Ten years ago, ticket scalpers in China raked in plenty of cash during Spring Festival, however, they are no longer finding it a profitable business.
A ticket scalper nicknamed “Manniu,” who used to hide from police at a railway station in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, no longer engages in scalping, instead he sells shredded cakes near the station.
“No matter what I do, I can earn more money than by ticket scalping, moreover, it is not so easy to scalp tickets,” he said.
Inadequate rail services, resulting in severe ticket shortages, notably during festival peak seasons when people travel back to their hometowns to visit family, have long been a headache for Chinese authorities.
Scalpers would stockpile tickets, reselling them at high margins, disturbing the market and sparking public anger.
Guo Ping has worked as a railway policeman in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi, since 1997 and has rich experience pursuing ticket scalpers.
“In the past, we stood on top of a building to observe ticket buyers with telescopes to identify suspected scalpers,” Guo said.
He said that police would also look for suspects by installing video cameras in front of ticket buyers around the ticket hall.
Although scalping is illegal in China, scalpers were a common sight at railway stations across the country in the past.
Thanks to the expansion of the high-speed railway network and the introduction of a name system, which requires real-names and ID numbers printed on all tickets, scalpers are a dying breed.
“Manniu” is not the only Chinese ticket scalper to have changed careers.
Liu Quan (a pseudonym) was punished in 2010 for ticket scalping and now operates a fruit stand in Xiamen, eastern China’s Fujian province.
“Ticket scalping has become more and more difficult since 2011,” Liu said, citing the online booking system.
Liu said that he did not want his children to be affected by his disgraceful practice, adding that many of his colleagues had switched to new businesses.
Up to 356 million trips are expected to be made via rail during the Spring Festival travel period this year, up 9.7 percent year on year, according to China Railway Corporation.