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The ROH booking website - what can we do?


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Recent booking experiences have reached new lows, which deserves a new thread. Those who have long memories of booking online for the ROH will remember previous, seemingly terminal, issues with the booking process, to the extent that people would come on here to post their astonishment that it worked ok for them this time round. The sums the ROH has spent over the years building the current website have been rumoured; certainly the companies involved have earned very well off the back of a state-subsidised business that clearly does not have the in-house competencies to manage a web-design and ticketing process properly. One wonders who does this work for other theatres, where problems, if and when they emerge, seem not to return again and again over years.

I am a Friends+, so fall between higher-paying supporters, and ordinary Friends and the general public. I had been tipped off by higher-level supporters that the "new" system being introduced was causing problems, but if given the choice, to select the "new" system. Don't know whether that was the best advice as things turned out, but it was certainly logical advice (one can assume that if a "new" site is being introduced, that must be because there are unresolvable problems with the old one - we could have told ROH that, by the way, but of course they presumably only speak to people who tell them what they want to hear).

Needless to say it took me over two hours this week to book a few tickets for the next season, using two different laptops and an Ipad. My heart goes out to those using, say, equipment in a public library, or those whose eyesight or fine motor skill challenges them to locate tiny dots on screen and click with accuracy. This new thing has been terribly designed and, at the risk of stating the obvious, did not work on a day when more than a couple of people wanted to buy tickets at the same time.

This morning the Friends office sent out a poorly timed and somewhat patronising email instructing people to use the following tricks when trying to send money to the ROH:

- Signing out of your online account and back in again
- Pressing the Ctrl and F5 keys on your keyboard together to refresh the webpage
- Clearing your browser cookies and data
- Using an incognito browsing window


Well, ROH, I tried the first three of those suggestions at the time, and they didn't work for me. But no doubt the wizards responsible say such things to subtly imply that any problems with the website are somehow the fault of us technically-challenged customers, rather than their design. 

 

If you had a good and easy time, that's grand to know, but this is the first booking period in decades of being a Friend which has resulted in every single person I know who was also booking had similar (or worse) problems. I just tried writing a reply to the Friends email but got a standard response which says, first:

Our normal opening hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, excepting Bank Holidays. This inbox is not monitored outside of these hours.  

This is reasonable enough except why have they sent out an email which begs for a response first thing on a Saturday? Pity the poor staffer who opens the in-box on Monday morning. But then it says, and this might be interesting for everyone, not just Friends, to note:

For any ticketing queries, please email boxoffice@roh.org.uk. Due to the current high volume of enquiries it is taking up to 10 days for the team to respond.  

 

I think we can take it from this that the normally super-efficient and friendly box-office staff have been inundated with complaints this week. As management clearly does not see fit to put in short-term contract staff to help break a log jam, we paying punters are not only treated as badly as a booking website knows how, but are expected to wait a long time before anything can be put right. 

 

What can we do? Past experience shows that however carefully and courteously we complain, the website only changes, it does not necessarily get any better. I know this business is tricky but the ROH has been spending millions on so-called professionals to get it working properly. Maybe someone on here who is friendly with a member of the board could have a wee word?

 

Edited by Geoff
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hi Geoff, sorry to hear your tale of woe! Rather dispriting, from a 'world class' operation! Leaves you wondering why they have changed it all - again! - as it seemed to have been working OK recently.

Is it working for you now? I've just had an experimental go, and got as far as dropping a Swan Lake and R&J ticket into my basket, and only cancelled when prompted for payment (as I really didn't want to buy 2 x £100+ tickets!). So curious as to where the fail was for you, or was it down to a certain vaolume of users? Or perhaps they have fixed it? Interestingly, as the queue box came up, there flashed a temporary message about the new ticketing sysytem, but I wasn't given a choice of which to use

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33 minutes ago, Geoff said:

But no doubt the wizards responsible say such things to subtly imply that any problems with the website are somehow the fault of us technically-challenged customers, rather than their design. 

I agree, the message to Friends with handy hints and tips made me rather irritated. It should just - work.

 

I have had no problems for ages so presumably it is as Lizbie1 said- they have introduced changes, but not tested them properly.

 

Dave, I found it froze at different stages of the process, there was no one particular  point.

There must have been far fewer people online on Friends+ day than there would be on Friends day or General Booking day, so heaven help people then.

 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, Geoff said:

Recent booking experiences have reached new lows, which deserves a new thread. Those who have long memories of booking online for the ROH will remember previous, seemingly terminal, issues with the booking process, to the extent that people would come on here to post their astonishment that it worked ok for them this time round. The sums the ROH has spent over the years building the current website have been rumoured; certainly the companies involved have earned very well off the back of a state-subsidised business that clearly does not have the in-house competencies to manage a web-design and ticketing process properly. One wonders who does this work for other theatres, where problems, if and when they emerge, seem not to return again and again over years.

I am a Friends+, so fall between higher-paying supporters, and ordinary Friends and the general public. I had been tipped off by higher-level supporters that the "new" system being introduced was causing problems, but if given the choice, to select the "new" system. Don't know whether that was the best advice as things turned out, but it was certainly logical advice (one can assume that if a "new" site is being introduced, that must be because there are unresolvable problems with the old one - we could have told ROH that, by the way, but of course they presumably only speak to people who tell them what they want to hear).

Needless to say it took me over two hours this week to book a few tickets for the next season, using two different laptops and an Ipad. My heart goes out to those using, say, equipment in a public library, or those whose eyesight or fine motor skill challenges them to locate tiny dots on screen and click with accuracy. This new thing has been terribly designed and, at the risk of stating the obvious, did not work on a day when more than a couple of people wanted to buy tickets at the same time.

This morning the Friends office sent out a poorly timed and somewhat patronising email instructing people to use the following tricks when trying to send money to the ROH:

- Signing out of your online account and back in again
- Pressing the Ctrl and F5 keys on your keyboard together to refresh the webpage
- Clearing your browser cookies and data
- Using an incognito browsing window


Well, ROH, I tried the first three of those suggestions at the time, and they didn't work for me. But no doubt the wizards responsible say such things to subtly imply that any problems with the website are somehow the fault of us technically-challenged customers, rather than their design. 

 

If you had a good and easy time, that's grand to know, but this is the first booking period in decades of being a Friend which has resulted in every single person I know who was also booking had similar (or worse) problems. I just tried writing a reply to the Friends email but got a standard response which says, first:

Our normal opening hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, excepting Bank Holidays. This inbox is not monitored outside of these hours.  

This is reasonable enough except why have they sent out an email which begs for a response first thing on a Saturday? Pity the poor staffer who opens the in-box on Monday morning. But then it says, and this might be interesting for everyone, not just Friends, to note:

For any ticketing queries, please email boxoffice@roh.org.uk. Due to the current high volume of enquiries it is taking up to 10 days for the team to respond.  

 

I think we can take it from this that the normally super-efficient and friendly box-office staff have been inundated with complaints this week. As management clearly does not see fit to put in short-term contract staff to help break a log jam, we paying punters are not only treated as badly as a booking website knows how, but are expected to wait a long time before anything can be put right. 

 

What can we do? Past experience shows that however carefully and courteously we complain, the website only changes, it does not necessarily get any better. I know this business is tricky but the ROH has been spending millions on so-called professionals to get it working properly. Maybe someone on here who is friendly with a member of the board could have a wee word?

 


Geoff - would you feel able to share the contents of your post with Alex Beard? The ROH really does need to attend to its public face far better than this and you are making the points so well.

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12 minutes ago, zxDaveM said:

 

Is it working for you now? I've just had an experimental go, and got as far as dropping a Swan Lake and R&J ticket into my basket, and only cancelled when prompted for payment (as I really didn't want to buy 2 x £100+ tickets!). So curious as to where the fail was for you, or was it down to a certain vaolume of users? Or perhaps they have fixed it? Interestingly, as the queue box came up, there flashed a temporary message about the new ticketing sysytem, but I wasn't given a choice of which to use

 

Inspired by your experiment I also tried booking for R&J and found two completely different sets of screens depending on whether I was logged in as a so-called "Friend" (new booking system) or public (old booking system).  The Friend's process seems to have changed even since I booked, from a new picture for "You're in the queue" (that'll fix everything) to a new screen for "Would you like to add anything" which - to the ROH credit - makes the donation clear and does redirect to main site to purchase more tickets without having to check out first. 

 

I had no problems but I was on at the crack of dawn (considerably before dawn here) on the first day and agree the thing should just work. 

 

 

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15 minutes ago, capybara said:


Geoff - would you feel able to share the contents of your post with Alex Beard? The ROH really does need to attend to its public face far better than this and you are making the points so well.

 

The individual who was quoted on this forum describing an unsighted seat in the Linbury as "great value"?  I think that's the problem not the answer. 

 

 

Edited by oncnp
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I've just tried this out of interest to buy a ticket for Swan Lake and got Page not found (error 404). Luckily I didn't actually want a ticket but there's something seriously wrong with the booking system when it can't even go to a page to actually book a ticket. I'm not looking forward to general booking if this continues. Let's hope they've fixed it by then. It gives them until 22nd Feb to sort it out. Good luck everyone for Friends booking.

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I've been playing with bookings without clearing any cookies or site data since the Thursday and it's been very hit and miss, so I can't see how this week's problems are down to that to any meaningful degree.

 

FWIW I went with the old system - my problems on Thursday occurred before I had the choice, so can't I think be attributed to it. The reason I did this was because I thought that in the booking scramble the newer one would be slower, partly because there is an additional page for choosing between using the seat map and having "best seats" allocated. (Similarly, I don't like having to OK the message about maximum seat purchases every time.) After that, the "new" seat map has always struck me as slow to load and my hunch was and remains that it is a potential strain on the system at times of high traffic.

 

Given all this, I wouldn't be surprised if ROH decides to fall back on the old system for Friends and General booking this time round.

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I am a Friends+ as well (I wish they could think of a better name than that!) - I tried to use the new booking system on Thursday morning but on having confirmed that I was happy to use the new booking system the page just got stuck. I started again and used the old version and it was fine. 

 

I wasn't sure whether it was a problem with my connection at work or not but clearly not.

 

I have just tried again using the new version this morning and it seemed to work fine; were the problems on Thursday caused by demand?

 

We could try emailing membership@roh.org.uk - which is the Friends' contact email address

 

 

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Something is definitely amiss. When I sign in and look for my future events, there aren't any (when there should be)

 

On the what's on page , all productions have the same picture.

 

Once I sign in, I'm not shown as signed in when I go to the what's on page.

 

I can add a ticket to a basket - but if I can't sign in, I can't check out.

 

Sigh. 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Lynette H said:

Something is definitely amiss. When I sign in and look for my future events, there aren't any (when there should be)

 

On the what's on page , all productions have the same picture.

 

Once I sign in, I'm not shown as signed in when I go to the what's on page.

 

I can add a ticket to a basket - but if I can't sign in, I can't check out.

 

Sigh. 

 

 

 

Yikes, that is bad.

 

I don't want to sound like their email, but have you tried clearing the cache rather than cookies? It's worked for others here and is far less disruptive. (I wish they'd advise this specifically as a first step.)

 

I don't think this will resolve everything but it could help with some.

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I’ve just booked tickets for a production at the state theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  It took me less than 5 minutes to set-up an account and complete the purchase.  (They did have 3 language options, including English.)

 

Can’t help feeling ashamed by ROH.   

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Hi Lizbie

I have tried again, and repeatedly refreshing the screen seemed to clear it. Which is a relief. 

 

I will have a go at clearing the cache well before booking opens though, just in case. 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, FionaE said:

I’ve just booked tickets for a production at the state theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  It took me less than 5 minutes to set-up an account and complete the purchase.  (They did have 3 language options, including English.)

 

Can’t help feeling ashamed by ROH.   


Indeed. And also ashamed of the fact that they seem completely incapable of answering the phone.

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Might it help if someone who knows about these things could:

 

a.  Differentiate 'Cache' from 'Cookies.'

b.  Say how to find them, and 

c.  Explain how to delete as required?

 

Just askin', as folk say these days.

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4 hours ago, oncnp said:

 

Inspired by your experiment I also tried booking for R&J and found two completely different sets of screens depending on whether I was logged in as a so-called "Friend" (new booking system) or public (old booking system). 

 

 

ah - I'm not a Friend, so was on the 'old' system I guess. Sounds like they need to roll back to that...

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Just a quick question, how are people returning tickets?

 

I've got to return one as I have a friend who has Covid and will not be able to attend a Bajazet performance with me on Saturday 12th February, 7.15pm. I've called multiple times, been put on hold constantly, and they also haven't responded to my email regarding the refund for ticket credit. It seems they are incapable of responding in any way at all...

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1 hour ago, Mary said:

I have always had a fairly quick reply when I've had to email the box office about a return- usually by the next working day. I email the box office directly.

 

Yes I email the box office too and they are usually reasonably prompt (within 2 or 3 days; sometimes sooner). However in Jan I emailed about a Romeo return I wanted converting to a credit voucher and I seemed to be waiting for days. I was getting slightly concerned as I was only 3 or 4 days to the actual performance and I was going to try and ring when I got an email reply with my voucher number. The address I use is boxoffice@roh.org.uk. I seem to have another address I don't use as often so I'm assuming it's still valid; online.booking@roh.org.uk

 

I too got the email about dealing with booking problems and found it very irritating as it seemed to assume everyone knew what they were talking about. However, I have no idea how to do the 3rd point (clearing cookies, let alone cache as I have no idea what that is).

As for the fourth point 'use an incognito browsing window' what does that mean in English and how do you do it? If the ROH do use technical terms they should accompany them with an explanation as to how to carry them out for us technically challenged users.

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2 hours ago, art_enthusiast said:

Just a quick question, how are people returning tickets?

 

I've got to return one as I have a friend who has Covid and will not be able to attend a Bajazet performance with me on Saturday 12th February, 7.15pm. I've called multiple times, been put on hold constantly, and they also haven't responded to my email regarding the refund for ticket credit. It seems they are incapable of responding in any way at all...

 

in my experience, if you follow the instructions on the ROH website relating to returns & refunds, it will be dealt with in a timely manner.  an excerpt from that page states that:

 

Refund, exchange or offer tickets for resale

We cannot exchange tickets to another ROH production or give refunds.

Up to 24 hours before the performance, you can exchange tickets for a gift certificate. You will be charged an administrative fee of £4 per ticket.

If it is less than 24 hours before the performance, you can offer your tickets for resale through the ROH Box Office. You will be charged an administrative fee of £4 per ticket.

All requests must be emailed to Box Office. Please read our Terms and Conditions of sale.

 
Box Office
 
 
 

 

the most important sentence to note in the above excerpt is:  "All requests must be emailed to Box Office".   phoning is no longer an option for the general public unless you have special circumstances.  

e.g. i emailed yesterday morning (4th January) in respect of a ticket return for this evening (5th January).  i find it helps to put the subject, name of the performance, date of performance and order number in the email title, repeating this with further information in the body of the email since emails relating to returns are dealt with in order of performance date .  i immediately received an auto-response advising me that request received and 24 hours later I received my credit voucher.  the system works if you follow it.

 

in respect of cancellations due to Covid, there is an additional paragraph:

 

COVID-19 refunds or exchanges

Performances continue to be affected by COVID-19 and latest government guidance. If you have tickets for a performance that is cancelled or postponed, we will contact you to offer you a refund or exchange.

We stand by our 'Book with Confidence, Exchange with Ease' pledge, as we know how important it is in current times.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, have been told to self-isolate or tested positive for COVID-19, please do not come to the theatre. Email the Box Office as soon as possible but no later than the start of the performance and we will exchange your ticket for a gift certificate.

Please note that you may not receive an exchange confirmation before the performance start time, but be assured your request will be processed within seven working days.

Check our Terms and Conditions of sale.

 
Box Office
 
 
 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, jmhopton said:

 

As for the fourth point 'use an incognito browsing window' what does that mean in English and how do you do it? If the ROH do use technical terms they should accompany them with an explanation as to how to carry them out for us technically challenged users.


Most browsers have a button or other option to open an incognito window or tab which means it is unable to track, read or place cookies on your device. In other words it’s like visiting a website for the first time. 

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1 minute ago, Rob S said:


Most browsers have a button or other option to open an incognito window or tab which means it is unable to track, read or place cookies on your device. In other words it’s like visiting a website for the first time. 

 

I discovered incognito browsing after receiving the ROH email, but when I went to the ROH website in incognito mode an error message came up about cookies being disabled and then the ROH asked if I would accept their cookies... Your post implies that I should reject the ROH cookies, or that the browser wouldn't accept them anyway. But how am I supposed to know what to do?! Honestly. Life is too short and all that.

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Just now, oncnp said:

 

Not in my experience. Submitted ticket returns several weeks ago and still waiting. 

 

And I never received the credit due from a cancelled Nutcracker in December; I eventually chased it (long after the 10 days they said it might take) and then chased it again when no response, and then was sent a credit for slightly less than the correct amount (which I kept because I just wanted to be done with it). Now I've received a credit for the right amount with a different reference number... So I have a credit to which I'm not entitled, and I've emailed them about that. Ho hum.

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21 minutes ago, bridiem said:

 

I discovered incognito browsing after receiving the ROH email, but when I went to the ROH website in incognito mode an error message came up about cookies being disabled and then the ROH asked if I would accept their cookies... Your post implies that I should reject the ROH cookies, or that the browser wouldn't accept them anyway. But how am I supposed to know what to do?! Honestly. Life is too short and all that.


You’re creating a new temporary cookie. Different to the one in your usual windows. Like you are visiting that website for the first time. 

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I’m sorry to read other people’s experience is not the same as mine.

 

In respect of tickets I have needed to return I have experienced no problems and no unreasonable delays.

 

In respect of the Nutcracker performances cancelled by the ROH over the festive season, I didn’t act immediately on the email I received. That said, I received notification of my credit vouchers and refund a couple of days ago. Perhaps not within the 10 days aimed at by the ROH, but not too long beyond that. 
 

These are still difficult times both for patrons and for the ROH and I find a little patience pays dividends for my blood pressure & my sanity. I have witnessed how hard-working the box office staff are each time I attend a performance. In between dealing with patrons face to face, the box office staff are processing email enquiries including returns and refunds on their computers. 

Edited by prs59
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6 minutes ago, prs59 said:

In respect of tickets I have needed to return I have experienced no problems and no unreasonable delays.

 

In respect of the Nutcracker performances cancelled by the ROH over the festive season, I didn’t act immediately on the email I received. That said, I received notification of my credit vouchers and refund a couple of days ago. Perhaps not within the 10 days aimed at by the ROH, but not too long beyond that. 
 

These are still difficult times both for patrons and for the ROH and I find a little patience pays dividends for my sanity. I have witnessed how hard-working the box office staff are each time I attend a performance. In between dealing with patrons face to face, the box office staff are processing email enquiries including returns and refunds on their computers. 

 

Well, yes - patience is necessary and appropriate (as is courtesy to the box office staff, who I'm sure are working very hard). But at some point you do wonder if something has gone wrong when it's weeks after what was supposed to be the maximum time for a credit to be issued. (Better not to give a timescale at all.) I also feel sorry for the staff because I get the impression that the whole refund/credit system is still very cumbersome.

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5 hours ago, Ian Macmillan said:

Might it help if someone who knows about these things could:

 

a.  Differentiate 'Cache' from 'Cookies.'

b.  Say how to find them, and 

c.  Explain how to delete as required?

 

Just askin', as folk say these days.

 

I'm not someone who *really* knows about these things, but here goes. Others with less shallow knowledge than me might have corrections.

 

a) The cache stores images and other files so that when you go back to the same website it doesn't have to download them again, speeding up the process. In my experience, on a reasonable broadband connection this makes little appreciable difference, though if you have a slow connection it might. For mobile connections, there might be more of a difference (again depends on your connection) and also it will use a bit more of your data allowance. Cookies on the other hand - very generally and in this context! - store your personal information on your device so that the website knows who you are or who your device is, and what you've been looking at - if you delete all your cookies as is often advised you'll need to sign in everywhere again.

 

b and c) NB I haven't checked for currency, but for the main browsers these instructions should I hope help. Note also that some of these are for clearing the cache *and* cookies, so adjust the instructions as appropriate if you only want to clear one of the two:

Chromehttps://support.google.com/accounts/answer/32050?hl=en&co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop

Edgehttps://support.microsoft.com/en-us/search?query=edge clear cookies and cache

Safari on a Machttps://oit.colorado.edu/tutorial/clear-web-browser-cache-safari

Safari on an iPad or iPhone or whatnothttps://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201265

Firefoxhttps://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-clear-firefox-cache

Edited by Lizbie1
extra Safari instructions
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Re: Returns

 

This is not great news for people who a) have a brain, b) would like to book in advance to make plans, but I found that for returns, the more last minute it is, the faster the response (and the credit voucher goes straight in).

 

Obviously (I suppose) the box office staff do this so that empty seats from people who absolutely can’t go (eg just tested positive for Covid) at the last minute don’t go to waste, but it’s sad that the ones that have a bit more time to spare aren’t being processed as carefully. I can only suggest emailing the department or the ROH CEO to point out what’s gone wrong for you.

 

I have to say ROH used to have the best, most user friendly buying website in the world 5-8 years ago. Hands down, even better than the online supermarkets, departmental store websites, etc. Especially when you could check seat views too. If anyone from the Opera House sales or IT Team is reading this....can we have it back?  

Edited by Emeralds
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