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Pavilion ticket touts take their business online

2010. 3 August

by Duan Wuning
( Scalpers of reservation tickets to hot pavilions at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai have taken their business online in the latest move in the game of cat and mouse between the touts and Expo authorities.

Postings by sellers claiming to be students have appeared on online shopping website recently, saying they can take advantage of the ongoing summer vacation to wait in line for pavilion reservation tickets on behalf of their customers.

To avoid making a cash transaction with their customers on the scene, which would run the risk of attracting the attention of the authorities, sellers ask for payment to be made via online payment system Alipay. The system can accept payment from customers before tickets are handed over, but delay releasing funds to sellers until customers confirm they received the tickets.

Reservation tickets are used to control the flow of visitors to particularly popular pavilions. Free, limited to one per person and only valid on the day of issue, competition to secure the tickets when the Expo Park opens each morning is fierce.

Monday, tickets to the Taiwan Pavilion were going for 200 yuan ($30) each on Taobao, while those for the China Pavilion were being sold for 400 yuan ($59) each.

When reached by the Global Times Monday, one of the sellers claimed he provided his service to save visitors the time and energy involved in queuing early in the morning, and that his charges constitute a "small tip."

However, when asked if he could provide three tickets in September - when colleges will have returned from their summer break - the seller said it would be no problem, casting doubt on his claim that he is a student selling tickets over the summer holiday to make pocket money.

"Expo reservation tickets are not for sale, and we remind visitors not to buy them from scalpers as it's risky," Hong Hao, director of the Expo Coordination Bureau, said at a press conference on July 31.

An official from the Taiwan Pavilion, who preferred not to be named, told the Global Times Monday that they ensure each visitor gets just one reservation ticket when they hand them out.

A spokesman for Taobao said the company would look into the matter. "It is the first time we have noticed these postings. We are very concerned and will see to it immediately," Zhao Jingpeng, press officer of the Hangzhou-based shopping website, told the Global Times Monday. "We will delete such postings manually once a complaint is filed online or via our customer service hot line."

Zhao added that, if not reported, the system will automatically check for postings of illegal items, although this might take some time due to the huge number of new postings on the site each day.

"I won't buy a reservation ticket, as it's very unfair to other visitors who have queued," said Zhang Yeyun, a 24-year-old Shanghai citizen.