Wednesday, 10 April 2013

High-demand concert ticket lotteries

When tickets to special events are sold out in mere hours or even minutes, and could command prices much, much higher if they wanted to, perhaps we should change from a straight-up queue system to a lottery instead.

The main problem with selling tickets online is that everyone in the world arrives at the front door the second the servers are open for business, or a long time before that. Then, while you and several thousand other people all clamour for the attention of the poor server, some who get through buy their tickets and the rest of us go away empty handed.

A better way would be to take a page from the Olympics ticket allocation system. If you want to go to an event, you register for a lottery that will be drawn at a later date. There's no rush, because it is no longer a mad grab for all available tickets, so the servers should experience less load. Then, at the appointed time, a selection of patrons is drawn randomly from the registrations and those people get to buy tickets.

The main problems with a system like that are social. People have grown to expect queues and crowds. We can deal with that. The idea that you showed up at three seconds after 9am while I showed up a lazy four seconds after means that you are clearly more deserving of the tickets than me. We understand it. The idea that you can "win" your right to buy a ticket at random is weird and confusing. You can bet there would be a lot of backlash from people who prefer queues, or from people who have never had problems with them.

But on the whole, I think it's a better system for extremely high-demand events. Give everyone the time to register their interest, then everyone gets a fair go. No more first-come-first-served-sorry-mate-sold-out-at-9:01 mad rush.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've missed out on tickets in the "mad rush" system.
PPS - I'm sure I'd miss out in a lottery system too, but it might feel less like a personal failure.

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