Burning Man opened their OMG sale today at High Noon. Tickets sold out in approximately 8 minutes, yet Burners were made to wait in the queue for 15 minutes or more anyway. Arriving early does not appear to have helped. Many Burners were trapped by the requirement to also have a Ticketfly account using the same email address as their Burner profile: they were lucky enough to get into the sale, but in the time it took to register with Ticketfly, the tickets were sold from underneath them. This was not indicated by Burning Man in the Ticketing information or the Jackedrabbit – although they did mention it in passing in a blog post in February. According to their Ticket Support FAQ, from Feb 23 2014:
Will I need to create an account to complete my ticket purchase?
If you’ve successfully pre-registered for access to a ticket sale, you’ll be prompted during the purchase process to either log in or create an account on the Ticketfly system. Don’t worry—it’s a quick and painless step in the purchase flow and won’t affect your ability to get your tickets.
If you want to be extra prepared you can go ahead and create your account in advance of the sale by visiting our ticketing partner’s web site and setting up your account. Even if you already have an account from a past ticket purchase to a previous Ticketfly event, please create a new account using the same email address as your Burner Profile.
Please know that we understand that having to maintain a separate log in isn’t ideal. In an effort to streamline the process and keep things as cohesive as possible we are working around the clock so that in all of our future sales you will be able to log in during the ticket purchase process using your same Burner Profile log in information.
Quite clearly, it did affect your ability to get your tickets. Basically, if you hadn’t pre-registered a Ticketfly account with the same email address as your Burner profile, you lost out on tickets. When BMOrg says “in all of our future sales”, they don’t mean “in all of our future sales”. They mean: “coming soon”. Clearly, despite BMOrg “working around the clock”, 6 months is neither “future” nor “soon”.
I logged in at 12:07, using a Profile where I falsely said I’d never been to Burning Man before. It told me I had 18 minutes left in the queue. I can’t understand how it could have calculated that number, and it was a lie anyway. I got through the queue in about 10 minutes, only to be taken to a screen where no tickets or vehicle passes were available, it just asked for a promo code. Using a promo code posted on Facebook, I was offered the chance to buy vehicle passes. It seems like these are gone now also.
Some sort of algorithm is definitely at work, looking at all of the profiles in the queue, then updating the “time remaining” variable. This algorithm seemed to be running repeatedly, being applied to my position at least every minute. How was it working out the remaining time? Average wait time, multiplied by number of people before me in the queue? The updates were not based solely on number of tickets remaining, because my time remaining was dropping, increasing, dropping again – all after other Burners had received the “sold out” message. If there are no tickets available, why do they make us wait in the queue for another 10 minutes?
Burners shared their experiences on Facebook, here are some highlights:
Eddie: Well I had a promo code, didn’t have to enter it. I waited about a minute or 2 at the page with the little man walking, then I was directed to the sale page. For some reason the site hiccup’d and didnt let me purchase tickets then I refreshed the page a few times and some tickets popped up; I entered in my info as quickly as possible and purchased 2 tickets woo!
Branden: it said wait 6 min for the next step the little green man was walking the whole time i got through it, tickets were available selected 2, and a vehicle pass, went to the next step to confirm i pressed continue and BAM it said none were available. that makes no sense at all
Daniel: I went to the link sent me at 20 till noon. It said to hang out and it would place me randomly in line. Sale started and I saw the little walking man with 5 minutes to next step. Time bounced around a bit then at 8 minutes after noon it let me in. It then said there were not enough ticets to fill my order and to enter another amt. I figured I was out and went away fir a minute. Came back and entered 2 tics again and then it went to card info. I followed through and will now be going to BM.
Brian: Logged in 15 min BEFORE noon. at noon it said 8 min. 8 min later it said sold out.
Kirby: I had mine within 4 minutes.
Todd: Logged in at noon, waited in line for about 5, was put thru to ticket fly which said sold out, reloaded about 100 times until one was available and bought it. Also did this from out in the ocean with slow ass Internet.
Jocelynn: It’s just ridiculous the way they are sold now days ….. You should have to fight with a damn computer to get a frigging ticket. Bullshit. Lost out in feb’s sale…. STEP SALE and now this omg sale… Totally screwed up
El Rey: I would like to send a big FUCK YOU to ticketfly though for letting me know I couldn’t pay with an Amex at the LAST fucking screen. Dicks.
Danceburgh Afterdark: Got in, 3 mins before, they said place in line would be randomly assigned. 5 min wait, but no luck. Well, (non-portapotty smell) crap
Kaweh: We had four people online and everyone of their screens went blank once they chose one or two ticket options.! That’s VERY interesting! And that’s all on super high speed internet! mmmmmmm
Gabriel: I was in the cue at noon on the dot and still failed
Hart: COMPLETE SUCKERY! Waited in line early on chrome and then the page didn’t load when it switched to the process. So THAT SUCKS. And of course by the time i reloaded my burner profile of Safari, it sent me in line to wait for nothing… AWESOME! Anyone reliable have a ticket for Sale, cuz the website sure isnt.
Bridget: Ok can’t win don’t try. stayed up all night in Australia, actually got in, got my 1 ticket got to firefly who asked me to re enter my email and then my ticket was gone, couldn’t get back to it, cant get back into my profile and firefly will get back to me in 48hrs. Now I have to go to work crying. Yay.
Lion of Zion: That shit was rigged! I was waiting 10mins ahead of time an told my friend a virgin burner to try and log on too to get me a ticket he logged on after me and actually had the option of buying a ticket but waited to long to buy it. I didn’t even get a chance to buy one! Rigged that’s ok burning man is lost this is just life saving me from a once again corrupt system!
Lora: I logged in a few minutes before the sale and was placed in a queue shortly after. Within 8 minutes I came to a ticket screen and entered 1, but was then told none available. So I kept trying, sometimes there’d b tickets available, but theyd b gone when i clicked purchase, and this happened several times before I snagged one n got to a check out screen, where I was unable to log in, and had to reset my password, but luckily my ticket was still in my cart and I was able to buy it! Whew!
Margie: Dude, what a bummer… got in… selected 2 tickets… clicked the purchase button… all of a sudden the screen says there are no more tickets available. smh…
Dmitriy: ya its like they kept adding available tickets a few at a time ; so it kept saying none available. then more would appear as if by magic!
Katrina: Very strange, logged onto the cue for OMG sale, said none were available. Kept hitting the get ticket button, and randomly a prompt came up to buy a ticket. So I clicked it nothing happened. Kept trying, after 20 times, the same prompt came up and allowed me to buy 1 ticket and 1 car pass. Got through somehow……Now all paid up and ready for will call.
Ross: Waited “in line” 10 mins before 12. Green bar icon for seven minutes then transfered to purchase screen where there were only vehicle passes available, OMG tickets said “none available”. Heartbroken I refreshed for the next few minutes. To my disbelief the box to mark how many tickets you want popped up and I was able to purchase two. It was already close to 12:15 by then. Done give up.
Ross, Katrina and Dmitriy’s comments suggest that more tickets were fed into the system, after the initial “sold out” messages went out. That also explains why my wait time went down to 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then back up to 6 minutes, then down again. This should not have happened if everything was kosher – if you tell one Burner “it’s sold out”, you should be telling that to every Burner in the queue, and stopping the queue countdown.
It seems that not believing what BMOrg was telling you was a key factor for many who did successfully get tickets today. Burners who wouldn’t take no for an answer were sometimes able to refresh their screen and get tickets after being told none were available.
If you were told “you can buy tickets” but it took you a few minutes to open a Ticketfly account, it seems like those tickets were sold to others while you were still processsing the transaction. How does this get determined? Is there some transaction time cutoff, that if you haven’t completed it within (say) 3 minutes, those tickets just get thrown back to the group?
The ticket process generated a lot of debate last week, when BMOrg made an announcement “profiles are not FCFS”. We said that seemed to be confusing if the sale was going to be FCFS, so maybe it was going to be a lottery again – if you’re lucky, you “won” the chance to buy a ticket. We speculated that the algorithm might be doing more than just putting everyone in a linear queue, possibly favoring Virgins. Others said it was obvious that OMG would be FCFS and we were just creating confusion out of nothing.
So, was the OMG sale First Come, First Served?
No, it doesn’t appear that it was. Wait times shrank, then increased again, then shrank again, and ultimately seem to have had nothing to do with any “place” in any “queue”. While some were being told “sold out”, others like me were still seeing their wait times adjust. People who were logged in before noon, and presumably placed automatically in the queue at 12:00:00, missed out on tickets while people who logged in at 4 minutes after 12 got theirs. There was no message anywhere specifically stating that FCFS was the determining mechanism, this was merely implied by fancy graphics and a message telling you “how many minutes you have left to the next step”. This was a bold-faced lie and a waste of Burners time once the tickets were sold out. Note they didn’t ever say that the next step is buying tickets – you are waiting for the next step in the “purchase flow” process, which a computer is determining. What are the inputs to that computer decision? This is a tightly held secret.
Was there a way BMOrg could rig the game to favor Virgins? Absolutely, using either the Promo code or their mysterious algorithm. Some Promo codes got “through to the next step”, some didn’t. The “time remaining” was true for some, but false for most. The fact that it was swinging around wildly suggests that something unusual was going on behind the scenes.
Tickets are still available on the secondary market. While the sale was open, prices on Stubhub briefly dropped to $610 (161 available), before skyrocketing back up. Right now it’s $989.49 (94 available), it looks like nearly 70 tickets have been sold on the aftermarket since OMG. There are plenty of vehicle passes available, scalper price seems to be holding steady for the last week at about $100.
Please share your experiences in this poll, and in the comments.