Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Advance ticket sales - a good thing?

In China, generally NOT.

I got a bit miffed with this benefit show a few weeks ago and eventually decided not to go - because they were announcing that they had 'sold out' on pre-sale tickets, without elaborating as to whether there were in fact going to be any more available on the door. Hence, I gather, it was not a particularly well-attended event: only a few hundred people in a venue that can hold well over a thousand. All in all, a bit of a cock-up.

The problem is that there aren't really any remote pre-sales here as yet. If you try to reserve tickets by telephone or online, you'll usually just get put on a crudely handwritten list at the door. The poor flunky charged with distributing "pre-sold" tickets will fumble for ages trying to find your impossible-to-recognise foreign name - or any name - on the usually completely unorganized and barely legible list. If/when he does eventually find it, he will certainly not bother to try to use your phone number for security verification, as he is presumbaly supposed to. And venues just about never 'sell out' anyway, because nobody enforces safety code regulations on maximum numbers, and so the doors aren't shut until it is physically impossible to get any more people in.  Thus, most times, it is about ten times quicker and easier just to buy your ticket on the door.

Venue owners and promoters, of course, would like people to buy tickets early, to reassure themselves that the turnout is going to reach a decent minimum level for them to break even on the gig. Unfortunately, the prevailing system doesn't achieve that, because nobody actually buys in advance on a credit card; it's simply advance reservation of tickets, with no kind of enforceability. And because of that, people put themselves down for rafts of tickets when they're still undecided as to whether they'll go or not, knowing that there's no comeback if they fail to appear and pay for their reserved tickets. Because the whole business is so shambolic and bogus, you very often find that a venue hasn't bothered to earmark tickets for all the advance registrations anyway, or hasn't bothered to hang on to them once things start getting busy on the door.

So, 'booking' over the phone doesn't even guarantee that you'll get in. And it's unlikely to save you any time at the door when you arrive; quite the reverse.

Given this lack of incentive to pre-book tickets, venue owners often discount very heavily for early purchases... to the point where it actually becomes - arguably - worthwhile to hike miles out of your way to pick up a half-price ticket from the venue in person a day or two before the show.  This is the only way I ever go and see an otherwise over-priced Yugong Yishan show (but, luckily, YGYS isn't too far from where I live).

However, venue owners then quickly become anxious about lost profits, so limit the number of tickets available for pre-sales.

But then their box office staff just tell you that the gig is 'sold out' without explaining exactly what that means - and people get discouraged from attending.

Yep, a monumental COCK-UP all around.

Until a better system is developed for online/telephone booking, it would be better to do away with "pre-sales" altogether.

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