What Do You Sell Online?

Okay, this entry is more a question for readers than any sort of discussion of issues. Basically, I would like to know how many price levels of tickets do you put on sale online?

When I was working in Hawaii, my colleagues at the other campuses and I put most of our base ticket prices for sale online- Adult, Student/Senior/Military, Under 12 and University Student.

When I arrived at my current job, I noticed only the top level ticket price for each area was listed online even though we offer just about the same discount categories as we did in Hawaii. Thinking it a mistake, I asked my box office manager why that was and she told me the software vendor suggested we only offer the highest level because people would take advantage.

[N.B. From a question I received, I wanted to clarify that this listing was on the purchase screen. When it came time to buy the ticket, they were advised to only let people buy full price tickets and not make the other price levels available. The other ticket prices were advertised both on and off line]

This was not my experience at all in Hawaii or other places I worked which also offered lower ticket prices online. Most of the time people wanted to pay the difference when someone couldn’t make it and they brought a person who didn’t qualify for discounts.

I admit I was a little riled when I heard that the ticket office was given this advice because I think that making people call or walk in to buy discounted tickets places a barrier to entry to many. I felt like this went against everything I have been working toward with my own practices and adovocating this blog.

Not to mention that someone can call and misrepresent their eligibility for discounts over the phone as easily as they can place the order online so you really aren’t preventing people who want to from taking advantage.

It’s not that my ticket office can’t ask that the internet site be set to offer more price levels, I just felt this advice reflected big corporate indifference. And that there was no effort on the company’s part to help venues facilitate the process for their customers.

But as I started to look around, I realized that many performing arts venues only seem to offer the highest level ticket online, even if they don’t use the same vendor we do.

So now my question is, what are people’s experiences and practices putting multiple levels of prices online?

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.

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4 thoughts on “What Do You Sell Online?”

  1. IMO, your gut is absolutely right! All prices should be listed. I have worked in online sales outside the arts and have had to argue against such advice myself. All your rationale is perfectly correct. Not only does withholding discounts discourage those portions of the market they are designed to attract, but once they discover the discounts do exist and that you are not fully transparent online, you lose credibility!

  2. Why on earth would an organization take this kind of advice from this kind of vendor??? I mean, sure, it’s plausible that people would take advantage, but who has a better understanding of the actual person purchasing the ticket: the arts organization or the software vendor?

    I realize that small orgs need to rely on expert advice from all sorts of outside sources, but you have to consider the source. It would be highly unusual for a software vendor to be the best source for advice on the psychology of fraud in arts patrons.

    • Well, if the software vendor is in a huge number of venues across the country, you might think they know something about selling tickets. But as you suggest, they are really only skilled at the mechanics of selling tickets, not the attendant relationships.

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