Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The great finals ticket crisis

Day 1

Complaining about Ticketek is like complaining about the AFL, there's ultimately no point because they've got the market by the knackers and can do whatever they please. Still, even though we'll eventually fork out the $7.50 transaction fee it's still worth capturing for posterity the magic and mystery of today's finals ticketing FIASCO.

I've suffered so much sporting trauma since the 2006 Elimination Final that I've got no idea how I got a ticket for that. Whether it was via the internet or by the old fashioned method of exchanging money for goods in person I don't remember it being anything like the sort of fisting session we've been through today. At the time of writing the ordeal is still not just unresolved, but they haven't even come up with a timeframe of when it will be fixed.

The blame goes directly to whoever decided to sell the tickets to four games at the same time to a total membership base of about 750,000. There's no doubt the AFL, Ticketek and probably the MCC will end up pointing fingers at each other and claiming that they told the others to take a staggered approach. I assume the AFL think they're safe considering their in-house media propaganda unit were comfortable in referring to it as a 'meltdown'.

You'd have thought the 11 days between the first weekday after Round 23 and the opening finals game provided adequate time to spread this out. Instead some peanut decided to go for the lot at 09:00 on Tuesday (why not Monday?) and lo the internet did collapse in a fashion not seen since the Australian Census. And with respect to the Census who gives a fat rats clacker about that compared to finals tickets?

I was trying to be calm about 09:00 this morning, knowing that the moment it went live would be the peak time where everyone piled on at once and would probably cause the system to burst. Ticketek may very well have borrowed a few extra units from Supercomputers 'R Us and we wouldn't be talking about this, but who amongst us didn't expect some kind of disaster? Fair to say that I wasn't expecting to kick off at 09:00 AEST and still be ticketless mid-afternoon. A few error messages and false starts were to be expected, this was a world leading fuck-up that should end in somebody being tarred and feathered as part of the Grand Final half-time entertainment.

The complication to the process was that I was in a one-on-one training session with some old mate who was meant to be showing me how a system worked. I got there at 08:00 and slowly watched a conveniently placed wall clock tick towards 09:00, trying to convince myself that I could wait until later and nick in after the rush but knowing full well that any bullshit excuse would be required to duck off to a computer the moment tickets went live.

I can't help it, Hawthorn fans can kindly hush up and wait for the inevitable Grand Final, I've dragged myself through 12 years of masochistic torture to see any sort of final and was hoping that it might have been an even remotely experience to secure a ticket. I don't care if it's in Row MM, in fact I'd welcome it. Just let me hand over my credit card details to a company that will probably leak them straight to the Russian Mafia and give me a piece of paper that allows me access to the MCG next Friday night.

So after holding out until about 09:02 I did a decidedly subtlety free "oh, do you mind if I just log on to that computer over there and check my email?" and ducked off for what I thought might be a quick transaction. Given the stacks on element of the ticket release I wasn't surprised to get a message telling me I was in the queue. After a few minutes of stalling while pretending I really was going to get back to the training soon I had to give up, leaving that playing in the background and instead switching to the mobile version. This was only moderately more useful, putting me in the same queue as the desktop computer. Twitter had already started to reveal that people were stacking it in the middle of the process left, right and centre but I had a religious-like faith that I'd somehow navigate my way through the carnage and come out ok.

To prove that the system was a lottery rather than based on any merit, the computer was still thinking 10 minutes later when the mobile loaded a list of events I could book for. "That wasn't as hard as expected" I foolishly thought, ignoring the tantalising option of Phil Collins Live to choose AFL instead. And off I went to the second queue, which claimed that "thousands of AFL fans are transacting right now". 'Transacting' may be a real term, but like 'proactive', 'gaslighting' and 'virtue signalling' it's one that helps you instantly decipher that the person you're talking to is a wanker.

After the computer returned me to the back of the queue twice via website crashes (which should have been an indication that things were not going well in the background), the mobile version paid off after about 30 minutes. My call progressed in the queue to the point where I could choose what game I wanted to watch. At which point we reach the only part of this story where I'm at fault (other than not just going to a Ticketek outlet at 7am and standing there until they opened). It asks me to log in and I realise that I've got no idea what the password for my account is. I tried all the classics and variations thereof for no reward, and not surprisingly the "forgot my password" button was under as much stress as the rest of the site and failed to respond when pressed. However, for some unusual reason I was still able to use the last ounce of Ticketek's Atari 2600 computing power to register a new account on the spot. Problem solved? Not quite.

So I log in with the new username, watching the clock at the top of mobile screen (PC was still thinking) tick down from 15:00, knowing that at 00:00 I'd be given the arse and forced to go back to the start again. By now I'd started to get a scope of the massacre on Twitter, but now that I had the option to put a barcode in and select a seat what could possibly go wrong? On mobile I couldn't tell what each of the categories meant so I just picked the stand, agreed to pay $68 and pressed submit. At which point a message popped up saying my request was being processed. Which stayed on the screen unchallenged for the remainder of my 15:00 then unceremoniously dumped me out of the process for taking too long.

Training was off the agenda at this point, I made my excuses and left so I could throw more devices into the mix. On my way I had another tilt at doing it on the mobile, working my way through the queue again before another round of "please wait, we're processing your request". At least this time I knew what was coming and didn't get my hopes up. By now the prospect of missing out still seemed ridiculous (and frankly it still does, I'd be staggered if it finally came through and offered me restricted viewing with 75% of a scoreboard in the way. So staggered that I might self-immolate outside AFL House), but what had gone from "aww shucks Ticketek" at 09:30 was now rapidly progressing towards an actual concern.

At least I didn't work for the Ticketek social media team, who were probably having to be coaxed from putting their head in the oven to keep reading hundreds of sour responses from people who'd been shafted. If I was them I'd have closed the 'replies' column and called my union delegate. This was not a time to be hanging it on them, the poor MFC social team who must have thought they were finally going to get some positive messages or any sort of receptionist.

No point being angry at anyone really, the AFL will slap everyone involved on the wrist and Ticketek executives will lie low for a couple of days then go back to swimming through bank vaults of money like Scrooge McDuck. For now I was concentrating on getting through the 'we're processing your request' stage, and added an iPad to the mix. No wonder the system failed if people had so little faith in it working that they were resorting to using multiple devices.

So for the next hour I sat there looking at three different internet connections spinning around the same queue for no overall result. After the first couple of queue reboots any early humour at the scenario was out the window and I was ready to knife somebody.

Richmond was the first outlet to report that Ticketek had done a Federal Government and adjourned for the day. The company themselves weren't having any of it, reporting:

... and when you get 361 replies against three retweets you know that the public aren't buying what people are selling. The first person to respond said the site still wasn't working. They replied that yes it was. It wasn't. Shortly after the AFL announced that they had instead stalled the process for some indeterminate time until they worked out how to escape from this mess. This was the modern version of the stress that stopped me from queuing overnight for the 2000 Grand Final after seeing every game in Victoria that year.

An hour into my three device extravaganza I finally got through (on the phone again, neither of the PCs used ever got to the ordering stage) on the iPad. This time instead of spending 15 minutes telling me that my transaction was being processed it just flat out said piss off there are no tickets left. Of course there were tickets left, this was starting to get ridiculous. Now I know how soccer fans felt trying to watch the World Cup through Optus.

'Confirmation' that the process had been stopped came from an update to the second queuing page, featuring the scandalously false claim that thousands of fans were still transacting before admitting they weren't. The countdown clock at the bottom continued to roll, and the person writing the message was obviously so under the pump that they turned 'competing' members to 'completing' members. That was the only thing being completed on their website today.


Many had managed to land tickets, and if it all goes wrong I may be mugging them for their tickets in Yarra Park before the game but for now best of luck if you managed to achieve anything from this flaming shitshow.

And now, three hours later nothing else has happened. They're supposed to staggering sales on the games when they do come back (now there's a sensible idea), and as it's now past 3pm and there's been nothing but tumbleweeds since that's surely not going to happen today. Like a hostage crisis the saga will probably continue into a second day. Updates to follow if I get a result and/or go troppo.

End of Day 1 update
Some genius has come up with the idea of splitting the sales from tomorrow, and thank god we're on at 1pm and not when I'd be absolutely unavailable to partake from 9am to 11am. Apparently they're waiving the $7.50 fee. I would rather it was donated directly to their Twitterist to drink themselves into a coma.

This should be the end of it, but I'm not confident that when we're roaring to the line at 12:59 like the start of the Indianapolis 500 that it's not going to smack straight into straggler Richmond fans.

Day 2
Given that the Richmond/Hawthorn sale at 11:00 worked ok I was pretty confident of surviving this without throwing a keyboard into the stratosphere. Still, when the site crashed a couple of times after 1pm my blood pressure was well on the rise. Having no respect for the process I was still working a three device scenario, and eventually got through to the seat choosing bit on a tablet before the computer had got beyond stage 1. Glory be it all worked (and don't you think there's something int his staggering of sale times Ticketek?), and just as I confirmed my seats on the iPad and got the confirmation email the computer finally crossed over into stage two. I closed the browser window and let somebody else advance in the queue. Mission accomplished eventually.

5 comments:

  1. Happy to donate a ticket to you should you fail to secure one, however would prefer to see you mug somebody for them. presumably in the neville jetta fashion.

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  2. What's the photo at the top from?

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  3. Aahhh, those were the days … a warm down routine of pie and VB.

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  4. Don't want to sound like a valley girl, but like I hope I don't get a seat next to like a Geelong person, like that would be sooooo gross, like what are those clothes they're wearing, looks like a kind of a sheet with holes cut out for eyes, totally.

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