Tragically Hip tickets scalped? Here's how it's done

Tragically Hip tickets scalped? How it’s done

What a scalper had to say about his profession


You may have heard that the pre-sale tickets for The Tragically Hip’s Farewell Tour yesterday were gone in a flash—only to reappear moments later on, at a significantly higher price (we’re talking thousands of dollars). The pre-sale was originally intended for fans who were registered on the band’s website, but many walked away empty-handed.

If you don’t know, scalpers are people who buy tickets with the intent of reselling them at a higher price. While some blame the practice for inflated ticket prices, others say it’s just the mechanisms of capitalism at work: higher demand that results in higher prices.

If you’ve been to a popular event like a Blue Jays game, you’ve probably seen a few scalpers selling tickets above or below the original price. But where do they get their tickets? And how do they make money? Here’s what a scalper with 25 years in the industry has said about how it’s done.

He explained that when a large company wants to entertain its clients with a sporting or entertainment event, it calls up a ticket broker. The ticket broker is a large company that specializes in bulk orders of entertainment tickets.

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The ticket broker enlists the help of the scalpers, who in turn reach out to their “diggers”—people who stand in line for tickets or buy them off of TicketMaster. In recent years, the use of software has enabled people to automatically request multiple tickets at a time—hence why tickets are snatched up so quickly.

The large company often ends up with more tickets than they actually need, so they send them back to the broker. The broker passes these extra tickets back to the scalpers. Those are the guys you see at the venue, trying to sell you tickets above or below the original ticket price.

If it’s a popular event, the tickets will be sold above face value. If it’s not so popular, you could see the tickets sell well below the original price, in which case you should definitely haggle. Either way, the scalper, the broker and the corporate client all walk way with one-third of the tickets’ actual sale price.

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In Ontario, re-selling tickets above face value was once prohibited under the Ticket Speculation Act. However, the government announced in 2015 there’d be exceptions to the law that legalize scalping, so long as the secondary seller confirms with the primary seller that the ticket isn’t fraudulent, and provides a full refund if it is a fake or the event is cancelled.

Manitoba laws prohibit tickets to be resold above face value, as does Quebec. The rest of the provinces have no legislation prohibiting the practice.

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