How to Prevent Patrons from Using Cancelled Tickets
The story may be a familiar one - a last-minute change to a ticket purchase at the box office. The issue isn't an error or fraud, merely that the ticket buyer would like to attend a different performance. Of course, your goal is a sale, so you are willing to make the change, it is just a matter of invalidating the canceled tickets as part of purchasing new ones. Should be simple enough, right? In this post, we tell the story of our ticket buying experience and outline different ways of invalidating tickets.
Recently we purchased tickets for Dr. Washington García's performance with the Austin Symphony. Our affinity for both Dr. García and the Austin Symphony cannot be understated, we just love them both and make every effort to be passionate patrons for any performance. García, an associate professor at Texas State University-San Marcos, frequently performs as part of the orchestra, but this performance puts his talent directly in the spotlight.
Our excitement was met with a small hiccup when a change in our schedule did not allow us to attend the original performance that we had planned. We needed to exchange our ticket's for a different date and contacted the Austin Symphony box office. We didn't expect much in the way of friction just to get tickets for a diffident show. But...
After buying tickets for the new performance date, this is the process we were asked to follow to invalidate the tickets we were not using:
- Physically tear the paper ticket in half.
- Take a photo of the torn ticket using a digital camera or mobile phone.
- Send the photo of the torn tickets to the box office by email or text message
- Wait for a response from the box office
The problem was, we hadn't received a response, so we called a second time to learn if our ticket exchange was approved. It turns out they hadn't received our response forcing us to repeat the process. While it is not the most "consumer-friendly" process since it places all the heavy lifting and the onus on the ticket buyer, it is an acceptable solution to the ticket exchange process.
To the venue's credit, and given our expertise on the subject, we know that not every ticketing software makes it easy to perform what we might consider as trivial tasks (like invaliding tickets). The Austin Symphony box office staff must play the hand they have been dealt and provide customer service as best they can, and indeed they do just that. Since the canceled tickets did not make use of a barcode, there really isn't any other way to prevent patrons from using canceled tickets.
There was a happy ending to this story. We visited the box office on the night of our rescheduled show and our excitement and anticipation for Dr. García's performance fully resumed. But we don't want to let this opportunity pass without sharing how the act of invalidating the canceled tickets could be better for the venue and the buyer.
Thoughts on Cancelled Tickets
There are many ways to prevent patrons from using canceled tickets, here are three of them:
Same day walk-up
You can ask your patrons to come to the venue and present the intact ticket at the box office window on the night of the show. Sounds simple, but the inconvenience factor cannot be ignored. For events that have multiple performances in one day, this approach may be unacceptable and contribute to longer wait times at the box office window. In other circumstances, like a sold-out performance, there may be additional entanglements making an exchange impractical. It also gives the venue no advance notice that a change in ticket inventory is occurring.
Tear and send
You can ask that your patron tear the paper ticket and send it by postal mail back to the box office or in our case, send an image of the torn tickets. This is better than a same-day walk-up since it saves your customer from having to make a special trip to the venue. It also gives the venue advanced notice that ticket inventory has changed, but only if the exchange is for a *later* performance. When the mailman finally brings the tickets to you, only then can you physically account for their status as "invalid" and place them back into inventory for a new sale. As described the customer service has improved, but time is money - Tear & Send is slow.
The act of exchanging tickets should be just a few mouse clicks taking only a few seconds to perform. Once the day of the show has arrived, admissions at the door need to be done just as efficiently with little or no waiting. Exchanges and admissions are two sides of the same ticket invalidating coin. A cost-effective barcode system is the best way to do both. Your choice in ticketing software is critical as not all barcode ticket systems are created equally and many provide barcoded tickets without real-time scanning capability.
When no barcode system is in place, you'll need to weigh the up front costs with the long term ones for things like ticket exchanges and admissions. Saving a few hundred dollars by not having proper barcoding may end up a significant long term expense over the course of an entire season of performances.
These best practices for invalidating tickets, especially as they relate to box office efficiency and customer service, apply to any venue or event, not just theaters like the Austin Symphony. Our technology makes tasks like changes to purchases easy so you can exceed the ticket buyer's expectations in a cost-effective manner. We take great pride in providing the tools venues need to serve the buyers while increasing profitability and we'd love to do just that for your business. In addition to the online ticketing software, we have barcode scanners available to rent so smaller venues can get their feet wet with improved box office efficiency without the big financial commitment of an outright purchase.