Monday 7 March 2011

The BBC is risking its reputation

The problem of contractors not buying in.

Whoever is doing social media for the Doctor Who Experience, currently running at Olympia Two, tweeted this on Saturday.

Great day at #DoctorWho Experience with our book signing and a visit from @steven_moffat

They fail to mention that they also managed to make a woman cry, several times, as they ruined a trip for her birthday.

OK that is a gross simplification, The BBC didn’t do it, nor did BBC Worldwide or indeed anyone from Olympia Two. The people that caused upset by taking disinterest and miscommunication to a stratospheric level wore the badges of Showsec and See Tickets.  I fully understand that in this modern world big organisations are supposed to concentrate on what they are good at and outsource supporting functions. However the problem arises when those functions fail, publicly, it is the name over the door that suffers when things go bad. In this case most people aren’t going to look at the contractual relationships between the various entities involved but shout from the rooftops[1] that Doctor Who of the BBC is a meanie. The BBC has form for this, most famously when their telephone service became a national joke. It is a shame that such a well loved organisation don’t seem to have learnt the lessons of the past, as if Frank Spencer has finally found a permanent position in the commercial contracts department.

So what happened?

A group of us met up in London for a friend’s birthday and decided to go see the TARDIS. The group that got there first tried to buy tickets for a timeslot we could all make. The website says that you can buy tickets on the door, what it doesn’t say is it is cash only. You can't pay by card for something that costs £20 per person. This would seem to be due to See Tickets not having either come to an agreement with EC&O to use their payment facilities or having managed to set up functionality to do this through the many computers they were using that seemed to be connected to either the See website or back end system. After all their whole business model is selling tickets to people, you can’t expect them to be any good at it can you? So the advanced party popped off to get some cash to make up the shortfall they didn’t have immediately to hand (they almost made it, but even the hectoring from the ticket person didn’t make it magically appear). To come back and find the doors locked. It was at this point the birthday girl had a small "It's my party" moment as she was thwarted in her attempt to jump through the required hoops to buy tickets. To be fair this was probably all that the Showsec employees had to keep themselves busy, I can’t imagine it would take the whole handful of them infesting the entrance lobby to stop people nicking the phone from the reception desk even if one had to go and bounce out a 6 year old on a sugar rush.

So the advanced party gave up and retired to find some refreshment while the rest of us arrived. After restorative cups of tea etc, and with the whole gang together, we decided that as we had all schlepped out to W14 we would have another go which went a little something like this:

  • Showsec employee on the door: It has sold out but try upstairs for tickets.
  • Us: Sorry what? Which is it, sold out or there are tickets upstairs on the door?
  • SEotD: They have told us that it is sold out
  • Member of the advanced party: They said this last time, they probably mean this 30 minute slot is sold out.
  • Us: Are there eight tickets for the next show, or the one after
  • See Tickets employee on the Desk: Maybe I don't know
  • Us: Um
  • STEotD: As you didn't come back for your tickets before you will have to wait
  • Us: But we couldn't get back up the door was locked
  • STEotD: You should have told them you had tickets reserved
  • Us: You didn't say you were reserving any tickets and there was no-one to tell, they simply weren't there
  • STEotD: *shrug*

And at that point we left…

Just as our guest of honour was in tears again we got the hell out of dodge. I’ll happily admit that it is pretty much all storm in a teacup stuff. In the first place it could have been prevented by a simple “Only cash accepted at the Box Office” sign downstairs. It could have been made better with simple communication between the Box Office and Security teams about ticket availability. It would have been significantly better if the Box Office could make use of the technology available to it and had been staffed by someone who could give any pretence about caring. Instead we had to cheer up our friend and went to the Science Museum, which was fabulous as ever.

[1]Ok, I'm not shouting from the rooftops, but blogging, but just you wait and see that will make 4 or 5 geeks that probably weren't going to go anyway slightly more annoyed at the world than they were anyway.


Anonymous said...

Didn't get any of this sort of nonsense when Dapol ran The Doctor Who Experience in their old Llangollen factory!

(is that enough stirring?)

PS They also had a very good model railway exhibition in that building. Sadly all (afaik) packed away and hidden from the public now :-(

Anonymous said...

OK, so your blog post won't have the BBC quaking in their boots, but up until this point I'd never heard of either of "Showsec" or "See Tickets" and right now, the only thing I know about them is that they're incompetent. That's hardly good publicity, is it?