“Hey, John Cusack is going to be at the New York Comic Con this year!,” your non-comic con literate friend says. “It was announced yesterday! Let’s get tickets!”
It is then you tell your friend that tickets also went on sale yesterday and if he wanted good tickets, he had to be online at noon yesterday to get them and….
“Oh, yeah,” says your friend, who likes to think he is smarter than you and is insufferable about it, “Cusack is going to be there on Friday and there are still Friday tickets available so there!”
Then you tell your insufferable friend that while that is nice and all, in order to buy tickets, you would have had to fill out a Fan Verification several weeks ago. NYCC is trying something new this year in order to cut back on scalping. and that is tying every ticket sold to a verified account with a unique e-mail address. If you don’t have a fan verification, you can’t use your ticket. Scalping problem solved, right? (No, but we’ll get to that in detail later.)
So, your friend slinks off, dejected. But at least he had the luxury of knowing he wasn’t going to get the tickets he wanted without standing in a virtual queue for hours on end. And he didn’t have to experience the frustration of seeing the tickets he was waiting for pop up on StubHub and eBay for multiple times face value (even with Fan Verification).
Buying tickets for the New York Comic Con is always a mess. I spoke about the mess from last year and even suggest the Fan Verification (well, told them they should implement something like the SDCC’s id system, but still). But that seemed to offer more problems than it solved.
Even though I could get into the convention with a press pass for working for FBOL, I always like to pay to get in. Basically, I know I wouldn’t be working for the site while I’m there, and I don’t want to game the system. And I have had some foibles of the years, but this was one of the worse experiences I had. I waited online for and hour and 52 minutes. I wanted 4-day pass, but that sold out just before my time was up, as was the 3-day and the Saturday passes. I ended up with a Thursday and a Friday, passes I could have bought without being glued to my desk for almost two hours.
But sitting in that queue for two hours allowed me to really ponder the ticket buying process and how it could be improved. Here are my suggestions, divided into subsections:
In the immortal words of Mr. Thomas Petty, the waiting is the hardest part. And this year, the waiting was worse than its ever been. This was because NYCC did away with their VIP ticket program and sale of tickets at outside merchants such as Midtown Comics. This means more people than ever were at their desks at noon to buy tickets, and a millisecond of difference logging in could mean a 200 position difference in queue location. So it was a no-brainer that long waits were in store this year. But there were, and are, things that NYCC could do to make the waits more bearable.
1. Upgrade Their Servers:
NYCC is usually very reticent to give numbers where they are needed. Case in point: The number of servers they use in managing the ticket queue. The only thing we get is they have “many, many” servers ate work. Is it 1,000 servers, or 10,000 servers? We don’t know. But wouldn’t more servers help cut down the wait time?
To be honest, I’m not up on computers, but if you had more servers at play to facilitate the ordering process, its seems logical that they would be able to allow more customers through the queue in a shorter amount of time.
2. Let Customers Know Where They Stand:
It might seem counter intuitive to tell customers they are #2,871 in line, but I think it serves a purpose. It lets them know that they have been acknowledged by NYCC for being in the queue, and, if is updated as more people are going through the ordering process, it will make the wait just a little more easy to bear. I got this idea from a recent trip to Disney World. certain rides have waits of up to and hour. But the wait while you are on line does not seem that bad because the lines are always moving. The same principle could work here.
3. Estimate Wait Time:
Yet another idea that might seem counterintuitive. However,the way it is now, potential ticket buyers have to wait by the computers, wait for the queue to kick them over to the ticket buying screen. They’re afraid to get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom for fear of losing their place in line. That just adds to the anxiety inherent in the whole process.
With thousands of people in line to buy tickets, it should be easy to get an average time per customer for the whole buying ordeal. Multiply the time it takes to purchase tickets by the people in the queue, and you should get an approcimate time. I, for one, would have loved to know that I wouldn’t get through for two hours so I could go about my day and do other things.
4. List the number of tickets available:
This year, NYCC gave updates as to how many tickets were left to buy to people waiting in the virtual queue. But NYCC being NYCC, they only gave percentages. “75% of 4-day tickets have been sold.” “50% of Saturday tickets have been sold.”
This is all well and good, but why be so dodgy with the numbers? Tell us how exactly many tickets are left! If the guy who wants Saturday only is 200 spaces back in the queue, and there are only 10 Saturday tickets left, he doesn’t have to waste his time waiting in the queue. Yeah, he’ll probably still be angry, but less angry if he waited two hours for nothing.
New York Comic Con there are still scalpers!!! The process that is used to by tickets really needs to be looked at. So many tickets on eBay already! First one is a 4 day pass second one is a Saturday pass.
The Fan Verification system was set up purely for the reason of cutting down on scalping. NYCC should get credit for going to these lengths to deal with this issue. And it looks like it has partially worked. As of this writing, there are only 111 listings on eBay for this years con (down from 318 from the same time last year) and about 108 tickets being sold on StubHub (down from 598 from last year). This is a great improvement, but cold comfort for those of us who waited in line for 4-day passes only to see them offered for 2 or more times what they are worth in these places. So obviously there is room for improvement. But how?
1. Enter the Fan Verification ID at purchase:
The big flaw in NYCC’s system that allows scalpers to still operate is that ticket buyers do not have to assign tickets to Fan Verification accounts at purchase. Marrying the Fan Verification to the ticket didn’t even start until today, and buyers have about two weeks to match the two together. Which means that scalpers can buy a ticket or 12, immediately put it on auction, and sell it and assign it to someone who has a Fan Verification but wasn’t able to get a ticket. Essentially, scalpers are holding these tickets for ransom, forcing needy wannabe congoers to pay more than market value for them.
This could have been avoided if the Fan Verification Id was used at point of purchase to buy tickets. One person could still buy one or more tickets, but couldn’t buy them without an verification account to join them with. Scalpers would have to create up to 12 separate Fan Verifications–with dummy names, e-mails and addresses–in order to buy tickets this way. Some would, but most would probably not want to go through that effort. And this would cut down in tickets being bought for people who don’t have Fan Id’s or people who mistakenly buy two tickets, both of which are common according to NYCC’s Facebook page. But the real end result would be more tickets for the fans who want to buy them.
2. Switch Over To A Lottery System:
Since buying New York Comic Con tickets is a game of chance anyhow, why not go scorched earth with it and turn it into a lottery? You’d need a Fan Verification Id to enter the contest but you would be able to link Fan Ids into one lottery entry so you can your families and friends can attend with you. You list what tickets you want first, with back-up choices in case you don’t win the first time. Drawings would be done for every possible combination of tickets, from 4-days to Thursday only. If you win, congratulations. If you lose, try your luck next year.
This would be a much more complicated system. But NYCC claimed that abolishing the VIP program was done because it was “a bit incongruent with our belief of putting fans first.” If that’s the case, what would put fans first better than a lottery where everyone has an equal, if random, chance at the tickets they want. A lottery where they are not hampered by not having a speedy Internet hookup or a having a job that won’t let you take time off at a moments notice or a scalper having a better chance at getting tickets than they do.
It will never, ever happen, but it is an idea.
Taking Care Of Those Who Went Home Empty:
Even if no scalpers were able to game the system, not everybody who wanted a ticket to NYCC would get one. The Javits Center is only so big, so tickets have to be limited. But there are things that NYCC can do to help out those people that miss out on getting tickets. Here are some suggestions:
1. Better Customer Service Before, During and After The Sale:
If Fan Verified and you didn't get your email with unique URL, reach out to Inquiry@NYComicCon.com or 888-605-6059 BEFORE 10:00 AM TODAY
See that Facebook post? Apparently, New York Comic Con had a bit of an issue with their Fan Verification. From what I gather, people who signed up for the system never got an e-mail on Monday.
Nice job guys. You set up the 'fair' system and then I never get the e-mail with the link to buy tickets. What a royal fraking screw up.
That is just one unhappy customer out of a number that comment on the New York Comic Con Facebook page. Some people who called that number listed above said that even though they went through the fan verification process, there was no record of them doing so. And since this announcement from NYCC came out on Wednesday morning, and that number was inundated with calls, many of the missing lost out on their chance to buy the tickets they wanted.
You might want to give NYCC the benefit of the doubt, thinking that they only found out about the problem on Wednesday morning. But they didn’t. People were complaining about this since Monday. However, the comments were buried on this post they made that day where no one could see them:
#NYCC Fans! Check your email! If you successfully filled out a Fan Verification Profile, you received your unique ticketing URL today. Thank you.
So, really, the powers that be should have made the announcement they made on Wednesday morning on Monday. If they did, they might have staved off a lot of angry customers.
However, while people caught up in this error have a right to complain, most people were just complaining because they didn’t read the instructions correctly. Whether they bought tickets for people without Fan Verification, they thought the Fan Verification would reserve tickets for them. or they tried to marry the ticket to the Fan Verification a day before the were able too, NYCC had to deal with a lot of complaints where they were not at fault. That had to be frustrating. Unfortunately, they let that frustration show.
And just like that, Selena Gomez became the symbol of a company that doesn’t care about their customers. Well, that is if you take that post as some form of NYCC agreeing with the original tweet insulting its customers, which is a valid interpretation.
Listen, I’ve worked in customer service and I know well enough that the maxim, “The Customer Is Always Right,” is more often than not, wrong. But you have to at least respect the customers. Because if you treat them like this, then when someone creates another account pretending to be you and outright insults the complainers, they will believe it is you.
And here’s the screen cap, enlarged:
It’s hard to see, but if you look carefully, that is not the official New York Comic Con Twitter that is responding to Mr. Rodriguez. It looks like it, but its not. It’s a fake. But, sadly, people are believing that it is the real deal.
2. Add more 4-day and 3-day passes from the pool of single day tickets:
Every year the 4-day and the 3-day tickets sell out first. And every year you have fans saying that while they were unable to get those passes, they were able to hobble together three or four individual day tickets.
You might think this is great, that they were able to attend the days they wanted. Well, individual tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday would cost $50 each for a total of $150. The 3-day pass sold for $85. If you wanted to add Thursday on, it would be an extra $40, for a total of $190. The 4-day pass was only $115 this year. This means that by limiting the number of multiday passes, NYCC was making anywhere from $65 to $75 per person who cobbled the individual tickets together. This doesn’t really seem like a company that puts fans first.
If NYCC really thought about the fans, it would add more 4-day and 3-day passes and take them from the individual day passes. It’s not like they are taking the tickets away from the people who want a Friday Only or Saturday Only, because the individual tickets are already being taken by people who want a 3 or 4 day pass but couldn’t get one. Let more people who want to experience every day of the convention be able to do so at a lower price.
3. Turn the Virtual Queue into a waiting list:
It seems that the approach, as it stands now, to scalpers, is simply to wait them out. If a Fan Verification is not attached to the ticket by the end of 14 days, the ticket will become invalid, the money refunded, and the recaptured tickets presumably put back on sale. Of course, it is likely that the whole process then will be the same as it is now, a mad dash for tickets, with scalpers back in line to try their luck again. I think there’s a better way.
On the Fan Verification form, they asked for what tickets you were thinking of buying. In the future, they should use this information to create a waiting list for tickets. If you do not get your first choice of tickets the first time around, when they are recaptured from scalpers, you should not have to lose your spot in line. If you missed getting a 4-day ticket by one customer, and one of those passes went to a scalper, you should get first shot at these tickets when they come back.
These are just a few suggestions on how to fix NYCC’s yearly ticket fiasco. But whether you think these are good ideas or bad ideas, it would be nice if something is done to make fans with legitimate mistakes happy and not make buying tickets such a painful process.