The big reason that you haven't seen scalpers hanging out at theme parks is that reselling tickets at a mark-up requires that demand for tickets exceeds their supply. But, for the most part, theme parks sell an inexhaustible supply of tickets. Until recently, no major U.S. theme parks sold single-day admission tickets that were tied to a specific date of admission. When parks have capped the supply of admission by closing their gates, having a ticket in that situation won't help you get in. The park just will tell you to use it later, when the park reopens its gates, or to come on another day.
Universal Studios Hollywood now is selling date-specific tickets, but it's only gotten to the point where it has stopped selling tickets for a specific date a couple of times. I suppose someone could try to scalp one of those tickets, but it's hard to imagine who would want to pay an above-list price to visit a park on a day it's slammed to capacity when they could pay less to come on another day when the park isn't as busy and presumably they could do more.
The few times when you do sometimes see people trying to scalp theme park admission are for hard-ticket, capacity-controlled events such as Mickey's Halloween Party. (Insert a "Not-So-Scary" modifier there, if you're a Walt Disney World visitor.) Those events do have a limited supply, for which demand often exceeds the number of available tickets. But requirements that ticket buyers assign a user's name to each of their tickets when they are bought in advance cut down on buyers' ability to resell the tickets, as they're essentially having to ask the people who buy the scalped tickets to take the risk that the ticket-taker won't ask for ID or will let them in without it.
Universal Studios Hollywood is doing that with its date-specific advance sale tickets, making even the limited scenario in which people might scalp a daily general admission theme park ticket in the United States pretty much next to impossible.
Of course, plenty of theme park admission tickets are available in the resale market. But they almost always are being sold below face value. (Can we even call that "scalping," then?) Resellers do this because either, A) the tickets are fake, or B) they've written off any ability to use the ticket and simply are trying to recoup whatever value from it they can.
(By the way, as much as you might hope that the resold ticket you are looking at buying on Craigslist or eBay is from scenario B, the odds are that it's really from scenario A. Do really want to risk your money?)
The Shanghai Disneyland situation offers would-be scalpers more of an opportunity, however. All single-day tickets to the park are date-specific. The park has welcomed about a million visitors a month since its opening last year. And demand for Fastpass ride reservation tickets at some attractions far exceeds supply, with all Fastpasses assigned for rides such as Soarin' Over the Horizon distributed shortly after park opening. Shanghai Disneyland is using the old paper Fastpass system, which allows people to transfer Fastpasses to someone else without penalty to anyone.
That's all that some park visitors have needed. Adriel reports that resellers are asking for CNY100 for a pair of Fastpasses — that's about US$15.
To put that in perspective, the price of a one-day ticket to Shanghai Disneyland costs between US$54-73. If the cost of hypothetical scalped Fastpasses at Disneyland were the same, relative to the park's low-season one-day ticket price, those Fastpasses would cost about $27 in Anaheim. But if you make average monthly income in China versus the U.S. the standard for comparison, those CNY100 Fastpasses in Shanghai would be worth about $92 in the U.S., given the average US$754 monthly income in China, versus US$4648 in the U.S.
With Shanghai Disneyland selling a weekday seasonal pass for CNY925, 19 scalped individual Fastpasses pays for that pass, at the rate Adriel reports. If someone could sell multiple passes a day, to people who don't know how to use this unfamiliar system on their own, he could be money ahead relatively quickly. So the math works here.
How long will this last? It's a new phenomenon in its theme parks, so Disney might need time to find the most effective way to stop this. Disney could deploy more park security cast members to catch and ban people reselling tickets. It could tie Fastpasses to park admission media, a la Fastpass+ at Walt Disney World. It could try educating guests not to buy the scalped Fastpasses, as it has tried to do with other behaviors in the park.
Or, Disney could just cut out of the middleman and start selling Fastpasses itself. Concert promoters, sports teams and other entertainment businesses have found ways to sell tickets directly to people willing to pay above face value for hard-to-get admissions. Could scalping in Shanghai finally push Disney do the same with Fastpasses?Tweet
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