Korean pop sensations BTS are coming to London in October, which means the Undercover Economist spent a morning recently trying in vain to secure tickets from a variety of websites that were claiming to sell them. Grey-market tickets of unknown provenance are now available at high prices. The struggle for BTS tickets is hardly unique. The World Cup is coming up, and then there’s Wimbledon, and don’t even get me started on Hamilton. Economists have had a solution to such frustrations for so long that it is becoming our cliché. The problem is that a limited supply of BTS tickets is priced too cheaply relative to demand. Auctioning off the tickets to the highest bidders would fix that problem, and all but eliminate touts and scalpers: if true BTS fans have already submitted their highest bids in the auction, there is little profit left for resellers. Some people find auctions distasteful, and BTS may not want to be tainted by that. But the auction design problem itself is more intrigui...

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