Saturday, May 23, 2015


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No, wait! I don't mean "Scanners", the creepy horror movie from 1981.

                                                                     Not This!!!

I mean the scanners that read the barcodes on theater tickets. Those little machines that beep and boop as they process the codes as people enter the theater. It's already oldish technology, much of the equipment in use today is quite obsolete.

Those of us of a certain age recall tickets being torn in half and stubs dropped into a lockbox to be counted up and examined over the next day. It was a quicker entry into the theater, but dealing with the ticket stubs was quite labor intensive, and storage of stubs was a pain. Theatergoers today wonder why there are lines to enter theaters these days, but the scanners currently in use now are slow. The tickets, or home printed sheets of paper, must be held just so, that the readers may accurately register the printed barcode.

What can we expect from the next generation in ticket scanning technology?

Hopefully quicker and more accurate scanning. Getting people into the theatre quicker so that more ancillary purchases are made is something theater owners and producers would clearly have an interest in. Everybody to the bar and the concession stand!

In a world dominated by social media, I'd certainly expect a new level of interactivity to be part and parcel of any new system. Could there be more info embedded in those barcodes that could be shared and used by the shows or the theater owners? All the marketers would surely salivate at that prospect.

There is one other aspect that, while it sounds like it would be progress, would actually be a big step in the wrong direction, in my view. That would be scanning tickets directly off of smartphones or tablet screens.

This technology exists now, and is in use in other areas like airline or movie theater ticketing. People seem to make use of it, and like it. One less thing to carry, or to lose. Even now, at all Broadway theaters, there are folks who believe that the PDF on their phone can and should be able to be scanned and are clearly annoyed when they are denied entry and are sent to the box office to get their bits printed out on a hard copy that can then be scanned.

Sometimes there are times when logical minds ought to realize that just because something can be done, doesn't mean that it would be a good idea to be done. Scanning Broadway theater tickets from smartphone screens falls into this area.

Ringtones and glowing lights are major distractions in Broadway theaters. All patrons are typically advised to turn off their phones during pre-show announcements. Flash pictures taken by phones are a bane to theatergoers and performers alike. An actor breaking character to admonish a boor misusing their phone during a performance is becoming a too frequent occurrence and it ruins the experience for people who have paid way too much for their theater tickets.

Turning a smartphone into the conveyance for entry will only serve to exacerbate all the problems of smartphones in Broadway theaters, and add a few new ones.

How might a group of people or a family quickly enter if all the tickets are on a smartphone?

Let's try one possible scenario.

Will the person with all the tickets on their phone have to swipe left once, twice, thrice and again while hoping that each PDF is scanned? Oops, what if one gets missed? Wait a minute, which one was missed, anyway? Umm, better start over. So much for quick and easy entry.

Well, let's say entry has been achieved. Now, finding the seats. Maybe this will go smoother. Once seated, I guess it's okay to turn off the phone, except someone has just showed up and you are sitting in their seats. Accidents happen, no malice intended. What to do? Better boot up the phone, have to get back to those PDFs, but that darn phone takes thirty seconds to a minute to spring to life.

The show is about to start, just as the glow from your phone radiates brightly. You sat in the wrong row, so sorry, so now it's off to the right seats. The lights have dimmed but your very bright flashlight, I mean phone, is lighting the way for you, and unfortunately for everyone else too.

Well, the show has started, you only missed a bit, and those around you may be getting over their hatred of you, and thank goodness. These tickets cost anywhere from $150.00 to $250.00, and who can blame anyone for becoming aggravated at a smartphone slinging theatergoer for disrupting their enjoyment of the show? That's when your phone starts loudly vibrating, damn!, you thought you silenced it.! Ignore the death stares from the other audience members, don't look them in the eye.

Intermission! A great first act, but now it's time to turn on the phone again and check email, tweet to your followers, take a few "illegal" photos and use the theater provided free wifi,which also enables the producers and theater owners to collect marketing info. Uh oh, your wife or husband has gone to the bathroom, but they don't have a copy of their ticket, it's still only on your phone. Hmm, hopefully they'll find their way back, but there's no choice, when you gotta go, you gotta go. If you get split up, you can always meet up after the show is over. Yes, it's your anniversary, but you can't talk during the show anyway, right? That's what the guy in the box office told you when you asked about better seats that were singles, right?

Oh the phone's battery is running out. You went to the bar to get a drink, and now the phone just blinked off and you have no access to your tickets at all! You get back to where you think your seats are, but someones sitting there! How can you prove that they are in your seats?? No juice, no way. As the lights dim for the second act, on your anniversary, you have no idea where your wife or kids are, and you know that like you, they will be freaking out wondering where you are, and what in the world is going on?

You make a desperate appeal for help from an usher who directs you to the house manager. All that can be done is that you can sit in a partial view seat, because the second act is well underway, and it doesn't matter that you've paid over $1000.00 for your tickets, this is your only remaining option.


Now, you may think that this particular scenario may be somewhat atypical. I will tell you right now, don't be so sure. Much of this happens already, but with scanning directly off of smartphones, there is no doubt that situations like this will become dishearteningly more common.

You may wonder, what happens when, for whatever reason, the ticket scanning system were to malfunction? What happens then?

Well, the tickets are torn in half and the stubs are sent to be counted and stored over the course of the next day.

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1 comment:

  1. You seem to have entirely too much time on your hands.