The first Olympic ticket payments will begin to be taken today and the 1.8 million applicants need to urgently ensure they’ve enough cash in their account to pay – or they face bank charges. The entire system feels designed to cause people major cash flow issues, it’s a surprise it’s not sponsored by Wonga.com.
The organising committee seems to have put all its energies into maximising the money and no thought into what it means for ticket holders. I’ve blogged before on the ridiculous booking system, (see Olympics psychic booking blog) which only clairvoyants could use effectively, as well as giving Visa a monopoly.
Now, to the other side of the coin – the ridiculous payment system. And before getting into it, let me state again for the record I LOVE THE OLYMPICS. I’m hugely excited about it and I have bid for tickets. But it’s the thoughtless, uncaring booking process I’m disappointed by…
- People must tie their cash up for a month
There is no fixed payment date as successful applicants money will be taken between today and 10 June. That means you need to have the cash to pay sitting in your account until it’s taken, or you face bank charges if there isn’t enough in your account.
It’s also important to understand that when you booked you were given two figures, a "if you get all the tickets you want" and "if you get all the tickets you want at the top price". To be safe everyone needs to assign the higher figure of cash and ensure it’s sitting in their bank account (and probably sacrificing interest from elsewhere) for the whole time.
It’s a big cash flow burden as some families could be forced to leave £1,000-£2,000 in their account, even though they may only get £200 worth of tickets.
- The payment date changes made this time period even longer
The original window was 10 May to 10 June. Yet near the last minute the start date was delayed until 16 May. While this meant people needed their cash in their account for a shorter period, I’ve met many who were notified of this change after they’d already moved the money across. As many banks take three days to move money this meant it ended up sitting there for the longer period anyway – so there was little gain, but added confusion.
- It should inform people what tickets they’ve got BEFORE taking the cash
Even once people’s payments have been taken they won’t necessarily know what tickets they’ve got as that e-mail can be sent as late as 24 June.
So, if you ordered a few tickets you may think the cash taken is for the opening ceremony and diving, but actually it was for football and archery.
Why didn’t they arrange the system that people were FIRST told what tickets they’d got, how much it would cost and the exact payment date? This would’ve negated all the cash flow issues.
- Even once you know what tickets you’ve got what does that mean?
Each event has various categories of tickets, but they have no published distinguishing characteristics barring the price.
Suppose you paid a high price and got the 100m sprint final – what does this mean? What if you were hoping to be on the finish line, but are actually at the bottom end of the stadium?
If this had been a normal company advertising tickets of various prices with no description of what the difference between prices was, it would have been roundly pilloried – so why can the London Organising Committee get away with it?
And sadly, if you’ve paid a fortune for a ticket and it’s not where you guessed it would be, you’ve no right to send it back as distance selling regulations don’t apply to the Olympic tickets.
- Expect the first "I got all my tickets and it’s wiped me out" story soon
While the organising committee said "don’t book more tickets than you can afford", of course in this once in a lifetime event, many people are desperate to get some and will have gambled overbooking in the hope of getting tickets (see my Olympics psychic booking blog for more).
So, out of the 1.8 million people who’ve applied for tickets, certainly some will end up with far more than they’d expected making life financially difficult, or worse pushing some over the edge in these tough economic climes. Of course, the individuals themselves must shoulder some responsibility – but we shouldn’t have put people in this position.
If you do get too many, the system is again relatively inflexible. While you are allowed to sell to friends and family for the face value, that won’t necessarily be easy or quick. It will also be possible to on-sell through the Olympics own system, but that’s only in 2012, so it won’t help in the short term.
What’s so frustrating is that the process could’ve been organised without all these pitfalls. Yet it seems no thought, or consideration was paid to the actual impact on real people’s pockets. Quite strange when the Olympic committee is battling for the hearts and minds of those who are most pro the games and want tickets, yet they’re being treated so thoughtlessly.