WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG
WHERE TO COMPLAIN
Lets face it, stuff happens, so what to do when it does…
General Complaints about London Theatre and Tickets
This is the self regulatory organisation of London Theatre. They can step in and mediate on your behalf, but their word is not binding in a dispute. They also want to know when things go wrong as they can orchestrate campaigns to get them put right, but cannot help with individual issues between customers, theatres, producers and ticket agents.
For issue with ticket agencies and theatres that are Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers members, contact STAR at www.star.org.uk. They are now an officially approved Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform, with details on their website.
Or you could just whine here - Contact Us. The site cannot help resolve anything, but can at least warn others of a problem. That is a major reason for this site's existence.
There are also sites on the web that offer advice on dealing with complaints. One of these is www.complaints.com. Though American, some tips and feedback may be gained here.
For ticket problems, see the complaint chain.
I cannot use my ticket
Sales are usually final, so if no help is coming, pass tickets to friends. This attitude sucks, but prevents everyone who bought seats in advance for a critical flop from backing out - saving the producer's income. Resale via newspaper advert or to a tout is not advisable as this contravenes the conditions of sale. If detected your purchaser may be refused entry. These days original buyers are traceable. No one has been prosecuted yet, but why be first?
There is some good news from Ambassador Group Theatres, who either own or provide box office services to the Comedy, Donmar Warehouse, Duke of York's, Fortune, Old Vic, Phoenix, Piccadilly, Playhouse, Savoy and Trafalgar Studios Theatres. If you book direct with them (NOT via a ticket agency) they will exchange tickets at a cost of £5 each, and often waive this fee if the exchange is made within 24 hours of purchase. This is at box office discretion, however and they can refuse the right to do this if they choose.
Ticketmaster and some other sites, including See Tickets and Eventim, have a ticket exchange allowing those who have bought from their company the opportunity to sell unwanted tickets via them for a small fee. Not all shows and concerts are covered by the scheme, but they hope to add more as time passes.
Encore Ticket Agency has a "Flexiticket" Exchange Service, allowing FREE transfer / cancellation (credit note up to 12 months) of your booking up to 3 days before the performance for £2.50 per ticket.
Most theatres now sell ticket insurance scheme "TicketPlan". This guarantees you your money back if you, a close relative or person accompanying you to the show: is too ill / had an accident / died. They even notify the theatre of your non-appearance; so you do not have to worry!
You are also covered if your car breaks down en-route, or if public transport fails due to industrial action or breakdown! With huge ticket prices, this is a great way to protect your investment. It is a useful option to consider where offered, feels the monkey; who hopes all theatres will get round to offering it soon!
Ticket Not Arrived
A reader says,
When I went to get my duplicate tickets, it didn't seem that any had been sent! So I was allowed to use the proper ones. Hence my advice is keep your tickets if they do arrive, despite it saying they become null and void!"
The monkey agrees.
Forgot My Ticket
Bought from the box office, they should have a record of your booking and can usually re-issue them for you.
Most agencies have "duty desk" staff available who can be contacted to confirm the booking. Again, you will get your ticket re-issued...but...
Ticketmaster and most other agencies make a small service charge. Having a good memory helps.
Just to be certain, you may want to take the entire mantelpiece with you, in order to ensure that the tickets you kept on it are not forgotten...
Someone in my seat
Theatres put the people who bought tickets from their own box office first. Those buying from even approved STAR agencies will be treated as second class citizens and are the ones inconvenienced.
When it happens to you, get the usher to summon the FRONT OF HOUSE MANAGER or BOX OFFICE MANAGER immediately. If your ticket is not correct, make sure you get something in writing if you have to move - it will help your complaint later. Most people do not know that STAR agencies actually have the rights to some seats from the theatre on long term and ancient contracts, sometimes dating back to the construction of the building. In this case, the person buying from the owner has the right to sit there.
If it all goes wrong, you will be moved to seats kept back for such problems. These will be (in a half full theatre) whatever the management are sure is unsold, and will often be pretty decent. In a full theatre, if you are lucky and the house seats have not been sold, you get these high quality seats, but don't bank on it. Term house seats defined.
If the new seats are acceptable, try asking for free drinks / programmes as compensation for your ordeal then leave it there. If, you get shifted to an unused box, or asked to come back another time, read on…
In this case Theatremonkey advice is to protect your legal rights. If the worst happens, and it is not your fault, take any inferior seat given under protest, insist on free drinks and programmes at half time, and get it noted in writing that you reserve the right to take further action at a later date. You have a legally binding contract, which the ticket provider has breached, your evening has been ruined as you feel humiliated, and who can enjoy the play after such an ordeal. So, use the complaint chain explained below.
Can't fit into my seat
Now, the interesting bit. At the interval, the monkey didn't dare move in case others with similar legroom issues also tried to change seat. Well, it was amused that the usher and house manager stood behind its seat, having the following conversation by radio with the box office, "no, we can't move them there, somebody has already taken that one for the same reason!"
Two things to learn from this 1) If you have to move ALWAYS ask a member of staff first. 2) ALWAYS be first to move, and move early. If you are uncomfortable, chances are others will be too. If you move first, you are first in line to get the best of the seats left over AND, EQUALLY IMPORTANT, you won't spoil the show for yourself or others by being uncomfortable / having to move once the performance has started.
Got Moved / Not Happy With Your Seat
A day later, he asked the monkey what he should have done. Monkey reply was, "complain at the time, to front of house or box office staff." They will try and help you if they can.
If they can't, make sure the complaint is recorded by a staff member, and take it up with the ticket supplier. Chances are, alas, that you won't get very far, but worth a try.
Extra Row Added
A Featured Actor is Not Appearing
If the show is cancelled during the performance, a refund is only made if less than half the performance is given. Again, no compensation is given. The only exception is at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, where, if the play is rained off at any point, you can exchange your ticket for any other performance in the current or any future season. No money is ever refunded except to school parties. No extra compensation, though.
Excluding them until a suitable break in the show or even until the half time interval. You may be allowed to watch on a silent TV monitor in the bar if you are lucky.
Seating at the back of the theatre until the interval, when you can move forward to your real seat.
Just asking you to leave without a refund. Normally the first two apply, but why risk it. Allow plenty of time instead.
If you really have a gripe, try a word with the folk on the desk at the interval. Occasionally they can help. Otherwise, ask to move seats. Unfortunately, managers do not seem to care if the sound of 'Les Misérables' is making you miserable, and, generally, no refunds are made.
Getting ill during the show
No refunds if you miss the show is the official policy, but a theatremonkey reader has found a much better policy does exist in some theatres,
"You mentioned about first aid being available, but no refunds. I'm glad to report this isn't always the case. I was taken ill during a performance of 'HMS Pinafore' at the Savoy Theatre. (No reflection on the performance!) The staff were kindness itself, and I was told to contact the box office to arrange free tickets for a different night, which I did."
The monkey is delighted that such great customer service is practiced.
Negligence and Theft
A serious safety failing, like a locked fire door, should be reported to the house manager, and also to the local council health and safety office. All theatres are licensed for safety, and opposing the renewal is your last resort.
Theft from cloakrooms or the auditorium is not the responsibility of the theatre, according to the tiny sign at the counter. You have to prove otherwise, so take theatremonkey advice and keep valuables with you.
Ill behaved members of the audience
"An example of wonderful box office staff was at the Prince Of Wales Theatre during 'Witches of Eastwick'.
The man next to me talked loudly all the way through. We asked him to be quiet, and he started to threaten me loudly with violence (he was rather drunk). We asked the ushers if we could move seats, but by then I was too upset to enjoy the show and we decided to leave at the interval.
The staff not only ensured that the man was back inside so we could leave safely, but they gave us free tickets for another night."
The monkey commends the theatre staff for a fantastic response to this terrifying incident. This is the first time it has ever heard of such a problem, and can only suggest that if you do encounter it that you follow the same procedure as this reader - notifying staff and enlisting their help, backed up by the police if necessary.
Another reader says,
If you have had a similar experience, the monkey would be very interested to hear it, if possible. Email through the "contact us" button on the sidebar.
If the problem is with the show, contact the company manager by letter, care of the stage door of the theatre. If you get no satisfaction, contact the producers office direct.
The complaint chain for problems with tickets
In general, many of your ticket buying rights are enshrined in the legislation of the "Price Indications (Resale of Tickets) Regulations 1994". The regulations are available in PDF format from http://www.dti.gov.uk/ccp/topics1/guide/pricetickets.pdf
you bought your ticket from the theatre box office by telephone, post or in
Next, contact the Operations Manager at the theatre chain head office. State what you want from them to resolve the complaint - twice the value of the tickets in cash, plus travelling expenses is reasonable. Complain by telephone initially, then follow it by letter if your call gets nowhere.
Be polite and reasonable, but assertive of your rights.
After a second letter to the theatre, there is an option to sue the theatre chain in the Small Claims Court for the above, plus damages of twice the cost of the tickets to cover emotional upset, plus legal costs and expenses incurred in bringing the action. Do not leave it longer than a month after your visit to get this far, if you cannot resolve a dispute in less than thirty days, you probably need law to help.
you bought your ticket from a STAR agency by telephone, post or in person:
Next day, complain to the agency management direct and if you cannot resolve the problem, take legal action against the agency.
Feel free to complain to 'The Society of Ticket Agents & Retailers' at www.star.org.uk too. They can in some cases resolve disputes; and they do have a procedure for disciplining member agencies.
Following one such dispute, an agency once chose to resign from STAR rather than implement the STAR code of conduct.
Since your ticket is not from the theatre, your contract is not with the theatre. It is with the agency and the law says this is whom you must pursue.
If you bought your ticket from a travel / coach agency by
telephone, post or in person:
Then try any trade regulator the company could be attached to, e.g. the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to resolve the dispute before resorting to courts.
If you bought your ticket from a tout or scalper
The Last Resort Before Court
Both have experienced consumer protection officers who can help resolve disputes and prosecute rogue traders.
Contact Westminster on 0207 641 1111 for all theatres and agencies located in the West End, or Camden on 020 7278 4444 for the Shaftesbury and Dominion Theatres and businesses located in the small quadrant of London east of Tottenham Court Road and north of High Holborn.