Opinion

What a sell-out: How ticketing companies deny our property rights and monopolize markets

Photo of Suhail Khan
Suhail Khan
Chairman, Conservative Inclusion Coalition
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      Suhail Khan

      Suhail A. Khan is the Fellow for Christian-Muslim Understanding at the <a href="http://www.globalengage.org/">Institute for Global Engagement</a>. He is a Washington, DC based attorney and has previously held many government positions. Khan served as Policy Director and Press Secretary for U.S. Congressman Tom Campbell (R-CA) where he worked closely on a variety of legislative initiatives, including religious freedom. More recently, Khan served as a senior political appointee with the Bush administration. He served in the White House Office of Public Liaison assisting in the President's outreach to various faith communities. Khan also served as Assistant to the Secretary for Policy under U.S. Secretary Mary Peters at the U.S. Department of Transportation. While at the Department of Transportation, Khan was awarded the Secretary's Team Award in 2005 and the Gold Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 2007.

      Khan serves on the boards of the <a href="http://www.conservative.org/">American Conservative Union</a>, the Islamic Free Market Institute, the <a href="http://www.muslimpublicservice.org/">Muslim Public Service Network</a>, the <a href="http://iarcnational.org/">Indian American Republican Council</a>, and on the <a href="http://buxtoninitiative.org/">Buxton Initiative</a> Advisory Council. He has spoken venues such as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the Council for National Policy (CNP), the Harbour League, and the National Press Club. He has written opinion pieces for various publications including the Washington Post/Newsweek Forum On Faith.

      He was born in Boulder, Colorado to parents who emigrated to the United States from southern India. Khan is the oldest of five children, grew up in California, earned his high school diploma from St. Lawrence Academy, a private Catholic college preparatory school in Santa Clara, in 1987. He earned a B.A. in political science from University of California at Berkeley in 1991 and a J.D. from University of Iowa in 1995.

      For more information about Khan, please see the article <a href="http://www.glocal.net/blog/comments/the-muslim-in-the-white-house/"> "The Muslim In The White House"</a>.

In America, one of the most fundamental liberties supporting our society and driving our economy stems from the Fifth Amendment — the right to own private property. This freedom ensures we own what we buy, and no institution or person can deprive us of that property, or control how we use it.

This right applies to everything from our businesses to our homes, cars, and barbecue grills. It means that as owners, we have the sole right to rent, sell, or give away any portion of our property at a price we determine. This holds true for essentially every good or service we buy as consumers. Except, bizarrely, for some tickets to concerts and sporting events.

When it comes to the tickets for our favorite live events, companies like Ticketmaster want to control our property and dictate what you can do with it. They do this by issuing restrictive “paperless” tickets, which require the original purchaser to present his or her credit card and government-issued photo ID at an event in order to gain entry.

By tying tickets to the purchaser’s credit card, these companies are in effect stripping you of basic ownership rights. Most paperless tickets are nontransferable, meaning you can’t sell them to a colleague if you get tied up at the office; if there’s a family emergency and you can’t make it to the game, you won’t be able to give the tickets away to friends; you can’t even give paperless tickets as gifts (at least not without using the recipient’s credit card, as Ticketmaster suggests, and what kind of a gift is that?).

When companies and venues do allow restrictive tickets to be transferred, they force consumers to use a single, designated marketplace. These exchanges often require both buyers and sellers to pay fees — even to give away tickets for free. And if these controlled marketplaces aren’t already an affront to the free market, ticket companies sometimes even impose price restraints. Following the London Olympics ticketing fiasco, where thousands of tickets for the most popular events went unused, the entire world has seen firsthand what happens when the powers that be try to eliminate a free, legitimate secondary market: inventory is allocated poorly, with willing fans unable to purchase tickets for empty seats. Meanwhile, the black market thrives on overpriced and often fraudulent sales.

Laughably described as a “convenience,” restrictive ticketing is simply and obviously a way for a dysfunctional industry to monopolize the resale market. Having long enjoyed near-monopoly control of the primary ticketing market, Ticketmaster and the sports teams, artists, and venues it represents have always resented the secondary market. Rather than embrace rational pricing mechanisms that let the market determine the price of tickets, they are trying to repeal the laws of supply and demand.

In baseball, for instance, large stadiums, long seasons, and years of league expansion have led generally to an over-supply of tickets. Season ticket holders, passionate superfans though they may be, can’t reasonably be expected to attend 81 home games per year. Many sell their extras, often well below face value, to help offset their expensive season ticket package. The sellers are happy to recoup any part of their investment, and the buyers are thrilled to get good seats at bargain prices. Numerous online ticket exchanges compete vigorously to host these transactions based on price, selection, and customer service. More bodies in seats mean more concession and parking sales for the teams. Everybody wins.