Fringes are on my mind today. This morning, I was Bimah Buddy at a service where we first read about the commandment to wear fringes on our clothes. This afternoon, I was at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. This morning we read about how G-d told Moses to treat the scouts who came back from the Promised Land with a negative attitude. Today, I encountered someone with a negative attitude which provoked a similar urge (not acted upon). Here’s what happened:
As you know (if you read my schedule at the bottom of any recent theatre post), I’m going to a lot of Fringe shows. When I purchased my tickets, I got a “Fringe Button” to get a discount. This corresponds to a real physical button you can get at “Fringe Central” which is a particular bar on Theatre Row. Last week, during Fringe Previews, we attempted to pick up our button. Fringe Central, however, wasn’t ready — we were told to come back this week.
This week we had shows at 4pm and 8pm (write-ups tomorrow and later in the week). Parking in Hollywood was especially bad, and after 30 minutes of looking we were forced to use the valet at Fringe Central and walk 4 blocks (with my wife’s sore knee) to get to our show. At that time, we were told Fringe Central was open. After our show we walked back, expecting to be able to pick up our pin and sit for a bit before we went to dinner and our 8pm show. However, Fringe Central had been kicked out by the venue owner because they booked something else without telling them; the director of the Fringe was sitting outside, and we were told to ask him. We asked if we could get our button from him, and we were told the stuff was inside; come back tomorrow. We related our exasperation to him, and were about to suggest he mail them to us when he claimed we were aggressive, and told us to go away. Very poor customer service, although I understand his exasperation.
We ended up driving around, having a cheap dinner, and then sitting in our car near the other theatre for 45 minutes while we waited for it to open (it was too cold outside). This left my wife so pissed off at the Fringe she doesn’t want to book additional shows, and doesn’t want to go next year. All due to bad customer service.
I don’t like to dwell on the bad. The Fringe has great shows, but has fallen down this year on patron services. I sent the following specific suggestions to the director for next year. These come from my over 25 years of involvement with ACSAC:
- The minute HFF found out they had lost Fringe Central for the day, an email should have gone out to those with tickets for today to inform them.
- Ideally, the venue booked for Fringe Central should have, as part of their contract, been required to provide you with an alternate venue and help you temporarily relocate and provide signage. HFF could quite likely have made arrangements with the Hudson or EatThis to temporarily camp there to take care of patrons. They should also have provided you with compensation. If that wasn’t in HFF contract this year, put it in next year.
- As you discovered the parking was going to be bad, you could have used the email mechanism to warn patrons to provide extra time to find parking. Next year, HFF might make arrangements with some of the schools and businesses to rent out their lots on heavy days.
- The online sales system should permit multiple buttons to be purchased As it is, you can only purchase one, creating difficulty if you are buying tickets for a couple. You could create one ID for each person in your party to get multiple buttons, but that is too much work for many. You should be able to purchase multiple buttons, and have the system apply one button to one ticket.
- For online sales, there should be an option to mail the buttons so people can have something before the show. You can use this to provide information on discounts, which will help your sponsors; information on parking, which will reduce patron frustration; and getting the buttons out will enthuse your patrons. HFF cannot assume everyone lives in or near Hollywood. We drove to the Fringe from Northridge.
This year was an experiment for me, trying to take advantage of the Fringe to book lots of shows. Previous years, I only booked one. I hope that they can figure out how to fix their problems so I don’t have to go back to my previous model. [And hopefully, the North Hollywood Fringe (FB) in October will not have these problems.]