Do Drinks Tickets At Festivals Put You Off?

Do Drinks Tickets At Festivals Put You Off?

It’s nearly summer and the music festivals are about to start. If you hit a festival, you might find you’re asked to buy drinks tickets or tokens rather than paying at the bar directly. Is that a useful way to speed up service, or a major hassle?

Picture by Garry Knight

At Mess+Noise, Matt Shea asked festival promoters to explain why they did (or didn’t) adopt the tickets concept. Opinions vary, but the consensus seems to be that promoters like tickets for multi-day events (less need for a massive cash float) but are less keen at shorter events (where people don’t always know how much they’ll want). Functions not offering refunds on unused tickets are identified as a major turn-off.

What’s your preference: one queue for tickets and then faster drinks service, or taking your chances with a standard bar? Share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks Josh G for the pointer!

Why Do Festivals Persist With Drink Tickets? [Mess+Noise]


  • it may speed things up sometimes… but realistically it more likely just a ploy to have less staff on an save money for organisers. Less boths, less staff, more beer… but worse when you get stuck with tix

  • Have to wait in two lines or one?

    Cash at the bar, like you know… Real bars… Where they have been serving booze for donkeys years and seem to have it figured out.

  • Nothing more than a money grabbing scheme. They bank on you buying more tickets than you’l use and you never can get them refunded. They also take twice as long as you’ve got to line up twice! That’s just what we want to do at a festival, line up. Perhaps if they had the staff at the ticket selling booths selling stuff at the bars the queues would go a lot better!

  • After being on the committee that organised the Village Fair Music Festival, I can say that drinks tickets are huge time saver for patrons and organisers.

    The lines for the tickets move quick because all they have to do is take money (usually in large notes – no change necessary) and tear off that many tickets – no messing around with getting a drink as well as change.

    The drinks line then goes quicker too as most drinks are the same number of tickets, so almost everyone buying is prepared, and the tickets are trashed unceremoniously after being checked and ripped by the staff – again, no messing around with change or securing the cash.

    From a patron’s point of view, I like them because it means I can pay in one lump sum (ie; only wait once to pay), then only spend the time in line needed to get served, effectively saving me time by the end of the day.

    • Oh, and it’s a good security measure for the organisers too – They only have to hire a bunch of young bar staff with their RSAs to serve the drinks, no need to worry about them pocketing the cash. (Note: it does nothing to stop the bar staff giving away drinks of course).

      Then, the ticket sellers don’t have to have an RSA and instead can be a fully trained cashier who is fully trusted.

    • >From a patron’s point of view, I like them because it means I can pay in one lump sum

      so what happens when you refuse me service of alcohol for being intoxicated? are you going to refund all my drinks tickets? or are you going to say tough luck?

      What happens if the place runs out of alcohol, or you only have light beers? would i get a refund?

      Sounds like a farce to me

      • In all cases mentioned, we refunded unused tickets at the end of the day (infact, at any time of the day at the same booth you bought them from).

        It may be worth pointing out that Village Fair was and still is an entirely volunteer run event and a not for profit, with a portion of the profits going toward charity (the rest being put in the coffers for growth of the next year)

  • It seems to me that the problem exists with Servers trying to complete two jobs at the same time; make/serve drinks AND take payment.
    Making people line up twice is a turn off and can result in heavier drinking due to patrons trying to save time that they wasted in the second line by buying enough to get them through until later than usual.
    Having lines go fast but it looks like the only way to make sure everything is smooth is to provide cards that are swipe-able for cash OR drinks. Kiosks can reload the cards electronically like ATM’s and each time a drink is ordered the server would only need to enter the amount of drinks ordered and can wait for the swipe before handing over.
    It would make lines faster, eliminate the need for two lines and it would be easier to manage with software and an intranet accounting system.

    I just thought of this right then. Shoot holes in the idea that I might have missed and lets work on getting this system being used if there aren’t any.

    • It’s hard enough to get ATMs at some festivals, let alone an entire swipe / intranet system.

      Unfortunately, these events are setup in locations which are not equipped for any kind of technology (a farm, in the case of Village Fair) – so it’s hard enough to get power to the stages, let alone an intranet setup securely.

      Also, there’s the issue of swipe cards being handed out / collected / stolen / etc.

      Lastly, from a drunk patron’s point of view – how does one tell how much money is left on their card? I could imagine some people simply flying off the handle if they get to the bar after waiting to be told “Sorry, no money left on your card”.

  • Most festivals I’ve been to have been the cash variety there the lines have gone from ok to outrageous. The one festival I’ve been to with tickets the lines seemed pretty fast and smooth. I don’t tend to be a huge drinker at festivals though, and almost universally it’s much slower to get decent food than it is to get a drink.

    Fundamentally though I have no problems with the ticket system, provided there’s a way to get money back on unused tickets.

  • Why not have two lines, one for tickets and the other for cash.

    If tickets are ultimately that much better the line for cash will be smaller anyway omce people realise, minimizing your problem

  • Not really, but I think its rather pointless.

    Easier just to equip bar staff with the ability to do electronic transactins

    Swipe your card, and you’re done. No need to worry about giving the correct change.

  • I’ve only been to one featival that used the ticket system and that was maybe 12 years ago. It was a total shambles.
    Tickets could only be purchased outside the wet area on one side of the crowd, next to the wet area entrance, but the wet area exit was on the other side of the crowd, meaning if you wanted more tickets you had to push through the crowd to get to the ticket booth and re-enter the wet area.

    The problem was probably more to do with there being a limited wet area than the ticket system though.

    Pretty much the only multi-day feastivals I bother these days have a more relaxed hippy vibe, and are strictly 18+.
    They allow you to bring alcohol – just no glass. There’s also a “bottle shop” tent that sells single cans, 6 packs or slabs for a few hours in the afternoon/early evening. I’ve never seen any trouble there.

    The rules on the back of the ticket:
    No open fires or gas stoves
    No glass
    No dickheads.

    It works.

  • Im 17, and have started going to festivals. Yes i drink with friends, but every festival there was somebody throwing up, or starting a fight with me. i go there for the music, not to get hammered, you want to get plastered? Do that shit at the night club. There should be searches on young looking people for alcohol, and a 3 drink maximum put in place. And this is in Perth of all places, bongan capital.

    People, it’ respect, and you 15 year old girls with a bottle of vodka. No we dont look at you saying “omg they are so cool. Lets give them attention” we look at you and say “look at those stupid 15 year olds looking for attention. pathetic.” This is coming from a 17 year old! i should be sneaking booze in! But no, i dont, because i dont need to throw up on some chick, and stumble through the mosh pit of my favorite band and tell a random guy how much i love there music, to enjoy myself. I dont know about anyone else, but please people from Perth, common sense.

  • Harvest Melbourne was a shambles, ticket lines were massive and so were the drink lines. Terrible.

    Also with tickets it was $4 a ticket and then drinks were allocated a number of tickets. Small beers and Cider was $8 and spirits $12.

    So people bought tickets without knowing the price of drinks or the size of the drinks. A simple list of pricing by the booth for tickets would have helped.

    One guy took opposition at the drink tent when I was there and said they were too expensive and the beers were too small. They were, ciders were bigger as the cups were provided and branded by the cider maker by the looks.

    Anyway the drink tent manager argued, you wouldn’t go to the supermarket and argue over the price of a roast chicken would you?

    Well no, you can walk away without committing to a purchase, you can look at the price and say, nope, too much and go somewhere else. You don’t have to line up for supermarket credits before seeing the prices.

    When you buy the tickets you can’t actually see the products you are actually purchasing.

    It’s a good idea in some ways, just needs to be implemented better. There were a few things wrong with Harvest.

  • The problem isn’t which system is used, but how well it’s implemented. Staff a ticket booth or a bar with inefficient staff and the result will be the same.
    There’s been many events where I’ve come away thinking the promoters must be crazy – if they’ just had more/better staff working whichever system, they’d have taken two or three times the amount of cash from me. Organisations that have a captive market and STILL can’t take money off them quick enough kinda make me angry – it’s not rocket science.

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