University News

TouchNet stalls Spring Weekend ticket sales

The site caused problems with morning sales, but BCA released more of the tickets in the evening

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

After thousands of students were unable to purchase Spring Weekend tickets Monday morning due to technical issues with TouchNet, a third-party service that handles credit card payments, Brown Student Agencies and Brown Concert Agency successfully resumed sales Monday evening.

Out of 6,400 tickets intended to be released to the student body 8 a.m. Monday — 3,200 tickets for each day of the concerts — only 1,000 were successfully sold, said Connor Shinn ’14, executive director of BSA.

This marks the fourth year in a row that the online sale of Spring Weekend tickets has faced technical issues. BCA and BSA rescheduled sales for Monday night and Tuesday morning to sell the rest of the tickets intended for release Monday morning.

Ticket sales Monday night went smoothly, said Emma Ramadan ’13, booking chair for BCA.

“We’re really happy that TouchNet finally pulled through and did what they’re supposed to,” Ramadan said.

In response to past problems with the site, BCA and BSA made changes to the sales website this year, Shinn said.

Shinn said TouchNet hosted the sales website last year and didn’t have enough capacity to serve the influx of student customers, resulting in a site crash. This year, BSA created its own ticket-selling server on Amazon that could handle 30,000 customers at once, Shinn said.

But the University has a contract with TouchNet that mandates that BSA’s website use TouchNet to process payments. Though Shinn said TouchNet assured BCA and BSA the service would be prepared for a high number of payments, the site still experienced difficulties this morning.

TouchNet did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Many students had charges pending on their credit card statements Monday morning but did not receive an email with their tickets attached.

“I woke up at 7:45 to get those tickets,” said Jason Addy ’16, who said he received an error message the first time he tried to purchase tickets and later found he had been charged without receiving a ticket.

BCA posted on its blog Monday afternoon that students who had been charged but did not receive an email confirmations had not actually purchased tickets, and their pending charges would be canceled. It is TouchNet’s responsibility to contact credit card companies and cancel pending charges, Shinn said.

About 120 students requested a negative number of tickets Monday morning, further overloading TouchNet and interfering with the BCA website, Shinn said. Each of these students were charged $10 but didn’t receive tickets, he added. Diane Chouinard, coordinator of Financial Services, refunded each student individually, Shinn said.

“Today sucked. It really did,” BCA members wrote in their blog post Monday afternoon. The post also said BCA and BSA were working with TouchNet and University administrators to reopen ticket sales on Monday night and Tuesday morning to compensate for the tickets that should have been sold Monday morning.

TouchNet promised it would use more servers to prevent another jam, Shinn said.

BCA and BSA chose to sell the remaining 2,500 tickets per concert at two separate times to prevent students with evening activities from missing out on the opportunity to buy tickets — 1,250 tickets per concert went on sale 8 p.m. Monday, and 1,250 tickets per concert will go on sale at Tuesday at 7 a.m. to avoid interference with senior pre-registration at 8 a.m.

“People were being a lot more rude than they should have been to the Brown Concert Agency representatives,” said Ananya Bhatia-Lin ’16, who praised BCA for posting updates to the Class of 2016 Facebook group, blog, event page and elsewhere.

“I would be much more pissed if I didn’t get tickets at 8 p.m.,” said Jason Shum ’14. “But since I did, it softens the blow.”

“I’m much happier, but I’m not happy I had to get up at 8 a.m.,” said Elizabeth Powers ’14.  She said BCA did a good job communicating their solution to the student body and that she appreciated their sympathy on the blog.

While BCA and BSA members said they are frustrated with TouchNet’s poor performance, the University’s contract with TouchNet makes it difficult for BCA and BSA to change services, Shinn said. “The difficulty is not only in the bureaucracy but also in the cost” of setting up an alternative system, he said.

Joie Steele, faculty adviser for BCA, said BCA and BSA are “two of the hardest working groups on campus” and that it is unfortunate the two groups always suffer the blame for issues with ticket sales.

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