Restaurant reservations have become the hot new scalping racket

Bots, scammers, line-sitters, and mercenaries have made it all but impossible to get a reservation directly from a restaurant in New York.

According to Adam Iscoe's piece in The New Yorker, snapping up a prime 8pm Friday table now requires shelling out scalper prices to internet "mercenaries" who deploy bots to hoard reservations.

Iscoe interviewed Jonas Frey, a 36-year-old software engineer who created the reservation scalping site After struggling to get a spot to renew his driver's license at the DMV, Frey had the bright idea to create an eBay for reservations where side-hustlers could hawk tables at hot restaurants to the highest bidders. The scalpers on use phony VIP requests and work with restaurant staffers who sell good tables for cash. One college student boasts raking in $70K just for reselling reso slots, aided by fake accents and identities to dupe overworked hostesses.

From the article:

Prospective buyers browse a list of restaurants organized by locale. Frey designed an algorithm that determines the most popular places based on reservation requests; in New York, 4 Charles, Tatiana (an Afro-Caribbean place at Lincoln Center), and COQODAQ (Flatiron Korean fried chicken) currently top the list. Users can click around a glitchy Google Maps plug-in, or type a restaurant's name in the search bar. You can buy a limited selection of "instantly available reservations"—an indoor Friday-night four-top at Don Angie, a modern Village trattoria, for two hundred and twenty-five dollars—or place a bid, for a restaurant and a time of your choosing. Then individual resellers (for instance, FlirtatiousCanvas69, ExpeditiousFork45) can accept the bid and fulfill it by any means necessary.

Scalpers scalping the rich who blow four figures on gratuitous tasting menus? Color me delighted!

Previously: French chef pleads Michelin to take away his 3 stars