Van Wezel Pre-Season Sets New Sales Records

Subscriber Party – Long time subscribers Amy and Fran, with GM/Fin. Mngr. Tony Becich and Mayor Susan Atwell.

Van Wezel’s Box Office Manager David Walker, isn’t your everyday Box Office Manager!While selling tickets for shows might be the primary function of the Box Office, David Walker, the Box Office Manager isn’t your everyday ho hum guy.  With an extensive theatre background, beginning as a professional actor/singer/dancer in Columbus, Ohio, he is also a costume designer and has a true passion for the theatre.

When asked what he does in the Box Office, he replied:

“I’m responsible for supervising sales, setting up the show details to enter into the hall’s computer/sales system, as well as train and supervise the 16 box office personnel.”  In addition, within the four years David has been at the Van Wezel, he has supervised the establishment of the new on-line reservation system wherein patrons can view the hall’s seating chart and select specific seats for all performances.  He also supervises the valet service and handles the complaints.  It is the later element of his responsibilities that offers the real test of his abilities, and one in which he considers his most important and challenging responsibility.  His prime objective is to “have them leave happy.”

To achieve this he uses his most import skill….that of listening. “When someone is talking, even though I may know the answer immediately, I never interrupt their train of thought.  After they are finished I explain our response and attempt to answer each of their points.  I never attempt to win an argument! I will attempt to respond to their problem and to offer constructive answers and solutions based upon our conversation, always keeping in mind that my number one job is customer satisfaction. Complaints can be an important learning device, for me and our patron; my goal is to turn a complaint into a compliment.  I always try to find common ground in all of our discussions.”

This season again, the Van Wezel’s past subscribers, new subscribers, and donors were invited to a special advance sales party in the Grand Foyer.  Over 400 invitees responded.  This complimentary, invitation only party, featured music from this season’s shows, a buffet dinner and drinks catered by Mattison’s Bayside, while a short program describing the new season was presented by Executive Director, Mary Bensel. The on-site sale resulted in $120,000, and the next day’s follow up sale added an additional $80,000 for a grand total of over $200,000 (triple last year’s sales).

Out of the Box Office thinking! David is always willing and ready to add some ideas to create more excitement and fun for selling tickets to the public.  These are always welcome scenarios from the Marketing Department whose function is to inform the public about upcoming events and promotions.  Julia Mays, Director of Marketing adds; “we can do all the best marketing and advertising possible, but if the Box Office doesn’t support those efforts, it can sometimes all go for naught. David goes out of his way to create some unusual and exciting additions to all of our events that seem to find their way to the top! For example, our annual Single Tickets on Sale Campaign.”

Every year people come to this event and begin forming a line around the building at 5:30am for an opening at 10am.  Patrons are assigned numbers at 10am and proceed into the lobby where a party atmosphere prevails.  David added a big screen with a continuous loop of video excerpts from the new season’s shows (repeating every 1.5 hours), the outdoor grills were manned by Mattisons Bayside restaurant, serving up their specialties.  Coffee and pastries were made available courtesy of WSRZ 107.9, that morning.

To man this event, David is responsible for the 19 employees he has to handle the customer’s ticket requests that day and make sure the ticket system is fully up and operational in order to keep the flow of patrons moving along. In addition, he has to answer to complaints, requests, special seating, and assist or answer questions of his employees on the line.  By 6pm that evening, they filled over $750,000 in ticket requests. And on Sunday, the following day, an additional $275,000 added to the grand total of over $1,000,000 in sales. This event was a Blockbuster compared to previous years, as David and the box office played a substantial part in making it so.