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Messed-Up App of the Day: High School Event Tickets

A couple years ago, watching my daughter play volleyball cost $4. You needed cash to get in. You’d get a smile and maybe even a hug if you brought four one-dollar bills. Those were always in short supply because most people paid with a five, a ten, or a twenty.

Now, cash doesn’t work anymore. To get in now, you need a QR code.

How do you get a QR code? You have to visit the e-commerce web page of the home team’s school system. A day or two before the game, one of your coaches messages all the parents something like, “We’re playing at Timber Creek tomorrow, so visit www.whatever.com to buy your tickets.”

Then, at the entrance to the gym, there’ll be a lady who will scan the QR code on your smartphone with the e-commerce app on her smartphone.

The gatekeepers love it. They love not having to guard a metal box with $500 in it, not having to make change, and not living in continuous fear of running out of ones.

I get it. It makes the gatekeepers’ lives better.

It also makes life better for the app maker, because now instead of each [adult] fan paying $4 to get in, we pay $5.46. That’s $4 to the school, plus a $1.46 processing fee. That’s a 36.5% service charge, if you’re following along. Some of that will go to a bank, and some of it, probably, to the application vendor. The processing fee amounts to around $4,000 per team per season.

You know whose lives it doesn’t make better? You might have guessed, based on the whole $1.46 thing I just mentioned. The answer is the adults who want to watch the games. If you guessed that, you’d be right. But it’s not just because of the money, which amounts to only about $60 extra per year per family. Our daughters are well worth that. The real problem is the time and effort that it takes to get your QR code.

Here’s what that looks like:

  1. You have to figure out what site you need to visit to buy this week’s ticket. If the coach forgets to send out the memo, then someone has to ask what site you’re supposed to use for this game.
  2. You have to schedule a few minutes either at work or at home, but before you drive to the event, because they may not have Wi-Fi or even LTE at the gym. Which is a Faraday cage. And it’s easier to buy tickets with a real keyboard than on a phone.
  3. You have to scroll through six swipes’ worth of big stickers about games you’re not interested in, to get to the game you are interested in. And if you miss the little “V” that’s rendered in a 6-point font and mistakenly choose “JV” instead, then you could accidentally be buying tickets for the wrong gym. By which I mean “city.”
  4. You have to fill in the following items into the app:
    1. How many adult tickets you want
    2. How many child tickets you want
    3. First name
    4. Last name
    5. Mailing address
    6. The whole mailing address (you forgot to fill in the state name)
    7. Phone number
    8. Email ID
    9. Your email ID again (it has to match the other one)
    10. Your username (yes, after you’ve entered all your personal data, which presumably would have been auto-filled for you, had you been given the opportunity to enter this earlier)
    11. Your password
    12. Your credit card number
    13. Your credit card expiration date
    14. Your credit card CVV
  5. Then you check your email for your ticket, and you screen-shot the QR code so you won’t have to fumble through your email when there’s a line of parents behind you with their QR codes, waiting to get in. In a Faraday cage, where nobody has access to email.

Here’s the problem: the system makes two people and two vendors happy, at the expense of inflicting a much worse user experience (than paying cash) for a hundred or more parents and fans, every single match. We’re paying 36.5% more for an experience that’s worse now than it was before.

Bad apps waste humanity’s time. Every extra minute the ticket-buying experience takes is 100 minutes per 100 fans wasted. Multiply that by Lord-knows how many matches there are in high schools around the US on a given night to get the effect upon GDP.

How could the user experience be improved?

  1. For starters, each school should host a single HTML page that contains a link to whatever page you need to visit for the next game’s tickets. That page should make it clear which game it’s selling tickets for.
  2. Improve the data entry requirements in step 4, so that they don’t take so much time and effort to complete. My school district uses  Pay right after step 4.2. After completing step 4.2, it’s just three clicks to complete the transaction. But a lot of other schools make you go through the whole list, from 4.1 all the way through 4.14.

As with most applications that are difficult to use, the applications for buying high school event tickets would probably be a lot better if the people who wrote them had to use them.


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4 responses to “Messed-Up App of the Day: High School Event Tickets”

  1. Clay Jackson Avatar

    You hit this nail on the head! We’re rapidly filling up our world with apps like this that don’t really make sense, and just frustrate folks.

    The next step is to start attending local board meetings and/or commenting about this sort of nonsense – that’s the only way we’re going to change things.

    Thanks for doing this!

  2. Jeremy Schneider Avatar

    Just curious, were you in any way involved with your school setting up Apple Pay?

  3. Paul Drake Avatar
    Paul Drake

    Is there any chance that a parking application that lacks any security controls whatsoever can get involved in this as well?

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