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.