Anchorage Symphony Orchestra—Print Tickets at Home
Buy and print concert tickets at home and never wait in line to pick them up
The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra does not own a performance hall, but instead rents space from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (ACPA). During the 2005-06 season the ACPA created Centertix, its own box office that allows patrons to purchase tickets online and then print them at home. This method quickly gained popularity by allowing patrons to bypass lines and walk directly into the hall with their home-printed tickets. At a recent concert, more than 66 percent of tickets purchased on the Internet were printed at home.
Because this option alleviates congestion from the box office and will-call, the ACPA and Centertix do not charge extra when patrons print tickets at home. The hall purchased a computer server which generates and stores information; additionally, eleven hand-held scanners are used in the process. The hall uses a wireless connection for communication between handheld scanners and the server. The initial expense for this equipment was far greater than expenses for ongoing maintenance.
When tickets are purchased from the website, a server generates a barcode containing information such as seat information, venue, date, and time of performance. The barcode is placed on a full-page PDF document, which is instantaneously emailed to the ticket buyer. Centertix’s ticketing software (in this case ShoWare) maintains constant communication with the storage server, enabling Internet sales and effortless ticket-taking within the hall. When the patron arrives at the hall—skipping the will-call and box-office lines—ushers scan the barcode printed at home. Once a ticket has been scanned, it can no longer be used, which is particularly important since anyone can print the PDF multiple times.
However, the ease of duplicating also has benefits. If tickets are misplaced or damaged, they can be reprinted from the patron’s password-protected e-mail account. Or, if last minute emergencies prevent the patron from attending the concert, anyone with access to the patron’s e-mail can print the tickets and attend the concert.
- Difficulties occur when tickets are produced on an outdated printer. If the hand-held scanners cannot read the barcode, the patron’s name is manually checked with the database to ensure that the ticket hasn’t already been used. If not, the patron’s presence is then manually logged at the event.
- In rare cases when a ticket has been printed twice and an attempt is made to use both tickets, the scanner alerts the usher before the patron can enter the concert hall. The usher is then able to redirect and prevent any disturbances inside the concert hall.
The handheld device provides both privacy for the patron and information for the usher. If the ticket is valid, a green light alerts the usher, while red suggests an issue in need of attention.
The ASO can log into the server and pull reports that include the patron's information (everything except credit card info), how and when s/he bought tickets, and which seats were purchased. The ASO can see everyone who had a ticket. However, subscription orders are only available by phone or mail and are processed in-house at the ASO office. After subscription orders are processed, they are sent to Centertix which prints the tickets and enters the information into the computer so that purchased subscription seats are not available for single-ticket buyers.
Because the process is electronic, immediate and last-minute changes are easy. If a patron exchanges the ticket, a barcode is simply cancelled. Double bookings can also be prevented by issuing another barcode.
All in all, patrons’ widespread use of this option provides the biggest support for the program. It just works well.
For additional info:
Visit the Centertix website at www.centertix.net