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The Patriots are jerks, kind of

The New England Patriots have gotten a court order compelling StubHub to turn over the names of "all the fans who bought or sold -- or tried to buy or sell -- tickets to home games through online ticket reseller StubHub Inc."

Yeah, that's pretty alarming. The Pats' position is that re-selling tickets for more than face value is a violation of their team policies, and Massachusetts law prohibits folks from selling tickets for more than $2 above face value.

Regardless of the merits of scalping laws -- and personally, I think it is pretty stupid to legislate that you can't sell a ticket for more than you bought it for -- this could end up having a pretty chilling effect on the ticket industry. There is some discussion in the article that season ticket holders who sold their tickets for more than face value could lose their ticket rights.

Here's the thing I don't get, though...what the Patriots are doing is selling something for a fixed price that is less than what a buyer in an open market would pay. Anytime you have more demand than supply and a fixed price imposed on the supply by an outside entity, you are going to end up with a black market. That's just the nature of economics.

It is no different than the Hannah Montana concert phenomenon, when people scooped up tickets for $60 apiece and are turning around and selling them for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

Promoters or teams are setting prices at artificially low levels. The existing ticket broker market is a result of the actions of the original ticket sellers, who insist on an archaic first-come, first-served method, or a lottery method, of dispersing tickets.

Now, for sports teams, part of the rationale is that they want to encourage folks to buy season tickets, and season ticket holders have to be able to have a fixed price for their tickets well in advance. But there's nothing that prevents teams from charging everyone -- including season ticket holders -- more for "premium" games than other games (and of course, some teams, including the Rangers, do).

With things like Hannah Montana or a playoff game, though, it seems like an auction system would be a better way to go. Rather than have people camp out waiting in line, or hoping to get the lucky lotto number for a ticket, you could have an online auction.

You could set blocks of tickets up to bid, with rolling end dates for the auctions...and whomever is willing to pay the most, wins. If folks think the early blocks of tickets are costing too much, they can wait and bid on a block of tickets that is expiring later on, in the hopes that that ticket will cost less.

Or you could run a Dutch auction, and let everyone who wants to, say, have some tickets in section 313, the first 10 rows, bid the minimum amount they are willing to pay for each ticket, and bid on how many tickets they are willing to buy (up to, say, 4). If there are 200 seats in the first 10 rows, then the top 200 bids (in terms of number of tickets bid on) get their tickets, and they all pay whatever the amount that the 200th lowest ticket bid was per ticket.

So if there are 200 seats in that section, and someone is willing to pay $1000 apiece for 4 tickets, 48 people are willing to pay $950 apiece for 4 tickets, 1 person is willing to pay $949 apiece for 4 tickets, and everyone else is willing to pay $948 or less, then everyone who bid at least $949 gets tickets, and they all pay $949 per ticket. And you could assign the actual block of seats that each bidder gets from those 200 seats by a random draw, or something.

It seems like that would be a much better way to deal with things than the current system, would make dispersal more fair, and would eliminate the middle man.

Of course, the middle man buys a lot of ads on my site, so maybe I should just shut my trap...