Thursday, February 21, 2008

More kerfluffles with the free-tickets folks

This stuff seems to come up all at once a lot.

As has been discussed before on this blog and in my Las Vegas Weekly column, I'm constantly baffled by how the twin towers of free-ticket distributors in Vegas both operate and treat their members. They are, of course, HouseseatsLV.Com and ShowTickets4Locals.Com. They operate in similar manners, although Houseseats is a subscription-based service -- pay a certain sum, get all the tickets you can handle within a year -- and ShowTix4Locals.Com has both a free and subscription option.

This past weekend, HouseseatsLV.Com was able to offer its subscribers seats at one of the preview performances of Bette Midler's "The Showgirl Must Go On." That would seem like a really, really big deal. It's the show of the moment, these seats weren't even available to the public for purchase and it had to be a terrific coup to be able to offer that to members.

Alas, it's all supposed to be a secret, though. And so when I ran into Bryce Krausman at the valet stand at Caesars after Monday's preview, I guess I crossed a baffling line when I attempted to congratulate him on that triumph. Bryce was with some family members and seemed utterly incensed that I'd dare to utter such a terrible thing out loud. "Why do you have to say that?" he asked me repeatedly.

I really didn't mean anything by it other than that I was sincerely impressed. But then I became amused and surprised by the awkwardness that ensued until the tension was relieved by the arrival of Bryce's car. I have no idea what sort of sensitive negotiations go on behind the scenes for the tickets that these services get, nor do I understand why they'd be sensitive at all -- especially when we're dealing with preview tickets that aren't even available to the public. (I've laid out my argument as to why the secretive nature of those who get these tickets is illogical and you can read that here.) Would the Caesars people be embarrassed that they had to give away tickets that were being, uh, given away?

A day later, as we discussed this odd run-in on the live version of this week's episode of "The Strip," a couple of listeners reported receiving yet another threatening note, this time from HouseseatsLV's competitor, ShowTix4Locals.Com. Under the subject line of: IMPORTANT MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION came this:


Dear XXX,

It has been brought to our attention that some members are taking advantage of our call center operators.

If you contact our call center asking for show tickets before we send out an e-mail offering the show to our members, you will be deleted. If you did not see an e-mail offering tickets, do not call inquiring. That is not how our service works.

When we offer ticketss for a show, we receive calls from non-members asking for free tickets. If you share our phone number with any non-members, and you encourage them to call us for free tickets, YOU will be deleted.

If you call for tickets for more then one show a day, you will be deleted. Some members call and reserve tickets for multiple shows and decide later which show they will attend and leave the other shows hanging. That is not fair to other members who are told a show is sold out when there are unused seats.

If you call and reserve tickets for a show, and do not show up, you will be deleted.

If a free member calls up to claim tickets only offered to the premium members, you will be deleted from the system. After we take all the names for the comp tickets, we will look up your membership status. If you are a free member, there will not be any tickets waiting for you at the showroom box office when you arrive.

We URGE you to take a moment and read the FAQ page located HERE so you understand how our service works and how to prevent from being deleted!

Understandably, our listeners were worried, particularly since many of them found out about these services through our show or through various pieces I've done like this one for Forbes Traveler on the hottest shows in Vegas. In fact, they felt personally targeted because where I put "XXX" was their first names. So another notice went out shortly thereafter that said: "The previous E-mail went out to EVERY member. If you are not a rule breaker, you have nothing to worry about."

Well, that's a relief. How strange, however, that these operations run as though their clients are first-graders. Surely, there are ways to emphasize the rules, ridiculous though they are, in a manner that treats the members like adults.

By the way, I learned something interesting while working on that Forbes piece. Another ticket discounter, Tickets2Nite, which has kiosks on the Strip, now allows you to CALL them to find out what's available and order them on the phone! Tix4Tonight.Com, by the way, still requires you to go in person to see what's being offered and buy seats.


gregoryzephyr said...

Aside from treating the members like juveniles, there appears to be a serious problem with how they operate the business. Have they not heard of computers? Could they simply have any caller give their member number and the agent looks them up to see if they are, in fact, a member? And, what level they are elible for? A simple membership tracking system would not cost that much.

They require their members to basically police themselves? How bizarre. That would be like United Airlines letting anyone on a plane and then saying, "Anyone who didn't buy a ticket, please raise your hand and you'll be kicked off the plane."

Bay in TN said...

OK -- what is their deal? I'm not a member (I live too far away and visit LV too rarely). But honestly, it just makes me laugh in derision to hear these tales! Steve, I join you in amusement over their bemusement!

Anonymous said...

I'm a member of both services and am also amused at their antics. I find the offerings from Houseseats are consistently better, though the cloak and dagger secrecy is laughable.

ShowTix4Locals, however, is the epitome of the unprofessional operation. They even call their offerings "E-mail blasts." Yep, they blast us, all right. I've set a filter so all their mail goes to the trash. If I'm interested in finding a show for a given night, I turn off the filter and watch my mailbox fill up. Unfortunately, because they're blasting so many people, their e-mails often arrive hours late. I recently called about an offering and was told rudely "We sold out of those hours ago." As I stammered, "But I just got the e-mail," the girl on the phone said "Uh-huh," and hung up. Wow! Way to please your customers! The mentality seems to be "You're getting free tickets, dammit, so you have no right to be treated like anything better than the seat filling meat you are." They better hope their customer base and their advertisers never overlap, lest the people they represent find out how they're treating the people who see the advertiser's name in their messages.

I'll keep laughting at the Houseseats antics and taking advantage of their ticket offers, but I don't think I'll be turning off that Mentalist ShowTix4Locals filter anytime soon. Maybe I'll just raise a fuss so I "WILL BE DELETED!!!!!!!!!!!" My e-mail account would be much quieter without all those blasts.