Author Topic: Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior  (Read 2252 times)

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Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior
« on: Oct 23, 2017, 09:33 am »
From time to time the SMNetwork staff posts on behalf of members who wish to remain anonymous. We call these "Dear Abby" posts after the venerable newspaper advice column. This is one such post.

What would you do if you found out the theater where you're SMing is doing something you believe is illegal, but that is not physically going to put anyone in danger?

More details: My show has been oversold 4 times in the last 2 weeks, and I found out from the house manager that it isn't an accident. According to him, upper management at the theater has decided that since there are so many no-shows for every performance, they're going to just oversell the house rather than have a 'sold out' show with empty seats. The way they're doing this is by releasing tickets for sale on third-party sites like Goldstar, but then also selling those tickets via the theater's website/box office as well.

I have worked in a box office a few times over the years, and I have been told by past box office managers that selling the same seat twice is scalping and is illegal. I've never seen that law in writing or anything myself, and don't know who enforces it or how.

Having an oversold house is wildly inconvenient for me and for the house manager (show starting late, upset patrons, late seating in the middle of the house because that's the only empty seat, turning away the volunteer ushers), but no one is in danger, and as an SM hired on for one show this isn't my department or my job.

Would you say something to the theater? Try to report it to someone? Leave it alone and hope karma comes back around?

Editor's note: This is an AEA house but I'm not sure if it's IA.
« Last Edit: Oct 23, 2017, 09:42 am by PSMKay »


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Re: Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior
« Reply #1 on: Oct 24, 2017, 03:41 am »
Provided any customers denied admittance receive a refund I don't think I'd agree that it is an illegal practice.  If they're not being up front about the practice I'd certainly agree it's going to cause a lot of frustration and, will probably damage their reputation and attendance long term, and as such it's an unwise business decision; but stupidity isn't illegal.

And, if they are not refunding patrons denied admittance it's more a civil matter than criminal (though it could certainly be argued that in this case, they're engaging in fraudulent activity by knowingly deceiving customers and selling the same seat twice - assuming they are not disclosing this fact). 

I'm also not sure what your goal would be in going to upper management.  According to your post, upper management has explicitly directed this behavior, so I'm not sure that a direct rebuke of the practice is going to bear any fruit. 

If the practice is an affront to you in an ethical sense I'd argue that you have a duty to address it in some manner (it's a small industry, your reputation is important long term).  You may suggest in writing (i.e. via email) that they modify the practice.  Personally, I would use the analogy of an airline.  Airlines regularly oversell flights, but when they do they are not confirming a specific seat number to oversold tickets.  If the theatre is truly worried about empty seats, you may suggest that they sell each confirmed seat only once and then sell standby tickets at a lower rate in the event of no-shows.  This could actually work to their advantage in that they're not going to refund the no-show, and have sold a second ticket to the standby customer.
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Re: Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior
« Reply #2 on: Dec 16, 2017, 03:08 pm »
I have to respectfully disagree with KMC's take. Depending on your location (state, city) and the operating agreements in place at this particular venue, this is scalping and it may be wholly illegal. It could also be against the terms of the company's contract with discount ticket resellers, in which case you could tip off the reseller via their website. Scalping is a hot issue in some markets, so you may find yourself better off reporting this to a regulatory body than to your employer. For better or worse, "the rules" change often, and vary extensively according to where you are in the world, and what kind of companies are involved. Good luck.


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Re: Dear Abby: Box Office Misbehavior
« Reply #3 on: Jan 16, 2018, 08:26 am »
I agree with Megf. Be very careful with this. I've heard people being fined through their nose when caought doing this in Europe. It all depends on the local laws though.