Confessions of a Box Office Manager: An administrative offer error

Our Box Office Manager finds egg on their face after inputting a special online offer

The Box Office Manager
The Box Office Manager

I am just doing some light paperwork (which may or may not include a crossword, this being a quiet midweek morning) when the phone on my desk rings, nearly causing me to spill my coffee, and completely breaking my concentration (Nigerian capital, five letters, middle one 'U', anybody know?).

"Hello?" I bark, momentarily forgetting to be a consummate professional.

It's one of our glorious marketing team: "Low darling is Smamfa" (what she actually said was "Hello darling it's Samantha" but she's so cool she doesn't need to open her mouth fully or enunciate when she talks).

"Oh hello Samantha. How are you?" I'm uncomfortably aware that I sound like one of those terribly stiff 1940s BBC announcers by comparison.

"Uhhhh, hunger, boyfs thirdee so-y'know" ("Ugh, hungover, it was my boyfriends 30th, so, you know…" You're welcome).

"Oh dear, big night was it? Few too many champagnes?" I really like Smamfa, to be honest. She doesn't always get it right but she does genuinely care about the industry, plus she is A LOT of fun at first night parties.

"Yuuuuh, evthing! Champs, spurts, martins, evthing!" (I'm guessing she means "spirits, martinis, everything" here).

After moaning about her bad head and heroic cocktail consumption for a couple more minutes, it turns out she wants to put in a last minute Black Friday offer on our show. Back in the day, springing this on me literally the day of wanting the deal to go "live" would have been problematic as we in the box office didn't have the technical access to set up offers. Everything was slavishly entered into a generic form which would then get emailed over to the ticketing team at head office and then you'd wait… and you'd wait… and you'd wait… and you'd ring up to see what the hell was happening and be snottily told by somebody that "There IS a backlog you know!" Meanwhile the offer would have gone 'live' in the press and online, despite you asking the marketing company to hang fire for a bit, and you'd have members of the public ringing or turning up trying to book their discount tickets, and getting rightly fed up when you couldn't immediately help them. Ah the bad old days.

But that's all changed now because I HAVE THE POWER. Cue maniacal laughter. Yes, on my manager's ticketing log in I can now set up any discount code, manually enter the figure it should reduce the cost to, which dates and prices it'll apply to, and finally open it up to whichever sales channels the marketing people and the producers want to target: usually it's by phone, online or over the counter but sometimes it'll just be on the internet or to personal customers. The whole process is much more straightforward, not to mention quicker, now.

Samantha emails over the offer immediately and it's really simple: best available seats for £37.50, weekday performances for the next six weeks, bookable on our website only. Done, done and done. The online advertisements about the deal were going out straight away apparently, so hopefully it'll give a nice, and immediate, little boost to the show's advance sales figures.

I've been focussed back on my crossword for a couple of minutes when Robin, one of the clerks, comes bounding in.

"Here chief," (I hate it when he calls me that, which is exactly why he does it) "have you seen this tweet about tickets to the show.? This bloke's calling some special offer 'an early Christmas Miracle'! Is it legit?"

"Does he? Fancy getting so excited over a fifty per cent discount. People are funny."

"Fifty per cent, Chief?" ('Chief' again!) "It's a damn sight more than that… we may as well be giving the tickets away!"

"What do you mean?"

"He says they're going for £3.75 a pop!"

"What the…?!" I immediately log onto the shows official website, select a pair of seats, apply the discount code, and…bingo…it's asking me for £7.50.

I feel physically sick. Clearly when I typed the details of this offer in to the system, I accidentally missed off that crucial final '0' in the price field, hence the seats coming up at £3.75 rather than £37.50. Now, not only do I feel sick, I also feel extremely stupid.

This is entirely my own fault, an error compounded by a failure to check the offer before making the code available to the general public. I've clearly become a bit blasé of late – the result of being in this job so long – and I absolutely should have checked this offer code before it went 'live'. Mea culpa. This is a useful wake-up call.

Luckily, I can take this offer off the system just as quickly as I put it on there. Robin is smirking as I scrabble to get this done, and I can't say I blame him…this is probably the fastest he's ever seen me move.

Within five minutes, the situation is rectified and I've checked, yes I HAVE checked, that the code now discounts the tickets to the correct price. I thank Robin profusely and send him out with my debit card to buy himself a posh coffee and a pastry. I'm too strung out to eat anything.

Next I pull a report to see how many seats were sold at the incorrect price, silently praying that the Christmas Miracle Tweeter didn't have many followers. The report states that only six tickets went through at £3.75: obviously, not ideal but could have been a lot worse. When the general manager is in later I'll tell him what happened, and offer to have the difference in price deducted from my wages. It could be a Lidl rather than a Waitrose grocery shop for me this weekend then.

The phone rings again, and it's Samantha. She's seen the Tweet and, quite rightly, is wondering what's going on. She definitely sounds a lot more "with it" than she did earlier; nothing like the potential loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds worth of revenue to sharpen the senses, I guess.

I explain what happened and, bless her, she actually laughs about it. I'm sure she wouldn't have found it so funny if it had been six HUNDRED seats sold at that bargain basement price rather than just six, but we were lucky. Thank goodness Robin is addicted to Twitter on his mobile phone. I never thought I'd be writing that.

Samantha's final words to me after I've apologised yet again, and just before she hangs up? "Hey, nobody died!"