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Live theater

2008-09-30 01:51:38.498197+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

The problem with live theater is that you buy tickets with your credit card, so they have your personal information, then you go to a show, but for the next mumbledy gazillion years the theater is calling you every month asking if you'd like to buy a subscription to the next umpteen shows.

It's kind of like donating to public radio or public television, the donation isn't what causes hesitation, it's the prospect of dealing with the subsequent deluge of junkmail when they sell their subscriber list.

[ related topics: Technology and Culture Theater & Plays Consumerism and advertising Television ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-09-30 02:53:09.556531+00 by: TheBrad

Dan, I guess you've had a bad experience, but I think you're unfairly singling out "live theatre" for a shellacking on this. Obviously I can only speak with authority about one professional non-profit live theatre, my own, but let me tell you how we handle personal information provided by patrons.

If you buy a ticket or a subscription or make a donation, we do ask for your mailing address and, optionally, your e-mail address, but at the point of transaction, we ask for your permission to add you to our mailing list. If you decline, we honor that and use the information only to contact you with information directly related to your transaction (e.g. if the performance is cancelled). If you assent, we only send you information about the theatre and, periodically, ask you to express a preference about the type of information you receive (e.g. "I want information about only comedies" or "Tell me when you're producing a musical"). And, of course, you can opt out at any time, and we purge your information from our records.

We never sell our mailing list. From time to time, we exchange mailing lists with other, local cultural organizations, but only with those whose privacy policies align with our own and with strict rules about their use (e.g. the list may be used once and not retained). If you subsequently contact us and say you want off of our mailing list, we not only purge the information on our end, we convey that wish to any organization with which we have traded lists.

When we began collecting e-mail addresses for patron transactions about 10 years ago, we added the following policy: we never sell or trade e-mail addresses. Period. And everything we mail provides the opportunity to opt-out at any time and to manage filtering preferences such as the ones above.

We also never share or sell the telephone numbers of our patrons.

The main reason we have these policies and adhere to them is that it's the right thing to do, but hey, we also don't want to piss you off and hope that you'll come back and see another show sometime.

At least among non-profit regional theatres, our policies and procedures are not uncommon. Certainly, there are variances in the industry but I think my peers do a damn good job of behaving responsibly on this matter.

Even so, if live theatres, PBS and NPR have wronged you, they're hardly alone. Do you suppose your movie theater, Blockbuster, bank, magazine subscription house, dry cleaners or grocery doesn't do the same?

Non-profits and arts organizations struggle in the face of reduced civic support and philanthropic funding and are from several quarters encouraged to sustain operating revenues by "acting like real businesses". Most do and manage to do so responsibly but I know a few resort to the "business-like" tactics you mention. I don't blame you for being annoyed. I would be also.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-09-30 03:38:01.108845+00 by: ebradway

Non-profits, like PBS, NPR and local theaters, are not bound by the Do-Not-Call registries and junk-mail opt-out lists in most states. So the comparison to commercial operations, like Blockbuster, banks and magazines, does not hold up. I get harassed much more directly by non-profits than I ever do by commercial concerns - to the point where it makes me hesitant to ever give money.

I used to keep a box of the junk mail that National Geo sent out. They've slacked off some in recent years - but in their heyday, the junk mail actually outweighed the magazine!

#Comment Re: made: 2008-09-30 11:40:50.622771+00 by: DaveP

Maybe I'm just an asshole, but two non-profits have both gone on my "never give money to again" list for that sort of behavior.

Both were asked politely to quit calling me, and "just send me something in the mail." Both called again, in spite of the "This phone number does not accept solicitations. Press 1 to continue." message that costs me $7/month to have the phone company play on every call to my number. One of the non- profits even called after 9pm, after I'd gone to bed. They'll not see another penny.

It helps that in both cases there's another (local) non-profit with similar aims which will honor my wishes and only solicit me via postal and electronic mail, but I've been disgusted enough with telemarketing for long enough that it wouldn't matter to me.

One final note, political solicitations aren't bound by do-not-call lists either, and most play their automated messages as soon as they hear a voice. The anti-solicitation message starts their tape rolling. Even without pressing 1, that will eventually time-out and start my phone ringing. But by the time the call rolls to voice-mail after the 6th ring (caller ID keeps me from actually answering), most of the message has passed.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-09-30 12:48:20.03583+00 by: Dan Lyke

Brad, I can point the finger at at least three separate theaters in the SF Bay Area that have done this, one of 'em kept calling at month or two intervals for at least three years (because I know when we moved, and I know we got calls all through our time living there) after we saw a show. This particular rant was brought on by a call last night from the most recent show we went to. They were polite and all, but we've been to one show at that theater, they'd do a heck of a lot better to say "hey, we see you went to X, have you thought about coming to see Y, we think people who liked X will like it?" than "can you buy tickets to the next four years' shows? No? How about two years?"

And I guess part of what gets me about this (or, especially, about all of the mailing lists I get on when I subscribe to public radio/TV), is that commercial places at least do a basic job of targeting advertising material to me. I'm not generically a "live theater" person, there are certain genres of play or musical that I enjoy, but just because I see one show doesn't mean I'm likely to enjoy everything that theater's presenting, any more than just because I enjoy As It Happens in my evening commute means I'm going to want to go to overpriced wine country cooking classes.

I enjoy occasional live theater, but I'm going to do my best to pay cash for future shows. Or go to smaller amateur productions.

Or go to your theater, but I don't get by St. Louis all that often.

Eric and Dave, yep. It used to be that a curt "Call me again and I'll vote for the other guy" shut up the political solicitations, but now that they're doing the "call pretending to be the other guy and try to piss you off" thing that doesn't work terribly well anymore.