Sunday, 19 February 2012

Spring of Confusion

Communications let-down as tickets go on sale

When the billboards for Spring of Culture started going up last week, the line-up of stars and shows was uplifting at a time when Bahrain needs it the most.

Names like Iglesias (first announced on twitter by @Bahrainivents), Bocelli, Kidjo as well as shows like Princess Bari promised a packed couple of months with activities for all age groups.

International star Andrea Bocelli scheduled to perform at the Bahrain National Museum

Tribute concert to Um Kulthoom as part of Bahrain's Spring of Culture

Like many events in Bahrain though, the announcements were made before the back office support was put in place.  A disorganized website at the time of launch, lack of clear announcements on ticket sale timings and points of sale, and then to top it off, total confusion once the tickets started being sold. 

While I have absolute confidence that the shows will meet everyone's expectations, I am compelled to give a platform to customers' voices who experienced first-hand the disorganisation and lack of communication that occurred earlier today when the tickets went on sale. The longer-than-usual post is to be able to show the extent of the problem.

The following is @L_FJ’s account of what happened when they went to buy their tickets:

“Went to buy tickets from Virgin Megastores in cc [City Center] at 10:30 am. When I got there they told me and a group of others that they haven't received the tickets from the ministry yet but asked us to write our names, numbers, class and number of tickets we needed and they will call us to come pick them up as soon as they get them.

I specifically asked if doing this confirmed our seats and they said it guaranteed us tickets for the show in the class seating we've requested but that they will call us to confirm seat numbers as soon as they get details.  We told them that online booking will start at noon and they said not to worry that they'd call us in time to get good seats.

When they didn't call (at) noon I decided to follow up with them at 12:30 and they transferred me to an extension that rings off. Called again at 3:45, I'm transferred again then they hang up on me. I call a third time and I'm then given another number which I call a couple of times until they pickup.  I speak to the rep and he tells me I need to book online.  Told him that wasn't acceptable and I'd like to speak to one of the reps I saw this morning so he takes my number to call me back.  15 mins later the lady I initially spoke to at the store calls back and says sorry the tickets from ministry still haven't been delivered and that I needed to go to the virgin store in order for them to book seats for me online!! AND I would need to wait in line because there is a long list of people now at the store waiting to buy tickets for the same show!!

Thank God we went online and booked the tickets ourselves as soon as they didn't answer me at 12:30.”

Later on the same day, at around 5:15pm, Virgin called back to say that the booking should now be made online!! 

While the tickets receipts are now confirmed via email, they still need to go to Virgin to exchange them for the hard copy original ticket.    Why so complicated and customer- unfriendly?

To make matters worse, it seems that the online booking on Virgin’s website was down for a while, as evident from the following tweet trail:
Andrea Bocelli tickets are now removed from Virgin Bahrain ticket site !! What's happening ?! cc @Bahrainivents
RshRsho Bahrainivents maybe its sold out?

DilKnml RshRsho relax girls its nt sold out:) bt there is a lot of miscom from the officials on this :( we heard the date is 22nd 4 virgin

in reply to 
Bahrainivents DilKnml I had issue when I was booking and called Virgin they said maybe they'l have it today evening :S

And another account:

EmanAlDoseri: Maria_Khoury128 Andrea Bocelli tickets are no long available online to buy strange!”@AmyLWarman :( hope mine are valid
  • in reply to  
@Maria_Khoury128 @amylwarman the online sale is back on.. So tickets are valid. 

And yet another:

Shame on #bahrainspringofcultureorganizers. I got my Bocelli tickets on-line after getting zero info from people at Virgin store desk
There will b a heap of disappointed fans given lack of proper organization so typical of #Bahrain#previoustweet
· @RshRshono way!! I just got mine half hour ago
· @Alia Almoayed #springofculture ticket sales so disorganised. Very disappointing. #Bahrain
· @mamadoodas in reply to Alia Almoayed
               @AliaAlmoayedI just tweeted abt this 2. Been running in circles. Eventually got on-line but I hear they've take on-line sales down.
           @AliaAlmoayed virgin was letting people put names down to reserve tickets (was there in morning) but no guarantee of ticket.
· @Bahrainivents
               i really wish they could their act together for this. its just ticket sales, how difficult can it be !
· @mamadoodas in reply to Bahrainivents

     @Bahrainiventsand it's not the 1st year they do this.

Once the online vehicle was up and running, ticket purchase was smooth (just a word of caution though, they only accept Visa or Mastercard).

It could be that the mess-up was with the online vehicle and Virgin store only; other experiences at Seef show smoother flow:
  • @AdelMaymoonBahrainivents Just got my tickets for Julio Iglesias concert from Seef Mall. Very smooth, it took me only 3 minutes!

However, I also received the following account from @MariamFida describing her experience:

"The 2 main events that I was interested in were the concerts of Julio Iglesias and Andrea Bocelli... The way I knew they were coming was by seeing the ads on the main roads of Bahrain... when we tried finding more information regarding tickets, times, venue.. etc, there were none... we even tried going to Andrea Bocelli's main web page and it only mentioned the date he's performing.

So today morning at 11am I called the number provided in the ads (39900630)... The lady mentioned that tickets for Julio Iglesias are already being sold in Seef Mall and that there are many people so I should rush... whereas tickets for Andrea Bocelli were going to be available online at 12pm or we can go get them from Virgin at City Center at 4pm...

I left work and went to Seef... I waited in queue from 11:30am to 1:30pm... I got the tickets at 1:40pm!!! By that time I couldn't breathe from the back pain!!...

I would totally understand if there were hundreds of ppl in line... but there were barely 30 or so infront of me (most came together so let's say 20 orders/bookings)...

People who sold the tickets were very nice and helpful so I can't really say anything about them... the whole process was really slow as they were asking ppl for their information (names, e-mail, phone)... but I think for such big events, we should have lots of venues with lots of people selling tickets... or the best thing would be to let us get the tickets online...

Also, regarding Andrea Bocelli's tickets, for a while (around 12:30pm) we were able to access the tickets' page... but then later on (around 2:15pm) the only event shown on the Spring Festival website was Um Kalthoom's... A while later Andrea Bocelli's concert came up below Um Kalthoom's event... that's when I was able to book my tickets... but unfortunately by that time the tickets I choose earlier were sold out...
1 more thing... How come when we booked online for the Andrea Bocelli concert, while the event is IN Bahrain and we are buying the tickets IN Bahrain yet we had to pay in Emarati Dirhams?"

The difference between the two points of sale apparently is that Ministry of Culture is handling all events at the Bahrain National Museum (i.e., Virgin sales) while EDB is handling all events at Arad Fort (i.e., Seef sales).  

Food for thought??

Verdict: If I were reviewing the event line-up and the wow factor of the shows, my rating would be different, but for the lack of communication, organisation/ alignment in online promotion and clarity in announcements, 2 thumz down is the only way to go.  Please organizers,  let's get it together and put on a show that is illustrative of what we can do when we do it right!

I look forward to hearing from readers once the shows have started and will be posting reviews for the shows themselves once the program is underway.

For more information or for unofficial information, follow @Bahrainivents who in the absence of official information, has done an amazing job with their own SoC calendar. 


  1. Well, I am yet to hear back from @MoC_BH or @Bahrainedb about this post, but @VirginMegaME have responded via twitter with the following comment:

    " @VirginMegaME
    Virgin Megastore ME
    @My2Thumz Hey, we read your blogpost and apologies for all the troubles you went through. We've informed senior management regarding this!"

    I hope we get an official response explaining the mess-up and if I do get anything, I will post it for sure!

    Thanks to Virgin ME for the response.

  2. Subsequent to @VirginMegaMe's initial tweet, they provided the following explanation via twitter:

    In reply to My 2 Thumz
    Virgin Megastore ME@VirginMegaME Reply:

    "@My2Thumz We had some technical difficulties on the first day of the sale and we apologize for the inconvenience caused to any customers.

    The issue was solved that day and the ticket sales went smoothly after that. If anyone is still looking to buy tickets, there is a limited quantity left on sale in-store."

    Thank you to Virgin for their responsiveness.

    Note to readers: the Andrea Bocelli concert is now sold out- tickets are no longer available.


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