Students angered by Grad Ball ticket confusion

The process of buying tickets for the 2018 AUS x SUS Graduation Ball at Le Windsor proved controversial after many students were unable to secure tickets in the first rounds of sales. The event, hosted by both the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) and the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS), saw rapid sell-out rates and technical difficulties with the payment system used, inconveniencing students and organizers alike.

Since 2016, the AUS and SUS have used a multi-tiered ticket sale scheme in which tickets are sold in three rounds, each at a different volume, with a different price, and on a different date. This year, tickets for the gourmet dinner and dance were sold first at $98 in tier one on Feb. 18, then at $103.20 in tier two on Feb. 21, and at $108.35 in tier three on Feb. 23. Students also had the option to buy tickets for the dance alone for $62, but these were only made available in the second and third tiers.

A different quantity of tickets were sold in each tier; only 70 out of 500 total dinner and dance tickets were made available for purchase in the first tier, which sold out within 16 seconds of going live, sparking outrage among prospective attendees. Claudia Belliveau, U3 Science, was among them: After she was unable to buy one of the first 70 tickets, she grew concerned that the limited number sold in tier one indicated that the planning committee had underestimated the number of students who wanted to attend the ball.

“I think [AUS and SUS] should try to find a venue that can hold at least all the graduates, because only having 500 [dinner] tickets for two large faculties’ graduates is crazy,” Belliveau said.

In an email to The McGill Tribune, AUS Vice-President Social Nathan Greene clarified that there are 500 dinner and dance tickets, 300 dance-only tickets in tier 1, and 400 more dance-only tickets, adding up to a total building capacity of 1,200 people.

Greene explained that the value of selling tickets in tiers is twofold: First to create interest in the event, and second to encourage students to buy their tickets as soon as possible, leaving organizers with more time to plan.

Firstly, and most obviously, the tiered ticket system generates buzz,” Greene wrote. “It is [a common misconception] that Grad Ball reaches all ears as soon as the event is dropped [….] There are a fair amount of people who miss the first ticket tier, only coming in time for second and third tier tickets. The buzz generated around the event helps us sell tickets for both dinner and dance, thus maximizing our chances to sell out.

Several students who secured their tickets in the first tier reported further difficulties with payment. While some students were charged twice for single tickets, others reported that they had been charged without receiving their tickets at all. Emily Stimpson, U3 Arts, was part of the former group.

“[The Graduation Ball website] did bill me twice because there was a PayPal issue, which I know a lot of other people experienced,” Stimpson said.

According to Greene, the high frequency of PayPal purchases overloaded the system, affecting approximately 15 students. His team has since taken steps to address the issue.

“For Tier 3, we made sure to up our server capacity and also switched our payment service provider to Stripe,” Greene wrote. “These changes remedied the issue.”

While frustration over ticket purchases was most prominent among ticket purchasers, Greene noted that the confusion has taken a similar toll on the event organizers, who are all unpaid student volunteers.   

“There has been a recent, reoccurring rhetoric of entitlement that has taken hold around the purchasing of Graduation Ball tickets, which has [led] to the dehumanization of Grad Ball organizers,” Greene said. “I get frustrated when I hear individuals on my committee telling me stories of how they had to return home from a rough midterm only to face an inbox full of misdirected hate mail. We are students too, we are working on this event for [students’] sake, so please do us one courtesy and think before you send that angry message.”

Representatives from the SUS did not respond by publishing time.

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