaster – is my fury on several occasions of trying to buy tickets online only to miss out. Sure, on occasions it’s because I have been late at getting logging on, however I remember trying to buy tickets for the Manly/New Zealand Warriors rugby league grand final in 2011 and signing on at 9am sharp when they went on sale. Absolutely no show. It was clogged from 9.01am and that was that.  And what compounds that fury is logging onto eBay not even five minutes after the sold out sign has gone up on the ticketing websites, to find said tickets on sale for exorbitant prices. Some little voice in the back of my head is totally convinced that those who work for these ticketing companies – or associates thereof – have some sort of ‘in’ and get a handful of tickets for themselves and their mates and then onsell them for huge profits.

So, getting back to the Man United tickets. We bought them, and waited patiently for them to turn up. And waited. And waited. They never turned up. As mentioned, Her Indoors is very organised, so at the time of purchase she also got insurance so that if anything happened to the tickets we’d, at the very least, get our money back.

Three weeks after buying them, my wife emails Ticketek asking about our purchase. Eventually, after three days, we got an email saying the tickets had been suppressed by the promoter. Never having heard of this before I looked into it, and I have to say, that while it won’t stop scalpers, I’m hoping it might give them a headache or two.

What is suppression? It is a service that Ticketek offers, but has to be at the request of the promoter, whereby they will not send the tickets out until a later date nearer the event time. In the case of the Manchester United vs the A-League All Stars it was requested by Football Federation Australia (FFA) and they will not be sending the tickets bought in December until May 20. Interestingly, the scaplers who are now onselling these tickets want payment up front and ‘promise’ to send out in May when the tickets are released.

A spokesperson for the FFA said one of the reasons they used the suppression device was to give people pause to handing over such an amount of money without getting the tickets within a few days of buying them, although a quick search on eBay did show some scalpers were saying the tickets would be shipped between January 18-20, which will be impossible to do.

Will suppression stop scalpers, or people buying from these bottom feeders of the entertainment world? Yes and no. No for those who understand how eBay works and the feedback system it incorporates. As long as the seller is up front about when the tickets will be available, and the buyer has enough trust in the seller to send them the tickets in May, then no problem. However, those who might dabble in buying products online and are desperate to see their footballing heroes at Olympic Stadium, might just give it a miss, which will hopefully mean less bidders, and the prices staying reasonable.

As a side note, you will see that the reason scalpers state they don’t give the exact seating number of tickets is for ‘privacy’ reasons, however the spokesperson from the FFA said if they find out the exact number of the seats being sold they would cancel the tickets.

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