Friday, 1 March 2013

24: Iron ladies at festivals

From the Berlinale to the Biennale, via Bread and Butter or the Berlin Literature Festival, Berlin is a haven of cultural spectacles replete with military organization.

If there is any sort of flaw, an opportunity cost in the general running of such events, it's the people who work in customer services. Because the events are so well run, the organizers expect their audience to have digested the thousands of pages of PR and advertising material airdropped and drip-fed throughout the city months in advance.

If you go to the customer services desk asking for information, you will merely make the staff who work there feel like they didn’t do their job properly.

“How can anybody not have understood?” they’ll be thinking. Rather than treat you like a paying customer, you will be looked upon like a stain on their work.
Know your bears. 
Of course one of the pleasures of attending a public event is that somebody else has organized it: all we, as the audience/spectators/or listeners have to do, is attend.

Generally large-scale events will have an information desk for foreigners. Do not stroll over to it nonchalantly looking for details. 

Don’t go near it. 

Most of your German co-festival-goers will have created their own personalized timetable by the opening gala, replete with notes, directions, preplanned questions for post event Q&As and a diagram of all nutrient-serving establishments within a mile radius of the venue. If you approach the customer service desk asking what the festival is about and how you might get tickets, you will make the organizers think they have somehow dramatically failed, for you to be so ill-informed. 

They have spent hours, perhaps weeks, surrounding your home with billboards telling you about their event. They may have parachuted fliers into your back garden, and yet you still have no idea what they are staging. Having bombarded you with advertising that you have carelessly mislaid or ignored, they are not in the mood to give you further information. The fact that you are now standing before their desk looking for last minute details, at such a late hour, is simply unacceptable. 

Expect to get told off or at best given information as if you have an offensively low IQ. While Germans realize that a customer service desk or information hotline is 'A Must Have' to be taken seriously by US professionals, they instigate them as a necessary evil rather than a genuine service. It’s just a chance to place the angriest middle-aged women in the country on the other end of a phone.

You may think: “Where is cinema XX?” is quite a fair question to ask. It’s not. Everybody else knows where it is - Why haven’t you found it yet? Have you even got a map? What’s wrong with you? There's one in the back of the program, for God's sake!

Is the venue air-conditioned? Jesus, ‘Is the earth round?’ they're thinking. 

Can tickets be purchased online? Errrr, is the Pope a Catholic? 

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