Tuesday, August 14, 2012

#GABF Needs Something to Change

Some of you are going to hate me. I got all the GABF tickets I wanted.

I got a ticket to Thursday night. I got two tickets for Friday night. I got two tickets to the Saturday afternoon Members Only session. I made the decision not to buy Saturday night tickets, because that is my least favorite session.

My only complaint is that my Friday night tickets do not let me go to the Members Only line. I would have preferred being able to go through the short line, but it is not that big of a deal to have to go through the public line.

Obviously, many many many people did not get the GABF tickets they wanted (see #GABF #TicketMasterFail and #GABF Beer Geeks are PISSED). Had I known how the general public sale would have gone, I never would have complained about the #TicketMasterFail during the members-only sale. As it turns out, the only way to have guaranteed yourself a ticket was to be an AHA (American Homebrewers Association) or BA (Brewers Association) member.

I actually work with a lady who joined the AHA just so she could be part of the pre-sale. At the time she told me this, I thought this was funny and made fun of her. The General Public sale went quick last year, but not THAT quick. I have not seen her since the GABF ticket sale, but I am sure she is going to tell me "I told you so" (she has been on vacation and has not had the opportunity yet).

The main concern from the legitimate GABF-going-public is that it appears that way too many tickets got into the hands of scalpers and the craft-beer-worthy are going to suffer for it. Ticketmaster was overwhelmed right at 10AM when the general public tickets went on sale and even those who were on right at 10 claim they could not get tickets because every session said it was already sold out.

I totally understand the frustration.

Twitter and Facebook are full of nasty comments aimed at the GABF from people who missed out.

Personally, I cannot bring myself to find fault with the organizers of the GABF. I do not think based on how GABF ticket sales have traditionally gone that there is anything different they should have or could have done this year.

I do think that as the ticket-selling partner and supposed experts on ticket distribution, TicketMaster probably should have been more on-top of the situation and suggested better safe-guards, but I just don't see anything that GABF did wrong. I feel they are just as much victims as the beer-loving public.

But, now that this situation presented itself this year, I think GABF needs to make changes for next year and subsequent years.

First, I think the GABF should consider firing TicketMaster. I am not really an expert on what outlets might be better, but the bugs in the #GABF #TicketMasterFail are unforgivable. Apparently, very few non-members actually took advantage of the mobile site where people were able to order tickets without entering an AHA or BA number. But, the very fact that this happened is ground (IMO) to fire TicketMaster. The bug that no-one on the full-site could place an order because it kept giving a validation error on a checkbox is even worse. All these people do is sell tickets. I don't see how this bug could have been missed.

Either one of those things are blameworthy. Two bugs of this magnitude should be impermissible ... just my opinion.

Next, I think it is time to make GABF tickets non-transferable. Quite frankly, it sort of surprises me that there is no identification check for the members-only session already. It sucks that it has come to this. When I ordered, my tickets, I did not know for sure that my wife and I could get someone to take care of our kids GABF weekend. I knew, though, that if things didn't work out, I could always find someone to take them off my hands.

Even now, we have care-takers for the kids, but who knows what will come up between now and then.

I assume that the logistics of checking every single person entering for the right name would slow down the line. This also sucks.

But, despite the obvious down-side, I personally would much rather endure those head-aches than see so many GABF sold through secondary sales outlets.

I do not think this year's GABF will suffer from the mess created by the ticket sales. GABF took a black-eye, and lots of people will spend 2 or 3 times the amount they should have paid for tickets, but I still think all the sessions will be full. I feel sorry for all the people who bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations only to miss out on GABF tickets, but those people will either pay the higher price or be replaced by those who are willing to pay the mark-up. The city and state will still get the economic boost that comes with such a big event.

However, to me, it will be inexcusable if the GABF organizers don't make some sort of changes for next year's GABF based on what happened this year.

Again, just my opinion.


  1. I'm making my first-ever trip to GABF this year and I have tickets to - gulp - the Saturday night session. Have I gotten myself into something bad? I sadly missed out on the members-only session by a few hours.

    Thankfully, I'm also attending Friday night, so maybe all the drunken crazies will leave me alone for one of the two sessions.

  2. Here's another scenario. Let's say that the GABF does fire Ticketmaster and the new tickets for next year are non-transferrable. Then on opening day of ticket sales the tickets still sell out in an hour. Do you think people will still be angry that they sold out in that time? The GABF event has hit mainstream here in America and quick sell-outs are probably here to stay. The only thing that might prevent that is if ticket prices continue to rize. The festival is already expensive enough as it is. You can probably go to a liquor store with the same amount of cash and end up getting a lot more beer for your money. Only thing is, you won't get the variety that the GABF offers.

    If I were to change another thing with the GABF - it would be the 1oz pours. 1oz simply just isn't enough and with some of the more popular beers having long lines (up to 15-20 minutes) it isn't worth the time to get just 1oz. Yet the problem remains that you only have a limited amount of beer available and you'd run out of beer that much faster. And the brewers already complain of having to provide a lot of beer on their own nickel.

    Not an easy solution in any case. 1oz and more for everyone or 2-4oz pours and run out of beer faster.

  3. Thanks for leaving a comment, thisiswhyimdrunk. Saturday night is still a blast. It is my least favorite of the 4 sessions, but it is still extemely fun to be there.

  4. Dave, thank you too for leaving a comment.

    Yes, I think people will still be angry. I also do agree that the only way to slow down the sellout is to rise prices. Actually, I think I wrote something very similar on your blog a week and a half ago. :-)

    Honestly, anything much more expensive will put me out of the market, giving someone else a chance to go.

    I don't really have a problem with the quick sellout. My issue is that there is a perception out there that all the tickets were snatched up by scalpers. While I do not think nearly as high a percentage of tickets are being re-sold as lots of the twitter and facebook chatter suggests, it breaks my heart to see scalpers making money.... especially when I see a members-only ticket for sale for three times as much money as the GABF sold it for.

    I don't really know what the correct answer is ... but the point is ... GABF really has to figure something out. I don't envy the organizers for next year.