Barley Mowat 

A Very VCBW Rant

with 10 comments

I’m tired. Very tired. I’m sure many of you are tired as well. We’re all in this state because of Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Our fatigue could be caused by VCBW being such a completely awesome event that it is reaching backwards through time to affect us now, fully a month before it starts. That’s a thing that happens, right?

Sadly, this is not the case. I, like you, stayed up way past both the muppets and bedtime in the hopes of snagging some VCBW tickets the second they went on sale. VCBW elected midnight as a launch time because… um… not sure why. Build buzz, I guess? Perhaps to ensure their staff were all fatigued, and their ticket processor had the C-crew on call?

In any event, this would have been Not Bad had I logged in a midnight, got the tickets I wanted (or even not gotten them), and then logged off at 12:15 to go to bed. That’s the price I accepted paying when I decided to stay up. Heck, even 12:30 would have been ok. 1:00 less so. 1:30 really not cool. 2:00 is right out. And 2:15, the time at which Sharon (who, it should be noted, is the best person on the planet) managed to get through and book tickets, is downright shameful. There’s no other word for it.

VCBW is a premium event. Go to their website and have a look. Look at the quality and variety of events. Look at the explicit city endorsement. Watch that awesome video. Imagine, now, organizing all this. The restaurants, the bars, the breweries, the venues. What you’re looking at is thousands of hours of work put together by a dedicated crew solidly commited to the cause of craft beer.

A VCBW Signature Event is such a huge item that restaurants are willing to pay $1000 for the privilege of hosting one. You might think “Whoa, $1000 is a lot!” but it really isn’t. First, it’s about the same as the license to show a single Canucks regular season game. Second, the exposure granted to your event–and the types of people it will attract–is easily worth that sum. If it wasn’t then the bars and restaurants would not be lining up to pay it, but they are.

So, we’ve painted a picture of a quality event run by quality people being sold out to both the industry (and the public) at quality prices. So why, oh why, would you then take the ticketing for these events and contract that out to the lowest bidder–a bidder that proved last year they had no business playing in your league.

Ticketing is the first interaction your actual customers have with your event. Lots of people pursue your website, and view your promo videos, but to become paying customers they have to go through ticketing. It’s about as vital as a service can be to an organization. Quick, convenient, and (most importantly) accurate ticketing is a must. Cheap is nice, but not a must.

Eztix, the ticketing contractor selected by VCBW, is cheap. That’s about all it has going for it. They only charge ~3.5% to sell tickets, and often just charge that to the buyer instead of the seller. It is not quick, convenient, nor accurate. I think you see my point with quick and convenient, but accurate requires some extra ranting: during the checkout process, Sharon was repeatedly assured that the only extra charge was tax (aka no service charge), and that the whole amount was fully refundable. The bill arrives and bam, ~9.5% service charge… and it’s non-refundable.


Where your VCBW money goes on top.
What I see on bottom.

Now, I work in software. I have built, from the ground up, systems that do EXACTLY what eztix does. VCBW has 17 ticketed events. Those events likely have less than 200 tickets each. Those will sell in about 100 transactions. These numbers give us: 3400 tickets & 1700 transactions. Each sale generates about 3-4 look-i-lous who cancel out. That’s 8500 requests. These are not large numbers. These are not even medium numbers.

The system I built could easily handle this load, and clear the tickets in about 10-15 minutes, all without going down if there was a spike. I am not a genius, nor really that great at my job. It ran on two servers. So when I see claims like “we added four servers this year” someone is either lying, incompetent or both.

I cannot believe that the ticketing decision was made at VCBW without someone in the room pointing out how horrifically eztix failed last year, and about how they’re basically incompetent and their promises to make it all better were likely worthless. That is a conversation that must have happened. Yet the ultimate answer to the question of “How best do I represent my quality brand to the people paying for it?” was “The lowest bidder.” Again.

How can they make this better? Well, they can’t for now. The contracts are signed and lots of tickets have been sold. Next year, though, things will be better. Of course, that’s what they said last year. Own your mistake guys, and make this event as flawlessly awesome as you know it should be.

Written by chuck

April 13th, 2012 at 11:45 am

Posted in Beer and You

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10 Responses to 'A Very VCBW Rant'

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  1. Hey Chuck,

    There is a little more to the story than your assumptions. I don’t care to get in an argument or expect any sort of retraction, but is there any chance I can buy you a beer and explain why we went with EZ TIX in person just so I can sleep knowing you know why we went with them again?

  2. Well said. I hope this starts the necessary dialog to get this changed for next year.

    Brewtal Truth

    13 Apr 12 at 11:58

  3. Oh things will be changed next year, you can count on that…

  4. Wouldn’t the number of people trying to transact come into the equation somewhere?

    I know Radiohead had similar issues with Ticketmaster when they played the Place d’Arts in Montreal a few years back. The venue holds around 1000 people (so about a third of you VCBW numbers) but it was their only show in Canada or on the Eastern Seaboard so demand for tickets was hight. Needless to say, they managed to crash ticketmaster for a while.

    PeeSeeGee

    13 Apr 12 at 13:18

  5. @Chris Oh no, don’t stand for inaccuracies on my blog. Let me know and I’ll fix ’em. I’m tough but fair. And yes, I would love a beer, but let me buy you one, because, let’s face it, the ticket situation is not great, but VCBW has done more for craft beer in YVR than I could in 10 years. Drop me an email and we’ll work it out.

    @PeeSeeGee They do; those are the look-i-lous. Even if they never get the ticket purchase page they count. However, in this case it cannot be ignored that their main website stayed up and responsive. That puts a pretty serious upper limit on the throughput to the purchase stage. If my numbers are off by even 10x the points still hold.

    chuck

    13 Apr 12 at 13:36

  6. I see, I misunderstood. I would also like to apologise for my lack of proof reading causing me to come off like a twelve year old on an iPhone.

    PeeSeeGee

    13 Apr 12 at 15:14

  7. @PeeSeeGee No worries. I’d like to apologize for coming off like an angry near-alcoholic with a web server. Oh wait. No I dont; that’s my schtick!

    chuck

    13 Apr 12 at 15:31

  8. …and this is why I didn’t get tickets to Hoppapolooza.

    Again.

    I hear it’s great. Never been.

    Earl’s has a big event going on that night, I guess I could go there instead.

    HAHHAHA!

    Ben Coli

    13 Apr 12 at 16:25

  9. I was finally able to get my tickets…just after 2:30am. Man, it was a brutal day of work and fatherhood for me today. Chris, if it’s at all possible, perhaps you can provide a more descriptive explanation about last night’s unfortunate situation. May have to read your response tomorrow though. Time for an early snooze.

    Maddox Ious

    13 Apr 12 at 20:57

  10. I’m going to avoid making any public statements as we’re still in the process of dealing with how this all went down. That said anyone who wants to meet me for a pint can email me at chris (a) vancouvercraftbeerweek.com

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