Although it is nice to have your theatre tickets posted, sometimes it can be just as easy, if not easier, to collect from Box Office. It is all down to personal preference. Some like the reassurance of having their tickets in their hand before they set off to the theatre. Mixups are rare, but there is nothing like that sinking feeling of getting to a theatre box office and having them telling you they have no record of your booking. Of course the likelihood is that after a frantic search to discover you have written down the wrong order number, or the theatre staff have filed your tickets under the wrong surname, your tickets will emerge. Having the tickets in your pocket as you head to the theatre can give you that extra feeling of control.
Having said that, there are those who know with their luck they are liable to misplace the tickets before the show date if they have them posted. For this reason many feel more comfortable collecting their tickets from the theatre on arrival. The theatre will have your booking down as a COBO, which stands for Care Of Box Office, and will have printed the tickets out in advance ready for you to collect. Many theatres will have a separate window or stall near the box office where they give COBOs out. This helps streamline the foyer during the incoming of a show which can be pretty chaotic with people wanting to collect tickets, book for that evening's show or even more peskily, book for future dates. People offer worry that queuing to collect tickets takes an age, but in reality most box offices are well organised and prepared so the separated collection areas are quite swift.
It is always best to allow twenty to thirty minutes before the show is due to start to collect your tickets just in case queues are unusually long or there is a problem tracing your booking. Tickets can double up in unfortunate yet rare circumstances - they may have accidentally be allocated to two agencies by mistake if the confirmation of seats being taken or "inked in" by the theatre has been missed. This can usually be sorted out at the counter and in most cases both parties can be sat somewhere in the theatre, but arriving nonchalantly as the curtain goes up is not advised.
Group bookings are usually best to have their tickets posted, particularly if they are over ten people. The theatre foyers are usually pretty small and not the ideal place for a coach load of a hundred schoolchildren waiting to be given their tickets by an already stressed teacher. Much simpler if the tickets are dispersed at school, or even on the coach on the way to the venue. No-one wants to have to push through a cluttered throng of confused schoolkids to purchase their pre-show programme and M&Ms. Most theatres and agencies will insist on larger groups and indeed individual bookings having their tickets posted for this reason as the timescale to get the whole auditorium into their seats is quite tight.
Conversely once the booking date starts to get closer to the actual show date you may find that you can only collect your tickets from the theatre. Tickets can get lost in the post or may simply not arrive in time, especially if they are being sent abroad. Although duplicates or untraceable bookings can usually be sorted out at the counter, if they have been booked with one of the thousands of smaller agencies across the UK or overseas brokers it can take precious time for the box office to look a booking up particularly if they do not recognise the company name or reference number.
People also often fail to understand why they are usually told that they can only collect box office collection tickets on the day. As well as the tickets they sell themselves directly to the customer at the counter theatres give out a large chunk of their allocations to agencies in order to help ensure fuller houses. The theatre wants agencies to sell as many tickets as they can for obvious reasons, so the confirmations of agency sales are not usually sent to the theatre until the morning of the show. Once they have all the agencies' confirmations back then they will print out their sales for that day's show or shows all in one batch, rather than keep having to print throughout the day. If you go to the theatre to collect from Box Office
before the show date your name and booking reference is unlikely to mean anything to the theatre at that point in time unless you booked with them directly.
Please note: Opinions expressed on the londontheatredirect.com blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.