Ok, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted (btw, the perpetrators of those atrocities have not only been slapped by millions but cursed to the 12th generation)?
Oh, yes! Once upon a time, back in the early 80s, if you were a member of the mailing list of the National Theatre (thank goodness it’s dropped Royal from its name: what’s the RNT when it’s at home?) you paid your £4 for the year and you were entitled to priority booking, i.e. you got the booklet listing all the forthcoming productions earlier than the hoi polloi, and could book for plays in advance of them. Yes, it was elitist, but if you were a theatre freak like me you couldn’t do without it, and anyway it worked very well. In those days, £4 was quite a lot of money for the service, but not beyond the means of you or me. Over the years the price went up steadily but moderately: it was £10 in 2000, for instance, until we (my partner and I) realized that fifty percent of the time we weren’t getting the seats we wanted any longer, or even getting any seats for our chosen dates. Somehow, the priority system wasn’t working any more. The National Theatre must have realized that as well because, lo and behold!, they soon started a 3-tier system: a priority-priority-priority thing, which entitles you to priority-priority-priority booking – in advance of everybody else and which costs £350 per annum; a priority-priority thing, which entitles you to priority-priority booking – after the moneyed people have made their choices; that costs £60 per annum; and finally a priority booking thing, which costs £10 and which entitles you to, as I said above, not much at all.
We pay £60 (because we’re made of money, LOL!) and these days we do get what we want most of the time, although forget about getting tickets for every press night, as one used to: entire auditoria are now block-booked for those performances, you know, for “personalities”. However, I expect we will have to join the upper tier in the future because no doubt we will start not to get what we want at some point.
Also, there are different prices for different performances. That’s always been the case: previews have cost less than later shows. But, in the past, press nights, which come at the end of a run of previews, used to count as previews. Then they decided that one should pay more for the privilege of sitting next to a critic scribbling all through the play or fiddling with his programme when he can’t remember who plays what. Fine, ok, I don’t mind paying a bit more to be able to spot the odd celebrity. But the latest booking form (which, btw, arrived one day after the opening of the priority-priority booking period!) revealed that previews are now split into early and later ones. The first two, when the actors can’t remember their lines and the director hasn’t quite made up his mind about lots of stuff and the lighting is less than perfect, are cheap-ish; and the rest are even more expensive. Outrageous!
Then there’s chicken. Once upon a time, if you bought a chicken, you could be more or less assured you were getting nice, lean meat (perhaps not as much as turkey, but less chewy and a bit more tasty). Now we’re told that ordinary chicken is just as fat as fast food, so to get the same good-for-you food you need to buy “organic” chicken, i.e. fork out a lot more money!
See a pattern here? There’s a constant erosion of goods and services and it’s happening everywhere. How do we stop it? No idea.
A slap to all those sly providers of said goods and services who are playing with us and think we’re not aware of it!