Running mad ticket show

Akhona Daweti, festival box office manager
Akhona Daweti, festival box office manager
Image: Deneesha Pillay

Akhona Daweti is the Festival’s box office manager and, with bookings in full swing, he’s in the midst of the special kind of madness that is his Festival – the staff are trained, computer terminals are set up, events are loaded and now it is on to the actual job of issuing tickets and making sure the seating in 60odd venues is correctly captured on the Ticket Hut booking system.

Akhona shares some of the things he loves about his crazy job, what he appreciates about his customers, as well as some of the excuses he's heard (more than once) from tardy audience members demanding a refund – don’t let that person be you.

Akhona recently moved into the Festival’s open-plan office – affectionately nicknamed “the Fishbowl” and is known among the rest of the (predominantly female) staff as the “muscle” in the office.

Having started as a temporary cashier in 2012, Akhona joined the Festival’s permanent staff in 2015.

He runs the Box Office for NAF, the Cape Town Fringe, Michaelhouse Music Festival and several other events throughout the year.

He has become adept at dealing with the various demands of Festival visitors – the politely phrased bookings from the little old lady who “does not do technology”, the frightening demands of the ballet dancer’s mom, the director who insists their family sit in the third row from the front regardless of the fact that a show is sold out, and so on – each are treated by Akhona and his team with respect, courtesy and efficiency.

We asked Akhona about life as head of the Festival Box Office.

CRAZY TIMES

My busiest period is in the weeks leading up to the start of the Festival when bookings are pretty hectic and I’m also training staff, setting up sale points, sorting out media tickets etc.

The craziest time is definitely the first weekend of Fest – it’s like a hurricane in the Box Office.

LITTLE BUGGING THINGS

Customers who change their minds about the date they’ve booked a ticket and want it changed – sometimes more than once.

The very many customers who arrive late for a show and want a refund and the fantastical excuses they provide . . . (FYI: the Festival has a no-refund policy, except in the case of cancellations).

That one very grumpy customer who constantly swops and changes their bookings and then won’t pay for the tickets until they arrive.

Some excuses I have heard (once or twice):

“I arrived at the door and they didn’t let me in – I was one minute late.”

“Your machine printed the wrong tickets with the wrong date.”

“I definitely booked for tomorrow, definitely, the computer must have made a mistake.”

“I forgot it was my [cousin/sister/uncle]’s wedding and couldn’t attend the show – please can I have a refund?”

BEST BITS

We have some lovely regular customers – and often we’ll chat as if old friends.

My favourite customer is a lady from Cape Town – she is usually one of our first customers, books loads of tickets, and always has positive things to say.

Managing to get a last-minute ticket for someone on the waiting list for a sold-out show – I love making those phone-calls.

Encouraging someone to get a ticket to something a bit different, and then hearing how much they enjoyed it.

The very best bit, though, is after the job is done and . . . thousands of customers have had a great experience watching some awesome shows.

National Arts Festival box office supervisor Cheryl Hodkin shares her experience of working in the crazy office.

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