Clown for a New Day

Clown for a New Day
Dagwood might make it in today's emasculated circus

Friday, August 20, 2010

Morning Midway: Ringling Wants to Know what it's Customers Think of Big Apple Circus


This by way of an extensive survey received in my e-mail which I was invited to complete for Feld Entertainment; no doubt it was sent my way because I have booked tickets to their circuses on-line. In answering, I addressed Barnum's Funundrum, it being the last Feld show I attended.

The same set of family-oriented questions asked about customer reaction to the Ringling show were later posed to me about Big Apple. Now, possible caveat here: perhaps because I had purchased a ticket on-line (Ticketmaster) to BAC back in 2005, that may have triggered the survey annex; and yet, when I was asked, "which of the following shows have you ever attended as a parent or grandparent (come to think of it, the question does not technically apply to me, does it), a list of virtually all U.S. circuses appears, one being Big Apple. Either I checked that one only in error and not the others, or a check mark that appears only in the BAC box indicates my past on-line ticket purchase.

The list of some 24 questions, to be answered with "Do Not Agree" to "Agree Completey," range from "It was something for the whole family" to "it is something you don't need to see again."

Another page, and there are many, zeros in on the show itself, the questions including, for examples, "the educational value in the event/it teaches my children something" to "it's an action packed live entertainment experience."

Respondents, instructed to "think about Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey," are asked, "if you were to attend this circus specifically, what would you expect to see. Please be as specific as possible."

So, they are giving you an open window rather than providing a list of different types of acts, allowing you to rate the importance of each. However, I was a little surprised that the animal rights issue did not make an appearance on the questionnaire.

One of the more interesting questions: "How does RBBB differ from other circuses?"

The workout is loaded with many questions -- income, demographics, age, ethnicity, advance discounts, if used, etc.

The question I have, for any out there who wish to answer it, is this: Does such a survey indicate that overall attendance is less than ideal? Would such a survey even be undertaken if business was brisk?

My main quibble is with a question, "Overall, how much did you like or dislike the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey event?"

I did not feel like checking "Liked it a lot," but neither was I comfortable with the next grading option, "liked it a little," for I was somewhere in between.

But still, there is something sad about a circus reaching out with all these questions. Maybe it's a good business practice; after all, the Felds are notoriously successful. But it reminds me of what Kenneth Feld has told the media more than once: whatever the audience wants, that's what he will give them. A very complex position not to be explored or beaten to death here.


Crowds for Barnum's Funundrum on a Thursday night in Oakland.

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