With Spring Festival just around the corner, China’s 12306 train ticket sales site seems to be doing at least a little better than it did last year, but things definitely aren’t going perfectly. Among the latest issues is a flaw in the ticket return system that scalpers are exploiting to scalp tickets despite China’s real-name ticket system.
According to the Dongfang Daily‘s report, scalpers have discovered that by buying tickets and then returning them en masse, they can exploit a flaw in the system’s basic design. It apparently works like this: scalpers buy as many tickets as they can in their own names for all of the most popular lines. Then they wait until those lines are sold out. Once the lines are sold out, they connect with passengers who still need tickets for those trains, and arrange to (for a price, of course) return their tickets at a specific time, thus freeing up a spot on the train the customer wants.
It’s not the most precise system in the world — it requires customers to act fast before someone else notices and grabs the empty spot — but it seems to be working well enough that scalpers outside Beijing’s train stations were advertising it to worried travelers looking for a seat on trains that are already sold out. It has also led to record numbers of returned tickets. On its worst single day so far, the Railway Ministry received 224,000 ticket returns from the online system.
Separately, Tech in Asia has continued to receive anecdotal reports that the site isn’t functioning properly for many customers. A weibo poll we conducted attracted only a dozen respondents, but found that the vast majority of them had experienced technical problems with the site, and several readers have left comments on our site to the same effect. Granted, these users are all self-selecting and certainly not a sufficiently large sample to draw any definitive conclusions, but it seems that at least some Chinese users are finding the site to be just as difficult to use as it was last year.
(Dongfang Daily via Sina Tech)