Oct 11, 2011

Has This Ever Happened To You?

As a member of the press, I'm typically shielded from the ticketing headaches of the average theatergoer, but occasionally I opt to pay for my tickets through the usual channels and receive yet another reminder of why theatergoing for the average person can feel like a losing proposition.

So does this ever happen to you: You order tickets for a show, then realize within five days of the reservation that you need to switch them to another night, and you call the ticket service (OvationTix, in my case) and ask about their policy, and they tell you: No exchanges or refunds? Understand, availability is not an issue—there are plenty of seats at all performances. But this no-change policy effectively means I'm out the price of two tickets for a show I can't attend, and to attend another performance I've got to fork over for another two tickets?

I mean, I've dealt with Ticketmaster and Telecharge and their evil fees, and I've missed one-night-only concerts I'd paid full price for and didn't fuss about it (because they were one-night-only deals, and the demand was understood to be relatively high). And I know that it must be a headache to have people trying to switch their reservations all the time; presumably that's what the "service charges" are for. But with Zipcar, for instance, you've got within 24 hours of your reservation to change or cancel it for a car; it just seems exceedingly stupid that you can do nothing similar about reservations for two seats at the theater.

End of rant.


Esther said...

You know, I've railed before about businesses that act like there's still a 1950s housewife at home at all times. (For example, cable companies and doctors that operate on a Monday-Friday, 9 to 5 schedule.)

Theater ticket companies seem to fit in that category, too. I agree, there definitely needs to be more leeway. People have busy lives, emergencies, etc. They should make it easy to exchange tickets, especially when we're not talking about a Book of Mormon type sellout.

In January and February I had tickets for two plays in Boston that I couldn't use due to an extended family emergency. I didn't even consider contacting the theaters because I knew I wouldn't be able to go at another time during the run. I suppose I could have tried asking for a credit. I just figured, I knew the rules when I bought them and it was my tough luck.

On the other hand, a couple of years ago I was able to easily exchange my ticket for a Broadway touring production for another date in the run.

2SD (Two Show Days) said...

What bothers me most is when bad weather makes is unwise to travel into the city from far away and then not being able to reschedule the tickets. I mean, they rely so much on tourist revenue, you think they'd be more flexible about that.

Daniel Bourque said...

This is a huge, huge annoying issue and it's one where theaters should get themselves out of the dark ages. It’s especially aggravating when there is bad weather involved or illness – I’ve gone to shows a few times when I didn’t go to work and felt no guilt about it due to the fact that there was no way to exchange or do anything with an expensive ticket. At least give people the option to exchange with a fee or something! I realize that most places are cash strapped and this is the last thing they have any time to think about, but talk about setting the barriers high for everyone, let alone people who might not be boiling over with desire to see a show. Like you I'm insulated from this somewhat since I see some stuff for free as a working director and frequently know someone who can help if something comes up, at least when I'm seeing stuff on the fringe level, but anywhere beyond that... forget it. I see a lot of shows, and frequently I build my theatergoing schedule around my directing, often months in advance. Because of this, I've really come to value companies that will let me do exchanges without much notice (usually if you are a member/subscriber) since my schedule tends to be enormously fluid. I can even understand more back in the days when tickets had to be printed out, records were kept on paper, etc, but with computerization and digital records it just seems preposterous that there can't be some more flexibility. And don't even get me started on the total inability to choose *WHERE* I sit with Telecharge and the like. I know of companies who would fall all over themselves to make a tiny percentage of what they rake in who give you more control over choosing where you sit. Ticket prices? That's another story all together. I wouldn't mind paying as much as I do for theatre if there was just a little more flexibility. But "Sorry, you'll have to buy another ticket" when we know damn well that the show is running for two more weeks and isn't even going to begin to fill the house is just another way to turn audiences off.