I feel there’s something between us. Oh wait. It’s a wall.

A lot of customers I talk to are scared to buy tickets at box offices.

I wonder why . . .

Could it be the bullet proof glass and the creepy sounding microphones?

Broadway used to be a cash and hard-ticket business.  Barriers of bullet proof glass were necessary to protect potential smash-and-grabs.

But is this customer-service obstacle necessary in 2009, when the majority of tickets are purchased with credit cards, when we have e-tickets, when box offices don’t have to rack-and-stack as many performances in advance because the tickets can be printed as needed, and so on?

Yes, there are times when thousands and thousands of dollars worth of inventory are held behind those walls.

However, I’ve been to banks that don’t have the barriers box offices have. What about Walmarts?  Apple stores?  Jewlery stores?  God knows Tiffany’s keeps their valuable items behind glass, but you still get to talk to the seller face to face.  In fact, Tiffany’s is smart enough to know that their sales depend on that face time.

Surely there are plenty of other security measures we could put into place in the 21st century that could have the same, if not more of a protective effect as our ancient methods that undeniably have a detrimental effect on our consumers’ purchasing experience.

I’m all about safety.

I just want to make sure my customers feel safe as well.

And when I can create a closer bond between my customers and my sellers, there is a much better chance that my customers will come back.

  • I had a horrible experience at the Next to Normal box office this summer. I had a discount code and the guy didn’t want to honor it without a piece of paper with the discount code printed on it. Never mind that any print out would have come from my printer. Never mind that I’ve used codes in that manner for any number of Broadway shows. My choices were to pay full price knowing full well the show was offering a discount, to go print the code out from a kinko’s in the neighborhood and give it to the snarky box office guy, or to call telecharge and pay the enormous upcharge. It was a horrible experience and sadly has affected my overall thoughts on the show. Had I not been purchasing tickets for guests who chose that show specifically, I would have told the guy (and the show) to stuff it and purchased something else.

  • bdg says:

    I think the bigger problem than the glass is the attitude that a large majority of those working behind the glass have towards the customers. It’s the poorest customer service ever. It’s almost as if they don’t want you to see the show. Ironically, much like “NY Theater Producer”, I had a similar experience at N2N. About 20 minutes before the show, I had a printout of the discount code, and all that was coming up were seats in the Mezz, but for regular price, there were seats in the 5th row orchestra on the aisle. Now, I understand if they don’t want to give a discount code early in the day, or in advance, for those top seats, but 20 minutes before the show when it’s the difference between selling two tickets or not selling any at all, it was extremly illogical and obnoxious of the box office guy to say “oh, no, we could never give you those seats using the code.” Needless to say, I found out later that several tickets have been available at TKTS in the Orchestra, and for cheaper than I would have paid with the discount. Oh well. I’ll still be seeing the show many more times. It’s just frustrating.

  • jakedeg says:

    Sorry in advance for the long comment, but I’ve got lots to say about this general topic, even as it branches off from Ken’s initial ‘walls’ post:
    The embarrassingly, sales-impeding, customer-demoralizing bad service, I would argue, goes far beyond the box office windows, through the FOH doors to encompass a large variety of house-staff at many of the Broadway theaters. And I do specify Broadway, because in off-Broadway, even commercial off-Broadway, I rarely witness the same attitudes. From the concessions workers sloshing their buckets of ice noisily up and down the stairs in the back of house to warn the entire audience of their impending intermission shifts, to the house managers rolling their eyes if a patron has a sightline complaint, to the ushers being snippy and rude, I frequently find that my theatre-going experience makes me wonder how Broadway even sells as well as it does.
    I mean, I am pretty addicted to the theatre and am intrenched in the community, so I’ll put up with the attitude because I am committed to seeing the show, but if I were not so involved and did not have so much invested; if I were just like so many of those thousands of ticket holders who are simply at the theatre to have a pleasant, entertaining evening, I can only imagine that the disrespect and attitude would dilute and taint, if not entirely overtake any positive value I was getting from the show.
    Two specific examples:
    1) Next to Normal. I was there with my girlfriend. We had comps, but there was of course no way for the usher to know that. With about 20 minutes until curtain, after we had found our seats, my girlfriend got up to use the restroom. When she returned, the row had been filled in with three elderly couples who clearly were not the most agile or mobile bunch. In contrast, the row directly behind us was empty. So, she made a judgement call. Instead of disturbing 6 other patrons, she chose to enter the row behind us and step carefully over a seat to her own. Now, I realize and admit that stepping over a row of seats is not the preferred behavior at a Broadway show and maybe it was the wrong choice, but from the tongue-lashing she received from a furious usher who oversaw the affair and came running over to scold her, you would think she was trying to rip the seats out of the floor and run off with them. Instead of a polite and discreet “Ma’am, I’m so sorry, but in the future we would appreciate if you’d refrain from stepping over the seats”, she got pointed at and yelled at to the point of humiliation. Way to alienate your customer, madame usher.
    2) Speed the Plow (sorry, Ken). It would appear that the Barrymore has a policy that dictates that no cell phone, of any sort, shall ever been seen or used in the theatre at any time, ever, with no exceptions, no matter what. Sound a bit over-bearing and unnecessarily dictatorial? It is. Now, I hate cell phones ringing as much as the next Patti LuPone, and as a theatre designer myself, I respect the intellectual property onstage and do not think patrons should be taking pictures of the stage, but give me a break. People are busy, especially in New York City and for better or worse, people’s cell phones have become a necessity through the day and many people rely on that connectedness to do their jobs (see Ken’s iPhone commercial for a perfect example of this!) Many working folks are taking precious time out of their schedules to come to a show in the first place and we should make that as easy and painless for them as possible. So, Point A: bad policy. Now Point B: bad policing: This policy leads to the ushers patrolling the aisles pre-show and at intermission scanning for anyone who dares to reach into their pocket to pull out a phone. During a show, great. But at intermission? During people’s own time? When people are SUPPOSED to be taking a break from the show? Come on, now. In reality, what this leads to, is the inevitable defiant rebels who do whatever they need to do (hiding phones behind playbills, sneaking phones behind their friend’s back, causing distractions by shouting “Fire!”) just to check their email. By treating non-disruptive non-copyright-infringing cell phone use like a crime, you again make your audience feel like criminals and the theatre feel like an unwelcome place where they don’t want to be.
    These people are paying HUGE amounts of money for the seat they’re sitting in for 2 hours. The least we can do is make them feel respected and welcome and appreciated while they’re in it. We (the industry) cannot afford to have people walking away saying “the show was great, but god- i hated that usher and being here was really unpleasant”. I know that the rude attitude is part of the NY experience, but it needs to stop somewhere.

  • LB says:

    I guess I’m an exception, but I never buy theater tickets online. Why pay those ridiculous service fees when I can go to the theater, pick the seat I want, and usually get a discount? I’ve encountered the rude box office employees, but for the most part, I’ve had very positive experiences at the box office, especially at the Eugene O’Neill.

  • M says:

    I recently took a trip to New York and had the experience that only Next to Normal will actually ask to see the piece of paper with the discount code on it. The lady was very nice about it but no other theatre even cared – the minute I said the words ‘discount code’ they were like ‘oh, yes, here’s a seat in Row C’ – so I found that kind of odd. I can’t stand how expensive Broadway is. I am from the UK and would NEVER consider paying the prices I paid over there for the seats I got over here.

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