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Well, my "little vacation" ended up lasting two and a half years... funny how life steers your life in directions you weren't planning on. I'll start off with occasional posts, but I fully plan to resume this blog to full speed by the new year.

I hope you'll come back for frequent visits, to see new reviews, to share opinions, to take a survey (or two), and to celebrate the shows and show people that have made the TheatreScene!

Jeff

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rant: Ticketmaster Troubles

OK, the days when you had to send your money into an anonymous post office box, along with a list of dates and what your preferences were for seating for a Broadway show are, thankfully, long gone.  (I believe mail order is still an option, though.)  Yes, the weeks of waiting, not know when you were going or IF you were going have been replaced by nearly instant gratification for ticket buyers who live any appreciable distance from Manhattan. 

Then there was the option of calling for tickets (provided you had a credit card).  You'd call and get Gina from Secaucus on the line and she'd say "yes" or "no" to a list of dates for the show of your choice.  If it was "no" you knew right then that you wouldn't be seeing Cats on Saturday May 3 at 2PM.  If it was "yes," you'd know that you were seeing the show then, and you'd be seated somewhere in the orchestra section.  Gina would always say, "I'm sorry, sir, I can't see the exact location of the seats."  And that was the response whether you begged or joked or cajoled.  So, the waiting began... where in the caverous Winter Garden would I be sitting?  How far back?  How much off to the side?  Like the mail order method, there were still unknowns, but at least then you were able to plan a weekend in advance.

Soon, things changed again, and Brian from the spacious Telecharge offices overlooking Times Square could tell me where the seats were!  But pretty soon after that, Brian was replaced by a computer voice that even though it was automatic and set to sound polite, sure seemed edgy when you started searching for tickets and rejecting her first, second or third offer.  Then, faster than you can say "The Producers was overrrated", online ticket buying began, and all of your troubles were gone!  You could spend an hour if you wanted to searching and re-searching every possible date and seat location for The Phantom of the Opera.  The most annoying thing was that damed fuzzy writing you'd have to pause and type in.  But at least it was for a good cause - fancy computers couldn't buy every last seat at once for the 50,000th performance.  Of course, I'm talking about the genesis of Broadway ticket buying through the Telecharge system.  I love it, it loves me.  I seek out shows that use this system.  To me, the fees for using this service are almost worth it.  It is very easy to use, convenient AND forgiving.


But then there are the shows I want to see that play the Palace or, in the most recent case, the Lunt-Fontanne, where The Addams Family is about to move in.  These, and several other theatres are on the Ticketmaster system of tickets (Disney has its own... God, they are smart!).  Have you used Ticketmaster lately?  I'd rather use mail order.  Over the past several days, I have literally spent my lunch hour online trying to buy two freaking tickets to a show that might not even run as long as the date I finally got them for.

Here, in no particular order, are my gripes about Ticketmaster:

1.  Weeks ago they promised an upgrade to what sounds like the Telecharge system for their Broadway ticketing.  It still has not happened.

2.  The theatre seating charts are ridiculous.  They offer almost no seat numbers, there is no real way to judge where within the given aisle your seats are, and they don't tell you where the mezzanine overhangs the orchestra.  I shouldn't have to go to another site to get a decent seating chart before logging on to Ticketmaster.

3.  There are so many ways to choose a date, you can't remember how to get back to where you started when you inevitably have to choose another date.

4.  If you don't like the seats they offer, you can search again.  This means starting completely over, at that performance only, only to be offered the same seats again!  And again!  Sure, you can change the perameters to "left side orchestra" or whatever, but it usually doesn't change anything or it offers you the same seats only on the opposite side of the theatre!  The bottom line here is, if you want to go to a specific performance, you have to wait until someone else buys the tickets they keep offering over and over.  From experience, I can tell you that Orchestra seats row A, 5 and 7 were available for The Addams Family for every performance on Memorial Day weekend, from March 1 through 4.  On March 5, "Best Available" meant Row B seats 6 & 8 for each performance. 

I tried changing sides.  I tried waiting til the next day.  Finally, I gave up and tried calling Ticketmaster.  Have you ever done this?  It is an adventure, let me tell you.


You start out with a man's voice assuring you that by calling Ticketmaster, you were about to receive "World-class Customer Service."  What world?  The planet Evil maybe.

I'm going to cut to the chase here, because I'm getting dizzy from the blood pressure spike I'm experiencing at the recall.  When you call Ticketmaster, you get a computer voiced assistant who walks you through every step of the process you go through when doing it by yourself online.  I answered "yes", "no", "full price", "orchestra", "yes", "yes", "no"... I must have sounded like the Rain Man.  Oh, I got past the first "Best Available Seats" that were the same as online.  I was offered the next seats over in the same row, I was offered the rear of the theatre.  At no point was there an option to stop the madness and let me talk to real person, UNTIL I REJECTED 4 SETS OF SEATS.  Only then did the pleasant computer voice offer "representative."

The the fun really began.  After a 6 minute hold time, I got "Ticketmaster, this is .  What show?" "Excuse me, what did you say your name was?"  Heavy sigh, "this is , what show?"  I gave up.  "The Addams Family"  "What dates?" "Any show May 29 or 30."  "Pick one."  "Matinee, May 29."  "I have seats A 5 & 7, at $136.50 a piece, plus a $7.50 per ticket convenience charge, and a $3.20 per order processing fee, for a total of $291.20.  What card, please?"  "I don't want these seats."  Heavy sigh, "You do realize that when I release these, you won't get them back?"  "Yes."  "What is it exactly you are loooking for, sir?" "Seats that aren't that close, for one thing.  I don't mind sitting on the side, but I don't want to be against the wall, either."  "OK, I have seats J 16 & 18, at 136.50 a piece, plus a $7.50 per ticket convenience charge, and a $3.20..." "Wait!  Those are against the wall.  I told you..." "Sir, I can only tell you seat numbers as they come up."  "And this is second best?" (I am thinking to myself, "geez, no wonder there are no discounts available...") "Sir, what do you want?"  "I told you.  Not too close, but not extreme sides."  "Sir, it is what it is."  (That sentence to me is like chum to a shark.)  "I'd like to speak to a supervisor, please."  Click.  I think I'm on hold, then... "If you'd like to place a call, please hang up and dial again." That SOB Unintelligible hung up on me!  World-class service....

Cut to last night at about 11PM.  I have re-logged on to Ticketmaster.  I have narrowed down my choices as much as possible for each of the three performances I'd like to attend.  And I got my two tickets, plus all those fees, for seats that aren't too close or too far back... but they are mighty close to the wall.  (Thank you to the hundreds of you who bought all the tickets before me in the last twelve hours, so I could choose these!)  I go to check out, and I'll be damned, if after all this trouble, I'm not going to get an actual cardboard ticket.  So I uncheck the box that allows me to use my own paper and ink to print their tickets for an additional $2.50.  And check the "send them via mail" box.  (For Ticketmaster, "Will Call" is only an option if you are from a foreign country.)  The one place where you could understand a fee of at leat 44 cents for a stamp, and it is FREE!  (Ok, deduct it from that $3.20 processing fee...)

We've come a long way, haven't we?  Here I am in 2010 still waiting for my tickets to come in the mail.


Comments?  Leave one here or email me at jkstheatrescene@yahoo.com.
Jeff

2 comments:

  1. I so hear you about Ticketmaster. Telecharge isn't perfect, but at least they have the "show me the next best available seat" option. More than once I have called them instead. I knew where I wanted to sit, so that helped. I also asked them to hold the ticket at the box office and they complied. One time when I was searching for just 1 ticket for In the Heights, it offered me a seat I wasn't keen on, but when I searched for 2 tickets, just out of curiosity, up popped exactly where I wanted to sit! (2nd row, right orchestra, center aisle- perfection). So I called and told the person that I wanted that seat, period. Ridiculous. How do they get to charge people for using their own paper and toner? (But *mailing* it to me is free?!?) I did that once, but I keep the tickets as souvenirs and so I prefer not to print my own.
    On another note, I saw The Miracle Worker on Saturday night. I thought Abigail Breslin and Allison Pill were wonderful. I also liked the actress playing Kate Keller. But many of the criticisms I read were IMO spot on. The way they staged it doesn't work. Entire critical scenes I only saw the back of Helen and Annie. I didn't find the suspended furniture distracting- it was up pretty high when not in use- but the wires/cables that brought them up and down were definitely distracting because they were so obvious when the furniture was just sitting on the stage. The actors were shouting constantly, even when Helen wasn't making a lot of noise that would have to be talked over. There were several empty rows of seats along the top of the theatre, and this was a Saturday night- the first weekend since it officially opened. On the whole, I didn't think it was quite as bad as most of the reviews made it out to be, but it has definite problems. I think Pill and Breslin still make it worth seeing though. But I have a feeling it won't be around long.

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  2. Don't forget to look for a contact variety you can call from ticketmaster customer service phone number if there are problems with your deal.Make some choices in advance about how much you are willing to invest to buy marketed out passes.

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