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Word jumble

posted by Elana McKernan on Wed, Sep 17, 2008
in At the theatre

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Despite how cool and collected we may appear when you peek through the little sales window into the box office or when we hand you your tickets at will call, answering phones all day can be hard work. Those of us in the box office even have a unique set of afflictions that we deal with, sometimes on a day-to-day basis. I have compiled a list of our troubles, so that you can get a sense of our work-related maladies...but you'll have to be patient, because you don't get to hear them all today. Today we are just going to focus on a little something I like to call the:

WORD JUMBLE (also known as: Box Office Autopilot)

No, I'm not referring to the friendly little word game that you find in the Sunday newspaper next to the classifieds and the funny section. When my colleagues and I get in the groove of answering ticketing calls over and over again, dozens (if not hundreds) of times a day, day after day, we develop our own personal scripts. Nothing as interesting as the scripts that come to life on our stages, but scripts nonetheless, with careful phrasing and repetition of key words.

I personally am a fan of using the few seconds it takes to authorize the patron's credit card to remind the patron that there "are no exchanges or refunds on these tickets, and there's no late seating to any of our performances." It's a pretty useful dialogue, when it works. Unfortunately, our pesky patrons sometimes like to shake things up. They ask questions! And they ask those questions before I get the chance to charge their credit card, so I end up repeating myself five times in one conversation! It’s worse when I actually realize how much I am repeating myself, so one part of my mind says, "Stop talking! You already told him this!" while the other part says, "...noexchangesorrefundsontheseticketsnolateseating..." When combined, these two parts of my mind seem to add up to a stuttering mess of "er buh well umm solikeIsaid uuuuh."*

Another form of this Box Office jumble is when we forget whether we’re talking to subscribers or not. As some of you may know, subscribers have certain privileges. By far the most popular of these privileges is that subscribers can exchange their tickets if their assigned dates do not work for them. Often when I am completing a subscriber exchange, the "scripted" part of my brain will take over and I'll give subscribers the exact same spiel as I give single ticket-buyers, only realizing my mistake at the tail end of the speech when the subscriber gasps, horrified: "I can't exchange my tickets ever again? But why?!? Is this a new policy?" At that point, I quickly backpedal: "Oh, no, I'm sorry, I was mistaken, as a subscriber, you can exchange your tickets up until a day before the show, but they are not refundable." However, there have been conversations (I'm not proud) where I have repeated this mistake two, three, or even four times. I can almost feel the subscriber judging me through the telephone sound waves.

And speaking of subscribers, I'm off to go help one at the window! I'll try to not get too jumbled....

*This phenomenon can also be filed under the category of "The Great Mind Blank Disaster," but I will go over that in more detail later.

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