Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bib scalping: A suggestion

See my earlier post to get what's going on re: the Houston Marathon.

No doubt, there are folks on the Houston Marathon Committee getting more emails, phone calls, and advice about this than they care to…

I understand capping a race. It happens all the time in several marathons. The logistics and resources necessary to put on a marathon are immense and health and safety issues are critical. One only needs to look at the 2007 Chicago Marathon to realize that there is a limit to how big a race a city can handle.

That said; it seems like there could be a better plan in place to get folks in the marathon who did not register prior to the cap.

The current plan is to help provide an open market for the buying and selling of bibs. In addition to the bib scalping, there’s another downside. Suppose that later in December, lot’s of folks are willing to sell there bibs at face value. And suppose that many runners hook up with these folks and get bibs. Well, that’s just great…but it sure is a hassle for everyone involved.

Here’s my suggestion…

If a registered runner finds out that they won’t be running, they let the marathon folks know asap. At that point, they get either a partial refund OR a guaranteed deferral to next year’s marathon. Bingo, there is now one more person who could sign up for the marathon.

If you’re one of the unlucky folks who missed the cap, you get on an alternate list. If you’re first on the list, you just got the spot from the runner listed above. Simple huh?

What about no-shows and last minute cancellations?
On the day before the marathon (Saturday in the case of Houston), a few of hours before the Expo closes, the marathon folks count up the number of race packets that have not been picked up.
For the sake of argument, let's say it's 500 race packets
Take some percentage of that...spose ~80% or 400 (gotta save some packets for those last minute pickups)
Then, start issuing RESERVED bib numbers to folks on the alternate list.

For folks in town, this should be pretty easy as they can hang out at the Expo. For folks out of town, they would need to know where in the alternate line they were to help them decide if they should come to Houston. If you're number 10 on the alternate list, you are 99% sure you're in (if, as Steve Karpas indicated earlier, ~10% of runners are no-shows).

Bingo, you just got up to 400 runners in the marathon.

Yes, there are logistics and details to printing out alternate bib numbers, keeping track of the alternate list, setting deadlines for refunds, etc.

However, you do eliminate (or minimize) the bib scalping that is making quite a few folks unhappy. You also eliminate the head-ache of either banning, or attempting to ban, someone because they sold their bib number on eBay for $201.

And most importantly, you provide a real service to the runners.

1 comment: said...

The ING NYC Marathon lets you defer.

Granted you've already paid once you win your spot in their lottery, but as long as you make the May 1st deadline to register for the following year, you're in. I know this because I won a spot in '04, but deferred to '05.

I've always made the point that if NYC can, other marathons should be able to as well. (However, it probably didn't fit the business model until now ... which is that there is more demand than supply.)