Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Right Hand Red

By BLO's Audience Services Manager, Kate Walsh

I’ve often said with regard to box office ticketing that, like sausage making, it is best to just enjoy the end result.  
Much to many people’s surprise, mainly my mother’s, there is a lot that happens before you hand your ticket to the usher.  During the summer months, aside from breaking into impromptu opera dance parties, the ticketing office turns into a giant game of ticketing Twister.  Just go with it... it’ll make sense in a minute.  

Think of the Shubert Theatre. Think of all those seats as circles on a Twister mat.  Each time we sell a subscription we seat a subscriber on a circle.  Now break it apart into three Twister mats as each subscription has three shows.  A lot of times during the subscription renewal process people like to change their seats.  We wait until summer to do this so that everyone has enough time to renew.  We then release the seats that haven't been purchased and begin seating!  Later in the summer subscribers can make exchanges between performances if they have a conflict.  Now imagine 45 Twister mats. As fall approaches we give over seats to the Shubert and Telecharge to sell as individual ticket buys while we continue to sell new subscriptions and complete exchanges. You can see now why we’re very limber people.

At this point we need to get tickets in the mail!  
Warning: This section contains mind-numbing material about computer stuff.  Do not attempt to operate heavy machinery after reading.  Do not use if you are pregnant, intend to become pregnant, or might be pregnant.

For this we have to pull data about each subscriber. Name, address, subscription/ticketing information, and send it all to our ticketing printer who will then mail merge and print them. We then receive the sheets of tickets and check them for accuracy. We also put together collateral to tell you more about your benefits as a subscriber — did you know you get restaurant discounts?  Ask your box office about food, we may not be able to tell you why the Red Line can’t get it together, but we can tell you where to get the best meal with the shortest walking distance to a coordinating dessert.  It’s a skill.  We then create an elaborate assembly line akin to Henry Ford himself (thanks for that Wikipedia!)  We edit, fold, stuff, seal and stamp roughly 2,500 subscriptions!  By “we” I mean a staff of 3 including our lovely intern Katie! After the subscriptions are sent out we then print in-house anyone who needs changes as well as all our new subscribers who purchased after the above mind-number data has happened.

My mother always said that working on phones is payback for when I was a teenager and would never get off the phone.
The above is said with complete love of my job, but because a lot of patrons mostly do business by phone due to proximity we do spend a lot of time on the phones. Roughly 35 hours a week to be exact!  We work with colleges and other groups to arrange group ticketing packages and help create memorable experiences for them.  We give directions, help book restaurant reservations and suggest hotels.  We tell you where to pahk your cahr in Hahvad Yahd... not really, but I’m from the South so that’s the best New England accent I can do.  We are the concierges of the arts world.  We try to “translate” the premise of various operas to newbies. My favorite was when a very novice patron said he knew nothing about opera, “Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob tries to kill Bart in Italy by cornering him in the opera coliseum and sings Vesti la giubba?”  “Have you ever seen Looney Toons?”  “Kill the Wabbit!  Kill the Wabbit!”- there, I knew Elmer Fudd would jog your memory.”

You too can possess this much useless information.  I can’t tell you who was president in 1902, but I can tell you who won the Tony for Best Leading Actress in Musical in 1978, I can quote 65% of all of the scripts from the “Golden Girls” TV show, and I have an unfulfilled dream of creating “Op-corn” which is selling popcorn at operas in little Viking helmets.  All of these topics of conversation have resulted in the sale of a ticket. 

We build relationships with our patrons and donors. We are at every show, we touch every ticket, we are typically the first interaction you have with BLO and we hope we have made/will make it a positive and lasting one.  We are the few, the proud, the constantly over-caffeinated. We are the Box Office. 

Now… Right Hand Red.

1 comment:

  1. Kate, I love it - congrats. I for one am still a fan of op-corn!