I once stood next to the legendary reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry, in a crowded pub. He was wearing a crown made of gold-coloured cardboard and was holding a lemon up against one eyeball. Either he was applying a Jamaican folk remedy for glaucoma or he could see something fascinating in the lemon. Plainly, he was barking mad. But Scratch is also a musical genius of some decades’ standing, so I was keen to book early when his forthcoming Auckland show was announced. With some righteous dub murmuring in the background, I set out for the Ticketek Web site. At first, I couldn’t find the concert listed anywhere. I searched for "Lee Perry" and then just "Perry" and got no result. Finally, I searched by the date, September 23, and got a listing. Even though there was only one show, I had to select the time and date against the listing and click "go" to proceed. The next page told me there was no B Reserve available and all tickets were $45, but simultaneously offered me either A or B Reserve or "best available tickets in any price category". What it didn’t offer were the only two options available at the Logan Campbell Centre: upstairs or downstairs. We wanted upstairs. Once again, I had done battle with the Ticketek Web site and lost. I called Ticketek (at least I could find the number on the site this time) and booked by phone. It’s been worse in the past. Have you ever tried to book a rugby ticket with Ticketek online? They’ll quote you prices for A,B,C,D,E and F Reserves — but they can’t actually tell you where the seats are. Ticketek insists its Web site is still in development, but it seems to have been that way for a very long time. The impending arrival of American ticketing giant ETM, with its tooled-up site and features like live real-time seating charts will provide the impetus for Ticketek to get its site out of development into gear — or surrender the market. Getting the syntax of such self-provisioning Web services right will be vital for a range of businesses in the next few years. Apart from the cost advantages to the vendor, there is also a growing social group that wants to do things for itself on the Internet. Companies, like 2Day.com, whose customers hail largely from that group, are naturally at the leading edge. But Telecom, which already offers the ability to order new home lines on its Web site (and is gearing up to do the same with fault resolution) is making an impressive job of taking online provisioning to the mass market. The online model also offers some interesting opportunities for partnership. You can’t sign up to make Merdian Energy your electricity retailer on Meridian’s Web site — but you can follow the link to a dedicated page on the Sky TV site, where you can sign up for both Meridian and Sky Digital — and save $200 on your Sky installation. I found that particular deal through Consumer’s Power Switch site — itself a model of self service. I’m still not sure whether I’ll take it — but if I do, the best thing about it might just be that I didn’t have to talk to a call centre. Contact Russell at email@example.com
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