What tipping the valet parking guy has to do with Broadway discounting.

Have you parked a car lately?  If so, what did you tip the attendant?

I asked ten of my friends that question recently and 9 of them said they tipped $1.

Then I asked them how much they tipped their parking lot attendant five years ago.

Answer?  $1.

And I bet if I went back 20 years, the answer would be the same.

So either parking lot attendants were way over-tipped way back when, or some things just don’t keep up with inflation.

It really sucks for anyone in the parking profession, doesn’t it?  Same would be true for anyone working a coat check ($1 a coat was the average in my office), or the pizza delivery folks, etc.

The perceived value of one dollar hasn’t changed, even though the actual value of one dollar has.

Same is true for $100.

I remember seeing my first “hundy” when I was a kid.  It was like getting a glimpse of a gold doubloon.  Ben Franklin staring at you with that, “You want me, don’t you?”  look on his face.

And 30 years later seeing a hundred dollar bill, or someone telling you that something costs $100 incites a certain feeling in a consumer, even though the value has changed drastically.

As Broadway and Off Broadway continue to wage the discount war with direct mail and direct response email blasts, I’ve noticed a similar resistance from consumers.  If they are not buying full price tickets, they have a dollar-like-resistance to certain price points.

Sure, prices have gone up, and discount tickets have gone up too . . . but that doesn’t mean that they convert.

If you’re not one of the big fat hits on Broadway, just try and convert a discount over $100.  More than likely, you’ll sit in the $59 – $99 range.  Even some of this fall’s brand new musicals came out with discounts this winter that topped out at $99.

And Off Broadway?  The sweet spot for a show like Daddy Long Legs . . . well, it’s the exact dollar amount that we got for Altar Boyz ten years ago.

As we proved yesterday, variable pricing when a show is in demand is driving our market to higher and higher grosses.  Which is good, because our discount prices are reaching a ceiling that I don’t believe our consumer is willing to go beyond, no matter how much our expenses increase.

But it’s even worse for the guy or gal parking your car.

So tip ’em $2 next time.

Is there a top price you’d pay for a discount?  Or do you think in %?  Let me know in the comments below.


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

– – – – –

Interested in learning more about topics like this? CLICK HERE to join The TheaterMakers Studio, an online community, certification training program, and resource for playwrights, producers, directors, actors, and theater makers of all kinds!
  • Carvanpool says:

    You’ve got some real cheap friends.

    Like anything else, you will get diminishing returns as a result of the insane culture of discounts. Other than the mega hits, of course. Let’s cut the fiction, they are what’s healthy on Broadway, not the entire industry.

    The clock is ticking.

  • Dara Ely says:

    That’s a good point about the $99 capping point on discounts and I agree with it. I think once it’s over $100 it somehow feels like less of a discount even if it’s 30-40% off.

    If I really want to see a show, I’ll buy a ticket regardless, but discounts do motivate me to buy tickets to shows lower on my “to do” list. I’ve noticed that most discount marketing is by dollar amount, not percentage – like “save up to $50” or “see this show for just $49” That is more motivating to me than percentages, and I can’t really say why.

    One other factor that I look at are audience rewards points. If a show has a healthy audience rewards bonus for a full price ticket that might be worth more to me than a discount.

  • Andrew Beck says:

    Actually, the discounts have already passed the $100 mark. While the price of the ticket may be $99, the add-ons and fees, if one is buying on the internet or the phone, brings the total up to $108-$112, which is clearly indicated on some of the offers. So psychologically, customers seeing the creep above the $100 level has already occurred. I think there will be a willingness to go up to $120 for shows that offer regular price seats (non-premium) in the $187.00 range.Of course, if it is a show I must see now and it has no offers, I will easily pay in the $162.00 or so range for an orchestra seat, but I can’t keep up that habit on a regular basis.

  • Cheryl says:

    I agree, the $99 amount is a good limit for a discount. &If I have seen the show before I am more likely to search for the best discount.

  • Ed Ryder says:

    One dollar is a horrible, horrible tip for valet work. Two dollars is considered being cheap.

    Valet workers can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour in 19 states.

    When I was a valet worker, (at a luxury hotel) my wage was $3.83 an hour (2 years ago).

    There were times my co-workers and I hung around for hours waiting for cars to leave so that we could make our money.

    There were times it was cold out. Raining. Maybe even with lightning flashing across the sky.

    Then somebody requests their car… a valet runs his ass off, sometimes while dealing with the pain that comes from plantar fasciitis or other foot ailments, flawlessly brings out the car (hopefully), and presents it.

    How do you think they feel when some cheap bastard hands over a dollar to a tipped employee who doesn’t get a normal wage? It’s lousy… Especially if it is presented in coins.

    It’s the kind of thing that causes valet workers to quit.

    If you want to know how much to tip and when to tip, I have written a few articles about it over at: RealValetControl.com

  • Rick says:

    Wow!!…so in agreement…I make sure when my Karaoke group sings at the restaurants…We Not only take great care of the servers but we make sure the K jays’ are well tipped for putting up with the low.. tippers in the room. Sometimes I will share the news before I sing…Hey ladies and gentlemen lets hear it for our servers and the Karaoke Team…Bravo!

  • Jared W says:

    If I’m looking for a discounted ticket, I definitely look at price instead of percents. For me, this is because I find the full priced amounts to be arbitrary; some Broadway shows have a max regular ticket price of $135, others $150+, and rarely does this seem to line up with how much a show would cost to actually run.

    If I’m willing to spend $100 on a show, that is because I think my theoretical enjoyment of said show will be worth $100. I don’t care if that’s 10% or 40% off what that ticket normally costs, or if that is the standard price of the ticket.

    But then again, that might be because that is what all of these email marketing and at home mailing offers call the most attention to. They are all designed to highlight the dollar amount, rather than the percentage off. If they started advertising percent off rather than actual price, you might have an easier time getting people to ignore the price point.

    Look at the TKTS Booth. It’s wildly popular, even though for a lot of shows 50% off still equals $75 per ticket. If you were to just walk up to a show’s box office, you could probably get something in a similar price range for a lot of the TKTS mainstays like “Phantom,” but because the TKTS seats are “discounted” people go to the booth first.

  • James says:

    The problem lies not so much in the discounts being offered as the availability of the product. I do an annual trip to NYC to see shows. I start with the shows I really want to see (website then brokers websites.) Once I fill those I look to my second level shows to fill in the other performances, especially matinees. Then I start looking at my third level shows to fill my Monday. Those are shows that I will take a chance on because it is that or not see a show. If low audience shows were to do more matinee or other “off-time” performances I’d buy several more tickets. In the modern world of binge watching, DVRing and order a movie when we want, people are no doubt wondering why their options for when to watch a Broadway/off broadway show are so based on a hundred year old schedule concept.

    I recognize this requires union negotiations to change the when of those eight shows a week. And you may not find as many people who can attend more matinees. But looking at the when of performances has the prospect of dealing with the how much as well. Monday shows led the way. What’s the market for more matinees?

  • Laurie says:

    I think you should tip the same you normally would, not a discounted rate – service has no bearing on the cost of your ticket. As for tipping $1 for valet, I would like to suggest some re-evaluation. I don’t think anyone would have done that bad of job to deserve a tip that low.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *