Friday, January 15, 2010


by Stephen Benson, Pantages Box Office Treasurer

Show time at the box office is exciting and stressful at the same time. From the program sellers barking for your attention in the outer lobby, ushers directing you toward you seats, the occasional live sidewalk entertainment in front and other theatre patrons enjoying conversation in the lobby, there is a lot to see and do before the show even begins.

From time to time (for a myriad of reasons) there are issues with tickets. With all the noise and excitement, it can be stressful to arrive at the theatre to find a ticketing issue just before curtain.

Problem solving is my favorite part of my job. This must sound odd. After all, why would anyone consider a stressful situation enjoyable? I do, but it’s not the stress -- it’s getting to the core of the issue to find the solution to the problem.

In the customers mind, there are usually three stress factors to any ticketing issue in the customers mind:

Time – Will the box office resolve the issue before the show starts?

Money – Will the solution cost money?

Admittance – Are there seats available to solve the issue?

Once you pinpoint the particular stress trigger, I reassure the customer that we WILL resolve this issue, and the mood changes and process becomes easier.

The most common issue is a patron who’s simply left the tickets at home, (or the restaurant, or the office, or in the other bag, or on the moon). That’s an easy problem to fix … at least once we know where the tickets were purchased. That would seem like an easy bit of information to obtain.

You would be surprised how challenging this question can be.

The biggest issues I have to solve relate to stolen or fraudulent tickets. Most of the time these tickets are sold on the internet by “brokers.” A search on for Pantages lists 2,300,000 listings.

Only 2 of these are legitimate:

If you’re reading this, please absorb that information!

This past summer, an unscrupulous broker used a stolen credit card to purchase several sets of tickets to one of our shows. He photo copied the same ticket several times and sold them on He would not take credit cards, but instead told his customers to meet him in the parking lots of malls or fast food stores with cash to complete the transaction and pick up the tickets.

Is it just me, or does meeting a stranger in a parking lot with several hundred dollars cash in hand sound like a bad idea all the way around?

Unfortunately several of out customers chose to buy their tickets through this broker, and of course the tickets were rejected by our scanners at the theatre door. We had to work really hard to accommodate these customers on this sold-out show, but in the end it all worked out and everyone left happy.

The moral to my story is:

Meeting strangers in a dark alley with cash is probably a bad idea, but visiting your local box office to support the arts in Los Angles is a good idea!

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