The madness of the fees

Oh, the ticket fees! The rising, countless, too-many fees!

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“Handling Fee: $9.00”
From the official Tanglewood ticket-sales website, where a nine-dollar surcharge is now added to each ticket.


OPEN ON: A fast-moving aerial view of the green, rolling hills of the Berkshires. A Leonard Bernstein symphony plays as the camera descends on Tanglewood, the storied music venue. A series of fast cuts show the Koussevitzky Music Shed, Seiji Ozawa Hall, and other Tanglewood scenes. The camera settles on a gray, metal door mostly obscured by large bushes. A nearby sign reads, “WARNING: NO PUBLIC ENTRY.”

The camera floats through the door into a large, gleaming-white room. Seemingly endless rows of padded tables vanish into the distance. Enjoying a full-body massage on each table are individual tickets for upcoming Tanglewood concerts.

TICKET #1 (moaning): Oh, yes, right there. Feels wonderful.

MASSAGE THERAPIST (pressing hard): You’re holding a lot of tension in that spot, right where the “handling fee” information is printed. (The MASSAGE THERAPIST pauses.) Nine dollars. Wow.

TICKET #1 (suddenly angry): Hey, that fee pays your salary, plebe!

TICKET #2 (at adjacent table): That’s right! The fee pays for your hands! It’s a handling fee. (The tickets laugh at their corny joke.)

A screenshot from the Tanglewood shopping cart showing a $9.00 handling fee.

TICKET #3 (with a Transatlantic accent): My good man, look around: These are not Chuck E. Cheese tickets, or chits used to gain entrée to some grungy roadhouse bar. We are Tanglewood tickets, for goodness’ sake. We provide access to Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell. And we also provide an exclusive opportunity to spread out on a perfectly manicured lawn with a gourmet repast al fresco. We must be handled with love, care, and affection. Indeed! Our handling fee should be at least double that amount!

TICKET #2: You tell him, Winthorpe! Maybe next year it will be double that amount!

Waves of cheering erupt across the enormous room. The tickets smile and high-five as they luxuriate in their monogrammed cashmere robes. The sound of champagne corks popping and glasses clinking can be heard amidst the celebration.


OPEN ON: The finance office of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where dozens of workers toil at old-fashioned adding machines. The pace is frenetic and the din ceaseless as ticket receipts are tallied.

MANAGER (rallying the troops): Come on, people, let’s keep up the pace. We can’t afford to fall behind!

SFX: The familiar beeping sound of a truck backing up to a loading dock.

FINANCE ASSISTANT (to MANAGER): That’s the third delivery this morning, boss.

MANAGER: More handling fees from Tanglewood?

FINANCE ASSISTANT (giggling): Yes. Just truckloads and truckloads of cash! If we sell 300,000 tickets this summer, as expected, that’s $2.7 million in handling fees alone!

MANAGER (smiling): I’ve been in this business a long time, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Oh, yes, this is going to be a very good year!

They both laugh. Sounds of champagne corks popping and glasses clinking can be heard.


OPEN ON: An enormous, Greek-inspired outdoor hall, open to a blue Berkshires sky. A full-size replica of the Parthenon is at its center, along with fountains, innumerable marble statues, and large tables overflowing with fine food and drink. Thousands of Tanglewood tickets wander about, dressed in linen togas and wearing laurel wreaths. Some relax on daybeds as attendants feed them grapes. Several of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s world-famous harpists fill the air with beautiful music.

TICKET #3 nods at TICKET #4, who is being nuzzled by TICKET #5, and raises a glass of champagne in their direction.

TICKET #3 (smiling): Looking good, Billy Ray!

TICKET #4 (raising glass): Feeling good, Lewis!


OPEN ON: The “grandparents in bed” scene from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” CHARLIE BUCKET, the preteen grandson, rushes into their falling-down hovel carrying an unopened Wonka Bar.

GRANDPA JOE: What have you got there, Charlie?

CHARLIE (exuberant): It’s a Wonka Bar, and it could have a golden ticket inside! If it does, we’ll get a tour of Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory—my life-long dream!

GRANDPA JOE: Well, open it up, boy! We spent our last few pennies on that candy bar!

The other three grandparents—who haven’t left the family bed for two decades—perk up.

CHARLIE (tentatively): Okay, here we go, Grandpa!

As the camera cuts between CHARLIE’s eyes, the Wonka Bar, and the faces of various grandparents, CHARLIE slowly peels back the wrapper until the golden foil appears. ZOOM IN on the words, “Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this golden ticket. From Mr. Willy Wonka!” CHARLIE screams and holds the ticket aloft.

Charlie holds his golden ticket for a Wonka factory tour.

GRANDPA JOE: You did it Charlie! You did it! (He climbs out of bed, surprising himself.) Look at me, up and about! I haven’t done this in twenty years!”

CHARLIE (looking down at ticket, his smile suddenly disappears): Oh no, Grandpa. Oh no!

GRANDPA JOE: What is it, Charlie? Why do you look so sad? You found a golden ticket!

CHARLIE bursts into tears. He shoves the golden ticket into GRANDPA JOE’s hand and runs out of the unheated shack.

GRANDPA JOE (yelling after him): Wait, Charlie, wait!

After a puzzled beat, GRANDPA JOE looks down at the ticket. His eyes widen. He turns to the other grandparents and speaks, glumly.

GRANDPA JOE: It says, “For entry to the Wonka factory, bearer must pay a ticket-handling fee of nine dollars.” (His shoulders slump.) We don’t have nine dollars. Oh, Charlie. My poor, poor Charlie!


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Bill Shein is editor of The Argus.
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