Confessions of a Box Office Manager: wrong tickets, wrong day
Our box office mole deals with a very tenacious customer who simply got the date wrong
3.30pm: I'm in the upstairs office. The phone on my desk rings. It's Sarah in the main box office, sounding a bit stressed.
"Hmmm, well..." she says, "this is the third time this lady has rung. She called when you were in a meeting this morning, then again when you were on your lunch break. She thought she was booking online for tonight, but she actually booked for last week. The tickets were to be picked up."
"Oh dear. Well, if she made the booking herself then it's her error but of course I'll speak to her. Do you want to pop her through? Before you do that, have you checked the uncollected COBOs box for her tickets?"
"Yep, they're in there."
"Ah right. We're pretty much sold out tonight now aren't we, apart from my four house seats?"
"Yes, one single in the Dress and that's it."
"I might let her have a pair of those house seats and do them at the access rate."
"It's seven," mutters Sarah, mournfully.
"I'm sorry, what is?"
"That's the number of seats she booked..."
"Oh hell. Well that's not gonna work then is it? Have you got the booking ref, so I can be looking at it when I talk to her?"
Sarah gives me the reference number, I tap it into my computer and sure enough it's a booking for seven people for this day last week, expensive seats too. Her billing address is within handbag-swinging distance of Harrods, so I guess she's not short of a bob or two, but still... what a waste.
"Ok Sarah, bung her through."
Sarah rings off and I can barely get, "Hello, you're through to the box office manager..." out of my mouth before the tsunami of words begins. I get the impression she has been practicing what she's going to say and furthermore, SHE. IS. DEAFENING. I hold the phone receiver as far away from my tender ears as I can (I'm still not missing anything). She has a strong accent, but her English is ferociously good.
"Hello, I hope that you will look favourably upon me. I made a small error, a tiny error, really so easy to make. Maybe you should revise your website. It's not, how d'you say, fit for purpose? No, it's really not. I have family visiting me here, some from Greece, some from Cyprus, and they all look to me to provide them with entertainment. So what can we do? I chose tickets for tonight, your system gives me tickets for last Thursday. Not my fault. What can we do?"
It's amazing how many people use the excuse that the website mysteriously changed the date they wanted to book for, instead of being honest and saying they made a mistake. I wait to see if she's quite finished.
"HELLO?" (I think my eardrum was just perforated).
"Yes, hello, I'm here. Just to clarify – you booked these seats yourself, what, ten days, two weeks ago?" I know exactly when she did it because I'm staring at it on my screen.
"Did you not check the confirmation email we sent you? That would have stated the date you had seats for and if you'd rung us straight away it would have been pretty straightforward to sort it out."
"Look darling, I am a very busy woman. I don't have time to read emails. I just looked at this one this morning and, well, you can imagine my surprise. So, what can you do for me darling? Come on. I need seven for tonight. Come on, darling."
"I'm afraid we are completely sold out for tonight." I decide there is no point muddying the waters by telling her about the house seats as there aren't enough of them anyway, "I don't have any availability now through until next week. I could maybe do a discount for Monday or Tues–"
"NEXT WEEK?! That's no good to me. They're leaving on Sunday! No no darling, you can do better than that."
4pm: she's still on the phone.
I'm beginning to realise that she's the kind of person who gets whatever she wants by steamrollering people into submission. However, since I can't physically conjure extra rows of seats out of thin air, it's not going to work this time, but getting her off this phone may prove problematic.
"I'm very sorry, I would love to be more helpful but there are literally no seats available. If you absolutely have to see the show before next week then I could let you stand at the back of the Dress Cir-"
"STAND? STANNNNND?! We can't stand darling. My aunt is with us. She's got vein issues."
I feel like banging my head on the desk.
"Ok, well I've got one single seat available. What about if she has that, and the rest of you stand at the back?"
"She can't sit on her own! She doesn't speak English!"
"I don't really know what else to suggest..." I toy briefly with the idea of letting her have the house seats but that would leave us with nothing in the case of any emergencies.
"OK," she snaps, "just gimme the refund. I'll take them some place else."
"Yes darling." She's sounding less friendly by the second now that she's not getting what she wants, "the refund on the seats I didn't use. I want my money back."
"Oh no." I've had enough now, "that's not how it works I'm afraid. You bought those tickets yourself..."
"I bought SOME tickets, not THESE tickets. The tickets I was buying were for TONIGHT! YOUR website CHANGED THEM!"
"We can argue about this until we are blue in the face. The fact remains you bought these tickets..."
"SOMEBODY booked these tickets. Using YOUR card, YOUR name and YOUR details! I have them right in front of me!" I don't really but I'm not telling her that. "And furthermore, you didn't look at the confirmation email we sent you at the time. Had you done that then, as I said earlier, we could have rectified the problem. But it's just too late now. As I also said earlier, as a goodwill gesture I can get you into a quieter performance at a greatly reduced rate, but that won't work for your visiting relatives as I understand it?"
"No, so I'm afraid there isn't anything else I can help with. I'm sorry. In future please always check what you've bought after you book online."
"OK baby, I tell you what I'm gonna do."
"YES?" I (almost) shriek down the phone.
"I'm gonna bring the family in. We'll wait and we'll sit in whatever seats don't get used."
I think my head is about to explode.
"No, please don't do that, it will be a waste of everybody's time, as every seat has been sold. There will be nowhere – I repeat, NOWHERE – for us to put you."
I feel like yelling, "and what about your aunts veins? Think of your poor aunt!" but decide that might be a bit melodramatic.
"Hm. We'll see. Maybe I see you later, baby. I hope you're more helpful than this in usual circumstances." She hangs up, leaving me staring open-mouthed at the phone receiver.
6pm to 7.30pm: I am in charge of taking the evening's performance in and I can barely concentrate for wondering whether that woman really is going to turn up. I've put her original tickets next to my computer in the foyer box office just in case...
Luckily there's no sign of her (although Sarah seems a bit disappointed). We are just seeing the last few patrons in when a call comes through from stage door.
"Hiya," I say, "we aren't really taking phone calls at this time."
"I know mate," says the stage door keeper, "I've been arguing with this woman for the last ten minutes but she insisted on being put through..."
I sigh, I know who it is.
"Ok then, let's be having her..."
"Hello darling, it's me! I'm in The Ivy Club, did you find me seven tickets?"
"No, no I didn't, and the show is just beginning anyway."
"Ok. So I've decided I will come next week. I'll bring friends instead. What are you offering me?"
A further twenty minutes of arguing and haggling ensues. The rest of the team have to do the cashing up and closing up as I am all tied up, and trying not to lose my temper. Eventually this lady and her friends have even better seats than the ones she bought at a price so cheap she's nearly robbing us, and then she starts at me about complimentary drinks.
"For the inconvenience, darling."
I gleefully give her the theatre managers contact details... He can deal with that. She's probably going to bamboozle him into it, and I'll end up being interrogated by him. At this stage, I don't really care, I just want to go home. But hey, nobody died.