Field notes on words

Writing about words

Only 202 tickets left

A couple of weeks ago I was scouring the internet for tickets to a talk. I came across a reseller website, one with a (dis)reputation for inflating ticket prices and selling unavailable tickets.

I was morbidly curious and clicked through. This was the screen that confronted me:


Two-hundred-and-two tickets sounds like… quite a few. It certainly didn’t feel urgent that I continue with the transaction.

Interestingly the venue in question has a 1630 pax capacity in seated mode. So another option would be ‘Only 12% of tickets left’ to uphold the illusion of scarcity. But I think I’d prefer the more forthright and simple statement: “202 tickets available”. If you take away the ‘alert’ symbol, this feels useful but not… berserk.

A better option would be to work with the developer to change the message according to the actual scarcity of tickets. After all, knowing that something is in short supply is really useful if you do want to attend an event and are dithering over your purchase.  

In my re-imagining of this screen:

  • From 200 to 80 tickets left there would be a straight-forward message: “104 tickets available

  • Between 80-20 tickets you could go with the straight numbers again. But with a little bit more reason to buy now, I don’t think it’d hurt to give people a sense of how few tickets there are relative to capacity, so: “Less than 5% of tickets left” would be nice. For emphasis it’d be nice to squeeze in a: “This might sell out”.

  • Below 20 tickets it should hit the panic button and say: “This will sell out: 12 tickets available.”

I didn’t end up buying my tickets from this site, by the way. But it had more to do with the tickets being a quarter of the price through the original ticket seller. I suppose if you want use a sense of urgency well, use it sparingly.

Celina Siriyos