Ticket lunacy!

November 8, 2012

I was in Sydney last week for the ASTC(NSW) annual conference. After the conference was all over, our good friend Dave (from the US) and Hamish (a friend from Queensland) and my husband and I decided to go to Luna Park (an old-style amusement park) in Sydney. None of us had ever been before and there was a good chance we may never get the opportunity or have the desire to go again.

Both Dave and I independently investigated ticket prices on our smartphones and I noticed that there was a two-for-one deal after 6 pm each day (the Lunacy ticket). That suited us fine as the conference didn’t finish until 5 pm and Luna Park was on the other side of Sydney Harbour Bridge, a decent taxi ride from the conference hotel. It was unlikely we’d get there before 6 pm anyway, and a two-for-one deal is not to be sneezed at when the usual prices are well over $40 each.

What we didn’t notice, as it was almost hidden on the website (especially when viewed on a smartphone — the Luna Park website is NOT optimized for mobile and doesn’t have a mobile option), was that Lunacy tickets could only be purchased online. We found that out later…

Off we went in a taxi, on to the freeways and over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. Luna Park hugs the edge of the harbour just below the Bridge at Milsons Point. After marveling at the view of the Bridge, the Opera House, a P&O liner being pulled away from Circular Quay, and after waiting for several wedding parties to enter the wide open mouth of the Luna Park entrance (dressed up with a moustache especially for Movember), we made our way through those imposing teeth and joined the snaking line for tickets. Some 20 minutes or so later we were at the beginning of the line.

And there we encountered total LUNACY! When we asked the girl at the ticket counter for the two-for-one Lunacy ticket deal, she told us that this deal was only available online not from the ticket counter. However, she told us that if we had smartphones, we could go on to the website and buy the tickets, then come back to the counter to show the barcodes in the PDFs that would be emailed to us after we’d purchased the tickets online. How stupid is that? We were there, right then! She did say we could step off to the side to do the transaction and wouldn’t have to go to the end of the line again — a small consolation.

I tried to buy tickets on my phone, but got an error message about already having tabs open and not allowing me to go further to purchase the tickets. Hamish tried on his phone too and got the same message as me. Then Dave tried on his phone. He was able to get a little further, then, with his thumbs he had to enter HEAPS of information (name, full address [at least the website accepted his US address], phone number, credit card details, etc. etc. I even think he had to enter his date of birth!). Did I mention that the website was NOT suitable for mobile access? Watching him enter all this information was a painful experience, and it took about 15 minutes of zooming, scrolling (horizontal and vertical), and entering data. When he was finally done, he clicked Submit and got a message that he already had a window open! However, after clicking OK on that message, his transaction went through (we hoped). We got him to buy tickets for us all in that one transaction and paid him back in cash — there was no point in buying separate tickets, even had Hamish and I been able to use our phones.

After another couple of minutes, the confirmation email came back to Dave (yes, it had traveled from Australia near where we were standing to the US and back again — crazy!). We got back in line and Dave showed the ticket counter girl the confirmation number. But still that wasn’t enough. She needed the barcode number in the PDF attached to the email! Actually, she needed TWO barcode numbers — Dave had bought two Lunacy tickets in the ONE transaction, but the email had TWO PDFs with TWO different barcodes, and the ticket girl needed BOTH. So he opened the PDF attachment on his phone and had to zoom in to show the barcode number to the girl who wrote it down on a Post-It note and then typed it into her system. Repeat for the next set of tickets…

Did I mention that these Lunacy tickets were perfectly named? What sort of CRAZY system is this? It is SO inefficient, incredibly frustrating for the customer (and must be equally frustrating for the ticket counter staff), and is exacerbated by a website that is very difficult to use on a small device. I wonder how many people don’t persevere and just pay the full price ($44.95 per adult) at the ticket counter? This whole exercise took us between 30 and 40 minutes — just to buy two sets of tickets. Madness.

How could Luna Park make this a friendlier process? Well, here are some suggestions…

  • Allow two-for-one tickets to be purchased at the ticket counter. How difficult would that be? Already there are LOTS of ticket options at the counter — adding another option should not be difficult; it would just be another point-of-sale option. Making people stand aside and go onto their smartphones to purchase, then wait for an email and open a PDF attachment all so that the person behind the counter can write down the number on a piece of paper and then enter it is just incredibly inefficient. And stupid.

If Luna Park decides to NOT allow these tickets to be purchased at the counter, then consider the following changes to make the process more user friendly.

  • Make it more obvious that Lunacy tickets are ONLY available online. This should be noted in the summary of the ticket types (see top image) as well as be more prominent at the place where you decide which tickets you want (see image below where I’ve circled in red the times they use ‘online’ in the text).

  • Redesign the website and the purchase process in particular so that it detects a mobile device and displays correctly and easily on that device. Continual horizontal and vertical scrolling and zooming in and out to try to find the next field is frustrating and time-consuming. And of course, the Tab key is non-existent on many smartphone keyboards so moving between fields is not easy when they are not optimized for mobile use.
  • Check the online purchase form and delete any fields that are NOT necessary for the purchase of tickets.
  • Allow the confirmation number to be used as the identifier, or put the barcode numbers into the text of the email. Still keep the PDF for printing out for those who need a receipt. But put the relevant information up front and not hidden in a PDF that has to be opened and scrolled.
  • If a customer buys TWO or more Lunacy tickets (i.e. for four or more people), ONE barcode should be sufficient as confirmation. Why produce multiple PDFs?

I wonder how many people walk away from purchasing tickets as a result of the awkward and frustrating ticket purchasing current process and ineffectual website and form design? We can’t be the only ones who found this whole process unbelievable.

BTW, the girl at the ticket counter was great and explained that we could use our smartphones to buy online there and then and could enter the line at the front once we’d done that. She was very professional about it all, so I expect she’s had to deal with this situation often. How frustrating for her too!

And we had a good time at Luna Park. I think we’ll all tick it off our bucket lists (even if it wasn’t on our respective lists). It was a bit like stepping back in time. I’m not a big fan of amusement parks, so I doubt I’ll ever go again. But it was fun for my first and last time. Except for the crazy ticketing process.

[Links last checked November 2012]


  1. I can’t help but think that the ticket is some kind of metaphor for an amusement park. It is an old place offering fun old experiences. It features places that deliberatly contain obstacles or strange funny experiences. There are rides to shake you up and let you down and to generally rock you around.

    How nice that they have taken this old fun experience and transferred it online. I think it is quite brilliant. What clever planning must have gone into this. You start the experience it before you arrive. And they get all the contact details to onsell to other people I assume. A win win for everyone.

  2. I hadn’t thought of it that way, Irene! But when you’re in the ride, it’s not so much fun…


  3. I was wondering why you caught a taxi to Luna Park, when it’s so close to the train station! I don’t know your original location, though, so maybe it was easier. :)

    I totally agree that mobile apps for some locations need to be much more consumer friendly. Have to say, I’ve always found Luna Park staff to be great, but they work with some tough company-directed “solutions”.

    I hope you had fun all the same! (I highly recommend the Wild Mouse.)

  4. There were four of us. None of us had any idea where the train station was or what train to catch (2 from Western Australia, 1 from Queensland, 1 from the California), or even that you could catch a train to Luna Park. It was also a last minute decision to go as the weather was ‘iffy’ and threatening rain. The cab ride for four of us to Luna Park from the Citigate Central Hotel was $23, which worked out at just over $5 a head. The ferry ride back to Circular Quay as $5.60 EACH (a LOT for such a short ride), then we caught another cab back to the hotel (about $17 for the four of us).

    No Wild Mouse for me! But I had fun on the dodgem cars ;-)


  5. If you’re ever in Melbourne and try to go to the aquarium, the same sort of “What do you mean it’s only online!?” applies to their discounted tickets. I can’t imagine whose time or patience any of these organisations think they’re saving…

  6. I feel your pain on this process . . . I did the same process to go to Florida LegoLand. You only get the “online deal” if you do it on the computer prior to going to the park-it is a 50% savings deal-so who wouldn’t want to save money? The problem is I could not get the system to take the information-it would stop & stall with the spinning ball. I tried another credit card for processing -still nothing, changed browsers, entered different card info; then finally was able to get a confirmation #. Low and behold the screen indicated I had only made one purchase, yet when I arrived at the gate & showed the sales ticket agent the email with the scan code there were 2 different emails; she assured me I was not charged 2X; I was indeed charged twice when I got home & noticed 2 billings with 2 separate confirmation codes. Still haggling over getting my refund back after 3 months of back & forth with customer service. At least we enjoyed the park experience, but as you state in your passage – it is unlikely I will ever return.


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