Friday, July 06, 2007

a TIFF rant already?! the fest is still two months away!

Those TIFF Bastards have really done it this time.

In addition to raising prices YET AGAIN for the 2007 film fest, they have -- in their infinite stupidity -- actually done away with the 30-coupon book.

WTF?!

The 30-coupon book was, in the past, one of the best deals going. It was the first thing to sell out every single year. It's been around FOREVER. It entitled you, and whomever you wanted to share it with, 30 TIFF tickets...to split however you saw fit (1 ticket for 30 movies, 2 tickets for 15 movies, whatever).

But it is gone -- GONE -- from the ticketing options this year. Just GONE. No explanation. Instead, the TIFF Bastards have bestowed upon fest-goers new lame passes -- the "Festival Experience" pass, where they pick the movies for you; the Family Passes; and the Midnight Madness pass. Thing is, none of these passes come close to being any kind of bargains. The MM Pass (which gets you one ticket to each of the ten MM screenings) is actually MORE expensive than if you just bought a book of 10 coupons and ordered ten MM tickets your own damn self.

Nevermind the fact that, now, people wanting 30 coupons will have to buy three books of 10 coupons...which means the fest can tack on their $2 (or whatever it is) per-item surcharge THREE TIMES instead of just once.

People are LIVID.

One friend of mine was so (rightfully) upset that she actually contacted the festivals's customer disservice department. Below is her account of what happened, which she emailed to all her fest buddies, and contact info for anyone else wishing to complain:

Hi everyone,

Most of you already know the 30-coupon book was eliminated from this year's Film Festival ticketing options. For those of us who ordered 30+ coupons either on our own or to share -- this essentially increases the coupon price by 16% -- i.e. the difference between a 10-coupon book and a 30-coupon book. I know some people were also concerned about having to submit multiple order forms, and the inconvenience of doing so.

I sent a complaint to CustomerRelations@tiffg.ca -- I got both an e-mail response as well as a phone call from Peter Reitzel, Senior Manager, Customer Relations and Ticketing. I know some of you have also complained, but I don't know if you'd gotten responses or not, so I wanted to let you know what I'd been told.

He said the reason for eliminating the 30-coupon book was "long term planning and efficiency" -- (yes, that's a direct quote). He said the festival was introducing a lot of new products and it was inefficient to have so many product options and thus decided to eliminate the 30-coupon book because it was essentially the same product as the 10-coupon book. He said many people were also intimidated by the 30-coupon book. He said it was not a decision driven to increase revenues. His exact words -- "not just unilateral money-making". He said the festival generally tries to keep their price increases at inflationary levels (although 16% doesn't really fit with that.) He also said that most of the new product offerings (although not all) were for the benefit of first-time festival goers or those who weren't comfortable with the regular ticketing process. I said that if there was a need to reduce product offerings, it felt to me like there were new products for new consumers, at the expense of eliminating something that worked well for long-time consumers of the festival -- and that made me feel undervalued as a long-term fan. He agreed he could understand this.

He didn't seem to get that public accessibility and affordability go hand-in-hand.

So how does this all lead to efficiency anyway... apparently the intention (although not clear on the website) is that if someone orders multiple 10-coupon books, they'll all be considered a single package and it will be expected that the film orders for the full package will be on a single order form. So for those of you who were concerned about having to submit multiple order forms for separate books of 10 -- no worries. You can put them all together. However, for those of you who group orders to get around those pesky phone fees, there may be a bit of a problem. I asked him why this wasn't more clear on the website, and he said it would be clear on the confirmation form after you submit your order. And then if you're not happy with that, and want to break up the order into separate packages, you'd need to call and complain.

I asked if there was any chance they'd reconsider bringing back the 30-coupon book, or introducing price breaks for those ordering multiple 10-books. He said they do a post-mortem every year, and the best thing to do was lodge a written complaint with CustomerRelations@tiffg.ca. So if you're upset by this (or you just want to help me in my complaint) please send a message to CustomerRelations@tiffg.ca. Feel free to pass this info on to any of your other festival friends.

p.s. If you're feeling really strongly and also want to call Peter Reitzel directly, his phone number is 416-934-5830. (I mentioned that I knew several other people who were upset by this, and he gave me a somewhat snarky response... so I told him that I'd be giving out his number.)


And, today, she sent this update after I asked to reprint her email:

By all means, please feel free to reprint my e-mail (with whatever additional comments you feel are necessary to the Moviepie blog).

Peter Reitzel had asked me "what I wanted" from our conversation and I said two things -- firstly, the truth. If it's a revenue-based decision, just say so. Be honest with the fans because we understand there's a need to make money. But he repeated several times that it wasn't a revenue-based decision. Secondly, I wanted some reassurance that they'd give careful consideration to bringing back the 30-coupon book (or some other volume coupon price break) next year. He said they do a post-mortem every year and look at complaints. So anything that helps get the word out and encourage people to e-mail their complaints to CustomerRelations@tiffg.ca sounds good to me. I did get the sense that e-mail complaints would be taken most seriously because not all the phone calls get logged, despite what the operators might say.


So there you go. Are you pissed off with the Toronto International Film Festival? Want to air your grievances? Git to writin'!

7 comments:

Parabola said...

I too was not impressed with the loss of the 30-pack! Thanks for posting this information, and it's good to see that there are more people out there who feel the same.

There had been some discussion on this point on the forums of tiffreviews.com. I quoted part of the letter you printed and referred people to your post.

Vickie said...

Thanks, parabola!

The executive decisions made my TIFF continue to astound me, and I'm relieved to hear I'm not alone. I hope enough people voice their opinions to the folks at the festival that they reconsider the loss of the 30-coupon book and think twice before making similar hair-brained decisions in years to come.

erikathegreen said...

I have also been highly annoyed at the lack of responsiveness of TIFF, and have put my concerns in writing. My biggest grievances are the exorbitant charges for out-of-town service, when they could just web-enable the whole dang thing, and how few tickets they allocate to people who plan ahead, meaning that by the time you can actually access their lame web ordering site many of the highest profile things are O/S.

I think these people actually think Torontonians & their guests LIKE endless last-minute queues. And DON'T get me started on the lottery.

*sheesh*

Vickie said...

Amen, erikathegreen! Amen.

The ticket lottery has been the source of extreme displeasure on my part and the part of many festgoers. You can read my past rant here. It was written way back in 2002, but not a thing has changed.

If anything, their whole system has gotten worse. Their new premium pricing for the Elgin is a joke -- $37.50 + taxes + fees?! Are they kidding? I see that a bunch of the Elgin screenings have sold out, and I wonder how that's going to work for those of us with coupons/passes. Are they going to hand out memos along with the program books, noting "don't bother ordering tickets for this film, it's already sold out!"?

Thanks for reading and commenting. We love hearing from other TIFFers!

Ali said...

When I bought my two 10-coupon booklets, I asked the TIFF employee behind the desk (at the Manulife Centre location) why they had done away with the 30-coupon option... his response?

"We weren't charging enough for it."

I think that statement really flies in the face of this "it's not about increasing revenue" posturing. I'll surely be letting customer service know about this and my frustration.

vickie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vickie said...

OMG, he really said that?! You should include THAT gem in your complaint. Obviously, the Official Company Line was communicated properly to that individual, so you got a more candid response.

But, really, if that were true -- that it was simply an issue of the 30-coupon book not costing enough -- then they could have just raised the price, couldn't they?