Friday, 13 July 2007

Uncommonly Asked Questions!

The most common question I am currently asked at work is not, as you may think, if I would like a cup of tea. It is of course “can you tell me if Connie is on tonight?” However, we do get asked the most odd questions on occasion…..

Today my first customer informed me that she was going to ask me a really unusual question, so naturally I braced myself and prepared for the worst. What could it be? Did she want the recipe for strudel perhaps, or perchance where would she be able to buy a habit like the Mother Abbesses (Marks and Sparks?). No. This unusual question was “Do you do matinees?” I ask you!

Next came a rather fragile old lady. Bless her! Her twin sister had been to see the show the previous week and sat in the upper circle. She wanted cheaper seats but she felt that it would be too high for herself as she couldn’t manage the stairs. “ I have a walking stick she told me and I have fits.” Naturally it followed that I asked if she was registered disabled, in order to offer the relevant discount, so asked her….”I have a walking stick. Look!” she replied, finally I did manage to ascertain that she was registered, so passed on the relevant information and she was quite happy. Of course she did want to see Connie Fisher AND attend a Wednesday matinee which gave the whole thing another dimension and so had to go and think about it. However she was happy and, clutching a flyer, began to leave. But not before asking one more question. “What’s the managers phone number?” Now this is never a simple answer as we always need to ascertain if the manager is the appropriate person for the customers query so I had to ask her of course. “My husbands looking for a job" . I explained that the best thing would for him to send in a CV rather than telephone and queried what sort of job he would be interested in. “Actor or Usher/Usherette”. Well that wasn’t what I expected to hear. I wonder if that’s how Lesley Garrett got to be in “The Sound Of Music” . Maybe she was only aiming to sell ice creams and just struck lucky!

Far from customers like this being irritating they are one of the joys of the job. Working in theatre we regularly find ourselves faced with the eccentric and the bizarre – although that’s usually just the staff! We used to have a regular Sunday concert customer (one of the Palladiums faithful band who attend EVERY concert regardless of who is performing) who would come into the box office and shout every request. Frequently he would pepper his questions by yelling “the Chinese man keeps calling me a poof”. I believe that he would also call customer relations along the same lines…..Then there was the mother and daughter who would come to see “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” on multiple occasions and had a strange purchasing technique. Firstly they would come to the window and spend around half an hour asking questions about the availability for specific performances in particular detail. Then they would leave the window and go and huddle in the corridor for a further thirty minutes, whispering to each other and furtively peering at us at regular intervals. Then they would finally return to us and ask all of the same questions a further time. Some times they then bought tickets. Sometimes further huddles followed before they purchased tickets. Sometimes however they would leave and return the following day and go through the whole process again.! There’s nowt so queer as folk!

Possibly the most bizarre thing that used to happen at the Palladium is when customers would go to the closed blind and begin asking questions at the closed window rather than going to the obviously open manned window. This wasn’t occasional though, it would happen on a very regular basis. There are also some odd-seeming questions that prove to be asked regularly. On “Saturday Night Fever” we were often asked “Why is there more than one price?” Never before or since but on Fever all the time. Currently we are often asked questions about Connie Francis! It can only be a matter of time before we are asked about Carrie Fisher!

Needless to say we will be endlessly entertained by these uncommonly asked questions and they certainly make the job more interesting. Sometimes however, an appropriate answer is almost impossible to find. Only a few days ago one of my colleagues was asked by a (decidedly middle aged man) if we held tickets back for “all of the beautiful boys”. He then followed this with “Don’t you think I have a beautiful body?” Sometimes words really can fail us!!!!

So the next time you see a customer approaching you, or you take a call, be prepared! Who can say what they may ask you!

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