Ticket scalping at ferry terminals

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Issue 964, Page 2
Word count: 660
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

I usually encounter with ticket scalping when I am going to travel to Hong Kong or back to Macau. My most recent example was on Sunday morning at the Shun Tak Terminal. I got there by 11am but soon I found that the ticket office was already selling tickets for the 12.30pm ferry. I wasn’t really in a rush to return to Macau but of course I didn’t want to wait for one and a half hour having nothing to do at the terminal.

When I was still thinking whether I should buy the 12.30pm ticket or spend $100 more on a deluxe class ticket which would allow me to board the 11.30am boat, I heard a suspected scalper who was standing near the ticket office trying to sell ordinary class tickets for the 11.30am ferry. Actually I wasn’t sure if I should call him a scalper, because he worked for a travel agency just behind him on the same floor. If someone went up to ask him the ticket price, he would tell the person to check with that travel agency, where another man was responsible for the transactions.

I barely thought of buying a ticket from him, since I knew that the price would be much higher than it actually was. It wasn’t only because of the price, but I didn’t think we should give our money to these people who took advantage of the “sold-out condition” and made big profit from reselling the tickets they got from certain means that I don’t know.

The problem is sometime there is the word “complimentary” stamped on the tickets. I used to hear that some junket operators will sell their free ferry tickets given by casinos to scalpers, who will in turn sell them at just a few bucks cheaper than the official price at the terminal on normal days. But when it comes to holidays or weekends, the scalpers will usually set the ticket price above the official one according to the demand.

During the Lunar New Year holidays last month, I went to Macau with my family. We arrived at the Shun Tak Terminal by 12 noon, and found that the official ordinary class tickets before 3pm were all gone.

That time I did approach the suspected scalper and was later told that they sold each 12.30pm ticket for $50 more – I forgot how much the price was exactly. I saw the man inside the travel agency holding a thick stack of ferry tickets, and so you could image how much profit they could make if they sold them all. I really wondered if there is anything the ferry operator can do to cope with the problem. But then I started to doubt it because ticket scalping doesn’t really harm the operator’s profit, as it did receive the money for each ticket it sold to a scalper or a casino if what I’ve mentioned above is true.

The situation does also exist at the ferry terminal on the Macau side but is less prominent I would say. According to the Legal Affairs Bureau website, ticket resale is illegal in Macau based on the 6/96/M and 30/92/M law decrees. The bureau says that anyone who resell ferry tickets at a price higher than the ferry operator’s price could be jailed for three years, despite the buyers will not be liable to any punishments. And even if the tickets are sold at below the price printed on them, it will still violate the law. In regard to Hong Kong, my Internet research told me ticket resale is also outlawed there, even if the selling price is the same as the official one.

Going back to my Sunday experience, although I bought the 12.30pm ticket, I managed to board the 11.30am ferry by lining up for alternate places, because there were actually still a lot of seats available after all the passengers holding the 11.30am tickets got onto the boat!

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