Friday, June 8, 2007

HouseseatsLV.Com FLIPS OUT!

This is just bizarre.

Yesterday I posted a blog entry about the fact that "The Beauty of Magic" is showing very early signs of trouble: They're giving away free seats through a group called Houseseatslv.Com. This is a subscription service where people pay a flat annual fee and then when free seats become available, usually on short notice, they must answer an email or log onto the site and sign up. I'd plugged this thing on my podcast in the past and it seems like a neat deal.

And apparently it has the Houseseatslv.Com folks FLIPPING OUT. They sent their members this "IMPORTANT" email:

"We are committed to bringing you fantastic entertainment, and know you are committed to enjoying it. However, we need to talk to you for a moment about a very serious issue, indiscretion. As stated in the house rules, you are not to disclose how you receive tickets or what we have available to anyone outside of the house seats family. Doing so is a strict violation of membership rules and could result in a suspension or revocation of your membership. We urge all of you to log on to the site and review the rules of membership. Not adhering to these rules could cost everyone the wonderful entertainment opportunities we have been able to offer thus far. Your cooperation is appreciated."

Of course, I was curious: WTF? What's with all the secrets? And how practical is it, anyway, to believe that people aren't going to pass along the information to their friends or talk about it at the water cooler? How suspect is this if a member's talking about what they did the night before could foil the whole enterprise?

So I went to read the "House Rules." Take a look for yourself. The whole operation suddenly started feeling really weird to me. Basically, it's two well-connected public relations folks who profit off of the fact that many shows need people for their audiences so that other audience members don't feel lonely. They get their tickets free and distribute them, using the money in part to host the site and organize the activities, and they donate 10 percent of the proceeds to various charities. It's a pretty good deal and people's connections are earned, so I'm not sure I quarrel that much with this arrangement.

There's something vaguely referred to as "special shopping services," too, but God knows what that means. Most of the rules are sensible, but some are impractical, odd or contradictory. Here are some, in their original syntax:

* you must be discreet when picking up tickets at the box office; we do not want to hinder their ability to sell full price tickets.
* house seats reserves the right to refuse service to anyone who is unpleasant, discourteous, or creates a problem of any kind at the theater or directly with house seats.
* listings are confidential information for members only. anyone found disclosing information in a public setting or chat room will have their membership instantly revoked.
* house seats reserves the right to review applicants before processing them for membership.

So don't contact the box office when you pick up your tickets at the box office? Oh dear, I am so not going to be approved for membership!

My source was confused as to what's up with all these rules. I think I know. These shows are trying to pretend for the public and the media that they're in demand. But they're not. So they give away seats and it looks like they can draw a crowd. If you tell everyone about it, however, you end up with &#@&$ journalists and bloggers like yours truly pointing to the deception as a sign of weakness. It's another reason why the tickets available at the discount ticket counters on the Strip aren't listed online; that would make it too easy for reporters to know what's doing badly. How many journalists would actually go down and see for themselves on a busy Saturday afternoon that "Spamalot" tix are available on the cheap? Oh, wait. I did that. OK, one.

Unlike in New York City, touring companies, concert venues or the movies, Las Vegas properties don't report their box office grosses to anyone. There's no way to know how they're doing. It is argued that they're private businesses, so they don't have to. But the same could be said for the aforementioned entities that do report, so I don't know why we don't get that sort of information. Perhaps it's so that the casinos and show producers can drum up illegitimate "Best Of Las Vegas" claims (by, say, putting out their own little circular with some phony writer crowning their show such) and slap them on their advertising.

That brings us back to why any of this matters. There's no official way for Vegas journalists to have any reliable gauge on the success or failure of any show, so we're reduced to relying on rumors, show-time changes or, say, the discovery that a heavily hyped train wreck of a magic show with Pamela Anderson that has only four shows a week to sell must give tickets away to fill the room.

And make no mistake, this show is a mess. It's receiving the worst word-of-mouth since "Le Reve," panned so far on our podcast this week -- it's in the first 10 mins of the show if you want to hear -- and by Mike Weatherford in the Review-Journal today. I'm grateful I didn't include it in my guidebook, which is being printed as I type, since I doubt it'll be around by the end of the year. It's that awful.

Oh, and by the way. There's another free-ticket outlet out there that's actually free and doesn't play all these cloak-and-dagger games. It's called VegasSeatFillers.Com. The shows aren't as high-profile, I gather, but I imagine that would change if more people used the service.


Dan Kane said...

Blow. The. Lid. Off. This. Shit.

Nice job, as always, Steve.

Anonymous said...

Shut up!!!! You're going to ruin it for all of the Houseseaters! What is your problem???

Anonymous said...

these people are really dumb. they think they can keep these secrets? duhhhhhhh

gregory_zephyr said...

Not only are they dumb but if they are PR pro's apparently they flunked Buzz Marketing 101. One of the best ways to generate word of mouth is telling people not to tell people about something "exclusive." If you ask people to tell a friend, they wont say anything. But tell them not to say anything and they'll blab to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually on both, houseseats and vegas seat fillers. I am very satisfied with houseseats.... i have definitely got my money's worth and am grateful for the opportunity...

Anonymous said...

If you give tickets away or try to sell them to someone, this is also against their rules. I was kicked off yesterday for doing so. However, in the end, I received about $30,000 in comp'd show tickets and concerts, so I can't complain about the $189 I spent to join.

Seeing shows such as Le Reve, Blue Man Group, Ka, Mystere, Barry Manilow, Carrot Top, Elton John, Bette Midler, Penn & Teller, as well as concerts such as RUSH, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Joss Stone, Joan Jett, Ringo Starr, Snoop Dogg, and Fergie to name a few. They also offer practically free golfing and you can get free haircuts. Food comps have been offerred from time to time as well.