I’d do anything to skip a line. Wouldn’t you?

I travel a lot, and thanks to the international success of My First Time, and my love of London, I find myself crossing a lot of borders.  And as many of you know, I’m sure, there is nothing worse than getting off an 8+ hour flight home to find a huge line at customs and immigration when you’re oh so close to your own apartment and own bed.

Last time I re-entered the US through Newark, I noticed this guy walk right up to an ATM-like machine, slap his passport down, put his fingers on a scanner, and then scoot right past the long line and into the arms of his awaiting family.

It’s called Global Entry.

I felt like I was 10 years old again and saw my best friend playing with Pac Man on his new Atari.  All I could think was, “I want that.”

A chance to skip a line?  A chance to get through a process faster?   Sign me up.   No matter what the cost.

So I did. I paid $100 bucks, went through a background check and an interview at JFK by Customs and Border Patrol Officer Poluzzo (nice guy – I promised to get him tickets to any show except Book of Mormon).  And now I can speed through customs like a greased Pac-Man.

The US border isn’t the only place I’ll pay to skip a line.  I go to Six Flags with my entire staff, the casts of my shows, etc., every year on my birthday as our office retreat, and you can bet your Blinky I’m the first in line for a Flash Pass.

And this got me thinking.

First of all . . . how come we can go through customs and immigration with an ATM but we still can’t buy tickets with one?  Grrrrr.  But that’s not what this blog is about . . .

More on topic is . . .

What else can we offer to our customers to make their ticket buying or show going experience easier that they might want to pay for?   Or what extra value can we give to full price buyers to speed up their process, thereby encouraging more people to rely less on discounts?

Do full price buyers get seated in the theater first?  In larger venues, can certain sections of the house have their own restrooms?  What about separate windows at box offices for those people paying for premium tickets?  Valet parking for subscribers?

One of the challenges we face in the age of on-demand entertainment everywhere is that in order to enjoy going to the theater . . . you actually have to go to the theater.  And sometimes, like customs and immigration, that can be a necessary but no-fun part of the process.

It’s our job to find ways to make that process easier, especially for our frequent “travelers.”

And if we discover what bugs these folks most, I bet we’ll also find that some would even pay for a better, faster experience.

Side note:  Surprise, surprise, but Customs and Border Patrol happen to be a great bunch of marketers. The first question Officer Poluzzo asked me when I sat down for my interview wasn’t, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” That was his second question.  His first was . . .

“How did you hear about Global Entry?”


(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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  • Joe Klein says:

    What frustrates me the most is how some ticketing is set up. First you pick the date then pick a range of seats, then see a sometimes meaningless seating chart. It would be so much more easier if it was possible to start by looking at a specific date and see the seating chart first, then click on the seats and proceed to buy. It would be just like flipping through a daily calendar

  • S says:

    Lower prices. That’s what will get me to the theater more.

  • Chris says:

    “First of all . . . how come we can go through customs and immigration with an ATM but we still can’t buy tickets with one?”
    This is a completely uninformed wild guess, based soley on my perception of “how things run in NYC”:
    My perception is that if you tried to sell tickets at an ATM kiosk outside the theater (or in the lobby) it would be seen as taking away a job from a surly box office attendant. Personally, I think it would make them try to be nicer to ticket buyers so they could KEEP their jobs. But maybe that’s another blog entirely. 🙂

  • Chris says:

    I have to agree with S too – it’s not that I’d pay more for perks that go along with tickets, it’s that I’d pay less but more often if those perks were some sort of “added value” – because it takes a while to save up over $100 for a ticket, and I’m one of those people who spends what I have. If I have only $25, I’m more likely to spend that on four movie nights than to save it up for one theater night.

  • Shephard says:

    Omg, I want Global Entry now! LOL
    WHY didn’t I know about this when I was doing all that traveling. Oh, I will be doing this, I think, for sure.
    I do pay premium for all seats. If I’m traveling to NYC from LA, I want to SEE faces on that stage! Sad to admit, if I’m more than 10 rows back, I’m disappointed. But I don’t smoke or have any addictions but Theatre. So I splurge on this part of my life. 🙂

  • Jason E. Bernard says:

    Ken! A couple of ideas! People always like “free” stuff! I say “free” becuz it’s not really free! When someone pays $500 for a premium seat they should also get free stuff! The truth of the matter is that a couple of years ago these$500 seats were the $125 seats , but now they are 500! Hmmm in anycase I digress!How much would it really cost to give them a free souvenir program which sells for $20 and cost $1 to make or to give them a free poster which cost like 1 penny to make and $15 to sell? Or this is what would really top it off! A little mini cocktail hour b4 the show! You can get some cases of champagne from Costco for like 5 bucks put the rich people in a room to brag about being rich and there you go! Customer satisfaction! ! J
    P.S. I think MTC does this at the Samuel Friedman theater!?

  • Uh oh, Ken, I have Global Entry and its worth it, but asking us theatre goers to pay a premium to go to the ladies room is making it harder for the rest of the people to go (less stalls if you do that), and reminds me of premium seating — I am against the elitism of paying more for the same services and paying $150 more for ONE ROW QUALIFYING ME FOR PREMIUM –which we presently pay for with an orchestra seat. By making some pay ore, others get less.

  • Susan H says:

    How about offering comfortable seats with decent legroom and good sight lines? I also agree BTW with Joe K who asks for a rational online way to buy tickets using a real and available seating chart. Some companies offer that and I think it is a terrific idea when the computer works properly.
    I go to an enormous amount of live theater (and other live venues) – not to movies at all. I rarely pay full price because I would have to cut back on the number of shows and operas I see.

  • Mike Vogel says:

    How about “your special night?” A premium price package (let’s say for an anniversary or partner’s birthday) gets you not only two prime seats, but picked up and dropped off by limo, with a bouquet of flowers on your way home?
    Just saying…

  • Scott says:

    If you really wish to improve the theater going experience, install a mobile device blocker. Make it impossible for anyone to make a call or receive a call during the performance. Make it impossible to send and/or receive texts. Be very clear about this and provide a service where a doctor who might need to be paged is seated on the aisle and his/her phone/pager is left with house management.
    Paying $100+ to sit next to someone talking on their phone is just… I have no words. Better yet, lobby for legislation that makes using your mobile device inside a theater a crime punishable by life! (I don’t believe in capital punishment, or I would suggest the death penalty.)
    Also, don’t sit people after the show starts. Period. Provide them with a monitor and they can get seated at intermission.
    Am I extreme? Perhaps, but I am so over obnoxious people at the theater. I go, but I’ve given up most movies because of audience rudeness.

  • ECP says:

    Enough with the pampering. My principal targets are pre-show attendance: 1) Some online ticket-order systems frustrate. Who designs these time-wasters? 2) Lower ticket prices, then I and most of my circle wouldn’t spend time comparing discount offers (so many exclusives, so many identical) or deliberating over which shows to see.
    Perks? I’m not immune. I will say that I’ve enjoyed a comp beverage at several off-Broadway houses. A pleasant benefit for subscribers, be it via membership or e-news.

  • Anthony says:

    Give full-price ticket buyers the ability to exchange their tickets (for a different day/time or different seats). That way they are in essence paying for insurance (I.e. someone gets sick, or a friend wants to join you but the seats next to the two you’ve already purchased are sold, etc.)

  • Douglas Hicton says:

    I’d do just about anything to avoid standing in line except for:
    1. giving a company proprietary information of any kind; and
    2. paying more money (especially on top of already grossly overinflated theatre ticket prices).

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