Monday, 8 February 2016

A suggestion box for concert organisers

There seems to be a bit of mass hysteria whenever a big act comes to South Africa, with tickets selling out in minutes - if that long - for the likes of Mumford & Sons.

What that means is that the big event organisers know that their product is sold out before they actually have to deliver the service that people are paying fortunes for... and it's given me the feeling that they actually don't even try to deliver an acceptable - never mind exceptional - product for their customers.

I guess that we're a little spoiled, having been to the Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts (I've been twice, Brett's been three times) where everything is geared around the festival-goers' experience - and not about the organisers' commitment to making money and not taking care of patrons.

This weekend's Mumford & Sons events were a case in point, in my view. Here's why:

  • The amphitheatre at the Voortrekker Monument is a great idea in theory - the views are magnificent, and the way the landscape is shaped means that everyone can see the stage. However, there was one route into the amphitheatre, that I could see - what happens if there's a panic? And there's not parking for 25 000 people. There's not even enough parking for those people if they take park and rides and Ubers. 
  • I got quite excited when I heard that the event was going to be cashless. I thought that the organisers were smart making Mumford & Sons branded cashless tap and go cards available, and communication ahead of the event led me to understand that I would be able to use my contactless bank card. Not so. One food vendor did accept my bank card, but none of the others we checked with did. Which meant that we had to queue to buy a R200 cashless card with a credit card to buy four bottles of water. 
  • But wait, there's more... most of the points where these cards were sold... only accepted cash. So. Go to a cashless environment with your cash to buy a cashless card so that you can buy goods in the cashless environment. Right. 
  • There was a minimum purchase of R200 to get the cards, R10 of which was a card fee. Even if you wanted to just buy four bottles of water that cost R10 each. Yes. R10 per bottle of water.
  • You can get your money that you didn't use back out of that cashless card by sending an sms (but not via Telkom mobile, because that doesn't work) - but you can only get it back two weeks later - so whether it's Plankton (the card vendor) or the organisers, someone gets to sit on all that money for two weeks and earn interest... on top of the R10 per card fee we've already paid.
  • There weren't enough food vendors. There never are. Waiting upwards of 30 minutes to buy overpriced takeaways does not make for a good experience. 
  • The alcohol queues looked like they would take in excess of an hour to buy anything. HEADS UP CONCERT ORGANISERS: people drink at your events. They drink a lot. So for crying out loud in a bucket, have more than one place for them to buy booze! Have five places! Have 10! You'll still make all the money... unless you want to maximise profits by keeping your staff count as low as possible, in which case, you're hitting the ball out of the park in making sure that your customers have a bad experience while they're waiting to give you even more of their money. 
  • Why do we have to pay for water at concerts? Why are we not able to take in our own water or water bottles - and why is water not provided, for free? 
I'm shouty about these things because at Glastonbury I've never had more than three people in front of me in a queue for a drink or a food item - and the festival hosts 200,000 people over five days. The food is always fresh and tasty, and there's a wide variety of it - more than burgers, pizzas and schwarmas.

Water is free at Glastonbury - just bring your own bottle. The bonus of that is that there's not mountains of litter to gather up and throw away. 

I am very well aware that I'm somewhat of a jaded concert goer. I'm completely over the whole vibe of spending two hours to get into a venue, to sit for an hour or two to wait for the performance, to watch it for 90 minutes, and then to spend another three hours getting home. 

But part of my disenchantment with the whole scene is just how little the organisers do to make it an enjoyable experience. Putting on a concert is about so much more than bringing the band out and selling all the tickets in five minutes or less. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Of pedestrians and pavements

Did you know that nearly 35 percent of the people killed in December's road carnage were pedestrians? It's something that's easy to understand when you're driving around suburbia, because the vast majority of pedestrians you'll see are walking in the street - some perilously close to the curb, looking like they're about to tip over onto the pavement, while others stroll more towards the middle of the road, with cars swerving around them to avoid a collision. 

I'm still not sure why so many people walk in the street, when often there are pavements right there. Maybe its a hangover from the bad old days - were non-whites not allowed to walk on the pavements back then? Regardless, this train of thought got me taking the time to look at pavements while I'm driving around town. 

Pavements in Johannesburg are not pedestrian-friendly places, and they really, really should be. 

I've noticed that the Joburg City Council is doing some good work paving public pavements - Louis Botha Avenue is a great example towards the Alexandra end of the road, although pavement conditions are absolutely appalling and a disgrace through Orange Grove and towards Houghton. The intersection at the top of my road is a mud pit - even when it hasn't been raining - and the intersection is a popular stopping place for taxis. 

I know that public money isn't spent quickly (unless it's on Nkandla) and that they're making an effort. I also understand that these things take time. They're also doing a great job with the City's parks - our outdoor spaces really do look good - apart from the pavements. 

But what about the pavements outside our homes? Even though your pavement doesn't belong to you (your property ends at your wall), its upkeep and maintenance are the home owner's responsibility. I've seen some great pavements, and I've seen some shocking ones. There's one on my route to school where the home owners have planted a forest of trees, three or four deep, to make sure that nobody can get to - or over - their wall. Great for security, but completely awful for any pedestrian who is pushed off the pavement and onto a busy road. 

There are some pavements that are overgrown with ivy, and no place to walk. There's a house on my road that started renovations two years ago, and there's still a pile of builder's sand blocking the paved part of the pavement. I've seen pavements where bushes push over, blocking the pathway, and others that are uneven, full of stones, or just not nice to walk on - never mind push a pram on. 

So. This thing of dying pedestrians and awful pavements becomes one of things that we all need to play our small role in to fix. We can start by driving less aggressively, paying more attention to what's going on and who's walking in the street where. 

But we can also own up to our own pavements, making them easier places to walk. You don't need to haul in a landscaper - just clean up any plants that are over any paved areas outside your property. Don't plant forests on your pavements. Clean up your building rubble. Get someone in to level the ground out, if the area isn't paved or tarred (or do it yourself). 

Walk your pavement yourself, and think about the experience. Then fix whatever makes your experience unpleasant. 

If you're planning some home improvements, think of improving your kerb appeal (what estate agents call 'first impressions'- those are the things that help sell your house one day) and invest a little in paving your pavement. You don't have to plant anything pretty - although you could. You could even take things 'to the next level' and plant a pavement veggie garden, for hungry people to help themselves - but you don't have to. 

All you have to do is take a little time to think about what it's like to be a pedestrian walking past your house - and make their lives a little easier while making your house look better from the outside.

You may well help save a life in the process.