Arts Centre Melbourne has changed its ticketing policy and promised to update its booking technology, after a tourist visiting from New York was refused one of the last two seats for a performance of the hottest ticket in town: The Picture of Dorian Gray.
However, arts patrons have reported similar experiences across Melbourne, which some said amounted to discrimination against single people.
At the weekend, tourist Matt Moss, visiting from New York, heard rave reviews of Dorian and decided to see it before his departure on Monday. The Arts Centre’s booking site revealed he was in luck, with two tickets still available for a Saturday show.
However, the website refused to sell him either because of a policy of not allowing bookings that leave an orphan seat in the auditorium.
After The Age reported his experience on social media, and sent an inquiry to the Arts Centre, the venue said it sincerely apologised for the inconvenience, and pledged to update its technology to provide the best possible experience.
Its executive director of customer experience, Beau Vigushin, said that as is standard practice for the ticketing of sport and live performance in Australia, our website is configured to not leave single seats in between bookings or against aisles to ensure we provide the best opportunity for all seats to be sold and not have single seats left for sale all over the theatre.
We know lots of single seats being left available has frustrated customers on shows that are close to selling out in the past. But in this circumstance, with the show selling really well, our technology has not updated to allow single seats to be left available and has not worked well for us to provide the best customer experience.
Moss said the move was a victory for us, the spinster theatregoers . . . perhaps the most loyal fan base for stage drama.
When an event has only a few tickets remaining, the Arts Centre will manually reconfigure its website to allow single seats to be left available for that event. It is exploring how we can automate this functionality to provide a seamless experience across all performances, Vigushin said.
Arts patrons reported on social media that the problem was not confined to the Arts Centre.
Twitter user John Sambuco said: As someone who usually goes to the theatre solo, I’ve also been unable to get tickets to performances if my single seat will leave the next single seat vacant. And it’s not just at the Arts Centre that I’ve experienced this.
Nathan Howlett said he had experienced this with Ticketmaster, and it was infuriating when only doubles are left in a certain reserve as I cannot purchase at all.
Julia called it appalling discrimination against single people. And The Age’s theatre reviewer, Cameron Woodhead, commented that singles get discriminated against enough without theatres doing this kind of thing.
Others reported similar problems trying to book two tickets. Hannah said the booking website would only let her book three tickets to Penn & Teller’s show instead of the two she wanted, which was highly frustrating when it is down to the final seats.
She asked that the policy change for Dorian Gray be expanded to other shows. The Arts Centre said it had passed all this feedback onto our team for consideration.
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