Ticketek charges annoy film festival-goers

 Ticketek's steep booking fees and substandard service are causing headaches for many Wellingtonians attending this month's film festival.

Film Wellington co-ordinator and Wellington Film Society committee member Stacey Ferdinands said film-goers booking tickets might not realise how much Ticketek was charging this year.

Until two years ago it was free to book in person at Ticketek's Michael Fowler Centre outlet, but it now costs 50 cents per ticket.

Phone, mail and fax bookings cost $8.50 per transaction, and internet bookings cost $8, reduced to $5 if users print their tickets at home.

Filmgoers hoping to avoid Ticketek by buying tickets at cinemas are out of luck –Ticketek charges 50 cents for each ticket bought at venues.

"I don't understand why people are charged for tickets at the venue. It just seems completely wrong," Ms Ferdinands said. "A lot of people are put off by the charges."

There were several up-and-coming ticketing companies that could offer better value for money, and had proved themselves on Wellington's music scene, she said.

Substandard services is another reason Wellingtonians are disgruntled with Ticketek's handling of the film festival.

Choosing a particular cinema seat is only possible when booking in person or by phone, and Ticketek's website wipes films from users' shopping baskets after 10 minutes of non-activity.

New Zealand International Film Festival Trust director Bill Gosden said he was aware of the limitations of Ticketek's website, but no competitor matched up.

"We have entertained bids from several other operators to book the Wellington festival, but none has come close to Ticketek in terms of affordability or customer service," he said.

"Other tenders for the job will always be welcomed."

It is not be practical to send festival-goers to different venues to book their tickets, so a company such as Ticketek is used to centralise the booking process.

To give festival-goers a cheaper option, the trust decided to make pre-5pm weekday films unbookable through Ticketek.

"It is highly unusual for the weekday daytime sessions to sell out, so reservations are not necessary and we've rarely had any demand for them," he said.

Filmgoer Kel Smith has found booking tickets for this year's festival "as long and complex as always".

Mr Smith said he saved money on booking fees by buying festival tickets in person from Ticketek's Michael Fowler Centre outlet.

"I consider online penalties excessive," he said.

He said he usually had to queue for two hours at the office, because one customer's transactions could take up to half an hour.

"It is outrageous, I would rather sit at home and book."

But the inability to choose his cinema seats when booking online makes Mr Smith wait in line every year.

Fran McGowan also books her tickets in person to secure her favourite cinema seat next to the aisle.

She tried booking by mail a few years ago, but was given "hideous seats".

Ms McGowan paid $9.50 in booking fees this year, and said she found the surcharge rude.

Antonia Aloe booked her tickets online to save time, but found the process took her about an hour. "It's really quite cumbersome," she said.

"[Booking online] should make it faster and more efficient, but it may have been faster for me to call."

The $5 online transaction fee was not too bad when a number of films were booked at once, but worked out at $20 for an adult ticket if booked individually, she said.

Ticketek did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The Wellingtonian