There was no gimmick, no magic formula, no knowing of the right person. I simply called the San Francisco Ballet’s ticket office, back in mid-March and asked about the availability of various seats for the 2:00pm performance on Saturday April 20. I had a ticket already for the San Francisco Symphony’s 8:00pm performance that night, just across the street. Going into the city is a haul for me, eighty miles, and over the Santa Cruz Mountains, so it’s always worth it to double up on activities. I’d so enjoyed the San Francisco Ballet’s Programs 3 and 4 and was hungering to see more.
Anything’s worth a call. That’s my golden piece of advice. Even, or especially if you’re on the fence about it. The seating in the War Memorial Opera House, like most performing arts venues, has pricing based on where the seat is. Invariably, every row will have a spot where the pricing shifts, for example, from the $100 ticket to the $65 ticket (don’t quote me; this is hypothetical). Being a born bargain hunter, I always seek out the cheaper seat that is adjacent to the more expensive one. I’d searched around online, using the SFB’s website’s seat selection system, but when the page froze on me I called the ticket office directly. The ticket agent was patient with me as I considered, then rejected, a few of the seats she said were available.
“I want it close but not too close,” I kept saying. “Off to the side but not too much. Cheap but not too cheap.”
She was nothing short of saintly. “All right,” she said, and I could hear her clacking her keys, searching. The keys stopped. “Hmm,” she said. “Here’s one for you. Orchestra. Row G, seat 13. It’s… fourteen dollars.”
My eyes swept over the online seating chart still on my desktop screen. It was a good seat. “Fourteen dollars?” I stuttered, sure I’d misheard.
“Fourteen dollars,” she repeated.
“That would be fourteen, as in one-four, and not forty, four-oh?”
“Correct. Fourteen. One, four.”
The tickets on one side of this seat were the $100 kind. The tickets on the other side were the $65 kind. “Why?” I burst out. “Why so cheap?”
“it’s a single seat, at the edge of the premium section,” she said. “We’re kind of like the airlines here. This ticket is priced to sell.”
I always leave my family and friends behind and go to these kind of things alone. I’m a lone wolf by nature, not to mention writerly and highly introspective about the arts, and I prefer it this way. And hoo boy, just then, my lone-wolf-ness paid off. In dividends.
“I’ll take it,” I gasped out before she could say another word. “Book it, run my credit card through, and tell me what happens.”
“All right.” A couple more click-clacks ensued. I held my breath. “Done,” she chirped.
“Done, as in ‘fourteen dollars, the ticket is yours’ done?”
I hung up in a daze a few minutes later after confirming mailing address. I held my breath (not really) until the ticket arrived in the mail. I held my breath for a few more weeks (even more not really) until the day, the time of the performance.
The seat was great. Not one thing wrong with it. I resisted the impulse to nudge the patron on either side of me and say, “How much did you pay for your seat? Wanna know what I paid?” No one likes a bragger. That’s what blogs are for.
My husband and friends laughed and shook their heads upon hearing the story. My violin teacher, upon hearing it, surmised that maybe there’d been an auditory miscommunication between levels of administration over at the San Francisco Ballet. “Sell those annoying singles for forty!” some impatient executive probably shouted, his mind on bigger things.
“F… fourteen?” the timid assistant might have stuttered.
“Yes! Why are you making me repeat myself? Get outta here already!”
“Yes, sir.” ((Scurries off. Types price into database.)) Done. Executive happy. Lucky Classical Girl audience member happy. A win-win situation!
The moral of the story: call the San Francisco Ballet ticket office on a day you just might be available to attend the ballet. If the price is too high, well, decision made. But you just might snag a real prize.
I’m certainly going to follow my own advice next season.
PS: Here’s a review of the performance if you’re the kind of person who likes reading review of performances: http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=327