In the hours before this year’s AFL Grand Final, remaining tickets had skyrocketed to three times their face value outside the stadium. So it should come as no surprise that a golden ticket to the most hyped restaurant in the world (and a pop-up version at that) could cause people to double their prices – and more.
As reported by The Age today, more than 100 successful reservations for Heston Blumenthal’s upcoming Fat Duck at Crown have been registered under false names. It was reported that a fortnight before the online ballot system even opened, one group of Melbourne finance professionals hired an IT expert based in Asia to find a way to enter the ballot more than once. After submitting more than 800 applications, the group allegedly succeeded in booking more than 50 tables at The Fat Duck.
While this debate is just coming to the fore in Australia, manipulating restaurant reservations has been a contentious issue in cities such as New York for years. Apps such as Resy, a mobile restaurant reservations app, gives users an easy way to jump the queue at hard-to-get-into restaurants– as long as you’re willing to pay for the privilege.
Shout, another app, acts as a marketplace for reservations. In theory, you could place any number of restaurant bookings in the city and throw them up for sale. If no one buys, you’re not a cent out of pocket (provided your conscience is OK with leaving a trail of restaurants to deal with empty tables on a usually busy Saturday night).
Eager buyers and sellers have also been taking to classified websites to make a trade. One Melbourne Gumtree poster looking to buy tickets told Broadsheet that he’d received calls from several sellers, all offering highly inflated fees. He explained that what they were selling was the reservation itself, at up to $1000. On top of that, he would be expected to pay $525 per person to actually dine there.
Although laws are in place (defined under the Major Sporting Event Act 2009) to prevent scalping at sport events, in Victoria there are currently no restrictions in place to provide restaurants with the same protection.
Crown is actively seeking to cancel scalpers' tickets, and a spokesperson says they will respond with a statement shortly.