Remember when Groupon was a source for bargains offered at below face value? Not so for Burning Man fans this week. An apparent Groupon deal offered $390 Burning Man tickets at the generous price of $1,635, a 490% price increase on an offer that still remains hosted on Groupon’s website.
You can see a screenshot of the Groupon deal above, which at face value looks like a real bargain! After all, don’t Burning Man tickets cost $390? They do, but the deal shown above is actually $336 for a $50 vehicle pass. That very same $50 vehicle pass will still be available for $50 during the Burning Man Secure Ticket Exchange and the OMG Sale phase in July.
When a deal-seeker clicked on the “Buy!” button for that apparent $336 ticket, they were then redirected to FanXchange, where individual resellers were scalping actual Burning Man tickets for $952-$1,635 (see below). On top of that, you’d also have to register an account with FanXchange (which sounds like a pretty dismal idea).
Groupon’s ad display simply previewed the $336 price because it lowest-possible submitted price for a set of third-party offers ostensibly containing the keywords “Burning Man,” it appears. The $336 figure is designed to attract the buyer’s attention, but in actuality, it’s just scalpers trying to resell those tickets for more than a thousand bucks. Now you know who made you wait in line for an hour when you were trying to buy your Burning Man tickets.
Burners were incensed, as they tend to get over any online ticket manipulation or perceived violation of their 10 Principles. The “deal” was reported to the Burning Man organization, who successfully demanded that the offer be revoked. The official Burning Man Twitter account tweeted on Tuesday that the deal had been removed, as “radical inclusion” apparently does not include scalpers using FanXchange and Groupon to sell tickets at almost 500% above face value.
Thanks everybody for bringing that @Groupon deal to our attention. It’s been taken down.— Burning Man (@burningman) March 10, 2015
However, the "deal" does remain on Groupon's site, albeit with the deal’s checkout page now disabled, and the “Buy!” button is now a “Not Yet ” button whose third-party redirect link was removed.
Groupon has no affiliation with FanXchange, they say, and it's unclear if it was even a FanXchange employee who posted the deal to Groupon. It's more likely that a few random scalpers were just manipulating the FanXchange platform, which itself was manipulating the Groupon platform.
That means that every brand name involved has plausible, arm’s-length deniability even though their names remain on it, they’re hosting it and they’re making money off it.
In any case, we're sure this won't be the last time we see someone using all the wonderful tools the internet provides to game the Burning Man system. But you know what The Man tells you: if you see something, say something. To us!