BREAKING NEWS: Burning Man launches STEP at High Noon Wednesday Feb 29; runs until August

This just in from BMorg HQ:

On Wednesday, February 29 at 12 noon PST, STEP will be opened to those who have tickets they want to sell. We’ll be emailing everybody who bought tickets through our Pre-Sale or Main Sale in the next two days, inviting you to sell your extra tickets into STEP. If you’re one of these people, watch your inbox for that email (if you don’t get an email by Thursday, visit http://tickets2.burningman.com/contact.php and select “Missing STEP email” from the drop down menu). People selling tickets into STEP will be credited the face value of the ticket and any delivery fees, but not the original service fees; Burning Man will cover the credit card merchant fees for the refund. You’ll be able to sell your tickets into STEP anytime until August 7, 2012 (if they are being held at Will Call), after which STEP will be closed.

So STEP is opened tomorrow for those who want to get rid of their tickets. If you are waiting to hear if you’re a lucky winner (the second time round), you’ll have to enter the lottery once again, in a couple more days:

On Friday, March 2 at 12 noon PST, we’ll open up STEP to those wanting tickets, inviting those who registered for the Pre-Sale and Main Sale but did not receive tickets to join the “want tickets” queue, on a first-come first-served basis. If you are one of those people, watch your inbox for an email containing sign up information in the next few days (if you don’t get an email by Thursday, visithttp://tickets2.burningman.com/contact.php and select “Missing STEP email” from the drop down menu). When you opt to turn your original Pre-Sale or Main Sale registration into a sign up for the “want tickets” list, you will be signed up as requesting the same number of tickets through STEP as you originally requested

It seems strange that the Burner community was given 2 weeks to enter the lottery, but only 2 days to go back to STEP to return tickets. It also looks like there is a “queue” – how they determine who gets to go first in the queue, who goes last, and whether you’re buying a $260 ticket or a $390 one seems like a job for yet another mystery algorithm

When a ticket becomes available through STEP, the person at the front of the queue will be sent an email giving them an opportunity to purchase the ticket(s). Tickets will be sold at face value of the original ticket, plus service ($6/ticket + $1/order) and Will Call delivery fees ($12/order). You will only be offered the next ticket(s) available; unfortunately, we’re not able to maintain three queues for three separate ticket price points, so you will only have the option of whatever price point comes up next in the queue. If you decline the ticket(s) or don’t purchase them within 72 hours of their becoming available, the next person in the queue will be given the opportunity to purchase them. If you decline a ticket, you will lose your place in the queue and will not be able to sign up again.

…this sounds a little unworkable. If it takes 3 days of a Burner ignoring their inbox, for the next person in the queue to get a go, then with 181 days left til Burning Man begins, we could possibly see only 60 tickets going through STEP.

The bottom line is, Burners, check your email frequently, and if you have some tickets you want to get rid of without scalping, get them to BMOrg quick!

In the past they had said that you could only apply for STEP if you already entered the lottery and lost, and you can only apply for as many tickets as you did at that time. It seems that now this has changed, to a first-come, first-serve – going all the way back to the system they were supposed to be fixing when they invented this mess. They will then have to reconcile their queue, with your original order. One thing I know about software, complexity on top of complexity, does not create simplicity.

I will be surprised if this system makes much of a difference to the ticket situation. It’s pretty clear to me that, since there’s only one queue, BMorg will pick the $390 ticket stream for that queue – pocketing the bonus profits from any altruistic Burners who sell their tickets back for a small loss ($7, about 3% of a $260 ticket). You can infer this from the complete absence of the most obvious question in their FAQ, “what do STEP tickets cost?”

Of course they sneak in a pseudo-denial:

Tickets resold through STEP are sold to other Burners at face value, so you can feel good about helping others get to the playa — anyone who buys a ticket through STEP cannot resell it to anyone other than back to STEP. This means that you don’t have to worry about your tickets being marked up and resold, and you can know you are helping others who want to go to Burning Man.

…but at the end of the day, you have to take their word for this; if you do so, then you also have to believe that although it was too hard for them to have 3 queues open at the same time instead of 1, it was easy enough for them to write and test this algorithm in a couple of weeks, that will process all the back end transactions related to the lottery and STEP system, without error.

I don’t see why they couldn’t have just been more open with the Burner community, who are well aware that the event sold out; and make it $400 for everyone, refunding the STEP donors who are kind enough to forgo $1000+ after market profits, their $7 of ticketing handling fees and passing that processing charge onto the new purchasers. Maybe the left over $3 could even be a donation to the BRAF?

Still no word on Burners having any say whatsoever about who gets the STEP tickets or the extra 10,000 Theme camp tickets.

[update 2/28/12 10:42am PST] further info from the email sent to Lottery Losers (yes I was one of them!)

If you decline because the face value of the ticket is above what you are willing to pay, you will lose your place on the list and cannot sign up again.

STEP will not likely have a large amount of tickets available. It is meant to be a safe, secure resale option to help facilitate the exchange of tickets within the Burning Man community. If the list for people seeking tickets becomes untenably long, we will pause sign ups. You should not depend solely on STEP for a ticket to Burning Man for 2012. We encourage you to look to your friends, camp mates and immediate community for other opportunities to buy tickets. If you do buy tickets directly from another ticket holder, please don’t pay more than face value.

Look over here, look over there. Look high, look low. Just whatever you do, don’t look at eBay, Stubhub, or Craigslist if you want a ticket! Only BMOrg or those camps lucky enough to be on their secret guest list can provide.

3 comments on “BREAKING NEWS: Burning Man launches STEP at High Noon Wednesday Feb 29; runs until August

  1. This is one of the most upsetting thing ever. Well doesn’t an Event when gets sold out they simply do another one so anyone who wants can attend and participate? Who and why are things being made so complicated? IS it Incompetency? IS it on purpose and by whom? It is the most unfair Ideas I’ve heard in a long time. I think Bush could have done a better job! It’s just too broken and need a New one. A second Burn. Earlier or later.

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