Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ticket Purchase FAIL: LA Opera Edition

If you want to sell tickets on the web, make sure your web site works, and if it can't tolerate a particular browser - I know that Chrome is a big mystery to many even though it's been out for 18 months and comes from a well-known Internet company - don't bury that that information three web pages deep. Put it right on the page where people register or order tickets.

Mind you, I have no idea whether my browser is the reason I failed miserably in trying to order tickets from the LA Opera for Die Gezeichneten and Goetterdaemmerung. Here's what happened:

1. Went to the calendar, picked the date I want to attend Gezeichneten.
2. Attempted to register.
3. Was told my email address was in use already. Let's just say I know this is wrong in some way. I last bought tickets from LAO in 1999, for Don Giovanni, which was five years before Gmail existed.
4. I called and found out that a Dr. Lisa Hirsch - maybe I should look for her on Facebook - gave them my email address. No, sorry, Doc. It's my email address, not yours. The nice person I spoke to told me their web site does throw errors pretty often. He sounded as though this is the norm, too.
5. Tried to register again using an old, but still active, address.
6. Got message "There was an error in processing your request."
7. Gave up for now.

One irony in this: the LA Opera press department knows and uses my email address. I get all their press releases, without fail. (Thank you!)

You're probably wondering why I didn't just order tickets from the nice person who answered the phone. Well, I like 128 bit encryption, that's why. Not that it makes anyone invulnerable to all of the bad things that can happen on the Internet and elsewhere - my credit card number has been stolen twice, once along with a few hundred thousand others at an online CD store, the next...well, I don't know where, but my bank called to ask me if I'd ordered a couple of thousand dollars' worth of stuff from Apple, and no, I had not. (At home, I have the world's oldest running Dell and I plan to keep it that way for a while.)

I'll try for the tickets again, from another browser or another machine or at a different time of day. But it's 2010, and if you run a big opera company - a big opera company that really needs money - you should be doing appropriate QA on your web site. I mean, my couple of hundred for two tickets won't make a big dent in that $14 million loan, but it's something.


The Opera Tattler said...

How bizarre. I just had a awkward exchange with someone working in LA Opera's audience services. Evidently my tickets to the Ring were sent back to them. They must be really overworked?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Oh my GOD.

I am hoping to do either a story for SFCV or here about the various hassles involved with buying tickets and what organizations can do to make the ticket-buying experience less awful.

Henry Holland said...

Lisa, it's not just tickets. As I've mentioned before, I go to every orchestra and opera company website I can find to see if there's anything interesting to travel for. I've been doing this for ten years, a couple of hundred sites a year.

They are UNIFORMLY awful. When a company announces their 2010/11 season I want to know: the pieces, the dates and the performers. It's not unusual to have to go to three separate pages on a single site to find that info. Sometimes, it's hard to tell if they've even announced a new season, there's nothing about it on the front page, it's buried in the calendar section.

All sites should have this format reachable via a link in BIG LETTERS on the front page. It's not unusual for me to have 30 tabs open because I can only find out what's being done by clicking on highlighted dates on a calendar (the SFS is this way); I'm saavy enough now to know that most American orchestras do a program 2-4 times but still, it's really annoying.

In Europe, a good number of opera companies have the maddening habit of only giving out the dates of performances a month or two in advance! It's utterly insane. For example, my boy Schreker's Irrelohe is being done in Bonn in November, but they only list the premiere, not the rest of the dates. It's very very frustrating.

Lisa Hirsch said...


Watch for a blog posting on this general subject, like in about five minutes.