Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An open letter to the National Theatre

Get a better website. And while you're at it, hire more staff for your box office and install more phone lines.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to join the National Theatre as an Advance Member as it barely cost a thing and it gives you a week's head start on the great unwashed when it comes to booking tickets. As their upcoming season contained the UK premiere of the awards juggernaut August: Osage County as well as the world premiere of a new David Hare play, Gethsemane, not to mention an additional booking period for their runaway hit War Horse, I was expecting it to be busy.

What I did not expect was the frailty of their website. I logged on at a fraction after 9am to book tickets for the first two plays I mentioned in the earlier paragraph. It should have taken minutes, given that I had a specific date in mind for both shows and wasn't going to be trawling through months of performances to get the best seats or anything. at 9:25am, after multiple crashes, freezes, and most frustratingly of all, website time outs that emptied my order and released the seats I was trying to buy, I decided a two pronged attack was in order, and I called the box office. I get a recorded message telling me their opening hours are from 9:30am. Fine. I call back at 9:30am, I get the busy signal. Not an eternal wait in a queue, oh no. I can't even get through. So I put my headset on and constantly press redial with one hand and battle with their website with the other, becoming increasingly vocal with it all as time goes on and people from several desks away are starting to eye me warily, in case I suddenly go all James McAvoy in Wanted on them.

At one point, I'd somehow, thanks to their evil and hopeless website, got 6 tickets in my order for Osage County when I only needed 2 and was completely unable to access the seating plan for Gethsemane. It drove me absolutely fucking NUTS, especially when I decided to approach with caution and book the shows separately only to have the payment page continually crash on me. After my final time out during payment for Gethsemane, when I got the message that my order was empty, I tried very hard not to cry and then went back to the seating plan. The seats I'd been booking are gone. Hmmmmm. I checked my email, lo and behold there is a confirmation email for my failed booking. Whatever. All I know is it's now 10:20am and it's taken me 80 minutes to do what should only have taken 8. And not once did I manage to get anything other than the busy signal on the phone. After this, if the shows are disappointing, I'm gonna torch the fucking building.

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