Scanners not for everyone

Although we are pleased with Theatre Manager, there is one thing about it that hasn’t worked well. After repeated attempts to use our ticket scanners at the door, we have had to face the fact that we cannot use them effectively.

We bought the APTO 3-Scanner Package primarily to speed up entry into our auditorium. This would also enable us to easily identify when someone came to the wrong performance, send out post-show surveys only to those who attended, contact those who didn’t attend if we wish to offer them an exchange, etc. However, the main goal was speed and the scanners have slowed us down. This is because of the layout of our building and our use of volunteers.

We are in an old church where everyone except those who will use the elevator must go up the same steps to reach the ticket-taker. With 275 seats, that’s a lot of people to funnel through a narrow area in a half hour and we have to move quickly. But we are a volunteer organization with different ticket-takers for each performance – often taking tickets for the first time. Since many of them have little knowledge of technology, they are quite slow with the scanners, often locking them up by accidentally touching the wrong part of the screen. Some are so nervous that they clench up on the handle, thus preventing it from scanning anything. We had hoped we could provide adequate training but there are just too many different volunteers to train and too many last-minute substitutes at the door. We tried tearing the stubs of the rip tickets and only scanning those printed at home or shone on a screen but that was also slower than the old-fashioned way. If we had a large lobby with several entrances, each to a different section, we might have been able to make this work but it just hasn’t worked out.

I don’t offer this comment as a complaint but merely as information others may wish to consider before buying scanners. They work for many theatres but not for us.

Hi Paul,

We are in a similar situation. 260 seats in an old church with 1 entrance to the theater that everyone has to go through. A couple things we did to alleviate the issue that you’re having was that we had a volunteer pre-scanning tickets before the house opened and then ushers inside the theater directing traffic and helping patrons find their seats. About 10-15 minutes before the house opened, we’d start pre-scanning so that when the doors opened, we weren’t holding people up to get them scanned and in the door. This helped break up the line a little bit and didn’t create as bad of a bottle neck when the doors opened. The other thing we did was start to recruit ushers from local high schools (kids who are in the drama club or who need NHS hours). We did our best to make sure we had at least 1 high school usher for each show and that’s who we trained to use the scanner and handle that part of the job. Some of our more seasoned ushers have absolutely been able to work the scanner as well–but it seems that the high school volunteers are able to master it a little more quickly. A 5 min training before the house opens and they’re off to the races. If worst comes to worst and there’s a huge bottleneck and we can’t keep up with the scanning–we just abandon scanning and go old school and manually check tickets.

Maybe you could have a volunteer at the bottom of the stairs scanning and then your ushers at the top of the stairs directing people to seats and handing out programs?

All of that said, we actually haven’t been using scanners this season because our WIFI is temperamental and we have a hard time keeping the scanner online to scan without long delays. But that’s a different problem for a different day lol

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Thank you, Jeffrey.

We actually had the same problem with our WIFI and solved it by adding a booster near the top of the stairs. This solved another problem our light and sound people had been having: They would make adjustments on their laptops and then walked to a different part of the building to check how the adjustments worked. But when they took the stairs, they lost the signal. This extra booster plus one in another weak spot solved their problems.

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Hi @Jeffrey and @paulfretheim - Proctors has struggled with scanner training for our typical volunteer usher crew as well. Our FOH team has specifically recruited a high school volunteer crew for ticket scanning and we try to schedule as many of them as possible to man the entrance door areas. We don’t have the same single point of entry limitation and still the time impact of younger or consistent scanning volunteers (rather a new bunch each time) is considerable. The CAST kids also mentally absorb the entry/no entry alerts way faster than our other volunteers, so they tend to catch more wrong event/performance issues up front (rather than troubleshooting the issue later when multiple people fighting for the same seats). Our usher crew is amazing in many ways – some of them know the theatre numbering better than I do – but scanner adaptability often isn’t their best skill.

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We are also a smaill-ish theatre with 323 seats that uses volunteers as ticket takers. The road was initially a little bumpy for us but we worked it out so that now it goes rather smoothly. We also have one set of doors that all patrons enter through. Our volunteers are often very tech shy, as well. Giving the volunteers dummy tickets to practice on before the doors opened was a great help for them to get the feel of it. We’re using the Linea Pro, with iPods.

Being able to catch a ticket for the wrong date, having an accurate house count, being able to help patrons who weren’t able to attend are all great perks to have through using the scanners.

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