Pay what you decide (want / can / feel)

bencurthoys Jul 1, 2021

We are thinking about how we can extend the system to better support the Pay What You Decide pricing model and I thought it might be useful to jot down a few thoughts here:

The two big problems to be solved that I see are

  1. Allowing people to advance book seats for free can lead to a problem with no-shows. This isn’t a problem for events that don’t or can’t sell out - either because they aren’t that popular, or because is is an online event with unlimited capacity.

  2. The easiest way to collect payments after an in-person event is for people to put cash in a box, but that doesn’t work for online events, and requires people to plan in advance to have enough cash on them. We want to let people quickly and easily make card payments after a show, so that those payments are recorded against the right customer account for the right show and you can report on them and use the data.


The no-show issue can be dealt with by requiring people to collect their COBO tickets in advance of the performance, so that uncollected tickets can be resold, but that means that 15 minutes before the performance you have to frantically start cancelling uncollected orders.

  • Would it be useful to build a button to auto-cancel uncollected £0 orders X minutes before a show?
  • Or perhaps would it be better to treat advance bookings as unpaid reservations rather than purchases? That way they could automatically vanish if not collected in time, and “collecting” a ticket would involve retrieving a reservation and confirming the order.
  • Is this actually not a good solution, because we want to use e-ticket and queuing up to collect paper tickets from the box office is not very COVID safe, as well as being annoying?
  • Would something more like an airline check-in process - where you can do it in person, or up to 24 hours in advance online - be better? There was a company a couple of years back who were building fancy geolocation tools to monetise the check in experience.

We are also considering building functionality where a credit card authorisation can be made to secure the booking in advance, but no charge will be made (rather like checking into some hotels).

  • The idea here would be that if the customer does not attend the performance, a charge would be made against their card. Would this be compatible with your idea of PWYD?
  • How could we clearly communicate what is going to happen? (Enter your card details, we’re going to get authorisation for £5 now, but we won’t actually take them money, and then after the show if you show up you can choose any amount - £0, £10, £100, whatever you like, but if you don’t show up we’re taking the £5)
  • Is this less clear than charging a minimum and allowing people who REALLY hate the show to have a refund just because they don’t like it?

If we did implement authorisation-at-purchase-time, we would also try to hook it into a post show notification email, that would arrive on everyone’s mobile phones minutes after the end of the performance, allowing them to choose an amount to pay for the show and process the transaction without having to re-enter their card details, which would make it virtually frictionless. We think this would work for online events, and would also be easy and convenient for in-person events.

  • Does this sound good to you?

We think it’s important that PWYD payments don’t all go into one big general donations pot, or a separate donation system, but are tracked against the individual performance like normal ticket income. So we’re looking at functionality to make taking stand-alone donations easier / better. We currently have tools to collect donations with a tickets sale (“Please donate an extra £1 per ticket”, etc. prompted at the basket) as well as tools to allow stand-alone donations, but they’re basically separate, and we want to unify them and make the UI on stand-alone donations nicer.

  • Is it actually fine and not annoying at all to use a separate system to collect PWYD payments, and do you actually need your ticketing system getting involved here?