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How Green is my Voucher?

February 21, 2018

To great fanfare, one theatre last year announced it was going “paperless.” Gone are the cardboard tickets. Instead, you can just show the image on your phone (with a machine-scannable QR code – the dotty box thingy). Same goes for pre-paid programme vouchers (that I find easier, as it means not fishing for change on the day).

The other good news is that if you don’t have a smartphone (I don’t), you can get your tickets and vouchers emailed to you, print them out and bring them along. Bearing in mind that the season before last either that theatre’s ticket despatch agents or the Royal Mail managed to lose an entire season of tickets I’d bought, causing me to have to arrive ridiculously early and stand in line at the box office every time to get a re-issue… and every single time have something go wrong in the way of “can’t find it / forgot the programme voucher / someone in front having real trouble holding up the line until seconds before start time when we’d all been waiting half an hour already” variety, I was pretty happy. In a way…

Of course, in practise, the fun begins when someone who is firmly in the “let them eat lentils if they want to, but respect my right to steak” brigade drills down beyond cuddly “save the bunny” thinking into reality.

Let’s kick off with the visitor experience. Guess what… the system doesn’t actually cope… with anything at all… So, you try and be as green as they would like them to be, and play along by printing off your ticket and programme voucher on two sides of a single sheet of paper (“Save The Trees” and all that). First, they want to keep your voucher when you collect your programme – can’t, the ticket is on the other side, and nobody said to print them separately. Hardly green, anyway – two sheets of paper when one will do? Second, they can’t read the QR code as there is no wifi to all parts of the theatre to operate the readers. It can be sorted, but it’s a hassle.

The interesting point, though, is the last bit – “readers.” And here, for me, is where all the “Green” stuff falls apart. For decades, I’ve found it hilarious that those preaching the “Green Gospel” – Green Party, various organisations like the BBC etc and all the individuals, yes, even David Attenborough – have massively, and I do mean massively, larger “carbon footprints” than I ever do or will. They own massive amounts of property and items, take holidays by car and plane etc, etc, etc. I don’t. So, who is actually being “greener” and saying nothing about it?

Moving back to “green theatres” it struck me as soon as the “paperless ticketing” thing was announced that in fact, the environmental costs of all the equipment to service the policy was going to be far higher than a few bits of ticket paper and a single mainframe computer system. All those phones the audience have, the extra hardware the theatre staff all need, the power to run it all… got to be more than one tree’s worth of paper stock and post carrier sweat per year, surely?

A quick look at an article on gave me confirmation of my thoughts, though I’m not wasting more time going even deeper.

All I am trying to get at is that once again, please think twice about the real value of such active campaigns. I’d love to see the data to back up the savings, so feel free to send it to me any time, but I’m betting that common sense may just be the best bet… Meanwhile, sorry, but if you think I’m falling for the hype, well, you really are greener than I am.


  1. David Cantrell permalink
    February 24, 2018 10:09 pm

    It’s worth noting that the “green” cost of an audience member’s phone is basically zero in this case because they’ve already got the phone and aren’t using it solely for this purpose.

    Teething issues aside, I *love* electronic ticketing, provided that they use a system which integrates with the Wallet app on my phone. The Tate does, for example, as does anyone using Eventbrite – which is mostly small venues or “pop up” events. Unfortunately the majority haven’t quite figured that last bit of customer-friendliness out yet and seem to want me to either print the thing myself or make them squint at a little image on my phone – and worse, when I present them with the image on my phone some sticky-fingered oik on the door wants to touch it and zoom out or in because it’s the wrong size. I think not!

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      February 26, 2018 8:53 am

      It’s a fair and valid point. I guess I was looking at it though as to whether those things needed to exist in the first place, LOL.

      That’s fair enough. I have come across it in those situations too. Again, I just print it out. Love the thought of them putting handprints on your phone. I agree, that is NOT happening LOL. I’m sure in time it’ll all become normal and natural and work out, but until then ;)…

      Thanks for a brilliant reply anyway, much appreciated. Best, Steve.

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