September 22, 2014

Dallas Symphony shows the perils and issues of the modern orchestra

My brother-in-law's mother passed away a little over a month ago. Her children decided to have her cremated, then have a memorial service ta a convenient time for all, in Dallas.

So, I got an invite, and headed on up from the exurban Waco area. While there, I thought, let's see what the DSO is playing. Answer? Mahler's Ninth! And, the Stokowski transcription of Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue, a nice appetite whetter.

So, I go online to order. And problems begin.

On various browsers, on both the Mac at work and the PC at home, with various privacy and protections settings, the website WILL NOT bring up the Meyerson's seating arrangements for me after I click on wanting to buy for Saturday. I have to toggle to Sunday, where it does show that. Then, it keeps showing that when I toggle to Saturday. OK, we have a problem but I an work around it.

Then, I see that even the cheapest seats, in Choral Terrace, are up to $22. OK, not ideal, and a definite increase from when I last lived in Dallas, five and a half years ago. But I know that symphonies (Minneapolis, Atlanta) are struggling. So, I click to buy.

And, I see that that $22 does NOT include a $7 "handling charge." I'm upset at a bit of pricing dishonesty and think about not buying; I wait.

Finally, Saturday morning, I decide to do the deal. Well, by that time, all but two front row seats in Choral Terrace is sold out, and one of those is at the audience end of the one side.

It's OK; there's still one front row center section seat.

I'm told I need to log in. So, I try an old email address, with multiple passwords. None work. I check that account; no password email for the DSO is saved.

So, I call their customer service line.

Closed on Saturdays. I can understand being closed on Sundays, but Saturdays? That's poor customer service for a major arts venue.

So, back to the website.

"Login with Facebook."

I don't like doing that, but, I think, OK.

I'm told the link doesn't work. (And, I had unblocked Facebook Connect on Ghostery, so it wasn't that.)

I figure maybe it's something on my settings on the PC at home. So, a quick drive to the office.

Nope, doesn't work there.

So, DSO? Counting that handling charge, per my best recollection, on the cheap seats, your prices have increased more than 50 percent since the 2008-09 season. When I had season tickets to Choral Terrace, all three classical subseries, in 2004-05, it was $9 a pop; getting one set of six concerts was $10 an event, $9 for each of the second six and $8 for each of the third. Whatever handling charge existed was definitely less than $7 a concert.

And, with all those price increases, you have a website with functionality issues and no Saturday customer service?

So, DSO, I'll think even more carefully about future purchases next time I'm in the Metroplex.

Fort Worth has no choral terrace. Its cheapest seats are the front few rows of the orchestra. They're at $20 plus $3 for handling.  And, that's on the floor, facing the orchestra.

The second cheapest in Dallas is $49 vs. $32 in Fort Worth. Top price, comparing Saturday to Saturday, is $145 in Dallas vs. $68 in Fort Worth.

Yes, Dallas is a better orchestra, and has a larger orchestra to pay. But, it seems like the DSO is pushing its price points.

(And, I tried looking ahead to this weekend's concert, and guess what? The same website issue, on not immediately displaying seating issues, happened for this coming Saturday.

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