Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bums on Seatwave

Although Viagogo was the official tout company which went to court to try and stop Channel 4's investigation into the industry, Seatwave were also singled out for criticism.

Their approach was somewhat different, with CEO Joe Cohen sending a letter to their marks - sorry, customers - and doing interviews, such as the one with The Next Web.

Part of the problem with Seatwave was the impression it gave that you were buying unwanted tickets held by fans - their slogan had been "fan-to-fan" - but that wasn't the case. Cohen attempts to play this down:

In 2011, 35% of the tickets sold on our platform came from brokers or professional sellers. No matter who sellers are, it’s their right to make a profit on tickets they are selling.
You'd have to suggest that the 35% figure is likely to be just the ones Seatwave know about - and what is the difference between a "professional seller" and someone who buys a dozen One Direction tickets to resell on the side?

And I'm not sure about this "right" to make a profit on tickets they're selling. In the abstract, they have taken a risk in buying them, and could lose their money, so strictly speaking economically you'd let them make a profit.

But the profits are dependent upon supply and demand - and they're soaking up tickets from a limited supply, at the same time creating a false demand. If these guys hadn't been buying tickets, they'd have gone to fans; because the fans couldn't get them in the original sale, it creates demand which pushes up the prices and create the profit. It obeys the laws of economics and the strict law of the land, but doesn't feel like a societal good.

And amongst the fans and scalpers, also on Seatwave are, erm, Seatwave employees. Cohen is quite bullish about this:
We have a very clear employee policy that has been in place for several years. Our employees need to understand our platform, so it’s important for them to use it, but there are very clear limits to what they can and cannot do.

So in practical terms, they can’t have multiple accounts, they can’t buy and sell during working hours, from the company’s premises or using our equipments – and they can never work from home on Fridays, which is often the day tickets go on sale.
I've read this a couple of times now, and still can't see anything other than "yeah, it reeks, but we take care to spray a few cans of air freshener around."

Sharon Hodgson had introduced a bill in Parliament to try and sort out the secondary ticket industry; it got talked out. Amongst those objecting to regulationwas Jacob Rees-Mogg, who took the line that if a charity gig had £46 tickets which someone else sold on for £106, the fault was with the charity for not charging £106 in the first place. Apparently he didn't feel the risk of charity events that were only ever going to attract a Rees-Moggeseque audience wa a bad one.