Opinion: A costly injustice of ball season

Photo - Danielle Golds
Photo – Danielle Golds

Last Sunday was the first time I have ever fully witnessed the rush for last-minute ball tickets. Having missed out on the two official rounds of sales for the Mermaids’ Christmas Ball, my girlfriend was intensely combing the Facebook page in order to find two willing and available sellers. Dozens were messaged; dozens responded in a matter of seconds with: “sorry – already sold it.”

We eventually found two tickets, and had a hugely enjoyable night, but the ordeal of the day highlighted serious faults in the way in which the sale of surplus or unwanted ball tickets is conducted in St Andrews. The established procedure, relying on a vast informal market, is inefficient, unregulated and implicitly elitist to the point that it disgraces an aspect of this university that is considered a cultural staple.

[pullquote]It is more difficult for these individuals to meet the sums that profiteering sellers demand…[/pullquote]

It is astounding that we deem it permissible that we, most of whom are already sufficiently stressed by coursework and exams as well as personal and societal commitments, should have to spend hours prior to wristband collection with our eyes glued to our Facebook accounts, furiously arranging fraught and unguaranteed transactions. Especially when there is no certainty that the effort dedicated will pay off. Luck and timing appear to play a greater role than planning and organising.

An element of the “luck” is the fortune to possess such financial resources that you are able to be flexible with your purchasing price. Ball tickets are not especially cheap to begin with, but at least they are static, allowing those who need to be cautious with money the opportunity to incorporate the costs in advance. It is more difficult for these individuals to meet the sums that profiteering sellers demand, which can often amount to two or three times the original price. Therefore they selfishly deny our fellow students the chance to attend these events. Maybe they do not personally care for egalitarian principles, but our societies, like the Mermaids, which form the heart of our student community, certainly must.

This is why it falls upon these societies to enact a system for last-minute ball ticket sales that is fair and rewards planning and organisation. Identification should be required both at the point of purchasing a ticket and upon collecting the wristband, eliminating the opportunity for transactions that have not directly involved the society. Unwanted tickets should be sold back to the society for the price for which they were bought before a final ticket sale, operating on the basis of first-come-first-served, in the hours preceding wristband collection. At this final sale, the price of the tickets should be the same as they originally were.

Balls are often cited as a corner stone of the St Andrean experience, but the informal market for tickets fails to reflect that spirit. With a little more energy, planning and regulation, it is possible to enhance accessibility to these events.


  1. So your point is that the University should waste time and money pandering to disorganised people who couldn’t be bothered to acquire tickets timeously through the normal channels? It just stands to reason that if you want an in-demand ticket and leave it to the last minute that you will have to pay more for it. That isn’t elitism, it is simply the operation of market forces: limited supply, exponential demand.

    The balls are overrated anyway, but in a town which has no nightclubs as such, I suppose we have to accept with what is on offer in terms of larger gatherings.

    With a little planning tickets are EASY to acquire for all of the balls. Next time try not leaving it to the last minute.

    I thought The Saint had sunk to an all-time low with the cringeworthy banality of its article on stylish tutors, but this surpasses even that.

    • This is not about rewarding disorganised people, because my proposed amendment also operates on a “first-come-first-served” basis. In fact, it rewards organisation more so as it means that even those who could theoretically pay any amount for a ball ticket still have to be organised enough to attend a sale.

      It is astonishing that, within a student community of equals, we are allowing “the operation of market forces” to privilege the better off without considering ways of improving accessibility for all to the events that are considered a vital part of this university’s ‘experience’.

  2. I agree with the idea of supply and demand for “private” events such as House of Horror, DONT WALK et al. but, as Isaac said above, it does not align with the apparent egalitarian values of Mermaids – a Union sub-committee of which everyone is a member – to have their tickets peddled for triple the price, with more money going to the unscrupulous seller than sending our performers to the Fringe.

  3. Yeah, welcome to the free market. Where’s the elitism here? I fail to see it. If you want a ticket, you can either queue up and get it during official sales, or keep you eyes on the FB pages at the last minute. It’s as simple as that, if you want to go to a ball you also need to accept the effort involved.

    I have a major issue with this part: “It is astounding that we deem it permissible that we, most of whom are already sufficiently stressed by coursework and exams as well as personal and societal commitments, should have to spend hours prior to wristband collection with our eyes glued to our Facebook accounts, furiously arranging fraught and unguaranteed transactions.”

    Newsflash – no one’s forcing you to “have to spend hours” on finding tickets if you are already stressed with exams. It’s not compulsory, it’s your own choice. No one is obligated to go these balls, which are provided by people who already spend enough time on planning them as it is. The system you mention would be quite an additional workload for organisers, who might also have exams and other things to do.

    And a final question, what’s not “egalitarian” about this? Everyone has the same chances to get their tickets… be it regularly or at a later time. You find a seller and if you’re willing to pay the asked price, you get the product. It’s really just like eBay. Or maybe that’s not egalitarian either…

    Honestly, this article is making a big deal out of something quite unimportant.

  4. I think we are ignoring the fact that no matter how organized you are, people are always going to miss out on ticket sales and people are always going to re-sell tickets and it’s how we structure the re-selling that is the issue at hand. What if you have a lecture during ticket sales and can’t make it? It’s unfair that people can choose to be disorganized and still be guaranteed a last minute ticket because they have 200 pounds to spend on it.

  5. You’ve written an article about how hard it is buying tickets for something that is popular

    Or in your words

    The existential dilemma of when one’s egalitarian and noble expectations come into conflict with the shallowness and moral decadence of the exchange of financial resources

    Next time I go into a shop and find they’ve raised the price of freddos again I’m going to shout passages of Rousseau at them and call them capitalist pigs when they tell me to fuck off

  6. Downvote. If you REALLY want to go to balls, you put in the effort to get a ticket and wake up early and get in the queue. Last minute decisions have to be met with last minute actions.

  7. There are so many holes in this article it’s actually quite funny. I had to check I hadn’t slept in and woken up on April 1st.

    It’s quite rare for an article to lose all credibility so early on (I’m referring to the title). Yours managed to. Let me say on behalf of the readership how heartbreaking it is to hear of your plight and of the injustice that you have had to suffer in your quest for tickets. You even used the word “ordeal” somewhere. Are you actually serious? There are kids star-

    Before I delve into the rest of the absolute nonsense you wrote, by your own admission there were two rounds of ticket sales that you and your other half “missed out on.” You didn’t explain how you missed out on them, but I suppose we are to assume that the event organisers are at fault here and as a consequence of your misfortune there needs to be a radical change in the ticket-selling status quo. It’s laughably ironic that in your closing sentence you advocate “better planning” for events. Is that one lost on you?

    Your statement that the ticket market is inefficient should not be argued with on logical grounds. You are just completely and unequivocally wrong. Even a circus monkey would take issue with your piece and argue that the unofficial ticket selling is a shining example of market forces (supply and demand to you) working EFFICIENTLY. This is self-evident immediately prior to events kicking off. If people don’t want to go, sellers price the ticket at less than face value. If people do want to go, the price rises above face value. It’s really that simple. There is however a way around this pre-event ticket price inflation that scolded you so harshly. That would be for event organisers to raise the price of the ticket to ensure supply doesn’t outstrip demand. In that case my friend, you would lose out in exactly the same way.

    “Implicitly elitist.” That really did it for me. The only thing implicit is your justification for the use of such a term. What exactly are you talking about? If someone wants to sell a ticket for three times the face value, and someone wants to buy it at that price, then so be it. I have never seen such a thing so can only assume you are lying. The fact is that the VAST majority of people at that event will have paid face value or thereabouts for their ticket, regardless of how they got hold of it. Your reaction has a strong element of ‘butthurt.’

    I agree with you on one point: profiting from tickets is wrong from a moral standpoint. The reality is, you have done nothing to convince us that this denies other students the opportunity to attend the events. I have seen no evidence of this widespread profiteering that you allude to. Just because a few people decide to make a quick profit on a ticket does not mean there needs to be some radical change in policy towards reselling, which leads me on to your hilariously poor solution.

    Lets imagine for the sake of argument that we have your system in place. There is a guaranteed buyback system in operation so everyone knows that if they buy a ticket for an event in round 1, they can sell it back AT THAT PRICE to the organisers of the event before round 2. What is the result? Lots and lots of people decide to buy a ticket in round 1. Those who were unsure and would ordinarily wait until closer to the event to buy a ticket on the ‘black market’ will buy the ticket straight away. This gives the organisers (students like ourselves) the false impression that they have SOLD OUT, and leaves them exposed to a huge financial liability if by some misfortune quite a few people decide to return their tickets. This system penalises not only the organisers, but also people who actually want to go but fail in the initial rush for tickets and the following first-come-first-served sale. It only slightly helps people like you who believe that the world should bend over backwards to accommodate your self-entitlement.

    The only other thing I hated about this article aside from the fact that you left it to your girlfriend to find the tickets (many hands make light work remember), was the fact you seemed to want to blame everybody but yourself for your circumstance. It made me think about the many other people who should take responsibility. Big Issue lady outside Tesco? She has to be involved somehow. Don’t worry though, it’s not your fault at all. The world is unfair and the ticket saga in St Andrews needs to change accordingly.

    Finally, a more general point not necessarily directed at you. I take real issue with the constant bashing of students who want to get involved in events at the University and without doubt make the student experience better. The Saint is as guilty as the rest. Events cost money, and the ticket price reflects that. If people want to get involved in FS, DW, Mermaid’s Ball or whatever else then good for them. They are working for free and in the vast majority of cases raising significant amounts of money for charity. What have you done? It’s very easy to call something elitist when you know nothing about it, and I can assure you that any barriers you feel exist between you and a position on such a committee are entirely self-imposed.

    All in all, a really poor effort from you Isaac. You are of course always entitled to your opinion, but you also have a responsibility to keep any ignorant and potentially harmful opinions to yourself. The blame doesn’t lie exclusively with you however. The Saint needs to have a quiet word with itself and quickly remove itself from the yellow journalism arms-race it seems to be having with The Stand. The result, inevitably, is that both newspapers will become a bit of a joke. The Stand got there long ago, you guys have a lot more to lose.

  8. Hi Isaac. A lot of people are being pedantic and talking about how students should be more organised if they can’t afford to pay higher rates for tickets nearer the time. Yes, if someone wants to be completely certain to get tickets, they should show up at 6am for 10am ticket sales. However, the reality is that most students don’t do that; they show up as early as they think necessary to ensure that they will get tickets. However, of those students, many will just miss out (particularly for popular balls such as mermaids). The problem seems to me to be that so many students who do get tickets think that it is okay to charge £80 for a ticket that they paid £35 for, meaning that of those students who do miss out (and are arguably all as lazy as each other), only the very wealthy are able to go. I agree with you, that this behaviour is clearly elitist. I hope that students will think about this in future, and offer their tickets for the original price if they find that they are unable to go.

    I write this as someone who was very keen to go, queued, just missed out, and then tried to get tickets on Facebook. I found that every time that I was the first to comment on a Facebook post about ticket sales, the seller was charging far more than I could afford. Someone in my position who was able to pay £80 would not have had that problem. This seems to me to be the issue at hand.

    • I completely agree with you (and Isaac)! I sat at the computer refreshing the page to buy a ticket online and didn’t manage, and then waited in line for 3 hours only to be turned away with one person left in front me. True, I could have gotten to the queue ten minutes earlier and made it. But it isn’t fair to call those who didn’t manage lazy! And this shouldn’t matter anyway – if someone decides that they would like to go last minute, what’s the difference between that and someone deciding that they DON’T want to go last minute and selling their ticket? Raising the price extortionately (or even at all) is taking advantage of someone in the exact same situation as you. It is selfish and unnecessary. I agree that the best solution would be Mermaids and other organisers having a system for re-selling tickets.

  9. Isaac, how about you get a job instead of writing stupid articles for the saint?

    That way the next time you miss ticket sales because you’re balls deep in your girlfriend you’ll have enough cash to pay the premium.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.