How we got screwed by the Burning Man Organization ticket department:
My roommate David and I were hoping to make this our first burn. We spent the better part of a year doing research, reading the survival guide, blogs and stories, and watching every video out there. We joined a theme camp, and volunteered our time, effort, resources, and skills to making sure it would be a great experience for us, as well as others.
The biggest challenge of this was the sheer cost. David and I are both artists, myself an actor and he does multi-medium creative work. Neither of us has had steady income in the last year, and I recently lost my secondary job. We worked hard at pulling from resources we already had, to avoid spending money, and we both applied for the low-income ticket program.
Our first attempt to obtain tickets was through the lottery, which we entered at the lowest tier, because it was the most we could afford. We all know how the lottery went. Just to make sure we covered our bases, we both registered for STEP, in the hopes of getting an offer for the least expensive ticket, and we both applied for the low-income ticket program.
David was awarded a low-income ticket. I got a very nice email saying "after careful consideration…"
I was however, lucky enough to be offered tickets through STEP, and after scraping together what I could, and a little help from some friends, I was able to afford it. I received an email that said this:
"You are being offered tickets at whichever face value is available, plus applicable delivery and service fees. You will have 72 hours to buy tickets using your unique link - nobody else can use it and it cannot be shared. After 72 hours the purchase link will expire and the tickets will be released to the next person on the list."
I went to my "unique link" registered in my name, that "nobody else can use and cannot be shared", which was sent to me, at my email address, and I purchased the "non-transferrable" tickets using David's credit card (as mine did not have the required balance) and I paid David in cash. The other ticket was reserved for a friend who could afford it.
"Non-transferrable" was a term seen and stated often when referring to STEP tickets and I think everyone understood that these tickets were "non-transferrable". I took that to mean this:
These STEP tickets, which I registered for under my name, are being offered to me, and me alone. No one else may purchase these tickets and I may not purchase them and give them to someone else. When I click on my "unique link" and pay for these tickets they will belong to me and be in my name, as I was the person they were offered to.
Turns out, this is not what "non-transferrable" means at all. A week ago, David got an email saying his low-income ticket had been revoked. According to Rebecca he had purchased tickets, in his name, for himself through STEP and therefore was not eligible for a low-income ticket. David sent an email back trying to explain, I did too. The only response he received (I received an auto-response saying my email had been received) was that as he had purchased the tickets with his credit card, they were in his name and were "non-transferrable". If he doubted this he could refer to the STEP "FAQ". I referred to the "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding STEP, though I find FAQ a strange place to be sent for official rules and regulations. Here is what I found:
Q:I bought my STEP ticket with my friend's credit card and now it's in my friend's name. Can I or my friend have the name changed to mine?
A: No, tickets purchased through STEP are non-transferable, which means no name changes. For your friend to get their money back they will need to sell the ticket back into STEP.
Notice anything funny about this? Yeah, I did too. First of all, there's the past tense wording. "I bought my step ticket…" This already happened. Someone already made this mistake and you're telling them it can't be fixed. If this question is being asked so "frequently" as you put it, don't you think you should have warned people beforehand. Shouldn't it have been stated that you could not purchase a STEP with someone else's credit card, that in order to purchase a ticket you must have a credit card in your name? Why did I receive a confirmation email that I had purchased tickets, and why do I keep receiving ticket holder updates? How many other people bought a ticket with someone else's card and think they have a ticket in their name at will call? I can assure you, this particular frequently asked question did not appear here until after people started buying STEP tickets, because this question could not have been asked, until after people started buying STEP tickets. So why am I being referred to this as proof that I should have known better when it did not exist until after I made my purchase.
So here we are, me with no ticket, and David with one he can't afford. Here's the kicker. A couple weeks after I bought, (or thought I bought) STEP tickets, I received another email:
"We know you already received notification that you were not awarded a Low Income Ticket for Burning Man. We've had some cancellations and were able to reconsider your application, and are happy to be able to now tell you: Congratulations, you’ve been awarded a Low Income Ticket to BurningMan 2012, Fertility 2.0!"
Wow! If I had only known, I wouldn't have gone through all I had to scrape together enough for the STEP ticket I bought (or didn't buy). I responded with a polite decline saying I had already acquired a ticket and to pass it along to the next person in need. I turned down this ticket based on the fact that I already purchased a ticket in my name. Now Burning Man Organization is taking away David's low-income ticket as well, based on the purchase of the exact same ticket I turned mine down for.
So what? "Ha Ha Ha, neiner-neiner-neiner, you fell into our trap and now your screwed!" That is what I hear coming from the ticket department. This whole mess; all the bureaucracy, and red tape, and fine print have made me realize something. The Burning Man Organization ticket department has turned into exactly what Burning Man was created to escape. Mindless automatons, more interested in numbers and rules and statistics than in real people with real concerns. They have, in fact, become the man. When I make it to the playa this year, which I will, and Saturday rolls around and I'm watching him burn, it will have very special significance for me.