As an incoming Fresher you will, in all likelihood, soon have your first experience of gaining access to a St Andrean event. Alarms will be set, debit card numbers hastily entered, confused Facebook statuses posted, all with the goal of getting that coveted receipt in your inbox. Whether your shopping cart remains empty or you emerge victorious with a Starfields wristband, you will nonetheless have had a glimpse into a thriving subsection of our town’s community: not just attending an event, but purchasing a ticket.
“Have you ever queued before?” a fourth year asked me last year when I, then a Fresher, told her of my plans to attend May Ball. Her voice was strangely ominous. Later, I learned that while the first ticket was not sold until ten in the morning, the first tent in the queue was often pitched shortly before midnight. Armed with snacks, pillows and alcohol, these people were not simply queuing. They were Queuing.
Although tents have only ever been spotted for May Ball tickets, you can also expect to Queue for Christmas Ball and, to a far lesser extent, Nobel Ball. Friends frequently work in shifts, handing off the responsibility of waiting in the mammoth queue hour by hour. Realistically, arriving any later than 6am will not guarantee you a ticket for Christmas or May Ball. This has led to the creation of companies such as Q4U, who offer to stand in the queue on your behalf, in exchange for a small fee. Unfortunately, Freshers’ Week is one of the few times you will have the benefit of exclusively online ticket sales: for the more popular balls, only a handful of tickets (if any) are offered online, and ultimately, a successful checkout comes down to luck rather than speed.
You will also be introduced to the table ballot, the access point for a very different type of event. Instead of purchasing an individual ticket, you and nine of your friends must select from amongst you a Head of Table, who will lead the application process by submitting your names to the committee for consideration. The system that determines which tables are accepted and which are not is a mystery known only to this elusive committee and as such we can merely attribute it to sheer, dumb luck. The St Andrews Charity Fashion Show, Oktoberfest and the dinner that precedes May Ball are all examples of events that feature table ballots.
In addition to table ballot events, the St Andrews social circuit is home to evenings described simply as “invite-only.” Referring to occasions such as Advent Ball and Don’t Walk Charity Fashion Show, this method eschews the trappings of traditional table applications, instead making tickets available only to those who have been invited by the organisers or (in Don’t Walk’s case) the models. Best not get too wrapped up in trying to obtain a ticket to these events. If it’s meant to be, one will come to you.
If you prefer sleeping to Queuing or if you only have three friends, the options outlined above aren’t your only avenues for purchasing a ticket. Thanks to Facebook, the St Andrews secondhand ticket market is the type of industry often found in the dreams of the average first year economics student. Demand skyrockets based on hype alone, prices rising and falling within days. Last year, Christmas Ball tickets, originally 35 pounds, were being resold for values approaching one hundred pounds each. This phenomenon led to many May Ball tickets being sold at a loss a semester later, as would-be profiteers flooded the market and drove the price down.
The moral of the story: if you want a ticket, you’re likely to get one. Just don’t necessarily expect a bargain.