Why a box office should be a bit like private school.

Ok, readers.  This is your official rant alert, so look out.  Ready?  Set?   Here goes . . .

I went to pick up four tickets to a big budget Broadway show recently that cost me about $500 buckaroos.

I approached that big scary glass partition (that I’ve blogged about before), and out popped a box office rep ready to serve me.  And serve me they did . . . wearing a well-worn sweatshirt and jeans, like they were working behind the counter at a Dairy Queen, not a Broadway box office.

Can you name me another industry that is trying to sell consumers a product priced over $100/each, with the average sale probably around $500,  that would let their front line sales reps wear a sweatshirt and jeans?  They have dress codes at The Gap, for G-D’s sake, why can’t we?

Maybe this was a fluke, as certainly not all box offices in town dress this way.  There are plenty of suit and tie BOs out there.    But frankly, this wasn’t the first time I’ve seen “dress down day” at a show, so I felt compelled to say/write something.

If you expect a customer to shell out megabucks for your product, you should dress to impress.  That’s sales training 101.  In fact, that’s sales training wheels 101.

And if you don’t want to make your employees have to figure out what to wear, then put them in a uniform, even if that’s just the same type of t-shirt.

It’s just respectful, especially when engaging in high-priced business transactions (or even when you just want them to buy an $15 Gap T-Shirt).

And treating our customers with respect is the best way to get them to “pay” their respects as well.


(Got a comment?  I love ’em, so comment below!  Email subscribers, click here, then scroll down, to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Heidi says:

    I’m equally concerned when their attitude is like a ratty sweatshirt. I’m quite comfortable with an abrupt but efficient New Yorker, but one woman at the Palace Theatre in April was condescending and rude. I came back later, but it was really difficult to hand a hundred dollar bill through that window!
    SO yes, dress codes and maybe a little training in respect and customer service.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    Agreed! Whatever happened to class?

  • lbulow says:

    I was just telling a co-worker today how my first trip to ‘Broadway’ was a bit of a let down because it was all so casual — no problem for box office employees or attending audience to wear jeans and tennis shoes. It was a big deal for me to finally get to NYC and I’d waited a long time — it just wasn’t what I’d pictured the experience to be … having said that, I really do want to go back to see Spiderman 🙂

  • Brian says:

    I’ve always wondered why the people who directly interact with Broadway customers – box office, ushers, ticket taker, line minders, lottery folks – are often (not always but often) dressed casually with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. Not an attractive appearance. The casual attitude also seems to be more accepted by certain theatre owners than others.

  • Doug Hicton says:

    If you ended up buying the tickets, then the way the guy at the wicket was dressed didn’t make a damn bit of difference in the end. By the time you go to the box office, you’ve already made up your mind that you want to see the show. I’d venture to say that point-of-sale is usually not the box office itself. It was probably a phone rep who sold you the tickets, and he could have been dressed in a soiled wife-beater for all you’d know. Good customer service and sharp apparel are apples and oranges.
    And I don’t really think a box office should be at all like a private school in any case, because I believe private schools should be abolished. But that’s a topic for another day and another forum.

  • Cecil says:

    Yes, Life has become to casual. I am amazed at what people who pay the high ticket prices wear and carry to the theatre, everything from backpacks to their daily groceries.

  • Jan says:

    Totally agree! People working at McDonald’s look more professional than some of the box office folks I’ve come across. Even if tickets were less expensive, it’s about customer service, it should be part of the EXPERIENCE… speaking of which, remember when audiences used to dress for the theater?

  • Ken-
    Since B’Way has become like Hollywood (everybody makes money even on a flop) you would think that they could spend some of those outrageous budget dollars to make the front end more classy and appealing. BTW: In this day of anyone can write a play and get it produced, and anyone can write and publish a book, and “everybody wants to be an art director”, and everyone is a theatrical critic, how can the really talented and professional people survive in that kind of mediocre climate. the term: “Artist” is way overused. Too many “wanna be’s” have somehow have gotten into the biz. What happened? Reply in your blog, if you care to. —Steve Conners.

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    So true. But it goes way beyond dress. The whole experience of seeing a Broadway show is so degrading. Seats that are half wide enough. No leg room. Restrooms that couldn’t accomodate a tenth as many people as they need to. Staff that is perfunctory at best, rude and inept at worst. Sound systems that seem to have been devised by the Marquis De Sade. Terrible sight lines. Dirty…well, everything. And one is expected to pay a week’s wages for this! The message that is communicated is: we hold you in contempt.

  • Russell says:

    um guys, I agree with most stuff here, but have you ever been to an Apple store? I plopped down $2500 to a guy in a t-shirt and jeans. People dressed very nice in the box office can be intimidating as well. I think saying people should dress nice just because you think they should is an old school way of thinking. I think people should dress according to the product they’re selling. For Phantom, it makes sense they should dress nice..maybe even formal like the show. But for say Book of Mormon, why the hell should they wear a shirt and tie or suit?

  • Yosi Merves says:

    I’ve encountered plenty of well-dressed box office people, so I am not too concerned about that. However, I have encountered rude box office representatives, and I think that needs to be addressed. The Broadway Theater, currently home of Sister Act, is the biggest offender. I have not had a single pleasurable experience interacting with a person behind that glass window. Which is funny when you think about how many seats they have to fill each night. I have also had bad experiences at Ambassador Theater and Richard Rodgers.

  • JC says:

    Sounds to me like your beef was with the customer service and their well-worn sweatshirt added insult to injury. A uniform or tie does not insure good customer service. I don’t think MOST box office patrons care what the person behind the window is wearing as long as they’re treated with professionalism and respect. That being said, it’s a no-brainer that anyone in a customer service position should look presentable.

  • jsspald says:

    Being a person who works in a Box Office and a patron of the theatre, I agree with Ken. I don’t live in New York so I don’t know the policies there but where I work customer service is the first priority. We always have to treat our patrons with respect because our manager makes us and if the employees don’t like it then don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We have zero tolerance for rudeness and that was made clear upfront before I took the job. Also we have a uniform in place of business casual. Again my manager has has to send a person home one day because they did not wear the proper shoes. Again I’m not sure how it’s done in New York but where I’m from that would have not been acceptable.

  • Joshua Quinn says:

    I agree with what most of the other commenters are saying. It looks professional when the staff is wearing something nice at the box office, but I’m much more concerned with the attitude of the box office personnel.
    I hate going to some theatres because the staff members are so rude (New Amsterdam, Winter Garden), and there’s seemingly nothing to do about it. (I suppose I could order online, but if I live in NYC, it seems silly to pay all of the service charges). Those of us that make theatre are working hard to get people into the box office to make a purchase, only to have them treated poorly once they get there. It could definitely turn someone off the whole experience.
    On the other hand, some box offices have great staffs (Stephen Sondheim, St. James) that I’ve seen go out of their way to help patrons.

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