It’s an all too familiar letdown: You’re super excited to see your favourite artist, go online as soon as the ticket sale starts, and find out that the show has sold out almost immediately.
Competing with thousands of other fans for the hottest ticket in town is always a game of chance. But a recent investigation by the CBC and Toronto Star reveals your competition might be bigger than you think.
Using documents found among the recently leaked Paradise Papers, the CBC and Star have shed light on a Canadian “superscalper” who used bots to buy tickets well beyond the personal limits set by most ticket providers. And that’s not even the most discouraging part. Online ticket exchange Stubhub indirectly enables and encourages such tactics through a secretive “top seller” portal that rewards those who sell more than $50,000 worth of tickets a year.
Despite “[agreeing] that the use of bots to procure tickets is unfair and anti-consumer,” it’s hard to justify a rewards program for people who mass-scalp tickets for huge profits.
A superscalper by the name of Julien Lavallée who operates out of Quebec is referenced throughout the Paradise Papers for operating a ticket re-selling scheme that pulls in millions of dollars a year. In 2014 alone, his enterprise grossed just under $8 million in sales.
Lavallée reportedly uses automated bots to buy tickets under different names from various locations. One lucrative grab was snatching 232 tickets to a Jamiroquai show for over $25,000. Other high-profile operations include buying over 100 tickets to Drake, Metallica, and Ed Sheeran shows.
While Quebec has a law against reselling tickets for profit, having the transactions take place online and a general lack of enforcement mean violations often go unpunished.
Illegal – kind of
“Governments more or less think scalping is not a real crime,” John Karastamatis of Toronto’s Mirvish Productions told the CBC. “They think it’s victimless crime. ‘Who gets hurt?’ And so nobody pays a lot of attention to it.”
Many are pushing for charges based on his use of computer software to illegally (against StubHub’s terms) hoard tickets for re-sale. It’s still unclear if Lavallée will face criminal proceedings.