TOP

Glitches, ticket sellouts frustrate New York Comic Con hopefuls [Updated]

by  in Comic News Comment

In a scene reminiscent of the annual rush for Comic-Con International badges, the New York Comic Con ticket website crashed Thursday as hopefuls jostled for passes to the Oct. 9-12 show.

A perusal of the event’s Twitter feed provides a catalog of some of the problems as organizers offered advice to frustrated ticket buyers — “If you’re in the queue, do not hit refresh” — before announcing sellouts of four-day and three-day passes, and tickets for Saturday and Kids Day. As of this morning, tickets remain available for Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The Insightful Panda offers a play-by-play of what it contends “went wrong” with the process, highlighting a mix of technical difficulties and apparent miscommunication. The blog also notes that three-day passes have already made their way onto StubHub, where they’re listed at 400 percent of their original price.

The New York Comic Con Facebook page and Twitter feed are littered with comments from people upset by the glitches and the rapid sellout of the multi-day passes. “Unfortunately the demand was really high so tickets went faster than ever,” an event representative said in response to one complaint. “We will have tickets in retailers — so look out for that announcement. Again — sorry you are disappointed. We never want our fans to have a bad experience.”

In a letter provided to ROBOT 6 that’s being sent today to NYCC fans, ReedPop Senior Vice President Lance Fensterman reiterated that there was unprecedented demand for tickets. “This is the identical ticket system we used last year,” he wrote. “The fact is that the demand for tickets was on a greater scale than even we did not imagine. For an example, last year 4 day tickets took over 8 weeks to sell out, this year they took 40 minutes. The simple fact is that there is an extremely high demand for a limited supply of tickets.”

He also addressed complaints of scalping, pointing out that organizers reduced the number of tickets one person can purchase from 10 last year to six this year. “And as of typing this email, our count across eBay, StubHub and Craigslist showed about 700 tickets being sold, or about .05% of the total tickets that were sold on Thursday,” Fensterman wrote. “Still too many, but not a conspiracy or epidemic either.”

The convention, which has reached San Diego-sized numbers with an estimated 130,000 people, last year reduced the number of three-day passes in an effort to allow more people to attend the show each day. Comic-Con International this year took that philosophy one step further, eliminating four-day badges completely.

Update (8:50 a.m.): Here is the full text of Fensterman’s letter:

Apologies for a less than personalized response, but as I’m sure you can imagine, we are getting a lot of emails about the New York Comic Con ticket roll out on Thursday.  I want to get you a timely response so this note serves to address the majority of questions and concerns that we are hearing from our fans…

First off, our goal is for you to be happy.  Our fans being unhappy brings us no joy whatsoever.  Happy fans make everyone at ReedPOP happy.  I know, however, that you, and many others are not happy fans today and no matter what to reason is for that unhappiness, please know it bums us out as well – to say the very least.

Second point to share is that we always strive to listen and improve.  We’ve gotten a ton of feedback and we are hear it and will do anything we can to improve the experience for all of our fans.  That is a promise.  We’ve never promised to be mistake free, but we do promise to always work hard to fix our mistakes and get better.  So bottom line – please know that your concerns and frustrations are heard.

OK – a few of the major issues point by point as best as I can clarify/explain them:

At noon, the New York Comic Con website crashed.  The actual ticketing site did not crash.  In an effort to be helpful, we posted a link direct to our ticketing platform on our social media channels.

Our ticketing site was mobbed and moved extremely slowly.  We know this was frustrating and a problem – but it was a simple issue of volume and demand.

At one point, 3 day tickets still remained so we posted that fact on social.  When it quickly became clear that those 3 days tickets evaporated we removed that post to not to cause confusion.  We did not remove it to cancel out negative feedback; we don’t ever do that, we can take the feedback we simply did not want to have a post out there saying 3 days were available if they were not.

We put a post on social reminding people to refresh their shopping cart, to assure it was current, not to refresh the queue.  Refreshing the queue will not move you ahead in line in any way.  There was confusion on this and many people appeared to refresh the queue, not the shopping cart as we advised.

A technical point to remember is that someone may be holding 3 days ticket in their cart, therefore the inventory of 3 days will still show them remaining UNTIL that person actually clears the payment and checkout page.  This is why availability showed, and then rapidly declined as 3 day tickets went from being held, to being purchased.

The queue moved slowly, we know this and have made it abundantly clear to our ticketing vendor that this is unacceptable, but it did move.

This is also not a new system.  This is the identical ticket system we used last year.  The fact is that the demand for tickets was on a greater scale than even we did not imagine.  For an example, last year 4 day tickets took over 8 weeks to sell out, this year they took 40 minutes.  The simple fact is that there is an extremely high demand for a limited supply of tickets.

We know scalping is an issue and one that we hate nearly as much as you do.  I’ve gotten a few emails asserting that we are somehow in favor of our tickets being on the secondary market and nothing could be further from the truth.  Nothing.  3 years ago there was no limit on the number of tickets an individual could buy.  Last year the limit was 10.  This year the limit was 6.  This is a reflection of our effort to limit the number of tickets one person can purchase for the sole purpose of putting them on the secondary market to line their own pockets.  We have contacted eBay and they will not do anything to help us ban these sellers and in almost every instance, the sellers contact info is blocked.  We will continue to pursue these one by one but when demand outstrips supply, capitalism dictates that someone is going to find a way to meet that demand.  And as of typing this email, our count across eBay, StubHub and Craigslist showed about 700 tickets being sold, or about .05% of the total tickets that were sold on Thursday.  Still too many, but not a conspiracy or epidemic either.

Lost in a lot of this is that retailers will be selling tickets starting in mid-July and that Thursday, Friday & Sunday tickets are still available online.  As I look at the content we have in the works for this year, we don’t have a “weak” lineup any day of the show.  Our goal is to make every day of the show a day jammed with killer experiences.  Also, don’t forget that New York Super Week will bring great nerdy programing to dozens of venues all over the city for an entire week.  Throw in Special Edition: NYC (which took place in mid-June) and we hope it shows that we realize more people want to go to NYCC than we can accommodate and we are trying to create more opportunities for more people to have more fun.

In closing, I know if you did not get the ticket you wanted or experienced difficulty with the entire process, this email is not going to fix that.  It’s not going to get you that 3 day ticket you so wanted.  And I and the entire team are really, really sorry for that.  What I do hope is that note clarifies some of what happened, clears up some misconceptions and most of all conveys that we are listening, we are sorry for your experience not being all that you deserve and that we are committed to making it better.

Yours in nerd,

Lance