Scalpers: Are they the scum of the universe or just doing a job?

Tragically Hip fans may have felt So Hard Done By recently when tickets to the band’s final tour were snapped up in seconds before reappearing on secondary sale websites — some for thousands above asking price. But what's the solution?

Tragically Hip tickets were scooped up in seconds before being resold for thousands

Gord Downie, lead singer of the Tragically Hip, was diagnosed with brain cancer, creating intense interest for tickets to the band's final tour. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Tragically Hip fans may have felt So Hard Done By recently when tickets to the band's final tour were snapped up in seconds before reappearing on secondary sale websites — some for thousands above asking price.

The band announced frontman Gord Downie is suffering from terminal brain cancer. Their coming tour — kicking off July 22 in Victoria, B.C., and ending Aug. 20 in their hometown of Kingston, Ont. — in support of their latest album, Man Machine Poem, will be the last.

So we asked this week's Unconventional Panel on theCalgary Eyeopener— engineer Ravin Moorthy, Wordfest general director Shelley Youngblut and comedian and writer Jeff Kubik —  to weigh in with their thoughts.

Ravin Moorthy, Shelley Youngblut and Jeff Kubik made up this week's Unconventional Panel on the Calgary Eyeopener. (Dave Dormer)

Stopping short of suggesting they should be Locked In The Trunk Of A Car, Youngblut had some choice words for scalpers.

"They're the scum of the Earth, absolutely," she said.

"Because they offer absolutely nothing, they don't play the music, they don't own the arena, they don't work the arena, they don't do anything except take money for themselves, for nothing."

Free market reigns

But Moorthy wasn't too Scared to defend the practise of scalping, or at least letting the laws of supply and demand dictate price.

"What's wrong with it? I don't understand," he said.

"They do do something, they put up their money to buy tickets for an event and they don't know whether they're going to be able to sell it or not.

"Now in this particular case I realize it's sad and it's a bit, sorry to use the term, tragic."

Kubik said scalpers should be allowed to make money, as they're not running a Gift Shop.

"I get the investment angle, that certainly makes sense," he said.

"It's a helluva thing to speculate on the futures of rock stars, boy, that's not a growth market in terms of their life spans.

"The scalpers I've met, I wouldn't call them savvy investors."

Scalping not illegal

Previously illegal in Alberta, the law was removed from the books in 2009, which Youngblut sees as a mistake.

"The illegality of all of it is kind of immaterial," she said.

"It's that at some point a big business interest, which is Ticketmaster, decided they were going to make side money off all of this."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener