Advice from an Expert: Vol. X. A Day In The Life Of A Customer.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some great folks write “Advice from an Expert” columns over the past 2 years.  But with all due respect to each and every one of them, I don’t think anyone qualifies more as an expert in Broadway buying patterns than today’s guest columnist?

What makes Meg Walker so qualified, you ask?

She’s an actual customer.

What you’re going to read below is a word-for-word email I received last week from Meg who thought she would share her experience of a week of theatergoing with me.

Enjoy and learn . . .

I don’t remember how I stumbled across your blog, but I’ve been reading it for several months now. My family enjoys theater a lot and we see many shows locally as well as in Philadelphia and New York when we can.

Anyway, I was in the city for a week (Aug 2 – 8) because my daughter was attending Broadway Artists Alliance’s intensive. I got to spend days on my own in the city! I waited in the TKTS line 4 times in Times Square and also checked the board at the Seaport. EVERY TIME I went near those lines, I heard people in line asking questions. They had NO IDEA what any of the shows were about! These were tourists who just knew that one of the things you do when you visit New York is to get tickets from TKTS. And so they got in line!

Every time, somebody asked me what AVENUE Q was about! They hadn’t heard of it! They hadn’t heard of anything but BILLY ELLIOT, SHREK and STOMP, it seemed. They were going to buy tickets and they had budgeted the money, so they were going to spend it. It didn’t really matter on what.

The young people who walked up and down the lines were nice and informative, but a lot of the tourists didn’t seem to trust them. Are they employees of the TKTS or of the individual shows? It would make a difference to the tourists, I think, if they had official shirts that identified them as employees. Several people around me in line waited to ask questions of the ticket sellers at the windows. At that point, it was crowded and noisy and hard to hear and the sellers didn’t have the time to chat.

On Monday, a couple of hours before the booth opened, I wanted to find out what was playing that night, so I went into the Times Square Visitors Center. I asked for and was given a list of the current shows and their schedules. It made me a very popular person in the ticket line later! I also picked up a tourist booklet that had a brief description of each show, in addition to a lot of other info about the city. I passed that around the line, too. No one else had this information and they seemed surprised that it was available.

The point I want to make to you is that the vast majority of the people I heard talking around me had no idea what they wanted, and no idea how to find out the information.

Having young people walking along the lines is a very good idea, but something needs to be changed so that the tourists will trust their information. A lot of them seemed to congregate near the light boards with the availability lists–they really should be working the other ends of the lines. And really, I cannot believe that people would spend all that money to visit NYC and not do a little homework beforehand! But, apparently, they don’t. So, there’s a market segment for you to try to figure out how to reach.

And I have a question for you–why were so many of the shows doing discounts of 20, 30 and 40 percent? I thought the idea of TKTS was “half-price tickets.” When did that change?

Some of the tourists were shocked at the prices. But by the time they heard the prices, they’d invested all that time waiting in line and they were going to buy just about anything.

So, there’s my visitor’s view of TKTS.

Thanks for sharing, Meg, and for taking the time to give me and the rest of my readers this very valuable information.

Most customers aren’t like Meg.  Most customers won’t give you this kind of feedback . . . unless you ask them.

Take today to find a way to open a line of communication with your audience.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.