Confessions of a Box Office Manager: The telephone call play

Our West End mole sets the scene for a drama over the blower with a tricky customer

Scene: a West End box office

(Phone rings…and rings)

ME: Is anybody going to get that?

(Phone continues to ring…and ring)

ME: Hello? Anybody? No?! Honestly, what is the point of having casual staff when I have to do every bloody…(Into phone, serenely) Good morning, you're through to the ****** box office. How can I help?

INCREDIBLY POSH LADY: (On the phone) Oh hello. I'm trying to get tickets for next Saturday but here's the thing, I don't want to pay full price. So the ball is in your court. D'you see?

ME: Right. Well, let me have a look for you. Being a Saturday we are likely to be incredibly busy. How many seats are you looking for?

IPL: Just two. Prime seats, excellent price, yah?

ME: Yah, I mean, OK. So, I'm afraid the only two I have together are premiums at £115…

IPL: One hundred and FIFTEEN pounds?!

ME: Yes. Or…

IPL: What part of ‘excellent price' d'you fail to understand?

ME: …OR…we've got a one pair of Band A Stalls seats left at £80.

IPL: And if we split up? We are not adverse to one in front and one behind, d'you see?

ME: Well, let's have a look… I have got two such seats, they're slightly restricted view owing to safety rails. Upper Circle, rows B and C. £25.

IPL: When you say ‘restricted' what exactly does that MEAN?

ME: (Embarks on laborious description of what constitutes a restricted view)…do YOU see?

(Awkward pause)

IPL: Riiiiight right. Yah yah right. So what you're telling me is… (proceeds to repeat entire conversation back to me)…?

ME: Yes, that is correct.

IPL: I need to phone my friend, d'you see?

ME: Sure, no problem. Just call us back when you've got hold of…

IPL: No! I'm doing it now!

ME: I'm sorry…?

IPL: I'm phoning her now, hold on…

(There follows the deafening beeping sound of numbers being punched into a phone.)

ME: Ouch! I'm so sorry but could you just…?

(More deafening beeps)

…Aaaaargh! Hello? I'm sorry that's really quite painful…couldn't you…?

IPL: Wendy?

ME: Pardon?

IPL: Damn and blast. Wrong phone. Hang on.

(More beeping/dialling sounds but much further away…thankfully)

IPL: (In the distance, into different phone) Wendy, it's Madeleine, hello darling. (Pause) …Oh you didn't. He didn't?! (Laughs uproariously) Ohmygod. He did it with what? (Long pause) Seriously? (Laughs) Well, I'm jolly glad I left when I did. (More laughter) Naughty!

ME: Hellooooo? Hello? I'm sorry but I can't just keep hanging on here.

(INCREDIBLY POSH LADY carries on laughing, in the distance.)

ME: I am going to have to hang up, I've got other calls waiting…

IPL: (Still distant) Oh God, I nearly forgot! Are you still there, darling? (Pause) Yah, so look, I'm on the blower to the theatre about those tickets. What they've got left is…(tells Wendy literally everything about the seat availability)…so…that's what I'll book. Coolio. Yah-yah. Bye. (Back on my line) Hello?

ME: (Resignedly) Yes. Hello. I'm still here.

IPL: We have come to a decision. Give me your two finest Stalls. But not premium price.

ME: So you DO want the better ones? Great! (Checks screen, sighs deeply) I don't know how to tell you this. But, during those intervening minutes, I'm afraid that last pair has sold. All I've got left now are the premiums and the restricted view singles. I'm awfully sorry.


ME: While you were discussing…things…with your friend, another customer bought those tickets…

IPL: Look, I don't know what sort of outfit you're running over there…but this is…well this is….. D'you see?

ME: (Sighs) I'm sorry you're disappointed, but seats are available through a variety of channels all at the same time, so any number of people can be looking at the plans and buying tickets. Is there another date I can check for you?

IPL: Well…I will have to telephone my friend again. Hold the –…

ME: NO! …er, I mean, sorry, just bear with me a second, OK? (Pause) OK, so, I shouldn't really do this. I've repriced a pair of those premium seats, you can have them for £80. Row F Stalls. Wonderful view. Boom.

IPL: Oh…we like ‘boom'. Now where's my credit card. Hold the line. (Long pause) Are you there?

ME: Oh I am, yes.

IPL: Five. Four. Four. Three. One. Seven…

ME: (Interrupting) I'm terribly sorry, but I need to take some details before we get to the card number.

IPL: Oh. Such as?

ME: Let's start with your name as it appears on the card…

(The booking goes ahead, then…)

ME: So I'll just read back the details as all sales are final, so stop me if there's anything wrong, OK?

IPL: Yah!

ME: You've booked two tickets totalling £160 for…

IPL: I'll stop you there…

ME: …Yes?

IPL: You said it was £80.

ME: Yes, that's per ticket. So the total is a hundred and…

IPL: I thought £80 WAS the total.

ME: Um, no.

IPL: Well, I'm not paying that. It's daylight robbery. I'm surprised your voice isn't muffled due to the pair of tights you've probably got covering your face. Do you have a gun as well?!

ME: Well, now… It isn't cheap, I agree. But these seats would normally be £115. Each.

IPL: Good God.

ME: So, did you want to…?

IPL:I don't know how you people sleep at night.

ME: I'm guessing then that…

IPL: Absolutely ridiculous. Good BYE. (hangs up)

ME: (Stares at phone) Oh dear.

…but hey, nobody died.