When you work in the ticketing industry for a while, you get a sense of the ebb and flow of the business. Oh, at first, you’re overwhelmed, popping blood pressure pills like candy and clueless as a newborn babe. Yet all-too-soon, you find you can anticipate when the untimely call spike or torturous doldrums will interrupt the jackhammer monotony of day-to-day business. I work for the big boys, an institution voted most likely to be accused of being a monopoly, a company I shall call, for anonymity’s sake, Ticketblaster.
Generally, business follows the expected pattern, but every so often you get hit with a superstar tsunami.
For me, it started with U2. There was no warning really. The big wigs announced that we would be selling tickets for exclusive fan club presales [a novelty at the time] and we smiled and nodded with the obligatory polite, but feigned enthusiasm. We were just happy to be in a meeting. Meetings are an excellent alternative to work! I just wish they were longer.
The fandom of U2, augmented by the machinations of slick, greedy ticket brokers [that’s what they call scalpers nowadays], slammed into us with the force of a typically overweight coal truck bobsledding down the snow-covered hills of West Virginia! Rabid, unthinking, cursing, spitting, unreasoning fans! Why didn’t I get tickets? Your system must’ve switched my seats. How can front row be gone? How come there’s nothing left? It’s only 2 minutes into the sale and I got on the very second it went on! The howling mob could not be sated. It got so bad that for months thereafter, we experienced psychotic episodes at the merest mention of the band’s name. The reference didn’t even have to be in context:
“Have a nice day, Henry!” “Hey, you too [U2], Marvin!”
[Growling, snarling sounds]
“Um, what exactly are your intentions with that axe, Marvin?”
And I’ve heard just about everything, mind you. Mothers demanding refunds because there were no tigers at the circus [Ma’am, we just sell the circus, whatever that entails. I’m sorry there were no tigers, but Ticketblaster never promised you – or anyone else – tigers, OK?] Even folk demanding free tickets for the inconvenience of their credit card rejecting for insufficient funds. [What? You want free tickets because you can’t pay us? Are you listening to yourself?] So I’m used to the occasional nutcase. But the superstar tsunami took things to a whole different level. I mean, these guys really put the cuss into customer!
They demanded that we magically procure seats out of thin air [or wherever. Some were quite imaginative, albeit crude. Ma’am, I apologize, but that is neither anatomically nor ethically possible for me. Is there anything else I can do for you?] for shows that were completely Sold Out. It did no good to appeal to physics [Matter cannot occupy the same space, sir, so limited seating is available for any given venue.], reason [An alleged scientist once protested that nothing was impossible. I challenged him, “Sir, I’m holding a pen in my hand. If I release it, what is the possibility that it will fall up?” “Well, if we were on the moon…” “Um, we’re not on the moon, sir.”] or either common sense or common decency. [Space and a Christian upbringing do not permit me to elaborate.] They weren’t listening anyway. They were occupied with demonizing me and my co-workers. Some yelled so loudly that they simply became a wall of dissonance. I still have no idea what they actually said, but their sentiment seems clear enough. Others played head games. If you spoke, they accused you of talking over them or interrupting their endless monologue. If you didn’t speak, they demanded to know why you didn’t answer them. If you spoke after that, you were interrupting them again and were now so rude that they simply had to speak to your supervisor. Still others cried and blubbered. “You don’t care! You’re evil!” “Ma’am, I realize you’re upset, but empathy isn’t the same thing as ability. I wish I could help you, but I can’t.” “No, you’re evil!” “Fine. I’m evil, if it makes you feel better. Is there anything else I can help you with?” “I’m not satisfied. You call this customer service? Your job is to make me happy!” A fleet of friggin’ clowns couldn’t make these people happy for only tickets – and Front Row tickets at that – and for Free since they’re soooo traumatized by the inconvenience of having to berate, belittle, screech at and vomit forth hate upon me, the hapless phone representative currently in their thrall because my company has this ridiculous policy of never hanging up on people, even if they really and truly deserve it! Never mind that these customers want the impossible and they will punish you until they get it!
Why? Because these people are convinced somehow that a capitalist company is for reasons unfathomable holding back on a potential money making moment because we’re a big, evil monopoly and we’re just being mean. But you’re a supervisor. You can do anything you want! Um, have these guys ever actually worked a job? Aside from the inescapable fact that being a supervisor does not somehow imbue me with limitless super powers, they should understand that everybody answers to somebody. All jobs have limits. On purpose. Therefore, I can only do what I please if I am willing to suffer the consequences [Things like watching my boss pop a blood vessel from the effort of raking me over hot coals, being written up, fired or suffering some vaguely defined fate Worse Than Death, like becoming the personal toady of the boss who’s never liked you in return for keeping your job]. What does this have to do with getting someone tickets? I bring this up for the exceptional reason that some of these innocent, wounded, yet big-hearted people have actually demanded that I cancel someone else’s order and give those tickets to them! I’m not making this up.
After the U2 tsunami came others: The Stones, Depeche Mode, Madonna, the friggin’ Wiggles, ad nauseam. By the way, kid shows are the worst, but I’ll get to that later.
It’s around Christmas that the truly ridiculous issues arise. Last nanosecond shoppers suddenly get it into their dear little procrastinating heads that tickets to the MOST POPULAR SHOW EVER is the perfect gift for little Sally Sue what’s-her-name. Of course, they’d be lucky to get nosebleed seats, but somehow I inevitably hear “You mean I can’t get Front Row tickets for the Radio City CHRISTMAS Spectacular two days before Christmas?? That’s insane!” No, it’s not, but you might want to check yourself into a clinic. I’m not Santa Claus. I wouldn’t even rate elf. You know, I actually had a big-heated soul tell me, “Well, I hope Santa is as generous to you this year as you’ve been to me! Merry Christmas, [expletive]!” “Um, ma’am, you do realize that Santa Claus is a fictional character and has no bearing on my economic status, right?”
Anyway, at this point you might be thinking, What in Sam Hill does this have to do with Miley Cyrus? Here it is. I thought I had experienced everything, that I had a good weather eye for the inevitable tsunami. Then I got slapped around by Hurricane Hannah.
True, we caught a breeze of the impending storm when parents started demanding we cancel Cheetah Girls tickets because they had just discovered Hannah Montana would not be performing at that particular show. But our reaction then was basically, Hannah who? Seriously. I had no idea who this chick was. I have boys, for crying out loud. Hannah Montana sounded like Indiana Jones’ lovechild. Who knew she’d be the most popular thing since Elvis and the Beatles combined?
We’ve become acquainted since then. Not personally. But I’ve become acquainted with her fans… parents. As I said, kid shows are the worst because parents are stupid. Not all parents, mind you. Just these parents who promise their kids tickets to the MOST POPULAR SHOW EVER and then try to buy them. Have these guys never heard the old axiom about counting as-yet-unhatched chickens? Ever heard the saying: Your lack of foresight does not constitute my emergency? Well, in my business, it does. In fact, a customer’s lack of foresight is a good portion of the justification for my job’s very existence, not to mention my job security.
Inevitably, they score crap seats or no seats at all and this is MY fault, right? Some of them have actually demanded that I explain to their kids why they can’t go see Hannah Montana now. If I were allowed, I would tell them to place the tike on the phone and reply thus:
“Kids, I’m sorry but there’s no tickets left for Hannah Montana. You see, Mommy and Daddy, bless their little hearts, didn’t have the sense to get tickets before they told you about the show. I know you’re disappointed. I know you probably bragged to all your friends about it. I know you were all excited and now you’re crushed, but there IS a silver lining to this dark storm cloud. You see, it’s pretty much a given that you will be able to mournfully and tearfully play them like a harp from heck for whatever you bloody well wish, crave or desire for the next several months. Kids, this is a potential parental gold mine and you should milk this cash cow for every last drop. This is your Golden Ticket, your genie in the lamp. It’s even better than day care guilt. Let your parents demonize the evil ticketing monopoly for their short-sighted promises. We both know the truth. You can thank me later.”