Houston Marathon inadvertently creates market for entries
For its upcoming race in January, the Houston Marathon decided to allow registered runners to transfer their entry to someone else for a fee (the rationale being, if one is unable to participate for some reason, the spot won't go to waste).
Of course, the race only accepts a limited number of participants, and demand is fairly heavy, so the new transferability of entries means... a secondary market for entries has emerged. Judging by a recent email from Marathon officials, they are not happy about this development:
Runners seeking entry into the 2008 marathon or half marathon are still able to do so via registration transfers. Transfers allow registered entrants to transfer their registrations to those seeking entries. If you have an entry that will not be used, we need you to help those who are ready to run but are without an entry. Please be financially considerate in your requests when transferring your entry to another person -- we want you to be able to recover your entry fee if you won't be able to run, but we do not endorse selling your bib for an excessive amount.
NOTE: IN AN EFFORT TO PROTECT AGAINST PRICE GOUGING, IF ANY PERSON FROM THIS DATE ON IS CAUGHT ATTEMPTING TO CHARGE MORE THAN $200 FOR A MARATHON ENTRY OR $140 FOR A HALF MARATHON ENTRY, THEY RUN THE RISK OF BEING BANNED FROM PARTICIPATING IN ANY OF OUR 2009 RACE EVENTS. IF YOU HAVE AN ENTRY FOR SALE ON EBAY, CRAIGSLIST OR ELSEWHERE AND ARE CHARGING ABOVE $200 OR $140, WE SUGGEST YOU CHANGE YOUR ASKING PRICE IMMEDIATELY.
ALL CAPS! THEY MUST REALLY MEAN BUSINESS.
I'm not a huge fan of scalpers, but is it really that surprising that people would take to Craigslist and Ebay to sell transferable items for which demand outstrips supply?
The definition of "gouging" is interesting as well. Selling an $85 entry for $200.01 is "gouging" but anything less is apparently just fine.
The Marathon organizers may have to revisit the "transferability" issue next year.
UPDATE (10-26-2007): Houston's
leading trailing information source finally decided to cover this story. Better than never, we suppose!