The annual stampede to buy tickets for the Glastonbury festival turns into a sham following the collapse of online ticket sales. Has the UK's online community learned nothing from well publicised disasters such as the Census site and ticket sales for the French World Cup?
Following the release of Glastonbury tickets at 8pm on April 1, anxious festival goers flocked to the official site in droves. In fact, a spokesperson for the site, owned by Emap and run by Aloud.com, said that it had had some 2 million hits in the first five minutes alone.
This compares with 300,000 hits during the first 24 hours of tickets going on sale last year.
It had prepared for the ticket sale by adding extra servers and bringing in more than 100 staff to handle telephone sales.
However, instead of being able to buy tickets, music fans were left seething after being confronted by a series of frustrating “this service is very busy, please try again later” messages and straight browser errors (no pretty error messages mind).
It seems that only those who obtained the URL of a site part way through the ticket buying process were able to get anywhere.
Phone lines were jammed solid too.
Problems persisted well into the afternoon of April 2, with tickets for the eagerly anticipated event finally selling out around 8pm on Friday - 24 hours after they first went on sale.
Michael Eaves, the festival organiser, writes: "I have to say I'm very sorry that so much trouble has been caused by the serious delays within the phone lines and the website. Clearly the engineering specification was well short of what was needed - particularly the BT exchange in Nottingham which was cutting back our calls to the call centre by as much as 60 per cent some of the time. We will make sure that this doesn't happen again at all cost."
However, even the lucky few that did get manage to purchase tickets are reporting problems.
Many people say they've managed to accidentally order up to six times the number of tickets they wanted.
Others are getting emails saying ticket sales have been cancelled due to non-payment from the bank, despite the presence of more than enough money in their account.
Glastonbury organisers said that duplicate orders have been cancelled and returned to the system.
All these tickets have been sold. "Any further returned tickets and duplicate orders will be absorbed by the needs of traders, staff, and locals," festival organisers said.
Last year, numerous tickets for the last year's festival found their way on to online auction company eBay, prompting organisers to overhaul the ticket-sales procedure for this year's event in order to prevent touting.
This time round, festival goers could only buy two tickets per head, and they had to supply their names and addresses, which would be printed on tickets. Also, only debit cards could be used for ticket purchases.
According to Aloud.com, it was these changes that contributed towards the slow performance of the site.
However, a spokesperson for eBay said the company couldn't be blamed for any changes that Glastonbury organisers may have made to their systems.
"EBay is merely an online marketplace or venue which allows registered users to buy and sell practically anything. EBay views the selling of these concert tickets as a private matter between the event organiser and the seller. EBay is not a party to the contracts between the organisers and the ticket holders," eBay claimed in a statement.
In reality, it would appear that inadequate capacity is closer to the truth- the back-end system for Glastonbury sales ran on a couple of Win 2K boxes. The problems that accompanied the sale of Glastonbury tickets were all too predictable, yet Aloud.com and Glastonbury fell into the same old trap, leaving consumers, once again, to pick up the pieces.
Sources: BBC Online, The Register, Zenith Media
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