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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Market or lottery

There is controversy over empty seats at sold out events at the Olympics. People who could not get tickets are annoyed to see them.

The way that tickets were sold is odd. I know people who applied for tickets in ony the events they were interested in and were allocated no tickets. I know other people who applied for lots of events and got tickets they were not interested in. It would not surprise me if some of those empty seats belong to people who decided against going to events they had tickets for because they were not interested enough. The tickets were sold this way to stop the prices getting so high that poor people could not afford them. The tickets can not be transferred for the same reason.

The trouble is that you either have a market or you have a lottery. There are no other choices, no matter how you try to dress it up. The trouble with lotteries is they do not allocate resources efficiently.

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15 comments to Market or lottery

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Yes, but they’re fair. And whatever comes second to fair in the bien pensant mind, well… “Madam, there is no second.”

  • Ernie G

    I believe that the technical term for this situation is “cockup”.

  • Laird

    There are always empty seats at sporting events; there are always last-minute scheduling conflicts, medical emergencies, etc., which keep people from attending. As long as they actually paid for those tickets the seats are theirs, whether they choose to occupy them or not. No one else has any basis for complaint.

    The real problem is the ban on privately re-selling one’s tickets (commonly, and pejoratively, referred to as “scalping”). If the ticket is mine, I should have every right to sell it to someone else, at face value, at a markup, or at a discount, as circumstances warrant. I suspect that if a secondary market were permitted to develop there would be far fewer empty seats, and far fewer unhappy people (ticket holders and would-be attendees alike). But of course we can’t possibly permit that; it’s somehow “immoral” for someone to profit from reselling a ticket, since obviously that profit “rightfully” belongs to the event promoters. Sheer idiocy.

  • Alsadius

    It seems like a profoundly stupid system. But then, I’ve thought that all along.

  • Alisa

    Actually Laird, if you sold me something under the condition that I could not resell it, and I freely accepted that condition at the time of the transaction, I think that I should stick to our agreement.

  • Actually Laird, if you sold me something under the condition that I could not resell it, and I freely accepted that condition at the time of the transaction, I think that I should stick to our agreement.

    …and if you had such a ticket, which couldn’t be resold and therefore had no residual value, you might decide not to bother going when push came to shove…

    QED – Why the general public stands might be empty.

    This does not though explain why the seats reserved solely for ‘Olympic Family’ are empty.

  • Anon

    The Telegraph:
    While some empty seats were those reserved for dignitaries who did not turn up, others were among 120,000 unsold tickets allocated to foreign countries which have not returned them.

    Up to 70,000 of those tickets could be simply thrown away, The Daily Telegraph has learnt, because it is not cost-efficient for ticket agencies to return them, while another 50,000 premium tickets are being held back by foreign ticket agencies hoping to make a killing by selling them at grossly inflated prices at the last minute.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Laid:
    “There are always empty seats at sporting events; there are always last-minute scheduling conflicts, medical emergencies, etc., which keep people from attending.”

    Not at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Anfield.

    But those are commercial operations, not statism.

  • Backtracking furiously from his earlier and rather tactless comments about problems with the security arrangements, Mitt Romney went on to say that the organisation of the first days of the London Olympics has been picture perfect. Romney says he only “what he actually believes”. If he still actually believes this, he will believe anything.

    More pictures.

    Late last week I observed David Aaronovitch (on the BBC) opine that once the Olympic games had got underway, and the medals (by Brits) and heroic stories (about everyone) had started to flow, all the local Brit grumbling would cease. It would seem not. Not yet anyway.

    Personally, I am torn between loathing of the Olympics and fondness for my country, which I do not enjoy being made to look foolish on world-wide television, however much I enjoy these fiascos in another part of my brain. But, on balance, I hope the fiascos keep coming.

  • My Dad tried to get tickets and told me he pulled out of the process when they couldn’t say how much he’d have to pay and for which event. Being an ex lawyer, I think he prefers receiving blank cheques rather than handing them out.

  • Alisa

    John Galt, I should have quoted this part of Laird’s comment before commenting myself: ‘If the ticket is mine, I should have every right to sell it to someone else, at face value, at a markup, or at a discount, as circumstances warrant.’, because that’s the only issue I had in mind.

    I don’t know whether the ban on reselling tickets was a good or a bad idea – I do know that the entire business of the Olympics is a bad idea to begin with. Because of that, I think that no matter what they did and how they did it, the whole thing would have been full of all kinds of fiascoes.

  • bloke in spain

    “..being made to look foolish on world-wide television” could be the saving grace of this entire shitefest.
    Oh the red faces! Oh the search for scapegoats! Oh the opprobrium!

    And then the next time some grinning buffoon comes up with foolproof way of wasting money.

    “Which part of fuck off would you like explained to you?”

  • Petronius

    Lets see what happens as the events come closer to the medal rounds. After all, who wants to come early and see Djibouti try to qualify for the whitewater events, or Saudi Arabia in Women’s Beach Bikini Volleyball?

  • Laird

    “Actually Laird, if you sold me something under the condition that I could not resell it, and I freely accepted that condition at the time of the transaction, I think that I should stick to our agreement.”

    If it were truly sold under those conditions between consenting adults I would agree with you, Alisa. However (in the US, anyway), ticket scalping is generally illegal as a matter of positive law. In other words, the state sets the rules and everyone is obliged to follow them. That’s not “consensual” by any definition. Also, most sports arenas are now publicly owned (thanks to massive state subsidies), so even there when tickets are sold the state is setting the rules on resale. That’s not “consensual” either; in fact, it’s what lawyers would call a contract of adhesion, which are generally not enforceable as a matter of public policy.

    If a private theater (or whatever) were to put limits on resales of its tickets I would say that it’s entirely their business (although I would also argue that it’s a foolish policy). However, the state has no business imposing such restrictions, either by statute or when it owns the arena.

  • Alisa

    Thanks for clarifying, Laird.