Monday, November 26, 2012

Ticket Torture

All we wanted was to get tickets to a show, designed for families, during the Christmas season. That's all. I looked up the name of the show, found the production company's web site, looked and found no information about buying accessible seating. I clicked on the date wanted and was given a number to call. I called the number. The fellow on the line, when hearing I wanted wheelchair seating along with tickets for the two adults and two children who would be coming with me, took down the information and then came back a few seconds later with 'Wheelchairs are only allowed one companion.' I was stunned, "Sir, you are talking to the wheelchair and I've got a family and we want to sit together.' He went away. He came back, 'Wheelchairs are allowed one companion.' I said, 'Most times I go to the theatre the wheelchair seating is at the end of a row, I'd like to buy that spot and 4 other spots.' He went away and came back and said, 'We don't sell wheelchair seating, you have to call the box office.' The interchange was briefly nasty and I rang off.

I called the theatre, listened to a very long message, the last thing stated was that if I wanted to buy wheelchair accessible seating, I was to leave a message and they would call me back. I left my number, outlined that I was frustrated at the process, and rang off. An hour or so later they called back. The woman asked me the source of my frustration. I told her that I'd gone to the production company website, followed the links to calling a number, after much fussing about I'm told that it's not that number it's another number.

She then set about giving me a lecture, talking to me again in emphasised simplicity, about how if I want to buy a ticket I need to call the theatre box office, that this informaton is on the theatre's website. I told her that that information was not on the production company's website and they are the first up on Google AND they offer to sell tickets. They don't mention accessibility. She said that I should have known to call the theatre. Her implication was that my frustration wasn't because of the flawed system but because of my own stupidity.

I had her check the day we had chosen and she came back and said that all the wheelchair seating was sold on that day. I asked if we could check on other days. She said, 'No.' She told me they were very busy. So she gave me homework. I was to go and find all the days that we were able to attend and then call back. I did this but she didn't answer, so I left a message, with the dates and the number of seats - and of those dates I left the two we'd prefer, too, I left the times that I'd be available to talk with her the next day.

She called during the time I had said I wasn't available to tell me, with exasperation, that she'd call me during the time I said I would be available. She called exactly as we were about to get on the elevator to go up to the apartment. I asked, politely, if she would call back in fifteen minutes. She checked with her supervisor who gave her the OK.

During the call we chose the time and even though I corrected her a couple of times she always listed the purchase as 'one wheel and four family seats.' I hate being called the 'chair' or in this case, a first, a 'wheel' ... but I wanted the tickets. I wanted to take the girls. I know they'll love it. I know it will be fun.

The process involved in buying the tickets was outrageously difficult, it took:

over 24 hours

one staff who couldn't get that people with disabilities have families not just companions

one staff who felt a need to give a lecture to a 60 year old man about buying tickets

1 incident of shifting blame to me

5 incidents of being called 'a wheel'

3 incidents of being called 'a wheelchair'

1,000,000,000 parcels of patience and restraint

I only went through all of this, not giving up, because I want to do this with Ruby and Sadie and the family. I do. I want the memory of us being together at the theatre to be a big one. I want the kids to experience live theatre. I want the kids to have a breadth of experience.

But I tell you this,when I go to see a play, or the ballet, or the symphony or the opera and see the empty accessible seats, I know why they are empty, you've got to really, really, really want to go in order just to buy a freaking ticket. After the problems we've had at the symphony and the ballet we think long and hard before even deciding to try and get a ticket. Our first question should be 'can we afford it' but now it's 'have we the energy to put into buying a ticket.' There's something deeply wrong with that!


Please remember to vote for Rolling Around in My Head at the Canadian Blog Awards website in the categories of 'Best Personal Blog' and 'Best Health Blog'. Whatever He Says, Belinda's blog, is also up for best Religion and Philosphy blog if you've a mind to. I really appreciate your time and support.


Nan said...

ARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH. Talk to the wheel! Oh my. One wheel and 4 family???? Oh my. You sure do love those girls. The degree of frustration is unbearable, and while I do not have to deal with it at all in the same way you do, it sure does remind me of all the times I had to advocate with a SYSTEM (i.e., school, other). I am often a calm person, but I do have memories of standing in the hallway having thrown the cuisinart across the room (that's an expensive and heavy piece of equipment I will have you know) and yelling and crying with a river of tears and snot flowing ... All because of a school. I have SOOOO forgotten about those days (traumatic memory loss?) but I was trying to think of a similar feeling (not related to a tech company) and this popped up. So. Even tho I am a "stand up dancer" (as Jessie sometimes says) I can relate to the feeling. Bless you Dave, over and over and over again. You, and your little ones too!

Anonymous said...

Your account makes me want to scream with frustration. What the heck??!?!?! I've met this sort of ignorant frustration myself - and there seem no way to get off the merry-go-round of stupidity and insensitive "service". They do not care because they hold the "power". They have something you want - and they will make you dance at the end of a string to get it. They know that if you don't buy it - someone else will and so they are not going to make an effort. Arrrrggghhh is right!!

I hope the memory of the event will outshine the shadows of the ticket purchasing.

To be honest - I go to very few events due to the hassel - from tickets, seating, washrooms, transportation and general comfort. Most of people interested in attending an event do not want the crummy seats offered those in wheelchairs.

Have a great time with the girls Joe and Dave.

Tamara said...

That's a great checklist of how to be rude. It often seems as if every ounce of customer service training goes out the window when talking about accessibility.

Hope you all enjoy the show.

Andrea S. said...

I have often run into a lot of frustration and difficulty simply seeking to find out whether a particular play at a particular theater is going to have any sign language interpreted performances and, if so, WHICH dates are available with the interpreter (since it will never be available for all dates), and WHERE I need to be seated in the theater in order to see both the interpreters and the stage clearly. Sometimes these will be the most expensive seats in the theater--the cheaper seats may not be an option because the interpreter won't be visible from them. Often the front line staff who take down ticket orders simply have no idea what you're talking about when you try to ask what dates an interpreter is available. On one occasion, they tried to make me call a long distance phone number at long distance costs just to find out that information (I managed to talk them into dialing for me, but was not exactly impressed with their "helpfulness") Or sometimes they don't even know where to find that information. And the web doesn't always say. Or if it says, they bury the information in a very non-obvious place in their website.

There are a lot of performances I have simply missed altogether because, by the time I finally tracked down the info I needed, it was too late to buy any seats for the few dates made available. Other times I simply gave up trying when it proved to be ridiculously difficult just to find someone who knew any of the answers to the questions I had.

There are a lot of theaters, in the US and Canada both, that have a LOT of work to do before people with disabilities (deaf, wheelchair riders, or probably also blind people I imagine run into similar frustrations) can honestly say they are fairly "accessible".

At least I've never been referred to as a "hearing aid" or whatever instead of a person!

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

How frustrating! It made me think of the British comedy Fawlty Towers - this is the Fawlty Towers of theatres - things would be just fine if it wasn't for those pesky patrons!

On a more serious note I worry at the unthinking attemt to dehumanize you - to talk to you as if you are less than to label you a "wheel". It sounds like it was a groud up or top down attitude. It communicates a dangerous arrogance. I worry at the pervasiveness of such attitudes - they make it easy to do awful things to people.

At the same time I hope you and your family really enjoy the show!


Shan said...

That is completely REEEDICULOUS. I can't believe it. I bet you're going to show up AWFUL early for that one, aren't you?!

Anonymous said...

I was nodding with agreement and understanding the whole way through that! My mum bought theatre tickets for us the other day, took her over 2 hours for something that takes 30 seconds online just because I use a wheelchair

Belinda said...

Dear Dave,
No one should have to go through that. Aaaaargh--I'm screaming with Nan.

And thank you for the plug for votes for Whatever He Says.

Kristine said...

Have I already shared on here about how thrilled I was with Amtrak a few months ago? Their website has always said to call to book a reservation with a wheelchair, and I've always had excellent customer service when I've called, so not a huge deal. It always took a while to navigate the phone tree and then be on hold forever, but they were consistently polite and helpful when I finally talked to a person, so I only classified the hassle as a minor annoyance. Whatever.

Then this year, I went to book a train trip, and found a handy checkbox on the website for traveling with a chair! Checking the box brought up a few more relevant questions about the type of chair and assistance needed, and then I could click a button, and the reservation was made! It was so quick, so convenient, and sooooooo nice to have the same kind of service and access as everyone else!!

I was so thrilled with the TRULY equal access, that I made sure to dedicate my facebook status to Amtrak that day, so all my "friends" would realize what a big deal those little displays of equity really are. :)

Anonymous said...

I refuse to work "extra" for accessible seating. And perhaps I'm lucky I can get away with doing so as I'm young and can transfer into a 'regular' seat. But what I do, is I buy a ticket in whatever seat I want for whatever price I want to pay, and then show up at the place and expect them to accommodate me. I recently did this at a play the other night, I bought balcony tickets online and once the ticket person realized, that no, I could not magically walk upstairs and leave my wheelchair downstairs alone, they 'bumped' me into the accessible seating. If an able-bodied person doesn't have to call in advance for their seating, I see no reason why us disabled people should have to.

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