A User-Friendly Ticket Experience

Anybody get tickets last week for Coachella?  Anybody?  Bueller?

I didn’t and neither did anyone I know.  Now, that’s OK.  Demand far exceeded supply and pre-sales were strong, so everyone isn’t going to get tickets.  My beef is with the process.

In case you haven’t purchased tickets lately, this is how it works.

Promoters announce a date and time that tickets will go on sale to the general public.  Shortly before that moment, anyone who wants tickets opens up the app or website and waits, cursor or finger poised over the appropriate button.  At precisely the designated time, thousands click, more or less simultaneously.  Most then get a spinning wheel of death of one form or another and wait while the lucky few start buying tickets.  When tickets are sold out, which can take minutes or hours, the page is updated and those out of luck have to move on to Craigslist, Facebook, StubHub, or wherever and try to purchase tickets on the secondary market.

Not the ultimate in user-friendliness and since tickets usually go on sale during business hours, a disruption of the work day.

Ironically, this is actually worse than the old days when we would line up at the ticket booth and hope we get to the front of line before they sold out.  There is no strategy, no getting there days early and camping out, no hope of industriously gaining an advantage or even a business opportunity (like those people who, for a healthy fee, will wait in line for you to score a new iPhone).  In other words, it is completely luck of the draw.  This, again, is OK.  I have no problem with a random process, but why, with all the technology available at our fingertips, do buyers need to hover over mice, phones and tablets at an exact time just to try to get tickets?

I have a suggestion.  What about offering registration for an event in advance of ticket sales?

In order to purchase tickets with Front Gate Tickets, the site which sold the Coachella tickets, buyers need to fill out a unique profile which includes the option to save credit card info.  In addition, a buyer could easily enter the number of desired tickets, acceptable sections (if applicable) and a number of other options (e.g., an option to buy, or not buy, fewer tickets, second/third/fourth choices if the same concert/festival is offered on multiple dates, VIP if regular tickets are not available, etc.).

At the time tickets go on sale, all registered buyers could be randomly sorted and the system could automatically handle all sales with the registered information.  Users would get an email or text indicating the tickets they purchased.  There can even be an option to cancel the transaction within a short window (say, 10-20 minutes), making those tickets available to the next buyer.

Yes, this is still a random system and doesn’t prevent scalpers from hiring a phalanx of people to register unique profiles and tilt the odds in their favor, but it is about as friendly as it gets, and lucky or not, the buyers are not wasting their time staring at a screen hoping they hit the jackpot.