There may not be a more frustrating experience than trying to buy a hot ticket to a concert, only to find they have somehow sold out in the second since you last refreshed your browser.
And you might think your fellow Beyonce fans just have really fast fingers, but as it turns out, the ticket you had your eye on was probably bought by a robot.
As former Ticketmaster CEO (and Twitter VP) Nathan Hubbard writes in The Ringer, resellers and brokers have developed networks of bots that can purchase tickets faster than you can click. It’s a rigged game.
The bots reserve all the best seats first and then let resellers decide whether to purchase them or not.
These bots can even blow right by the “CAPTCHA,” the part of the checkout process that’s specifically designed to thwart the machines, by using overseas labour to type in the squiggly letters.
It’s a surprisingly efficient system. As soon as a reseller’s bot purchases a ticket, it lists it on a resale site, sometimes for 10 times the face value.
Hubbard explains why this is so hard to beat:
These same bots hammer ticketing sites with searches, doomed to a life of infinitely combing for new inventory in case any quality seats held back from the on-sale get released to the “general public.” Once they’re released, guess what? They’re scooped immediately by the ticket bots. It’s like your dog sitting underneath the table waiting for a little bit of your sandwich to fall. It’s gone before it hits the ground. You don’t have a chance.
Of course, bots aren’t the only reason that buying tickets can be frustrating, but they’re certainly a big factor. Hubbard also points to secret pre-sales, tickets allocated to friends and family, and the general business model of large events as reasons why buying tickets can be an infuriating experience.
The whole piece is absolutely worth a read, especially if you’re trying to get tickets to Hamilton this summer. (Good luck!)