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A Very VCBW Rant

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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

Tagged with

Vancouver Craft Beer Week

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Tickets for the general events of VCBW go on sale today, and if last year is anything to go by, expect them to sell out faster than hot cakes. Or crack. Or hotcakes full of crack. Ok, faster than just crack… which is on sale… just go with it, ok? They’ll go. Fast.

Sadly, this year will see me in far off Cuba during the festivities. Which is also during the second round of the playoffs… hmm… perhaps better planning is required on my part for future travels. But don’t let my misfortune grow into yours. Just because I won’t be able to make to any of these events, and therefore they will obviously suffer for my absence, doesn’t mean you should get all depressed and just stay home. Go. To as many as possible.

Before you look at the prices and decide “but it’s so expensive” remember that most event prices include tax AND gratuity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I ever left a bar full of food, good beer and good times for prices like this.

Some highlights:

Dead Famous Dead Guy Crawl : Yes, this is your chance to dress up as a zombie version of a celebrity, stagger around downtown and drink good beer. I missed this event last year (when it was just a funeral for Dix), and have regretted it ever since.

Legacy Liquor Store Cellaring Seminar : Chris knows his cellaring, and any aspiring beer geek would do well to heed his advice. I know I’ve written about cellaring before (and likely will again, on, say… Tuesday), but there’s just something about learning in person that beats reading some egomaniac’s barely literate scrawlings on the ‘tubes.

Upright x Driftwood Brewmaster’s Dinner : Two of my favourite brewers together in one spot? Sweet mother of all that’s holy, I might fly back from Cuba for one night to go to this.

Driftwood Beer Dinner at Hapa Umi : The Driftwood Hapa Izakaya meal last year was supposed to be fantastic (I was off doing something else beer-related) so this is bound to be great.

Red Truck Brewmaster Dinner and Cheese Tasting : I think there might be cheese at this one.

The Whip’s Firkin Fetish Night with Storm Brewing : Storm Casks, good food and nigh-naked people? Yes please! James, please keep your pants (mostly) on.

Alibi Room Presents, Brothers in Hop Featuring: Red Racer Beer x Ninkasi Brewing x Hopworks Urban Brewing : Ninkasi has never been in BC (aside from kegs) before, so I’m excited to see if these VCBW appearances are the start of a product launch (a la Upright last year).

Lastly, VCBW also created a video to advertise the week, and it’s been floating around the web since late last night. Since I’ve already been asked a couple of times, I’ll just point out straight away that No, this is not me. My leotard is purple, and this one is quite obviously teal. In fact, not only is this Not Me, but I had absolutely nothing to do with the conception, planning, execution or production of this fine fine example of post-modern beer-themed art. Shocking, I know. So shocking, in fact, that even I’m a bit wary to believe this disclaimer because, let’s face it, if you gave me a lot of money, a camcorder, and two furry outfits, this is likely what I’d make, beer week to advertise or no.

Not Me, but seriously… Woof!

Finally, it wouldn’t be a blog by Chuck without me taking exception to something. In this case it is VCBW whoring out to accept sponsorship funding from The Charles Bar. Guys, do you seriously need money so badly that you’re willing to take it from someone who’s idea of Craft Beer is Whistler Brewing? Yeah, I get it, they have Phillips in bottles, but anyone even remotely interested in good beer would have something better on tap than Whistler Dreck Light, Whistler Dreck Dark, Pilsner, Rickard’s, Heineken and Guinness.

This is a serious shot to your credibility. Wise up.

/PS Holy shit! The Backstage Lounge has good beer! When did this happen? Anyone up for a Sunny Saturday Patio Excursion sometime before my departure on April 29th?

Written by chuck

April 8th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You,Breweries

Tagged with