Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Pre"-rush Tickets for Broadway?

Most adventurous Broadway lovers are aware of rush ticket policies for many Broadway production. Playbill.com even keeps an up-to-date list of these available for people who have the flexibility to try again and again for tickets to their favorite shows.

A lot of rush policies are good day of meaning you buy the rush ticket an hour or two before the show (if you are one of the lucky people who waited in line). Usually these rush tickets are heavily discounted ($20 - $35 in most cases) and you take your chances as to whether you'll get into that particular performance.

But what if you could buy a "pre"-rush ticket even further in advance? Here me out...

What if you could pay a little bit more, say $40-50, weeks in advance but not for a particular day? Imagine it as a sort of "standby" ticket or pass (similar to a gift certificate). It guarantees that you have a ticket for that show some day but that day is up to you. You could call or visit the box office on the day you wish to attend and, pending availability, they would exchange your pass for the actual ticket. Done!

Benefits for you:
  1. Your ticket is paid for. You took care of that already. You don't have to stand in long lines and pray you'll get it.
  2. You still take your chances but your whole day doesn't hinge on whether you get in or not... it's done that morning.
Benefit for the show:
  1. They have your money. Granted, there are some accounting questions here. The show can't really count your purchase until you've received the goods in exchange but they could earn interest off of it... couldn't they?
  2. They can worry less about further discounting tickets day-of because they will have a group of committed consumers who will be happy to call or visit day of and exchange their slightly higher priced pass for a ticket to the show that day.
What happens if the show closes and you still have this pass? Well, it could happen. But if the show isn't considering your pass income until you've seen it (which they shouldn't) then the income could pass on to the show you do choose. For example, if you bought your "pre"-rush ticket at a Shubert box office it is conceivable that you could use it at another Shubert box office if your show closes. Or, worse case scenario, you get a refund.

I'm curious to know if you have any thoughts on this. Would you buy a "pre"-rush ticket/pass/standby voucher for a little more if it meant you didn't have to worry about rush day-of? Is this even necessary? Just throwing an idea out there to initiate a conversation. Share your thoughts!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cutting the Cable (aka Hey, TV is on the Internet!)

Let me start out this diatribe by explaining that I have almost never been happy with any cable provider, any place that I have lived.

Service is questionable, customer service is most often exceedingly failing and tech support is, at best, awake.  So, having heard of the growing trend in cutting the cable from such excellent shows as Leo LaPorte's The Tech Guy and Revision3's Tekzilla, I decided to go all out and give up my connection to over 100 channels (most of which I never watched anyway).

So I called Time Warner Cable here in New York City.  My two-year price lock guarantee was up this past November so I explained that I would like to cancel my cable TV service but keep my Internet service.  Most of the television that I do watch is available online anyway, so why was I paying over $100 a month to watch stuff that was available online??  After a bit of tug-of-war with TWC's customer service (they insisted that I had a 3-year price lock guarantee and that I was committed to another 12 months of cable TV service... no, that took 2 days of struggling with various customer service supervisors until they admitted they had coded my price lock wrong) I successfully cut cable TV out of my life and have not looked back.

With the increasing ability to watch TV online through Netflix, Hulu or even via the specific channels (Fox and Syfy are particularly good at posting their content online... usually within a day or two of its broadcast release) I'm able to watch what I want, when I want it on my computer.  And with an old Macbook Pro connected to the TV I can access everything on the big screen just like I had with cable.  Of course, thanks to "set top boxes" like the Roku or Boxy (neither of which I have since the Macbook Pro can do all that they can... and more) anyone can get the Internet on their TV.  And if you have a gaming console like the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii you can access a variety of services (Netflix in particular works incredibly well on each).

So, to all those out there who are suffering from poor service and high cable bills... look to the Internet and see if you can live without your wired connection to your cable TV provider.  It is really pretty wonderful to think that you've turned your back on an industry that has, at least in my experience, turned its back on its customers.

For more information on how to live without cable check out Lifehacker's post from earlier last year.  It's a pretty thorough primer for those looking to cut the cable.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Surviving Jury Duty

New York County Supreme Courthouse
Taken from flickr user: wallyg

I've been told that it is an honor to serve on a jury... to fulfill a service of dedication and respect for the law. Until you are called to do it. Then it is mostly just waiting and fidgeting.

I recently spent a short (thankfully) day and a half in the jury duty selection process. While I ultimately wasn't kept on as a juror I did discover several key "needs" in the time I spent in "processing".

(Note that a very special episode of Jury Duty: Day 2 appears at the end of this post. Don't pass it up. Stick with it. You'll be glad you did.)
  1. Bring entertainment: Day One was filled with me and about 100 others slumped over in waiting room chairs desperate for ANY news of what we would be doing over the course of the next several day. I had one book... which wasn't enough.
    • Sub-tip 1: Bring two books. You will get through them.
  2. Connectivity: You are going to feel isolated. You are going to feel like you've fallen in a well and no one can hear you and if they could, they couldn't reach you all the way down there. Bring a smart phone or a laptop... you are allowed. The Jurors Assembly room I was in offered free Wifi (even though it didn't work the first day).
    • Sub-tip 2(a): Don't forget your charger. Trust me. Loosing charge is an epic fail.
    • Sub-tip 2(b): Get there early enough that you can grab a chair near an electrical outlet. They go quickly because everyone else already though of this before you did and rushed in to grab the coveted seat(s).
  3. Stay Low/Keep Quiet: There's nothing worse than Yappy McTalks-a-Lot sitting next to you while you're trying to find out just who murdered who in Book 48 of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I mean, come on people, I'm clearly reading and your concern over your spider ferns should you be here for more than a week is far beyond the last thing I want to think about. I feel your pain, really I do. But shhhh.
    • Sub-tip 3(a): This goes for your composure with the staff in the Assembly room too. Just shhh. For example: When I was handing my ballot back to the woman at the desk I opened my mouth to ask "Is that all?" meaning Am I now excused? But before a single syllable could pop free I was given a glare that sent icicles down my spine and into my shoes. "Do not ask me what you're gonna ask me." I see Susie Sunrays is not quite herself today. Thank you for your time.
  4. Tell the Truth: If you do ONE THING during your processing for jury duty just TELL THE TRUTH. Once I was called into the courtroom for the general interview (with 59 other people) I was stunned at how many people simply couldn't serve because of this or that reason. We were all asked, one at a time, if we had any prejudices or past experiences that might make it difficult to hear the case without pre-judging the defendants. A good HALF of the room "just couldn't do it". And I'm sure a number of those people had legitimate issues but I couldn't a number of folks who claimed they had issue turn to the person next to them and wink once the judge dismissed them. I mean really. Not only am I pretty sure you just committed perjury but you also thinned the herd and gave me a MUCH greater chance of getting called. Thanks.
  5. Be Patient: I was astonished that I was dismissed after a day and a half. Simple trials can last one to two weeks and more difficult ones can go on for months. Just settle into the fact that you are there, there is nothing you can do about it and try to embrace what 40 people have been telling you, "It is a great honor to serve on a jury. You are a part of a long tradition of justice." Again, thanks.
Now, those five points may seem dreary and tiresome. You might think, "God no... not me. Please, make me run laps, make me drink wheatgrass, make me watch Glitter twice in a row... anything but jury duty!" But do not forget that there are dozens and dozens of other people there from whom you can garner much entertainment. I give you an example in the form of one potential juror who sat behind me during the interview process.
Judge: Can you be completely impartial in considering this case?
Potential Juror: Yes ma'am your honor. I am so impartial. I don't even try to guess who did it on Law and Order until the last duh-duh because they're gonna trick you with a surprise and all this time you mighta thought it was this one guy but then, oh no no, they fooled you and it was this other guy the whole time. You can't never tell.
Judge: You do understand that this is not TV and there are very rarely, if ever, surprises at the last minute, correct?
Potential Juror: Yes ma'am your honor but you don't know. This one here (pointing to the prosecuting attorney) could be real slick and all.
Judge: (Exasperated) You are dismissed.
So enjoy that. Cherish it. Because contrary to the notion that "this is not TV" it might just be better than TV. It might be real drama sitting right behind you in the jurors' box and you might laugh on the inside while you are stone cold, stoic on the out.