Free Shouldn't Cheapen.
Last night, I went along to a free (but ticketed) event run by Jameson Whiskey. A showing of Moon to be topped and tailed by whiskey-related cocktails. An appealing mix that I ultimately didn't sample.
When participation has no direct cost, it can be difficult to judge prospective attendance. That's one of the risks of free. In this case, attendees were reasonably enough urged not to arrive too late as the number of issued tickets exceeded capacity, but when I arrived fifteen minutes before the doors opened I knew there was a problem. The line ran down the block and round the corner and then down that block.
Inevitably, there were many disappointed people (perhaps as many as hundred at a venue that held 440) and while staff were polite and apologetic, it shouldn't have happened. It's far better to have a few empty seats than a lot of disgruntled turn-aways. As I always say, the cardinal sin is that of annoying people.
I'm sure those people who got in had a good time and, consequently, they may or may not feel better disposed towards Jameson. But how do those who were turned away feel about Jameson? Were Jameson able to identify and seek to recompense them in some way? Did they even contemplate it? Indeed did their marketing executives (as opposed to the event organisers) even know what had happened?
Free does not mean value-less. Free is an act of generosity, not one of penny-pinching. Free may devalue the commitment of the recipients. It must never diminish the commitment of the host.
Addendum: The post is more about free than moaning about Jameson, but it's simple enough to think of what they could have done about a contingency plan.
They had a list of attendees' emails - they should have ticked those off on a laptop (rather than the printouts so many people use) and thereby identified who had not been admitted. Once it became clear there was an attendance problem, they should have immediately sent an email to those people apologising for the problem and offering some sort of pre-agreed "compensation" that crucially was equivalent to the night out they were now not going to have.
That would have ameliorated those outside, warned any people en route to turn back and reduced any ill-feeling towards the company.
Sidebar: It always amazes me that companies send out blanket emails to attendee lists thanking them for their attendance without thinking of the impact that action will have on those who didn't attend and who now realise their non-attendance went unnoticed,