Akhona Daweti is the Festival’s Box Office Manager and, with early bird bookings just around the corner, he’s gearing up for the fun to start again – getting his staff trained, setting up computer terminals, loading events and making sure that the seating in the 60-odd venues is correctly captured on the Ticket Hut booking system.
Akhona recently moved into the Festival’s open-plan office (affectionately nicknamed ‘the Fishbowl’) and is known amongst the rest of the (predominantly female) staff as the ‘muscle’ in the office. He is also the chattiest out of everyone.
Having started as a temporary cashier in 2012, Akhona joined the Festival’s permanent staff in 2015. He runs the Box Office for NAF, the Cape Town Fringe, Michaelhouse Music Festival and a number of other events throughout the year. He has become adept at dealing with the various demands of Festival visitors – the politely phrased bookings from the ‘little old lady who does not do technology’, the frightening demands of the ballet dancer’s mom, the director who insists that their family sit in the third row from the front regardless of the fact that a show is sold out, and even that one customer who simply cannot seem to make up their own mind – each of them are treated by Akhona and his team with respect, courtesy and efficiency.
Before the busyness of bookings got under way, we asked Akhona some questions about life as head of the Festival Box Office.
My busiest period is in the weeks leading up to the start of the Festival when bookings are pretty hectic and I’m also training staff, setting up sale points, sorting out media tickets etc. The craziest time is definitely the first weekend of Fest – it’s like a hurricane in the Box Office.
Things that bug me (a little bit)
- Customers who change their minds about the date they’ve booked a ticket and want it changed – sometimes more than once.
- The very many customers who arrive late for a show and want a refund and the fantastical excuses they provide… (FYI: the Festival has a no-refund policy, except in the case of cancellations).
- That one very grumpy customer who constantly swops and changes their bookings and then won’t pay for the tickets until they arrive because they don’t believe we’ll match the booking with the payment.
Some excuses I heave heard (once or twice)
- “I arrived at the door and they didn’t let me in – I was one minute late.”
- “Your machine printed the wrong tickets with the wrong date.”
- “I definitely booked for tomorrow, definitely, the computer must have made a mistake.”
- “I forgot it was my [cousin/sister/uncle]’s wedding and couldn’t attend the show – please can I have a refund?”
- We have some lovely regular customers – and often we’ll chat as if old friends. My favourite customer is a lady from Cape Town – she is usually one of our first customers, books loads of tickets, and always has positive things to say. She even takes a little time out of her busy Festival schedule to make sure she finds me just to say ‘hi’.
- Managing to get a last-minute ticket for someone on the waiting list for a sold-out show – I love making those phone-calls.
- Encouraging someone to get a ticket to something a bit different, and then hearing how much they enjoyed it.
- The very best bit, though, is after the last show goes up on Sunday night and you know the job is done and that 1000s of customers have had a great experience watching some really awesome shows. And … I can have a bit of a lie-in the next day.