Scalper Bots

Donovan Maudsley - 3N Mechanical
Posted on: October 10, 2016

Anyone who’s been to a concert, sporting event, or even a theatre performance in recent memory will have run into the scourge of the internet: scalper bots. Scalping organizations use programs to bypass the maximum ticket buying limits that venues set on their websites. Once the organizations acquire as many tickets as they can, they resell them for profit. This poses a serious issue for the common event-goer as ticket prices for any event worth attending skyrocket as soon as they are released.

I have personally run into this issue many times. My family and I paid triple face value for Foo Fighters tickets in 2015 (worth it). My step-father and I paid quadruple face value to see Black Sabbath in 2014 (also worth it). During my grade 11 year, my band and I waited in line for 3 hours to get tickets to see the band Tool, and by the time the computer system at the ticket booth had started, over 60% of the tickets had been sold. Any Torontonian can tell you how much a single ticket to see the Maple Leafs can cost you.

The issue was brought to the forefront of mass media in Canada this summer when the Tragically Hip announced their farewell tour. Tickets for these fifteen shows sold out before any average person could get a single one. The scalper bot programs are designed to overwhelm the venues’ online servers so that it is impossible for anyone else to access the site. Ticket prices on the reseller website then skyrocketed. The Kingston show, likely the final Tragically Hip show ever, saw some tickets sell for a 7500% markup.

On September 29th Sophie Kiwala, a Liberal MPP from the Kingston area, announced that she was stepping up to protect Ontarians from this in the future. She had heard numerous times from her constituents that their ticket-buying experiences had left them frustrated and discouraged. Her proposed bill will try to make it so Ontarians can buy tickets online in a fair, transparent, and accessible market. Even though she acknowledges that the scalper bots get smarter every day, the province still needs to push back.

Ticketmaster Canada has been fighting back against scalper bot programs since their inception. A representative from Ticketmaster recently told the Globe and Mail that they have an entire division devoted to blocking and stopping the programs. They acknowledged that it is very difficult for a government organization to police and enforce these proposed restrictions.