Friday, November 5, 2010
Austria-isms: A run-in with the Vienna Boys Choir Ticket Office
Typically, I try not to get too wedded to insiting that things are done a certain way, just because "we" do it differently at home. After all, isn't the point of traveling or living abroad, seeing how someone else does things? That's right - widen perspectives, open the mind and all that. But every once in a while you come across something that really just boggles your mind. For whatever reason, you just can't fathom why it would be done in way x when way y would be better/faster/cheaper/more enjoyable etc. Just last week I had one of those experiences.
I've been formulating a theory as of late that perhaps Vienna is becoming less welcoming to auslanders (foreigners), as I've noticed some regresssions in services that had previously been user-friendly. For example, the Opera website had always been available in English and Japanese, and when it had been re-designed at the start of the season, the website was only available in German. This was particularly confusing since it's not as though we're talking about the website for a small regional Austrian theater but for the STATE OPERA - on any given night, at least half the audience must be foreigners of some kind. And they had the content! It's existed before and had been removed! Why?? Why would they do that? I'm pleased to report that the English content has gone up as of this past week - for awhile, I was thinking we might never get it back. Either it was a delay in the website build (always possible around here since that would involve modern technology) or there was enough eventual complaining, that perhaps there was some merit to customer voice.
The event that really got me, however, was last week when I was purchasing tickets for the Vienna Boys Choir mass that they sing nearly every Sunday at the Swiss Chapel at the Hofburg. You do have to get past the notion of paying to attend a religious service, granted, but the choir does such a lovely job, and the chapel itself is lovely (n.b. avoid these masses anytime when the weather is warm as there is very little circulation in the chapel so it can get stuffy quickly). We've been several times before, and the process to secure tickets is archaic but standard. You must either write or email (progress!) the ticket office of your interest, they tell you what price categories are available, you pick what you would like, they reserve seats and then you pick up the tickets at the booth prior to the mass or the day of during a 30 minute window, paying cash as they do not take credit cards. That has been the process for the past 18 months that we've been here - but this year they introduced a twist, and it was one of those things I just couldn't let go.
As of this season, they are no longer accepting cash in the ticket booth - they are only accepting bank transfers (read: old school bank wires - WHO uses those anymore?). Why might you ask? Well, this struck me as so crazy that I just had to get into it and ask. I was informed that it was because "the head of the ticket office" (cue Austrian love of titles - by the way, the "ticket office" is a small booth of the side of the Hofburg smaller than my guest bathroom) has decided that there "is too much cash in the ticket booth". Now. I could understand the concern if perhaps people were demanding to pay in foreign currencies, or make large ticket transactions numbering into the thousands of euros. But these are transactions that are well under 100 euros. And furthermore, this is a TICKET BOOTH - this is what they do! Willing patrons come with money, they give the booth money, and the person working at the booth (i.e. "the head of the ticket office") gives you tickets - its' a simple transaction. Why are they introducing additional steps? paperwork? fees? WHY fight modern times? If they didn't want to deal with cash, why not accept credit cards like normal ticket enterprises???
The real kicker is that once I had completed my order, I had to return for two additional tickets and was informed that due to the late purchase, that I would have to pay in cash since there would be not enough "time to collect the remittances from the bank, you must pay in cash". Sigh. So even though I am one person, picking up two ticket orders, placed a week apart, I have to pay for half in bank transfer, half in cash.
I have also been informed that they will begin accepting Visa cards next year. But I'm wondering if they'll ever consent to sell me tickets again given one woman rebellion. The choir, however, as always, sang like angels.