I HATE THE VIRTUAL WAITING ROOM, the inevitable and interminable purgatory that is a condition of every Red Sox online ticket sale. Every December, the Red Sox make tickets available for a handful of next season’s games (ostensibly just in time for holiday gift giving). So every December, I spend a day sitting in front of the computer, living my life in-between 30-second automated browser refreshes that read:
Welcome to the Boston Red Sox Virtual Waiting Room!
PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT PATRONS ARE SELECTED FROM THIS VIRTUAL WAITING ROOM ON A RANDOM BASIS FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE TICKETS.
We are experiencing very high demand. As a result, all requests for seats cannot be served simultaneously. Please be patient, and your browser will be refreshed in: [30 . . . 29 . . . 28 . . . 27 . . . 26 . . . seconds]
When we refresh your browser, we will determine your status in the waiting room and, if appropriate, give you an opportunity to request seats. DO NOT REFRESH THIS WINDOW. We appreciate your patience.
Tremendous interest for Boston Red Sox tickets may produce lengthy wait times. While waiting, please be sure to read the following important information and check for general availability status below. . . .
Which is what I’m doing right now. And what I’ve been doing since 10:00am this morning. Waiting. And then, every 30 seconds, checking to see if my wait’s over. And then I go back to waiting. And checking. And waiting. Every 30 seconds the message in the browser window refreshes, revealing the same message that was displayed during the previous 30 seconds.
But at the end of one of these half-minute nuggets, the Virtual Waiting Room will suddenly disappear, and I’ll immediately find myself staring at a seating chart, plunged into an intense state of panic as I try to assess which seats are left to which games against which teams and on which days. The system allows you mere minutes to secure all your tickets before your time’s up, and you can practically feel the good seats disappearing right in front of your eyes. It’s the same feeling I imagined as a kid winning one of those 60-second shopping sprees at Toys ‘R’ Us — except now there’s a $4 processing fee for each toy I grab and there are a hundred thousand other kids competing for the best toys right alongside me.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about games in April and May, so it’s already an act of faith to commit in advance the hundreds of dollars that the eight ticket per person limit represents. Yet the worst part isn’t that all of this investment is based on a system that feels so fragile — linger too long or click the wrong button in haste and risk banishment back into the Virtual Waiting Room. And the worst part isn’t that a lot of the weird purchasing restrictions and protocols are designed to discourage scalpers — and in fact do absolutely nothing to discourage scalpers — but instead make the process extra tricky for the rest of us. The worst part isn’t even that you get to do this twice a year, once today and then some other day when the tickets for the rest of the season become available. The worst part is that, all things considered, this is probably as good a system for online ticket buying as we can expect. Go Sox.