The Great Burning Man Ticket Crap Shoot

Once, when I was wandering aimlessly along the streets of Black Rock City, I came across a group that featured wonderful photo montages, including this one. Somehow or the other, it reminded me of the Burning Man ticketing process.

Once, when I was wandering aimlessly along the streets of Black Rock City, I came across a group that featured wonderful photo montages, including this one. Somehow or the other, it reminded me of the Burning Man ticketing process.

I return to Burning Man for the 11th time this year. Maybe. The ticketing process for Burning Man is like a Mad Hatter’s tea party. I described it in a blog last week. But supposedly, if I got all of my jackrabbits in a row, and if I signed in within three seconds of the time the ticket window opened, the odds were good I would get a ticket.

I met all of the requirements. I suspect if BM had demanded that I had to pat my head and rub my belly while simultaneously hitting the ticket button, I would have figured out a way to do it— maybe with my nose. I like Burning Man that much. As it was, I redid my profile, registered, updated my Ticket-fly account, and got my magic number from Burning Man: WWBK2FVF. Peggy did the same thing. We would double our chances.

And there we were at 12-noon today. I had checked in at PST and made sure my computer clock was coordinated to the second on Pacific Standard Time. With my finger poised at my computer and Peggy at hers, I did the ten-second countdown from 11:59:50. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0! When I hit zero, both of our fingers made a mad dash for enter. How long did it take? A hundredth of a second, certainly no longer than a tenth.

I immediately got a message. I was in the cue and would get to the purchase site in two minutes. Woohoo! If ever there was a guarantee, I had it. Peggy wasn’t quite so lucky. She would get in within an hour. That was strange. Then even stranger things started happening, really strange things. A little music from the Twilight Zone TV series of yore might be appropriate. “Neenner, neenner, neenner, neenner.”

Suddenly my wait time jumped to 45 minutes! Where had I gained 43 minutes? How had 30,000 people, or so, suddenly jumped in front of me? Were there algorithms attached to my number that said I had been enough times, that I had had enough of a good thing? I had read that it was best to sign up as a virgin, a first timer. Had I been too honest, too transparent? But I was a stoic, right up there with Zeno the Greek Philosopher. I resigned myself to wait the 45 minutes. The countdown continued,

I made it to 19 minutes or so. Zap! I was put on hold. Why? “Why?” I screamed at my computer. Peggy had told me she didn’t need to hear any fowl language. “Cluck, cluck, cluck!” I was about to have a massive heart attack, a coronary. Could I sue Burning Man? After 10 minutes the site came back up. My wait time was an hour plus. Eventually, it worked its way down, after jumping back and forth between more minutes and less. And then finally, I got a message; I was in— except being in meant waiting another ten minutes. Again, no explanation. Finally, the site came up. Did I want two tickets or one: two. Did I need a vehicle pass? Yes. Did I want to contribute another $40 to Burning Man? After all of this— no I didn’t.

I hit the submit button. No tickets are available, I was told. And there was no vehicle pass. But I was still welcome to contribute $40 to Burning Man. Thirty minutes later, Peggy was told there were no tickets. She, too, had the opportunity to contribute $40.

So, once again I had participated in the fiasco known as the Burning Man ticket sign-up and once again I sit here with no tickets. I will probably get tickets, but still, Burning Man owes me an explanation for its weird behavior. I am not holding my breath.

Burning Man is wonderfully strange, and always worth the price of a ticket… assuming you can get one.

Burning Man is wonderfully strange, and always worth the price of a ticket… assuming you can get one.

28 thoughts on “The Great Burning Man Ticket Crap Shoot

  1. That’s one of the most bizarre ticket-purchasing systems I’ve ever heard of. I don’t blame you for the ‘fowl’ language. In fact, throwing an object or two across the room would have been reasonable as well. 😉

  2. That’s a drag. I hope they haven’t rigged the system somehow. Best wishes on getting your tickets anyway. Maybe once the dust settles you should share this with some BM authority and ask for an explanation.

    Did you ever do the mail-in lottery for Grateful Dead tickets? That’s what this reminds me of.

    • I did make it to a Grateful Dead Concert, Bill— and what an experience that was. But a friend got the tickets. There is now a lot written about this ticket go-around. Some of my observations have been picked up. In fact I think Wired Magazine did without attribution. Burning Man just can’t seem to get its ticket distribution worked out. The site was hacked, but only by about two hundred people, that we know of. And even more frustrating, People who were checking in ten or more minutes after I did, got tickets. Oh well. –Curt

  3. Too frustrating! To go through all that, and still not get tickets, yet know there are ways to get tickets anyway – maybe – AND that you’ll probably never get an explanation. Arrrgghhh. The image at the top suits it well, except that maybe there’s a bit too much happiness displayed. 🙂 I suppose the happiness is why you all do it.

  4. So… I went to see what the scalping situation is, and I found the STEP program, & etc. Looks like March 11 and 12 are the next big days, huh? Maybe I’ll go back into the swamp and see if I can scare up my pal with the medicine bag to see if he can work a little spell for you.

    • Those medicine bags can be potent things, Linda. 🙂 Peggy and I have one we found at a small park near our home. It hangs in our bathroom.

      We will try the various avenues. Usually it comes down to the last minute and Craig’s list. Been there…


    • Thanks AC. The hacking was definitely a problem, but only part of a wider problem related to ticket processing. Burning Man has created something of a Byzantine nightmare in how it deals out tickets, partially in trying to accommodate different constituencies, partially due to the sheer numbers of folks who want tickets, and partially because they just can’t seem to get the system down. –Curt

  5. Sir, you are hilarious. But I think I’ve identified your problem… Scotty was looking down upon you as you pushed that button…and heard you humming the Twilight Zone neener neener instead of “Space: The Final Frontier” tune. That’ll teach ya to be disloyal. Scotty could have beamed you to the head of the button pushers…

    But I am sad you were denied the tickets but I am sure Vulcan logic will prevail… BM (and I thought that was short for something else) will see how illogical they were and grant you two tickets – and a free spaceship pass…

    • I think the Silicon Valley folks pulled the Scotty trick, Koji. lol As for BM, I sure do wish the organization had different initials. I usually write the words out because of that. I could save a lot of time… –Curt

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