OMG What a Debacle

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”.

photo (4)

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!

photo (5)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.

photo (6)Robert: the worst bouncers at a nightclub could learn to be more efficient at ruining a good time by watching how tickets are sold. Buzzkill!

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.


34 comments on “OMG What a Debacle

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  5. I’ve never been to a Burning man,But First heard of it in 2001,And IT WAS FREE,Screw the man,Burning Man has turned into a money sucking Vampire,against what it stands for imo,oh, never went ,and never going to go, Dry ass Desert,barely any water,have fun yall

      • But Momo is right that the tickets used to cover the cost with minimal overhead and profit, less than 10% of the ticket price. Now overhead and profit exceed 50% of the ticket price, yet the realtive hard costs have not increased substantially. Burning Man is now a cash cow, and everyone is on the take, utterly surrendering any and all interests of the participants to make an extra buck. But there is no band, no play, no core event that must be paid for.

        It is a stone soup event, and the organizers are mistaken that they are the key element. Figment, Night Market and the regionals have all more than shown that. If you treat the villagers right, and follow the Figment 11th Principle of Gratitude, you don’t have to charge anything for a bowl of soup, even if that bowl goes to someone who did no more than bring their bowl and appetite.

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  7. Curious too the “Service Fee” charged for using Ticketfly to do this process. A $7 charge was made for purchasing a Burner Express ticket too. Those will definitely all add up. My favorite part is the Decommodification LLC name they run it under.

  8. Got mine without any issues… started 9 minutes before, then loaded for a minute or so -> Got assigned to the full green “tickets reserved” bar about 3 minutes -> then it timed out to a browser error page -> i refreshed -> it said welcome back, proceed here (nice and lucky touch) -> registered for Ticketfly, added my card details and checked out fine 🙂 looking forward to it… first time and flying in all the way from Denmark/Estonia 🙂

  9. The process is absurd. I haven’t yet been able to figure out what the net benefit to BM Org is, though. BM Org Pre-Sale legitimizes their own egregious “scalper prices”, and inflates profits. I get that.

    BUT, after the Pre Sale, it’s just plain unnecessary roughness, and illogical. Somebody took an Econ class on Scarcity, but skipped class a few too many times. Burners are bilked out of thousands upon thousands of dollars. There’s nothing fun about any of the subsequent sanctioned sales processes. Burning Man demonstrates utter disrespect and disdain for people’s personal time.

    If they seriously don’t want scalping, or actually want to do something about it, there should only be ONE General Sales event, and STEP should be the only outlet for ticket transfers after that, right up to and after gates open.

    I, too, wish I’d bought mine in the pre-sale.

    • You hit on an amazingly good point: the wasted time. Think of the dozen or more hours each SUCCESSFUL ticket buyer had to spend to be successful, compared to the good ‘ole days when you logged in, waited maybe an our, and then bought your tickets. Multiply that by the 60,000 plus tickets sold. Then consider the tens of thousands of unsuccessful buyers who have spent that much time, or more. This comes to hundreds of thousands of hours committed to the new ticketing process.

      Does Burning Man create more time for those interested out of thin air? Of course not. Then where does this time come from? It comes from other efforts the ticket buyers might do: playa art, theme camps, mutant vehicles, and a million other things, including productive work to earn the money to go to the Burn.

      How are the event and participants served by this amazing black ticket hole of time the BOrg has created? How does this required contribution of time to the event serve the community? I have no doubt that getting this many people to dance to your tune feeds an amazing narcissistic need, but is there any other justification?

      • Time is THE most precious finite resource each living being has. It is arrogant to squander another’s time for self-serving purposes.

      • Nomad? And Mustang Sally?
        Just have to ask… Stranger things have happened.
        In Dust we trust.
        spacey Stacey

        • Not that I recall, but I have never been big on wasting memories. As long as one remembers, that is all that counts. 🙂

  10. I did all the right stuff…pre-registered, established a Ticketfly account ahead of time, even checked the “Virgin” button in the pre-registration (despite the fact that this will be my 18th burn.) Got “in line” with my code within SECONDS of 12 noon, only to be told there were “none” tickets left. (This is all withing SECONDS fo 12 noon.) With all hope lost I figured that I’d at least get a vehicle pass (there were still a bunch left apparently.) I purchased a vehicle pass with my code. But, come to find out that when I hit refresh there were STILL TICKETS LEFT! Magic! But, within seconds, once I clicked “buy”, it changed and said “none left”. But AGAIN, I refreshed…and now there were still tickets left! …..only to be told that my “code” had already been used (to buy the fucking useless vehicle pass)!!!!! ARGHHHHHHHHH! MOTHERFUCKER(s)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Needless to say, at 18 years and counting I’ve seen all of BORG’s stupid ideas for selling tickets come and go. WHY IN THE HELL DO THEY INSIST ON RE-INVENTING THE WHEEL EVERY DAMN YEAR?! Just sell the tickets….FCFS. No lottery, no registration, just sell the damn tickets.

  11. Sadly, Knowing this would probably happen makes paying the exorbitant $600 fee at the advance sale in March worth it.

    • In fact, it says a lot about what your time is worth. Say you have to commit 10 hours to make tickets happen without the pre-sale. If it costs you an extra $200, then your time is worth $20/hour. Better than minimum wage, but far below the billable time in most professions. Ticket prices, or at least pre-sale (BOrg scalping/extortion) can be expected to go up. But at some point the event will reach a tipping point where it will collapse from the expanding time commitment and associated diminishing participation. It is hard to pack a theme camp into a G4, or into fewer cars as car passes are unevenly distributed. No, this is an amazingly foolish and utterly pointless exercise in how hard you can make it to get a ticket.

  12. BMorg literally has you guys begging for tickets. That is great press for them. They are drinking your tears. The angrier you get on not being able to get a ticket creates a sense that this is the coolest event on the planet. It drives up demand. The more people hear they can’t get a ticket to something, the more they want it.

    When are you people just going to stop going? They are playing you like a grand piano. It’s good for the lulz, though.

  13. Ticketmaster is the only company on the planet that can handle an onsale like this. Love them or hate them, who else do you know that can sell 100K+ tickets in minutes as efficiently and without pain? Nobody. That is why they have been “the man” for the last 30 years and that is why sports teams (whole damn sports leagues!), Stadiums, The Stones, U2, and the freaking NFL use them. I’d gladly pay more in “fees” for a pain free consumer experience. And these “fees” are often being split with the promoter btw – BMORG is this case) (rev. share – the dirty little secret of this their biz. Shocker!) Ticketfly is just a Ticketmaster wannabe anyway. Shit, those dudes sold their last company to Ticketmaster! Who gives a shit. Make it work. Fack

    • some of the people who wrote the code for Ticketmaster’s servers live in the Bay Area, and are Burners. I don’t think the ticketing company can get all the blame, it is BMOrg who have come up with this bizarre system, like no other event on earth. By changing ticketing companies, they got to use the excuse “it wasn’t us, it was our ticketing company”…that excuse is no longer available to them.

    • Ticketmaster has been “the man” because of exclusive lock in contracts with venues and raising fees to incredible amounts… and lest not forget buying stubhub and essentially turning into scalpers themselves. Ticketmaster deserves to go out of business, but being a monopoly it’s unlikely.

  14. it was rigged, there is no explanation for it that makes sense. I find it very hard to believe that Ticket Fly processed at a minnimum 1500 transactions in 8 minutes! 3000tickets limit of 2 per code. Just complete BS

    • you’re right, that would be 3 per second. Sounds high. Also doesn’t explain all the people reporting they got told “sold out” and then kept refreshing until they could buy.

  15. I was in about 4 minutes before the sale. the only problem was that is looked as though the server had crashed as I was entering the queue. I waited patiently, and about one minute after it said that i was entering the line, it refreshed and i was in line. They told me about three minutes wait until I was going to the “next step.” Again, I waited for those three minutes and got in! I was able to buy two tickets and a car pass, did not have to use the same email as my burner profile (actually that email wouldn’t sign in) and everything worked fine. Not sure what happened with all of you who had those issues, but I do hope you are able to find your way home.

    I know a lot of my friends didn’t get tickets either, so I feel your pain.

  16. Dang, wish I had thought to refresh my page! I bought two vehicle passes in a panic but have no tickets. Feeling kinda stupid now…

  17. I also got burned by ticketfly during the main sale. Pre registered and ticketfly account in hand, was told registration numbers were invalid 20 minutes into the sale. Burning man later said that meant the tickets were all sold. But I purchased one ticket for a friend with her code after that. Something isn’t working right.

  18. Entered the sale with two windows open and two code numbers. One for me and one from a friend. Ticketfly would let you sign in early and claimed a random placing in the line. Within 4 minutes I was placed in line. Immediate attempt to purchase tickets was met with no more tickets in queue, but try again. About 8 minutes into the sale both windows kicked out with the message that shopping cart had timed out. Re-signed in immediately. For a half hour, I kept refreshing the page. In that half hour, out of hundreds of refresh hits, the opportunity to buy popped up 65 times. I selected 1 ticket and no parking pass. By the time I could enter 1 ticket and hit the get tickets button, the ticket was gone. At 12:34, the refresh button message changed to no further tickets available, and the next refresh said it was over.

  19. The addition of Ticketfly has been nothing but a pain in the ass. I missed the main sale despite being registered for everything early, being in the queue early, being shown my tickets and then being dropped during checkout because Ticketfly redirected me to the Canadian version of their website where my Visa debit doesn’t work. It only works as a Visa if it’s outside of Canada. Being as BM is a US event I thought I would be paying USD to a US ticketing company. Silly me. Luckily I got a ticket and car pass through the community. It appears the OMG sale was great too, Yay Ticketfly. Not.

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