An unfunny night at the Greenwich Comedy Festival

by Steve

My Significant Other and I last night made our way down to the Greenwich Comedy Festival. We like a bit of stand-up comedy, it’s not far from where we live, and we’ve made plenty of trips to the Sunday Special comedy night, from which this festival has sprung up. Yet things didn’t go exactly to plan. In fact, this night of comedy wasn’t funny at all. Here is my (non) review.

We’d decided against ordering tickets online. After navigating our way through the online ordering process we found we’d be charged £1.65 to print out each ticket (or £1.00 per ticket to have to collect them in person on the night), followed by a £1.85 ‘service fee’. We decided that £3.50 per ticket was a bit steep for an automated ticketing service, where we would be providing the paper and ink for the tickets ourselves.

So…we decided to head down on the night and see if we could buy tickets in person, with cold, hard, well-earned cash.

I was expecting a fun, buzzing atmosphere, even despite the rain. Instead, we were greeted by queues. Queues everywhere.

We found the queue for the box office, but it was far from clear how this worked. There were a number of people queuing trying to ascertain if this was the right place to pick up pre-booked tickets, or if you could buy on the night.

As the queue got ever longer and showtime got ever closer, we noticed one particular group at the front being looked after very closely, for quite some time, by the box office staff. And quite clearly at the expense of everyone else waiting behind. Ah, yes. That’ll be why. Press people. While I appreciate that good reviews are important, should that be at the expense of paying punters getting their tickets in good time?

As we got near the head of the queue, one of the box office staff moved along the line and shouted out that people who had pre-booked needed their credit cards to hand. Fair enough.

Then, we reached the head of the queue.

“Could I buy two tickets please, with cash?”

The person serving us seemed unsure, so asked his superior. “Can I sell them two tickets?”

She looked at us. And then, without any apology or explanation, told us that she had decided she didn’t want to sell any more cash tickets. If we wanted to go and get a drink, then we could come back later and she might decide to sell us one then.

So, essentially, they had no idea if there was any room left, for either paid show, and should we wait for a ticket, we’d be paying full price, yet miss the start of the show.

I asked how long this had been the case, and was told five minutes. This might not seem long, but this was well within the time she had wandered up the queue making other announcements. As we walked off, we saw no effort from the box office staff to tell those still queuing with cash not to bother.

We were incredibly disappointed that we were pretty much treated with disdain, and with no apology or real explanation. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones wanting a ticket on the night. I may be wrong, but I did get the impression that our faces didn’t fit. If people could wander in at any time, which seemed to be the case, I can’t see how a ‘returns’ system would work. Especially as people were still queuing to collect their tickets at the ‘showtime’ of 7.30pm.

Standing in the rain while the box office panders to a group of journalists is nobody’s idea of fun, especially when the box office then decides, seemingly on a whim, not to even sell you a ticket.

And if we had booked in advance to collect our tickets (the cheaper option), I would have been pretty annoyed too, to find such a disorganised, dismissive and unapologetic box office.

So, we headed home. I really didn’t want to give any money to an operation that lacks basic organisational skills, and employs staff who seem to lack any real customer service or awareness. It is a real shame, as we’d love to support local activities more.

Sorry for the rant! Normal service will resume shortly.

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