"Don't assume that the box office is trying to withhold good seats from you." (stock image courtesy Microsoft Office Images)
[Editors Note: This article, by a box office agent wishing to remain anonymous, was originally published in 2004. A few references have been updated.]
In olden days, there were only two ways to get tickets for Broadway shows: You could buy them in person at the box office or through the mail. With the rise of the credit card, phone orders became a popular option and, today, a large percentage of tickets are purchased via the internet. But, for various reasons, some people still prefer to make their transactions at the theater. Unfortunately, there's a general lack of awareness of the proper procedure and etiquette involved.
Having worked as a box office agent at a number of theaters, I approached TheaterMania.com with the idea of writing an article full of helpful hints on what not to do when buying tickets in person. And here they are:
1) Don't assume that the box office is trying to withhold good seats from you. The job of the box office is to fill the theater, so the person behind the window is going to give you the best seats available. He or she has no reason to offer you seats at the extreme left side of the orchestra, for example, when tickets close to the right center aisle are available.
2) Don't think that you know better than the box office agent which seats in the theater are better for a particular production. The person behind the window will usually have seen the show from several locations to get a feel of the sightlines, etc., so you should definitely go with his or her recommendation.
3) Don't call Telecharge or Ticketmaster ahead of time to try to ascertain the best seats available and then try to purchase them at the box office. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of operators selling tickets to shows, so chances are that those seats will be gone by the time you get to the window.
4) Don't ask for house seats. They are not available through the box office. "House seats" are some of the best seats in the theater, set aside for use by cast members, producers, the creative team, and others directly involved in the production. When house seats for a particular performance are released, they are sold to the general public just like any other tickets. At that point, they are no longer called "house seats."
5) Don't use your cell phone at the box office window. There are signs to this effect in every theater lobby, but people pay no attention to them. The box office agent only wants to deal with the ticket buyer who's physically present, not with his or her spouse or nephew or best friend. If you want to talk on the phone when making a ticket purchase, please buy the tickets over the phone!
6) Don't assume that every theater has the same policy regarding senior citizen discounts and rush tickets. Producers make those decisions, not the theater or box office management. The fact that you got a rush ticket for Rock of Ages doesn't mean that you're going to get one for The Book of Mormon.
7) Don't try to obtain a student rush or discount ticket if you're not eligible. Such discounts are generally meant for college age students with valid IDs. A 55-year-old person who happens to be taking a continuing education class at a university is probably not eligible for a student discount ticket.
8) Don't wait until the end of the transaction to present a discount coupon. People do this because they assume they'll be offered better seats if the box office agent thinks they're going to pay full price, but this is not so. If you have a discount coupon, present it up front and you'll get the same seat you would have gotten otherwise. Note, however, that some discount coupons limit you to certain sections -- e.g., they'll specify "not valid for first 12 rows." Please read all coupons carefully for restrictions before you present them.
9) Don't buy coupons with ticket discount codes from people on the street. You can get the codes or coupons free at the Times Square Visitors Center or through websites such as TheaterMania.com, so you don't need to purchase them for three dollars from some guy who's selling them at the corner.
10) Don't become hysterical if you arrive at the theater and discover that you've misplaced your tickets or left them at home. The box office will be more than happy to help you retrieve your locations and to assist you in any way possible.