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Send In The Crowds

March 16, 2016

What do Benedict Cumberbatch, Harry Potter, Billy Elliot and probably a Groundhog and Katniss Everdeen have in common? All fictional characters? All fighting for the poor and unequal? All use the stage to make a political point? Possibly.

For the purposes of this blog, the answer is that to get a ticket to see any of them was / will be a struggle, with the odds not always being in your favour (see what I did there, I don’t just chuck these blogs together, you know. Well, I do, but).

To have seen “Hamlet,” book in for “The Cursed Child,” attend the final night of “Billy Elliot” or (if and when it happens) catch “The Hunger Games” live on stage involved / will involve a degree of luck and planning… but also hope that the box office will have systems in place to cope with demand.

That doesn’t always happen.

As previous blogs have recorded, we’ve come a long way from the teenager I was, in line at 4am at Wembley Stadium in the hope of “Who’s That Girl” tickets. Those who used the only alternative – the phone – didn’t have a (little) prayer (see, told you I don’t chuck these together – much). Even then, “mail order” was finished, so it was wait or hope.

Not sure we’ve come that far since then… except it’s warmer to hover over your computer than stand in the cold. The phone is still hopeless, of course.

So, recently (well, within shuddering memory time) I’ve done the lot. And I thought I’d make a few notes on which system offers the best experience.

For me, “Que-it” seems about the best. That’s the system with the little green walking person, holding you in a line until there’s space to deal with you on the main website.

Nimax Theatres handled Potter the best they could using it, as did the Barbican Centre for that “Hamlet.” By randomly allocating a number in line to those who log on, it beats those with multiple computers (though even I admit to having 2 on the go, and most people use several different browsers on one machine – different browsers mean separate cookies and more chances to get a spot in line. Just opening a window in a single browser may not work as the cookie is shared by each window and could be seen by the system and rejected).

With lesser, but high, demand, the National Theatre and Royal Albert Hall, to cite two, also do fine, with a “waiting room” and countdown until they let you in. No random numbers, but you are in line according to arrival, not bad.

ATG Tickets just hold you on a page, with a timer counting down until they can deal with you. Not bad, but has been known to kick you out, rather than transfer you to book occasionally. Frustrating or what.

And then there are the “lunatic fringe” of websites, which are designed to provide maximum tension and caused me to write this entry. The final performance of “Billy Elliot” went on sale last week at 2pm. Promising to do a friend a favour (not going myself, not my thing), I was poised to book… on the normally impressive Delfont Mackintosh website.

As per the email announcing how it was going to work, I was hovering from just before the start time. 2pm came and went, no performance on sale, despite the email promising it would happen. The phone line announced it was too busy – and then cut folk off, so the web it was to be. Frantic refreshing, trying other browsers (The ENO ‘Sunset Boulevard’ booking site didn’t like Internet Explorer, and I had to use Chrome to get in line for that) and several words miners know (and minors, too, going by the afternoon tube conversations) later… nothing.

2.15pm. Suddenly, the time appeared! Clicked on. ”No can do – click proceed.” Luckily, I did. Back to the date and time… this time… the seats appear, and I got exactly what I wanted.

No, not the ticket, lunch. Which I’d missed, thanks to that. I did get the exact seat my friend wanted, though, which was also good, I guess.

Still… it rather showed that even when they are a little rickety, some sort of online queue system is better than none, I feel.

It’s probably just me who can’t really cope with more than one or two of these events per year, but it would be so much easier if there were a stress-free system, so, answers on a post-card (read in order of receipt) please.

 

 

 

 

Taking a break to eat chocolate eggs, back on 6th April. To those who celebrate them, happy Easter / Passover. To those who don’t, feel free to send unwanted chocolate eggs to the usual address, thank you.

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