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Day Seat Etiquette.

June 11, 2014

I actually posted this recently on the “Whatsonstage” message board, but wanted to add it here as well, as I thought it raised an interesting question.

Somebody on that board noted that in New York, a paid “supervisor” keeps order in the “day seat,” sorry, “rush tickets” line. London, the “Book of Mormon” draw supervisor aside, has no such factotum. And we seem to cope.

Sure, there are those who abuse it, “holding” places for those too lazy to get up has to be a “no,” just not fair to those in the rest of the line. Still, I wondered whether the reasons we are still informal might include:

Queuing is our national sport. “A Brit, when alone, will always form an orderly line of one.”

We are adults, and don’t need supervision.

A dispute in Shaftesbury Avenue is very unlikely to turn into “Gunfight at the TKTS Corral,” hence no need for a member of staff for insurance liability purposes.

Broadway box offices are heavily unionised, so maybe a “line supervisor” post was agreed by local teamsters when the idea came in? (Be interested if a NY reader can comment on that!).

Staff costs in the UK are too high to hire an extra person unless ordered to by the union (see above).

We just haven’t got around to it yet or realised the publicity a fun supervisor can bring to a show – as the legendary “Rent” man did on Broadway for all those years.

Can you imagine all the Shaftesbury Avenue theatres having a “fairground barker” outside every night? I’d actually love to see that as pre-show entertainment, and it could become a real tourist attraction if handled right…

  1. Sycamore Flint permalink
    June 12, 2014 9:42 am

    I would like to have queue supervisors and some sort of formal system. I’ve been in too many of these sorts of queues and got tense too many times about etiquette to want to leave it entirely up to the queuers. The worst etiquette breach is the late-arriver joining their already-queueing friend, especially of course if they are not just buying for themselves. I also don’t like the placeholder approach. If the person having the place held for them can’t get there early for whatever reason, tough. A supervisor would be able to move the late arriver back.

    In such queues, you can’t help scrutinising every person who comes anywhere near the queue, in case they turn out to be one of those who “innocently” hover near the front, looking into the middle distance, possibly planning to inveigle themselves into the line when it starts moving. In general admission queues for entry to rock concerts I’ve twice flown into a rage and had tussles/shouting matches with people doing that. At some of those events, people at the front have started a numbering system, and at one a security man was doing the same. It definitely keeps the tension levels down, but it’s not the sort of thing the British tend to like much.

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      June 12, 2014 10:23 am

      I agree I hate place holders for late arrivers, and that distrust thing. The only question is can someone enforce things really well without getting hurt?

      Also, a reader has just told me people started queuing for “Clarence Darrow” at 11.30pm last night for today. So would venues pay for a supervisor to work all night?

      I’ve heard of unofficial line numbers too – the prommers do it at the Royal Albert Hall each year, I know.

      If it went official, handing out timed arrival tickets that mark your place in the line I agree the Brits would probably resist it, and would those get sold on – unless a photo of the customer was taken and a ticket printed with a face on it? But then folk would get one and then go home and come back later.

      Don’t get me started on “general admission” lines either… I still remember the days of the Cottesloe at the National, where it was “survival of the fittest”!

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