You’re Doing A Great Job, But Standards For Dissatisfaction Have Changed

Colleen Dilenschneider made a post comparing what factors created dissatisfaction for attendees of cultural events in 2019 vs. 2022. She posted charts for both exhibit and performance based organizations. An important thing to keep in mind is that these are factors that dissatisfied people when they actually attended an event. These aren’t things that non-attendees reported were keeping people away.

Basically on both charts, everything bugs people more. Focusing on performance events, rude patrons and rude staff top the list. Parking issues and access issues (e.g. traffic) also saw a big increase. Cost of admission saw a small increase 2019 to 2022, but cost of everything else related to the experience (presumably food, gas, parking) exploded over 2022.

Phone policy (allowing patrons to use) saw an increase where phone policy (not being able to use) saw a slight decrease. Given slightly more openness to not being able to use your phone, it might be worth making the request since allowing people to use their phones is increasingly annoying people.

Restroom availability, crowding, Hours of Operation (big increase), Cleanliness (also big increase) were all higher in 2022 than 2019. Interestingly, performance quality issues were less of a dissatisfying factor. Length of intermission, which I would have thought was relatively neutral was also created less dissatisfaction in 2022. I assume venues haven’t really tweaked the standard intermission interval so either shows are doing better starting on time, intermissions are more fun, or audiences have made their peace with the 15-20 time period.

Dilenschneider notes that standards have shifted so that even if conditions are much better than before, the perception still might be that the problem is worse. She uses the example of crowding. There may be fewer people in venues and galleries, but the criteria about what constitutes crowded may have shifted where people feel more constricted even if they have much more elbow room.

Similarly, the standard about what constitutes rudeness from patrons and staff may have likewise shifted. Attendees may find your staff to be rude even if you have done a lot of work to be kinder and more considerate after you re-opened from pandemic closures.

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 ( 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. (

My most recent role was as Executive 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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