Buying Hamilton tickets when you are disabled, but not a wheelchair user
As all Hamilton fans, I was very excited on Monday to be attempting to get tickets for a show, as I had signed up for the presale back in October. In this post, I would like to both discuss what the process of purchasing tickets was like as a disabled person who is entitled to a carer ticket but is not a wheelchair user, so that it may help other people (click here to skip to the end of my explanations to know how to actually order a ticket) but also make potentially useful suggestions to improve this process, which was, in six words: a bit pants and quite hard.
*Note about my situation: I have an Access Card. In order to get the card, I had to send proof of my disability, and particular needs were identified via this evidence - including the need for a carer ticket. The card is not compulsory to get adjustments from venues, but it makes things easier when a particular venue accepts it, as they can take your card number and see that you are indeed entitled to what you are asking for.*
Process for nondisabled fans
Judging by the feedback retweeted by Hamilton West End's twitter account, the process felt surprisingly painlesss, and it seems they worked really really hard with Ticketmaster to ensure an experience which would be as smooth as possible. I definitely do want to acknowledge that and congratulate this work, however, my experience was quite different - even though I did end up obtaining my tickets.
As Lin-Manuel Miranda and his team have done many things to try and get as many people as possible to see Hamilton (e.g. lottery!), I hope there will be a commitment from the London team of Hamilton, and Ticketmaster, to look into specific barriers facing disabled people who would like to see the show.
Process for this disabled fan
On Monday, I started reading everything multiple times to make sure I was clear, which is obviously the first step.
On to the FAQ!
The Frequently Asked Questions page was THE place to start. I headed to the section "How do I book if I have specific Access requirements". The information felt quite incomplete, as it stated:
"Once booking for HAMILTON opens and you have selected a specific date and performance, please click on the Access icon above the seating plan. You will then be presented with an email contact form which we ask you to complete and send to us."
This seemed to suggest that this information was only relevant to people who have mobility-related needs, so at this stage I wasn't sure what I needed to do for my own situation.
On to Ticketmaster! (Hamilton-specific information)
Fortunately, although the presale was only starting at 12pm, there was a pre-presale for a particular category of people, so I was able to "pretend" I was purchasing a ticket and preview what the process might look like when it was my turn. This allowed me to click on the Access icon and see the access page.
I later found a different way to access this: ticketmaster has a general help page about Hamilton. Again, the access section directly links you to information about wheelchair access, and the survey to fill in to obtain seating in the wheelchair area.
The phrasing is confusing and less than inclusive in those two sources of information.
Please note if you do not need a Wheelchair space all ambulant accessible bookings can be made through Ticketmaster UK’s accessible team by calling 0800 988 4440. Source: Hamilton-specific page about access (Tickermaster's website)
If you have any other Accessible Seating Requirements other than Wheelchair Seating please contact us on 0800 988 4440 to avoid disappointment as this form is for wheelchair bookings only. Source: survey for wheelchair access
Looking at these, I was, again, unsure how to proceed for my particular situation. It sounded like there were two categories of information about access: if you are a wheelchair user, fill in the survey. If you need an ambulant accessible seat, phone Ticketmaster.
I was neither of those things, so I probed further.
On to Ticketmaster! (General information)
The page starts on with accessible seating and only gives information about that. However, at the end of the page, it does say Ticketmaster is able to process booking requests using the Access Card, which sounded like good news.
On to Twitter!
I won't copy the particular tweets, but throughout my morning searching I was also checking out Hamilton West End's Twitter. I found a number of disabled people had made requests for information about the booking process. The answer was generally "check out the FAQ", but the FAQ was just not complete.
I noticed a particular person asking about carer tickets, and saw the Hamilton West End team replying these would be offered, in line with the West End policy.
@jakesawyers yes, we will operate a similar policy to the rest of the West End.— Hamilton West End (@HamiltonWestEnd) 16 January 2017
At least I had confirmation I wasn't chasing after a nonexistent thing. The same issue remained, though: how to get those?
On to the phone!
At this stage, my only option seemed to be to bite the bullet and use the phone. You may ask: why on Earth did you trawl through everything like that instead of giving a ring from the start?
Well, the answer is simple: often, disabled people are being asked to use the phone for disability-related admin. This does not take into account the number of disabilities which impact one's ability to use the phone. There are alternative ways to communicate on the phone - by using specific services, but I am not used to them as I find the phone extremely difficult to use even as just a concept.
At that point, I was already very stressed, but I phoned. A lovely person told me I could book on the phone for my tickets, but that I needed to wait until 12pm, which of course made sense!
I phoned again at 11.50am, unsure as to whether there would be a queue. There wasn't, so I ended up on the phone with another lovely person and had to have a very awkward conversation made of "hmmmm I am calling for Hamilton but I thought there'd be a queue, and there isn't, so it's not open yet, mmmm bye bye sorry so sorry".
Finally, at 12pm, I phoned again, and there was a short wait this time before I could speak to someone. When I explained my situation, I was put on hold for about 15 minutes. The process of getting tickets by phone was then slightly excruciating: I had to give dates, be told what seats were free, rather than being able to check these out for myself. The person on the other end of the phone also kept referring to mobility issues. I had to say several times that I did not have mobility issues. The number of my Access Card was not asked, although this would've highlighted that all I needed was a +1. I was asked at some point why I need a carer ticket, which was annoying as the whole point of the Access Card is to avoid having to explain my disability.
I also had much confusion regarding what ticket I was getting. I expected things to work the way they usually do: I would buy a ticket full price, and get a complimentary carer ticket along with it. However, I was told I would pay £37.50 per ticket (this is the lowest band), regardless of where I was going to sit. (So, £75 per show for me + a carer.) I really struggled to parse this information - my aim was to get tickets in a particular price band, to try and get good seats, and therefore I was very confused about how to be able to say "I'd like seats that are this type of price good". The person was telling me which seats were free, but I was looking at a chart on the website and couldn't tell what price they would usually cost, so I couldn't try and judge how good those seats were. (I am assuming the reason for this pricing is that people who are not wheelchair users but need accessible seating have less choice in where they sit, and it may just not be possible for them to get a lower band ticket if all the lower band tickets are up stairs, for example, which makes a lot of sense.)
My order finally got put through - after many more troubles of me trying to spell out my name, struggling to repeat my phone number, and struggling to understand the other person at the end of the phone. I haste to add that throughout this process I had someone with me, which I was very thankful for as I was getting more and more anxious. The person from Ticketmaster was also very helpful - I made them repeat things many times, had to say "wowowow slow down" several times as well, and they were friendly and patient.
It wasn't over by then though, because I wanted to see another show! The process was more of the same, except that time I wanted to get tickets in a different section of the theatre. Again, the person on the phone kept insisting there may be steps, and I had to keep insisting that was not a problem.
All in all, the process took about an hour, with much waiting time, much anxiety, and much stress. I was quite jealous when I saw people say how happy they were that it took them 5-10 minutes to get their ticket! I also had to wait 2 days to get my confirmation email, and I was worried the whole time that something had gone wrong and I wasn't aware (I'm not sure whether the confirmation delay is for everyone, though, and the ticket office person did give me confirmation numbers to quote in case I had an issue). I was actually counting on the confirmation emails to find out where I will be sitting (I was so frazzled I didn't write anything down. I would have agreed to sitting on the pavement outside if it had been suggested to me), but there's no information about seats in the email, oops.
I'm honestly still terrified that somehow, even though the person on the phone checked everything, writing this will highlight some major issue and I will be told "oops this is all wrong, we must cancel your tickets!".
The too long; didn't read
If you are a wheelchair user, you need to use the survey for wheelchair access.
If you are not a wheelchair user, you need to phone the box office on 0800 988 4440.
How could this process be made easier?
Here are some thoughts on suggestions about how to make the process easier:
- Have clear guidelines on the FAQ page. People who are disabled but not wheelchair users need to know where to go and what to do without having to trawl through the website.
- Have it written down clearly that people who have proof can obtain carer tickets.
- Make the pricing information clear and transparent.
These would be VERY EASY steps to implement. More information = better.
Now, in an ideal world...
Disabled people should be able to order online just as anyone else. Regarding needing a carer ticket, there could be a pricing option for this, with some coding magic. Then, people could be a) asked for their Access Card number or b) proof as to why they are entitled to a carer ticket. This would mean people who are trying to cheat would not be able to cheat since their ticket would get cancelled once a human had checked their order, just as for people who are trying to cheat the system and order more than 4 tickets during the presale and other forbidden things. (I would like to add there are people who would need carer tickets and should be entitled to them but unfortunately do not have proof, for various reasons. I don't know what to do about that, but the process should at the very least be straightforward for people who do have proof.)
At the very least, it should be possible to use email to order, for people who cannot use the phone. I was able to, in this instance, but it had a high cost on my abilities (or lack thereof) for the rest of the day. I noticed that wheelchair users who fill in the online survey need to then leave up to 10 working days to be phoned by the box office (again: phoned). If I were a wheelchair user, that would just not work for me as my phone goes straight to voicemail as due to my anxiety levels I simply cannot cope with knowing "a phonecall might come". Besides, having to wait 10 days to be phoned, even if requests are dealt with in order of arrival, seems like a time-consuming process.
Having the option available online to buy a disabled + carer ticket would not make it easier to cheat the system, it would just make the medium different, as right now I guess people can still attempt this by phone.
I hope you find this helpful if you are looking for answers about booking Hamilton tickets, and I hope Hamilton West End and Ticketmaster may be willing to help make the process smoother by adding information on their website.
PS: I swear if one more person calls me articulate... It took me 7 hours to write this. I swear if one more person calls me high functioning... It took me the rest of the day to recover from purchasing these tickets.