Why I ended my Met subscription

From a Slipped Disc reader, Jane G:

Going to the Met is not a pleasant experience – plain and simple. Having to have my Patron’s card scanned when I go into the lounge because “Mr. Gelb wants statistics” feels ungracious and unappreciative. Carnegie Hall manages these things much better – and they give free nibbles. For a multi-thousand dollar annual contribution, they can afford to be a little gracious.

The singing last night in ROBERTO DEVEREUX was superb. Outstanding. Spectacular. And there were rows of empty seats around me (in the Dress Circle). I felt like a chump for paying over $125 for my seat.

I’m finally throwing in the towel. As someone involved with Opera America, as well as President of the Board of a small and very successful opera company, and an advisor for 3 other small companies, if I am finally throwing in the the towel, the Met has much bigger problems than most choose to realize.

Via conversations in the Patron’s Lounge, I know that I’m far from the only one who is finding the Met Experience ungracious, often boring, and definitely not fun.

As an interesting aside, many of these high level donors are pretty much telling Mr. Gelb that he can keep his $14. sandwiches. At least 1/4 of the people in the lounge are brown-bagging lunch for Saturday matinée performances.

The only time I ever hear from the Met is when the want more money. It felt very good to tell the woman who called last week, “No. I’m not renewing.” She replied, “But, we NEED your support.” I replied, “You haven’t EARNED it!”

See full comment here.

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  • It’s disturbing that this person says they loved the performance but won’t return because of trivial complaints that have nothing to do with the art form. If you were willing to donate thousands of dollars, why weren’t you willing to cooperate with Met management by having your patron’s card scanned? Why would that be a big deal? Do you also object to having to show your ticket to enter the opera house?

    • Because she doesn’t like the policies. The management has gotten too many things wrong for this woman. I don’t blame her.

      Why should she just unconditionally go along with nonsense because she wants the company to succeed?

      • She said she couldn’t fault the performance.She mentioned no dislike of the production. She paid $125, and griped about it only because she saw empty seats.

        I haven’t one iota of sympathy for this woman whatsoever. Some people just luuuurve to vent.

        • Do you have a subscription to the MET? Do you have a subscription to anything? Are you satisfied with everything? Honestly!!

          Might be better to accept that some people are not happy where their $$$ go and what they do with it.

          If you disagree just pull all the $$$ you have and give it away.

          See how it feels.

          Your freedom of choices ends where somebody’s else begins. That its FREEDOM.

          No excuses please unless you are Peter Gelb’s evil twin brother.

    • I can still buy tkts for whatever I want to see and save my charitable dollars for more appreciative opera organizations. They do exist. Can’t tell you how lovely the people in Houston were when I went out to see Carlisle Floyd’s new opera, THE PRINCE OF PLAYERS.

      • I can understand why you’ve been turned off from making charitable donations to the MET, but not why you seem uninterested to attend performances. You only had positive comments about the latter.

      • It is very telling that the complain at the top of your list is: ‘Having to have my Patron’s card scanned when I go into the lounge because “Mr. Gelb wants statistics” feels ungracious and unappreciative.’

        So for you this was never about supporting opera that, in your own words is ‘superb. Outstanding. Spectacular’. This is about you wanting to be treated as though you are special.

    • A friend of the MET.

      Madame Butterfly was fabulous last night. I also loved the sets and the costumes. Very weird fat guy and fat woman across the isle as well as an idiot standing behind me in the orchestra. Unfortunately, the Met is filled with lunatics acting out. One stalker standing behind my $90.00 seat in orchestra. Literally, ran to catch the two empty seats next to where I was sitting. NP. Really bad Tupee like you know who! Then decides to sing along with the opera cast and play the songs on his very expensive smart phone the minute the curtain comes down as he squirms his eye balls in my direction! The two fatties across the isle were controlling their seats like gestapo agents. Turning away young attractive women that were tired of standing for 2 1/2 hours. What is going on at the MET? The MET needs our support, too.

  • This is so absurd…$14.00 nibbles-does she sneak her own popcorn into the movie theater? And by the way, the sandwiches I’ve had at Saturday matinees are pretty good. You go for the music. To complain about $125.00 for a seat is just unrealistic. It costs that much for a good seat at the Boston Lyric Opera which is not even comparable and more than that for a play on Broadway.

      • My heart bleeds for you, it really does.

        Polenzani, Garanča and Kwiecien, conducted by Benini, and staged by McVicar. With the Met orchestra and chorus. For $125?

        It ought to cost double, plus the obligation to write a Thank-You note personally for Peter Gelb for making this astounding rarity into a truly world-class event.

        Tickets for Lohengrin at the Bavarian State Opera on Thursday this week for 163 euros top price – but they are almost sold out.

        A spritzer, as far as I remember from when I went to Fiery Angel there in October, was 9 euros.

        • You forgot to mention Sondra Radvanovsky who, according to reliable reports, is the most impressive star of this production.

      • For me? I wasn’t there. Compare apples to apples: a sandwich at your Bavarian State Opera?; a top-price seat at the Met?

        And a spritzer without the spritz — a smarter choice if you want to stay alert — costs 2,50 € in Munich.

          • You’re welcome, Mars Bar.

            And you’ll be everyone’s go-to source for intelligent comments, no matter the thread.

          • The last time I was in Vienna (early 90s), I had to pay for a program, which cost more than my standing room seat. Seriously, if you like the music, you pay the price, if you don’t, you make up random excuses about why you don’t want to pay the price….I’ve never gone to a single opera company (and I also have had season tickets to Chicago Lyric and Florida Grand Opera) that didn’t ask for financial support over and above the subscription cost. One has the choice to not add a donation. This person seriously wanted to grandstand and “justify” their decision not to renew. Fine with me, maybe they’re the annoying person I always get seated next to, who talks during the opera like they are watching their television in the living room. And with such concern over “nibbles” I have no doubt it’s also the person who opens their bag of chips/candy/etc. directly behind me for 15 minutes during the big aria. Won’t be missed! (multi-thousands or not)

  • The food here is superb. Outstanding, even. But I still want bigger portions. And more fawning service. And I want more people to want what I want.

  • Total rebuild of pricing structure and subscriber base is needed.

    Massive task. Doable. But requires a new team.

  • Speaking of empty sear in the Dress Circle last night, the Orchestra was nearly full judging from the view from my Parterre seat.
    We have been to the Met about a dozen times this last season and liked them all, except one that everybody else liked. We were happy to renew and can’t wait.

  • MET (and Lincoln Center in general) is absolutely bad in terms of audience development from a very fundamental perspective. Around a five block radius of the center, you only see some scattered upscale restaurants, and then isolated, limited numbers of affordable American fast food that are lacking in quality.

    Unless they are musicians, who typically prefer empty stomach during performances, how could we expect the youngsters/newcomers to put up with almost USD $20+ to eat some small portion, super overpriced average food, and then endure a few hours of performance in a crammed seat? If this doesn’t scare away new comers, I don’t know what will. It’s just human nature.

    Parking in another horror story. They charge so much already, they do not even care to charge the SUV (large vehicle) surcharge. It is a very long walk to the venue no matter where you park, but even longer if you park at the wrong place. Signs are lacking, the staff are rude even when I dress in business suit. I swear to God, I would never go back unless I have to.

    Carnegie Hall is in a much friendlier, less isolated neighborhood. One could find basically any food that fits any budget within a two blocks radius (many are right across the street). I also love hanging out at the lounge inside Carnegie. Very friendly staff and audience there. Just feel welcoming.

    P.S. If you like the food at Lincoln Center, you must also like the first class’s last meal on an 16 hours trans-pacific flight. 🙂

    • Keep it up, Bennie, you’re killing me!

      Parking? The sandwiches are too pricey? And such small portions!!

      Bwaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaha!!!!!!

    • It’s no good trying to hold Lincoln Center responsible for the commercial real estate market around it. The restaurants there charge what they have to charge to pay the rent in an expensive, in-demand neighborhood. The only thing Lincoln Center could do to affect that market is pack up and leave the area.

      (Similarly, Carnegie Hall itself has little to do with the lucky fact that relatively reasonably priced places like Cafe Europa and Le Pain Quotidien managed to secure leases nearby.)

      Parking anywhere in Manhattan is expensive: space is limited, and the laws of supply and demand have dictated that there are better things to do with the limited space than park cars on it unless said cars’ owners pay a premium. Honestly, people who insist on driving there are fortunate that Lincoln Center provides parking spaces at all, at any price. Carnegie Hall and other venues certainly don’t.

      Parking and nearby restaurant prices aren’t just beyond the purview of Lincoln Center’s audience development, they’re beyond its power.

      • I agree with your last line in particular. Still, the venue *is* responsible for basic light refreshments — water, tea, coffee, milk, sandwiches, fruit — and these should be free of nitrates, phosphates and sulphates, and modestly priced.

        Caterers should not profit but should be part of the overall loss-making (subsidized) provision of the arts. Otherwise they are a kind of parasite on the non-profit operation. As are the ticket companies, the tele-marketers, the tele-fundraisers, and so on.

        • This is such a silly comment.
          Paying caterers etc. out of the general budget means all ticket buyers have to subsidize those who like to eat and drink in the house.
          I pity Mr. Gelb for the impossible crowd he has to deal with on a daily base.
          Much easier to run an opera house financed by state subsidies. Much less nonsense to deal with.

          • It has to be a combination. Leaving the (for-profit) caterer to price freely to achieve its business goals results in a deterrent to attending. (Total outlay matters.) On the other hand, forcing a subsidy on all attendees seems wrong too, as you say.

            Most people need a non-alcoholic drink and a small bite to eat during an evening in the theater or concert hall. Accordingly, this should be available at modest cost. (There is a reason we regulate utility companies.) Give the caterer a blanket subsidy in exchange for such provision, with specific items of a certain quality agreed at a certain price.

            On “basic” beer, wine, even champagne, the caterer could be permitted more of a margin — but still with oversight so that a couple could indulge lightly without a huge outlay.

            And then there could be menu items where the price lid is off.

            This is not to get into the issue of full sit-down meals, such as the Grand Tier Restaurant used to provide, which arguably have no business inside a performing arts venue during a performance.

          • Well, it’s $5 for a bottle of water (small). There are free water fountains where you can obtain New York City tap water (the best in the world I am reliably informed).

            But…..you can get FREE wine at the Concertgebouw in the intermission…………….

          • Went to the Concertgebouw last December for a semi-staged Bayreuth Lohengrin (without the rats). I was amazed to find that all house wine, beer, choice of fruit juices and coffee before and during the performance were free. As Lohengrin had two intervals, it provided for a very jolly Wagner experience.

    • Ive always wondered why the MET doesn’t lower their food prices– a young couple trying the met out for a night, possibly given the tickets by an older relative or workplace acquaintance, will be unlikely to “splurge” on a snack and a drink, and miss out on making “an evening of it” because the prices for food are so outrageous in comparison to what they would pay if “they just waited till they left the met” to eat something.

      • A “regular priced” sandwich in NY costs about $12 v. the Met’s $12-14 in a nice cafe, and starbucks maybe you can get for $8.50, pre tax. Hardly such a huge markup, and those tight on funds can bring their sandwich with them from outside – unlike movie theaters, the Met allows this. I also don’t get this lumping in of young people with poorer ones — in NYC there are plenty of poorer people of all ages, and well plenty of wealthy younger ones. The problem would be if met sandwiches were no lower than $20 each, which is not the case.

        • Starbucks food is crap.

          What they need is a caterer in a low-rent part of the five boroughs working with FRESH ingredients, starting with fresh bread, i.e. bread that was FLOUR less than 18 hours before the eating, that truck it all in at 3 p.m. and field an efficient, gracious team thru to the last intermission.

          Now, there’s a nice start-up or young business opp.

  • So Madame G thinks for her $125 ticket her seat should come with a free sandwich. Why not, how about a free token for the subway ride back home too?

    I hope to God the Met has separate Patron Lounges for different tiers of patrons.

    • The Met does have different lounges for different levels of Patrons. I’ve been in the upper one for many years. The Met has gotten twice the annual $$ that Carnegie Hall has gotten, and the experience is neither welcoming or fun anymore. For those who are loving the experience, by all means keep writing those annual 4 & 5 figure checks. I can still go buy a tkt at whatever price I want, and redirect my philanthropy to more appreciative organizations. I can’t think of a single good reason to give extra money to people whose only communication is along the lines of “What have you done for me lately?”

      • The MET has only twice the money of Carnegie hall, are you sure? Staging concerts with orchestral and chamber music is a LOT cheaper than staging operas. That’s long before you consider your funding of the front of the house. So presumably after deducting production costs Carnegie should have a bigger chest to cater to the ever pampered NYC clientele. Opera is just damn expensive.

    • Well, Cherrera, there are opera companies, symphony orchestras and festivals in this world that DO include *return regional train fare* in the price of the event ticket.

      It wouldn’t kill New York City to explore such a scheme in support of the Met, the NY Phil, BAM, and certain other chosen performing arts non-profits.

      • Or opera-goers could actually on the train all by their little selves, couldn’t they?

        But then you’d hold Peter Gelb responsible for the nitrate level of food and drink served at stations, and for the removal of graffiti on trains

    • Just a “by the way”: The State theatres in Munich (Bavarian State Opera, Residenz Theater, Gaertnerplatz Theater, Muenchener Kammerspiel, and Prinzregententheater) all include free travel on public transport to and from the venue in the price of the theatre ticket. A very good deal for visitors & tourists especially, as it can save quite a bit of money if you are staying on the fringes of the city 🙂

      • As their name implies, these “State” theaters are owned and financed by…the STATE. OK, so the State also owns and runs, not surprisingly, the transportation system, so OF COURSE, the State can offer free transport along with the opera, because it costs the State nothing more, and it is using one service it owns to promote another service it owns!

        The State is a monopoly, it can afford to lose money in one branch of economic activity (transport) in order to make you pay for another branch of economic activity (opera)!

        You know what that is called? ANTI-TRUST, and it is illegal. Guess what, if a private corporation, like Microsoft, did that — give away one something for free in order to create a monopoly in another area — the European Union anti-trust authorities would (and did) prosecute them.

        Finally, everything is run by the State: health care, national defense, etc. Are you saying the Met ought to offer, on top of a free sandwich, free subway pass, free heath care and free police escort for every $125 paying customer?

        Ah socialism, it’s great when you aren’t the one paying for it!

        • Nonsense, acute business smartness it is.
          Each $ or € invested into culture usually gives a multiplied return in tangible revenues, as has been shown in numerous studies again and again.

          For instance in Leipzig each Euro given in subsidies to the Gewandhaus gives the community 2.5 times the amount in revenues.

          http://www.hhl.de/fileadmin/texte/publikationen/projektberichte/Wirtschaftliche_Bedeutung_Gewandhaus_Leipzig.pdf

          Investing public money into culture is one of the wisest investments for public funds that can be done actually, non-tangible revenue not even considered yet.

          Of course that’s a hard to grasp concept for our brainwashed (state subsidies are EVIL, government is EVIL, socialism is EVIL, booga booga) friends in the New World.

    • In Ámsterdam tickets to the opera and the Concertgebouw allow free riding in public transport to and from the performance,

  • Well, one can’t have ones cake and eat it too, considering that individuals uttering dislike for something in these pages are frequently given advice along the lines of “If you don’t like ‘XYZ’, go away!”…..Jane G. took her money and did exactly that.

  • I’ll grant that “Mr. Gelb wants statistics” isn’t necessarily the most courteous or diplomatic way to phrase it; something like “We need to know how many Patrons use the lounge at various performances so as to make sure we’re offering everything we need” might be better.

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here: It figures that it’s a woman who would complain about having her Patron card scanned. She has to stop, fish her wallet out of her purse, get the card from her wallet, get it scanned, and put it all back, whereas a man just has to pull his wallet from his pocket.

    Women! Demand, buy, and wear clothes with pockets!
    Your lives will be so much easier.

  • I fail to understand why most posters fail to address the basic problem outlined in this thread. This lady is precisely in that group that should be going to the Met – regularly. She knows opera, she loves opera, she is involved in opera. But she dislikes the Met experience so much she has finally given up. That isthmus have been a major decision. I am absolutely certain the points she made above are the mere tip of a very large iceberg.

    This blog has frequently pointed the finger directly at Gelb as the root cause of most problems at the Met. This lady yet again joins the chorus. Gelb runs the organisation. The continuing financial and a host of other disasters are his to solve. He hasn’t and he doesn’t. He has to go!

    • Thank you, Nick. I’ve been thinking about throwing in the towel for 4 years now. When the new brochure came out, I said ‘Enough!’ You need an engineering degree to deal with that thing – and an excel spread sheet. Three different grades of opera at 3 different prices. Different prices for each night the week and matinées. 5 different sections and prices in the Dress Circle alone. BTW, the reason I sit there is because the Patron’s lounge is on that level and my 93 year old friend can make it there and back without a long flight of stairs or a glacially slow and unreliable elevator. Then there is the pain of dealing with swapping out tkts for what you don’t & do want to see and trying to balance the A & B & C operas, etc. For the few things I want to see, it’s easiest to just go to the box office and buy a tkt. Obviously, other people on this board are still embracing the Met Experience. That’s fine, and I hope they are sending large contributions. For me, the whole thing is the antithesis of user-friendly.

      • Learning of all those different price categories reminded me of a scene from “The House” – a fly-on-the-wall mid-1990s British TV documentary series which was intended to show the general public how hard-working and underpaid professionals at the Royal Opera House produced some of the finest opera around. Instead it merely illustrated a bloated, self-centred and self-perpetuating clique of an organization that hardly deserved public subsidy. In the scene I refer to, the ineffective near disaster as General Director, Jeremy Isaacs, is shown in one of the tiers trying to work out how he can screw the maximum revenue from each particular individual seat. Like Gelb – I suggest – he should never have been appointed, his reign was a shambles and he brought The House to the brink of bankruptcy.

  • Jane G, writing as someone who is not a patron at the Met, but who does attend performances there, and who is the President of the Board of a chamber music series, I am having a bit of trouble understanding why your complaints led you to abandon the Met.

    You make clear that the performance of ROBERTO DEVEREUX was excellent. So it is not an artistic complaint.

    I do not wish to suggest that your other complaints are invalid. I am trying to understand why they ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

    I know that my mother used to love going to the Met (and the NY Phil), and my parents were subscribers for many years. She loved driving to Manhattan (!) and parking in the bowels of Lincoln Center. I prefer mass transit, but could not persuade her to take the train; she preferred the convenience and ease of the parking garage. The cost of parking the car wasn’t so bad if amortized among several passengers.

    I also remember how difficult it was to persuade my mother to attend any events at Carnegie, since parking was far less convenient, and due to her aversion to using mass transit, not to mention climbing the stairs (or taking an even more rickety elevator). She probably attended 100 events at Lincoln Center for every event she attended at Carnegie.

    Scanning the card for the patron’s lounge sounds like a minor, albeit real, annoyance. Perhaps the Met can come up with a better system? Maybe a card with a chip that can stay in your purse? Maybe a brooch that can be worn and scanned?

  • I think it is intrusive and rude to collect any data from any paying customer once they have gone through the ticket-check. Remember, the venue is supposed to feel like a second home.

    Anyway, the Met has data coming out its gills. What it needs is to get back to delivery of the product to full houses — which means a new pricing structure, lower prices on that structure, and a whopping, concerted effort over two or three seasons to secure some 30,000 new subscribers.

  • Why are so many seemingly chastising this woman’s opinion and decision? It seems that for her, the sum total experience of being at the opera didn’t measure up to her expectations and/or past experiences, in large part it seems now that “big data” has made its way into most consumer experience situations including, as she refers, at the Met. Maybe she’s a bit (or a lot) more of a traditionalist–someone who also may prefer the more “old school” personal thank-you note or phone call or any number of other behaviors which are less a part of the total experience nowadays, in some places gone altogether while at others, it’s only offered if you give at the higher dollar levels. Many of those people do still exist. When I was working in development even 26 years ago (not at the Met but in the same zipcode) we were cautious to always do more in our contact and relations with the patron than merely asking “what can you do for me?” She seems to say that she didn’t want to feel like “just a number.” I can certainly understand that, as we do encounter similar requests for data in the marketplace most everywhere we look these days. A lot of that I also don’t like. Everyone’s tolerance level is different. To each his own, including their opinions. She has done nothing discernable so as to be offensive as I can tell: she has merely shared her own, personal reason for discontinuing her subscription, whether or not that decision is popular with others. I enjoyed the food for thought (no pub intended) that her story provided as I believe there is a lesson here and one poster hit the nail on the head: the messaging from the Met representative to the patron about scanning the patron card could stand to be spun a little differently-ie something like ‘we are collecting information to help us improve our service to our patrons’. Some of the comments back (those that I felt were not of an attack nature) were very “spot on.” In the end, the old adage, “the customer is always right” bears consideration. Kudos to this woman: she felt she was right, that they were wrong, and she has moved on. Now, if I were still a savvy development pro, I’d find out who she is, call her up and invite her to lunch, and use the opportunity to begin trying to repair a broken relationship.

  • How amusing to read all this nonsense -shows the human condition at its
    most base level … …signifying nothing.

  • Do you really contribute to arts organizations based on who will fawn over you most obsequiously? If the deciding factor for you is not the music but rather the fact that you weren’t made to feel appreciated, drop the pretense of being an opera fan and hire a hooker. Tip well and I’m sure he’ll pick up a sandwich for you on his way up the next time.

    Some people would consider it gracious to offer you world-class art in a lovely setting, you sad, petty creature.

    • What a stunningly sexist and revolting comment. She’s obviously an opera fan, and remains committed to it through her work with and support of other companies. She’s discontinuing her support of the Met only, because she doesn’t enjoy the experience, and you call her a “sad, petty creature?” Disgusting.

      • How is someone referring to someone as “a sad and petty creature” sexist, Annat?! It’s clearly not. And if this woman didn’t enjoy the patron’s lounge experience, but loves opera as you say, she could just donate the funds and forego the lounge, funding opera singers, costumes, coaches, the works. Her own websites preretirement have her hawking “what you can get for what you give” v. pure philanthropy, or “getting” bang for buck to the organization, so her motivations and focus were always clear. It’s fine to say they don’t give a lot for the money, but be upfront you weren’t donating, you were buying and don’t think it’s good value. Anyway, this is all ridiculous, she already said she abandoned the elderly woman to her own devices, only was interested in 2 operas next season (some opera lover), so decided to stop her half of the subscription. She also wrote elsewhere she was “generously compensated” for her non profit work (professionally), so her attitude is quite upfront. LeBrecht seems to just want to bash the Met at every opportunity

  • There were zero valid complaints that this woman made – to complain that an exclusive patron’s lounge requires you to show that you have paid and are entitled to access it! A lack of freebies?? It is up to you if you want to be a Patron supporter for the perks or for the support of the organization. This poster, it’s revealed elsewhere, worked as a fundraiser mostly, including at the defunct NYC Opera. She uses the Patron’s lounge to access other patrons, and would deduct the expense it seems. The food for sale at the Met is tasty enough, and not crazy expensive – plus, as she notes, one can bring one’s own food. The opera’s the thing, and complaining about empty seats near you is daft – less crowding, and how does it cost you? You are guaranteed a seat if the show is sold out (which happens), and are guaranteed a seat if it doesn’t (v. the empty seaters, who are outside and missing out). If you care about opera, consider your donation as going to bring famous, good, international opera stars to nyc, enriching the opera, not as subsidizing a spa-like experience for you!

    • I agree. I support the met in my limited way because I am grateful for the radio broadcasts, the telecasts, the Met on demand and Live in HD . Thank you Mr Gelb. Sports and theater venues always charge a lot for food. I’ve only been to the met twice but was treated very well by the staff. The been going to the opera at many venues in this country and Europe. I’ve noticed that some people come to see, some to be seen.

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