SuperOyster: Monetizing the Waiting List

Starting today, Seattle-based SuperOyster is showing some very early alpha code to users.

The service, which was profiled earlier this month on O’Reilly Radar, has an innovative and controversial business model: allowing people to buy and sell their places in line on a waiting list.

The prime market for this is professional sports, where waiting lists to buy season tickets are sometimes decades long. If a team integrates the SuperOyster solution, fans on the waiting list will be able to buy and sell those positions to each other at prices determined by the overall market.

I think this is a good thing. Today, people pay for waitlisted goods by waiting. Time has value, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be allocated like other assets – according to a market. People who value time less will be willing to wait. Those who value it more, won’t.

Others will disagree, arguing that “one of the few vaguely egalitarian experiences left in our increasingly commoditized world is standing in line and taking your turn” as one commenter stated in the O’Reilly post above. And Marshall Kirkpatrick points out another issue with SuperOyster: “…isn’t a certain amount of the hipness quotient mitigated by the public knowledge that you didn’t get into the soiree because you were hip enough to know about it first – but because you bought out some one else who did?”

Whatever your position, this stuff is coming, and the Internet is continuing to destroy persistent market inefficiencies.