Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The not-so-advance ticket buyer.

Second in the series of gross over-simplifications:

The nature of advance tickets would seem to be an easily unravelled system. There is an event planned, a performance of some sort. When the event is 3-4 weeks away the organizers drop off advance tickets at outlets which are then advertised as advance ticket vendors. The price of the advance tickets is generally lower than what will eventually charged at the door the night of the event. This allows cash to be generated ahead of time to help pay for initial expenses and/or heighten anticipation or "buzz" surrounding the show.

From a ticket buying standpoint advance tickets allow the most ardent fans to score prime spots (if seating is assigned) or at least guarantee admittance (if there is a fire code capacity for the venue). Theoretically these fans will be the first to buy advance tickets. For example, in the case of a recent show an eager fan tracked down my e-mail and solicited advance tickets (he was from outside Fredericton) a couple of weeks before either the venue or organizers had even announced the show (he had seen tour dates on a myspace page).

Now, buying an advance ticket a few weeks before an event does have an implicit barb: commitment. The buyer has essentially decided well in advance what they will be doing on a certain evening weeks down the road. This seems to give a fair number of people both the heebies and the jeebies.

So, instead, the not-so-advance ticket buyer waits. They play telephone roulette: call a week and a half before the show and ask, "do you still have tickets? Very many? Are they going fast?" Call a week before. Call three days before. Call that morning. Finally when no better offer has come along; when they're secure in finding two other friends to go with them (people who care even less about the event, but have nothing else to do on a Friday). Then around 2 or 3 p.m. on the day of the show they rush down and demand their tickets. Problem is, three dozen other people have preceded them in the last half hour and the advance tickets are sold out. Or perhaps they've waited until 5 minutes before closing (usually about 3 hours before showtime) and the organizers have picked the advance tickets up... leaving them to have to line up at the door and pay the extra amount for admission.

Most of these late-comers are fairly "aw shucks" about the whole thing. Some have that small, hurt animal look that comes from careful plans shot to bits by cold reality. Some special few get angry. Most of these have the same handful of accusations loaded up:

"You said you still had tickets left when I called!"

This of course was four days ago. These people live in a world of strange absolutes where things never change, decay, vanish. These people have never had pets or grandparents. It must come as a sorrowful shock to them each time they finish a sandwich and discover that there is "no more sandwich? But? But? You said!"

Another confused brand of not-so-advance ticket buyer will call ahead a few hours before coming down. I generally try to defuse the possible immense letdown by warning them that someone may be by to pick up the tickets in the very near future. These wily philosophers have that base covered of course:

NSATB: Can you put two tickets aside for me, then?

ME: If they come by to pick them up they'll want the cash for those two tickets as well.

NSATB: Well, you could pay for them and I'll pay you back.

ME [Although my first instinct is to say, "But I don't know you, why would I buy a ticket for you?" Instead]: What if you change your mind and don't come in for them before we close?

NSATB: Well, you could sell them to someone else.

ME: What if I do that and then you show up a minute later?

NSATB: ...well... I'm pretty sure I'll make it down.

ME: Why don't you just buy them at the door?

NSATB: Aren't they more if they're not advance tickets?

And so the great advance ticket play comes full circle.

So next time you're at a show... one you bought tickets for online from a fan club, or you lined up at 8 am in four degree weather... and there's a small group of people clustered near the stage... you know, the ones who are facing the back of the room, craning their necks to see who else is in the bar; talking loud during the quiet parts then hooting enthusiastically calling out requests for songs not written by the performer. You'll know who these people are:



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