National / Media | Japan Pulse

With resellers, fans must take matters into their own hands

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Few groups in Japan respond to a slight quite like Disney devotees. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the conglomerate’s Tokyo Disneyland park, and to celebrate and rack up some more revenue, earlier this year it unveiled a line of limited-edition goods tied to the occasion.

After the release, however, it soon became clear that resellers were snatching up all those special mouse-centric goods to put up on third-party sites such as Mercari. Disney obsessives were none too thrilled about these people polluting the “Happiest Place on Earth” with their money-making schemes. They took to social media to vent, finding sympathy among other fans deprived of small-batch towels covered in their favorite characters.

Resellers have long been a scourge of Japanese netizens, up there with the copyright collection agency JASRAC and TV stations asking to use videos of disasters. The topic has become especially prevalent online this year, thanks to a bunch of special events, concerts and goods being disrupted by folks scooping up the items before fans can get a fair chance at buying them. It’s also earned a bigger spotlight because big changes are emerging to curb the practice.

Scalpers have long been a staple outside of music festivals and marquee sporting events, semi-discreetly hollering to anyone needing last-minute, price-inflated tickets. The internet made reselling more convenient for all involved and, as a result, much more prevalent. Resellers can now buy items online and use programs to help them game the system. This approach — not limited just to Japan — results in third parties getting the desired goods rather than actual fans. Resellers then turn to those very fans in order to make a nice profit.

The live music industry has been particularly active in combating this trend, instituting digital entry for high-demand shows requiring smartphone tickets and personal identification. But Cyzo recently published an article about how this shift doesn’t eliminate the problem entirely, as plenty just let others borrow phones with tickets on them, while the trust placed in this system has made staff less strict when checking digital tickets, according to sources quoted in the piece.

One solution might come from vigilant fans themselves. This year’s most sought-after concert ticket will be to the final gigs Arashi plays before its break. But as Yahoo! Japan reported earlier this month, fans are on edge over resellers gobbling those tickets up. One way of stopping them? Arashi supporters, who could report any suspicious activity and resales by using a dedicated form set up by the original ticket vendor to report resales on secondary markets.

Sports clubs have also tried to block out scalpers, though the end result has on at least one occasion become newsworthy for all the wrong reasons. In February, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp required fans to physically go to the team’s home stadium to take part in a ticket lottery, but it descended into chaos due to high demand, with supporters screaming at staff.

Meanwhile, recent resale examples persist — a special line of collaborative clothes between GU and a member of Exile became too hard to get because of resellers. Same goes for a line of glasses sold at J!ns designed in tandem with the smartphone game “Touken Ranbu.” And, go on YouTube and you’ll stumble across channels devoted to offering tips on how to get the most from reselling goods from various stores, including Costco and Don Quijote, with all comments disabled because it would get messier than a Jordan Peterson video.

Yet, like so many aspects of Japan of late, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has prompted the government to get involved. Last December, the Diet passed a law that will make ticket scalping illegal ahead of the games, coming into effect in mid-June of this year. Netizens busted out clapping-hand emojis in response.

But that joy might not last. Harbor Business Online talked to a reseller about the law and, besides offering a peek into how reselling works (join as many fanclubs as you can), the interview subject doesn’t seem too worried. They say the law is already on most resellers’ minds, and they believe as long as demand for limited goods exists, scalpers will find a way.