Action on scalpers just the ticket

Editorial | Mary Ma Apr 4, 2018
The last stand-up show by comedian Dayo Wong Tze-wah has elevated the issue of scalping to center stage.

I wouldn't mind registering personal particulars in a bid for the tickets, for this can make the chase for them a little fairer at the very least. By the way, those particulars are also expected to be filled in when paying with a card online.

Action against scalpers will be inconvenient for those who make a habit of buying dozens of tickets to give to friends and relatives as gifts. But there should not be too many of such cases.

Nonetheless, it would be easier said than done to require merchants to change the way they've been doing their business. Let's bear in mind that for event organizers, scalpers are natural allies, not enemies, whose presence can bring box-office success.

Scalping is a term adapted from the cowboy age of the American frontier. In Chinese, it is literally known as "yellow cow."

The Chinese equivalent has a demeaning origin in Shanghai. It's said that dealers bent on securing a share of sought-after tickets often turned up in groups and their scrambling caused a ruckus like a herd of rambling cows, thus the nickname.

The terminology is inappropriate, as cows are traditionally perceived to be hardworking animals plowing the earth for crops and therefore often associated with industriousness. Obviously, scalping doesn't belong to this category of activity as it is akin to opportunism aimed at ripping off the innocent.

Scalping is unlawful, punishable by a fine of up to HK$2,000.

Such a level of punishment cannot succeed in deterring anyone these days. When a HK$1,080 ticket for a concert by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi was touted around for HK$12,000 and a HK$880 ticket for Wong's final talk show at Hong Kong Coliseum was marked up to HK$15,000, would syndicated scalpers bother about such a fine? The answer is a commonsensical, isn't it?

Technically, it is viable to change the way tickets are sold. The problem revolves around a lack of political determination.

Some privately-managed venues have already made it standard practice to require buyers to register a minimum amount of personal particulars.

Is there really nothing the government - the owner of the SAR's most popular event venue, which is Hong Kong Coliseum - can do about the situation?

Maybe it would be easier to amend the law to increase the fine than changing the norms in a trade reliant on internal subscription and unlawful touting to promote sales.

Scalping is an issue - always bad - that grabs news headlines from time to time, with intimidation reported over the years when innocent consumers or fans in lines were frightened by gangsters who jumped queues.

Recently, a mainland tourist lining up for rock band Mayday's concert tickets was attacked by a group of south Asians following an argument over queue-jumping.

Scalping may not be a priority for police. However, for the general public, it can be a cause for deep frustration.

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