Several months ago when I was in Cambridge, I remember launching an idea at John about how it would be so neat if TicketMaster let you choose your seats the way that airlines let you choose them when booking online. Aside from their busted browse and search and outrageous extra charges, I find the process of selecting seats on TicketMaster to be so frustrating.
First you choose whether you want to search by price range or seating area, or “best available.” Nevermind that you have no idea how much the best available is going to cost because you don’t know what’s available. And you don’t have any idea ahead of time what may or may not be availble. How many times have you gone through 6 steps on TicketMaster just to find out that there aren’t any tickets? A lot? Also, if you’re not familiar with the theater, you’re probably not sure where the seating is located based on a drop down. And why have a chart off to the right to match up seating areas with pricing? Why not do it in the action area?
Next, you have to pass through some security that I can sometimes not read and therefore have to enter a few times.
And then you get to a page that shows what tickets are available with a small map on of the theater. Have fun trying to match those up and try to guess where your seats are. Oh, and if you want a bigger map that you can actually read, that will cost you another click.
My idea was based off my experiences at United.com. When you’re booking your flight you can choose your seat. There’s a nice image that shows every seat available and you just choose. I don’t have any flights booked on United right now, so I am using this image from More Than Points.
Why couldn’t Ticketmaster just show a map of the theater with the open seats marked an let you pick what you wanted? Easy peasy, right? But no one does that when you book tickets.
Until yesterday when I was getting tickets to a play at Steppenwolf.
Steppenwolf lets you choose “best available,” if you’d like, but they also let you select your seats. As you choose seats, there’s a little drawer on the upper-left that shows the tally, so you know how much you’re paying. It helps that all the tickets cost the same in this theater, but I think even if tickets were different prices there’d be ways to indicate them.
Not only that, Steppenwolf takes it a step farther and lets you see what the view would be like from select seats before you buy them. Here you can see the camera icon.
After you click the camera it shows what the view is like from that seat.
I found this whole experience to be so refreshing and delightful. I was sort of freaking out. I’m so glad someone is doing this and I hope it catches on for other sites. I realize that a small theater can do a lot more than a large ticketing site that has thousands of theaters to keep track of…. but there has to be a way to let users pick their own seats off a map. Or, at least to improve the current busted up process.