Monday, September 05, 2005

TIFF Entry #3: The Efficiency Experts?

Just a quick entry to wonder aloud (or in writing, as it were) whether someone somewhere slipped TIFF execs a link to my festival diary last year…because I continue to be stunned by – and unexpectedly pleased with – the way the festival is running this year. As I mentioned in previous posts here, the world of TIFF is different in 2005. The “let’s dream up imaginative new ways to stick it to the moviegoer!” mindset seems to have evaporated in favor of helpful, efficient and downright rewarding policies and procedures.

Today was Order Pick-Up Day, a day when (in previous years) folks would start lining up at the crack of dawn so that, by the time the box office opened its doors for business, there were easily hundreds and hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of people waiting. You’d wait in line for, say, two hours for the box office to open, and then stand for another hour (or more) waiting to get to the front of the massive line.

Not this year. This year, they split the mammoth line in two, by last name. Okay, so that’s a nice start, I thought. Cuts down the sheer scope of the line by half. The email notification also trimmed the line numbers considerably, it seemed. I arrived at 8am for the 10am opening, anticipating an overall finish time of around 11am. But when I showed up, there were only two short lines (A-L and M-Z), and I was maybe the 75th person in my line. Once the box office opened at 10am, the line FLEW! I was in and out by 10:05!! I have never, NEVER!, finished that quickly before. And it wasn’t rushed, it wasn’t cramped, it wasn’t chaotic.

It was quick and tidy and efficient and orderly and, dare I say it, PLEASANT!

Oh, and the $75 worth of free food was, indeed, part of every single tote bag.

Will festival wonders never cease?

Or will the usual, harsher festival reality return with a wallop come Thursday?

(Note: They did, however, neglect to erect a single Board of Lies as of yet, so many people were furrowing their brows this morning as they waited to exchange tickets without advance notice of what was already sold out.)

(Note 2: Okay, so maybe all isn't as idyllic as I thought. Evidently, no one knows what time the Manulife box office opens tomorrow. It's like a comedy of errors -- the website and official schedule say 10am, two volunteers I asked said 10am, but one volunteer AND a sign posted AT the box office say 7am. How hard can it be to coordinate information amongst the staff??)


The_Voice said...

Speaking as someone who was in the "exchange" line for 4.5 hours, and then after hitting the front, realized that it wasn't entirely PEOPLE who slowed it down, but was the incompetancy of the "cashier". Why did they need to know my last name? Why did they need to navigate a system when I had barcodes ready?

Vickie said...

Yeah, I knew I posted that "Wow! They're FAST!" thought too soon.

That exchange line was insane. I walked past it on Monday, saw it snaking all the way along Balmuto to Charles St., and left.

I went back to the exchange line on Tuesday morning, when it was considerably shorter (but still long enough that I was there for an hour). Not so much with the efficiency and problem-free ticketing this time around, though. The two volunteers "working" the line were terrible. Since the line was broken (half inside, half outside...a block away!), they were supposed to:

a) keep people from joining the end of the *inside* line by...

b) correctly directing them *outside* where the line continued, until...

c) move outside people inside every 10 minutes or so, as space permitted

That's pretty much it.

But I can't tell you how many times my fellow line-mates and I were the ones directing foot traffic and dispensing information! The volunteer inside would routinely disappear, leaving no one to answer questions or point to lines or wrangle confused ticketholders. Not that she was all that well-versed in TIFF info, anyway.

The volunteer outside, who seemed to be in a rather foul mood, did the same thing...turn around, she's gone!...resulting in the inside volunteer literally RUNNING around trying to find her. I know they've used radios in the past to coordinate info/action between volunteers, and to avoid all the running, but I guess not this year.

When I finally got close to the box office entrance, I looked in through the glass and saw the inside volunteer being chewed out by, I assume, the box office manager or volunteer manager. Heh.

And, really, why only SIX cashiers?!? When they operated out of College Park, they had at least double that! I realize the space is smaller...but then why not set up temporary shop someplace bigger?

I will say, though, that there were more than a few exchangers who were CLEARLY unprepared for the process. There were two women who were in there for at least 20 minutes. Probably longer, actually, since they were way ahead of me in line and still in when I left -- standing at the cashier, MULLING OVER CHOICES BY LEISURELY THUMBING THROUGH THE PROGRAM BOOK! No, no, no. At this point in the process, you go in with your list of choices ready! You have your alternates lined up! You go through them one by one! If there aren't any tickets left, you don't stand there, hogging the cashier, while you hem and haw over what to do and what to see instead! Okay, maybe for 5 or 10 minutes, fine. But 20 minutes and counting?!

Of course, it would have been up to a volunteer to say something, but none did. And the women stood. They may, in fact, still be there now.