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The Problems With Paperless Tickets

They’re inconvenient and tough to resell.

In the ongoing battle to thwart ticket scalpers, promoters are turning to paperless tickets for some events. Use of the tickets is expected to grow, but complaints are mounting about cumbersome restrictions that can come with them.

See Our Kip Tip Column: How to Save on Tickets to Broadway Shows

Here’s how they work: To enter a venue with a paperless ticket (which differs from a traditional electronic ticket in that you can’t print it out or show it on your phone), an event goer must swipe the credit card used to buy the ticket and show photo identification. Because tickets are linked to the cards used to buy them, people giving these tickets as a gift may need to escort the recipients to the gate. Groups purchasing a block of tickets in one transaction may need to wait outside until everyone arrives.

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Fans who want to resell tickets are likely to face additional limitations. Resale may be allowed only through the ticket company’s Web site—or may not be permitted at all. There may also be restrictions on how much or how little you can charge.

For now, paperless tickets make up only about 1% of ticket sales. But as event promoters and ticket distributors profit from control of the resale market, the use of restricted tickets will likely grow, says James D. Hurwitz, a research fellow with the American Antitrust Institute. Before that happens, several states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, are considering legislation to restrict or ban paperless tickets, and New York requires that customers be given the option of buying paper or e-tickets.

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Check the fine print when purchasing paperless tickets. Some promoters use restrictive tickets for every seat, while others use them for only a section of preferred seats. You may be able to purchase a traditional paper or e-ticket by choosing a seat elsewhere in the venue.

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