update: dealing with customers who are angry that we require masks and proof of vaccination

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

We have so many updates this year that I’m going to be posting six to seven times a day for the next several weeks — so keep checking back throughout the entire day.

Remember the letter-writer who was dealing with customers who were angry that her performing arts organization required masks and proof of vaccination? Here’s the update.

I am the person who wrote in a few months ago asking readers for advice regarding angry customers — particularly surrounding COVID-related policies in the performing arts. I have been a reader for a long time, and want to thank you for publishing my letter, and everyone who commented.

A few weeks after I wrote in, we announced our safety policies for our upcoming season, and I am writing today just a few days before we open our first production in 20 months. That will be an exciting and emotional day-so many people in our industry have been out of work for so long, and our company alone lost $6 million in ticket sales while we were closed. We are not out of the woods yet, and this season will have a lot of challenges, but we are hopeful.

But back to the announcement. We teamed up with other area performing arts groups and, as a unified front, said we would be requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test as well as face coverings for all performances. The response, particularly on social media was… dramatic. We were accused of all sorts of things, got angry calls and e-mails (as expected). But the number of refund requests we received were -relative to our overall ticket sales- minimal. And, we actually got an uptick in sales that week – many people noting that they were finally buying tickets because they were waiting for us to put in such safety policies. We definitely utilized the suggestions put forth by your readers. We had an online form for refund requests and we added to our phone message that their calls would be recorded. The most fascinating thing was the large amount of people (mostly on our social pages and via e-mail) that seemed the most worked up about it, but did not have any current tickets with us and, in many cases, had no ticket history with us at all (Would you consider that a troll?). In the end, we survived the negative onslaught- bolstered by all the support and the good comments we were getting, intermingled with the bad. My staff is happy and we are hiring more people to join our team as we speak.

I want to acknowledge that, as a larger company, we are lucky that we had the resources to weather this storm. There are so many smaller companies across the country who do amazing work that have not yet been able to re-open, or did not survive the pandemic at all, and that is devastating. I would like to humbly ask your readers, when they are comfortable and if they have the means, to go to a concert, or a play, or a dance show, or visit a museum. Things may be opening up again, but there is still a long road to recovery for the arts sector.

{ 242 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin*

    This does not surprise me. There are people who actively scour the internet for things to be mad about on this issue but with no actual impact on their lives.

    So always be safe and as we see, it provides more support to those who were already supportive! Yay!

      1. High Score!*

        Generally, I’m a fan of “both siding things” because there is value in seeing each other’s points of view.
        In this case tho, we’re all sick of trolls. And people who don’t like masks are free to not wear them at home.

        1. zuzu*

          Except that in many, many cases, there really *isn’t* bad behavior on “both sides.”
          Case in point: supporting the undermining of democracy vs. supporting counting all the votes.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This. The trap is to assume that of course both sides do it, so just split the difference. Mom has four cookies to divide between Johnnie and Susie. Susie asks for two, but Johnnie demands all four. So Mom splits the difference, giving Johnnie three and Susie one. Huh?

            1. High Score!*

              You are correct. There are many issues in which one side is reasonable and the other is not. Before I make that determination, I like to ask something like “O really? Can you explain further?” even if it’s obvious the other party is clearly wrong. Sometimes they explain themselves in such a way that even they see their wrongness. Sometimes they explain themselves in such a way that I know to avoid them in the future. Sometimes they misspoke/miswrote. Sometimes I misunderstood and jumped to a conclusion. Sometimes they have a point that I didn’t see. Like, Johnnie and Susie have 2 cousins visiting and Johnnie wishes to take the platter of cookies to the playroom so that each child may have one. So the answer is learning more to determine the correct course of action.

              1. High Score!*

                To be clear, the point that anti-masker don’t get is that businesses are private properties and can make the rules for their properties, so if there’s a sign that says “Wear a mask” then that is the rule for that property so do it. Just like they are free to ask their guest to not smoke in their home or remove their shoes. Your home/business, your rules.
                Trolls suck.

                1. quill*

                  It’s almost exactly like people who cite free speech when they get kicked from something online.

                  Like dude, you’re not legally entitled to write graffiti on someone’s community center to be preserved forever either.

                2. Candi*

                  I can’t remember where I saw it, but the best snark I ever saw on the “but free speech!” defense for trolling and other negative behavior was “ah, the application of a form of governmental restriction to the policies of a private site.”

                  There’s also the “it’s public property!” argument. It’s amazing how people don’t stop and think how many places are privately-owned public-access properties, and that the government has places that, while technically publicly owned via the US government, do not allow the public within. Same applies to websites and intranets.

                3. Zennish*

                  Actually, I think the point anti-maskers don’t get is the concept of making a relatively minor personal sacrifice for the communal good, which is why I personally find them so reprehensible.

        2. Mongrel*

          The “both siding things” when used to troll or deflect has been termed whataboutism, because it inevitably starts with “Yeah, but what about…”

          1. broccoli is good though*

            Strictly speaking, whataboutism and both-sides are two different things. Whataboutism is invoking an irrelevant issue as a way to derail conversation on a specific topic:

            Me: “Onions are awful.”

            Both-sides reply: “Some people think onions are great, we should listen to them too and maybe give their opinions equal space.”

            Whataboutism: “Onions? I notice your hypocritical silence on the subject of BROCCOLI.”

      1. Lab Boss*

        I love your phrase “performative outrage!” It’s a perfect descriptor for so much online discourse.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I didn’t coin it, but it’s definitely apt for a lot of Online Discourse these days – people get whipped up into a frenzy over something for no good reason.

    1. OftenOblivious*

      Yes — like the people who scream “I’m your best customer and I’m here all the time” and the retail worker is all “I work here full time, every day, and I’ve never seen you in my life.”

      1. Stitch*

        I had a relative who was incredibly vocal about being anti mask/Vax requirements in schools. He did not have kids in schools nor did he work for a school in any capacity. Meanwhile, me, a mom with a kid in school was happy they had policies to protect my kid.

        1. Zephy*

          Sounds like Florida. The retirees from New York whose kids *and* grandkids are (1) all grown and (2) not now nor have they ever been enrolled in the FL public school system sure do have a lot of opinions about said school system and how they shouldn’t have to pay for it. You chose to move here, Carol.

          1. Artemesia*

            Some people don’t understand that ‘parents don’t pay school taxes’. Citizens pay school taxes and do it to prepare the next generation of citizens whether they have kids, kids in the public schools or not.

            1. quill*

              It’s more “school taxes are you post-facto paying for your own education” though SOMEONE always comes up with further arguments…

            2. Maid Dombegh*

              I mean, even without having kids myself, I can definitely think of some ways my life would be improved if the people around me were better educated.

            3. tamarack & fireweed*

              I am fully in favor of education being funded out of general taxation of people independently of whether they have children or not (I have none). But I also think that those who actually run, are employed by, are taught by or otherwise interact with a school should be getting a lot more weight in saying what COVID policies should be adopted to run the place.

              1. Zennish*

                That’s almost like say that people who have some expertise and experience with the situation should have a say in managing the situation. That’s just crazy talk. /s

        2. PT*

          I follow a few local media outlets on Facebook and the most vitriolic comments on local issues (state/city politics, local crime, local school policies) are from people who live out of state.

          “I would never visit city/put my kid in that school/endorse politician ruining the state!” No it’s because you live a thousand miles away, keyboard mob.

          1. Justin*

            A woman who moved to Florida was telling me about how NYC was ruined and 30% of the city left for good, and then accused me of being a plant for Cuomo when I said her information was incorrect, with citations.


            1. londonedit*

              Oh yeah, people do that on anything to do with London, too. Drives me mad. It’s either trolls or the smug ‘we left London ten years ago, wouldn’t go back if you paid me’ brigade.

              1. UKDancer*

                Oh definitely. I have one of my distant cousins (who has never actually lived here) tell me how dangerous London is and giving me his (not very informed) opinions of the mayor. Do I go around telling him my views of his hometown of Milton Keynes? I do not.

              2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                I’d like to therefore apologise for the number of times I’ve said about never setting foot there again.

                (Heck, I live near Swindon. That’s got me enough ‘rather you than me’ comments. I should know better)

            2. Stitch*

              Same thing happens with DC. Someone said north of the mall was dangerous. Uh… yeah, with all those fancy tapas restaurants and federal government buildings.

              1. Boof*

                This may be getting far afield buuut; having lived in Baltimore (aka murder capitol of USA, or in close competition for it) and never actually felt at all unsafe, including biking to the grocery store at midnight and what have you; there’s so many factors more than just the region
                But to the topic; haha yes I think people who announce their intention to flounce, but were never actually in a position to flounce; not shocked to hear that they made up the majority of the vitriol. Probably best to liberally block.

              2. VintageLydia*

                The entire damn city is gentrified but one tiny part (and even there I rarely feel particularly unsafe outside of normal city-awareness. Just folks living their lives.)

              1. Artemesia*

                I live in. Chicago close to the Mag Mile and often walk home or to a bus half a mile away after the opera late at night and walk in the central areas of the city several times a week. I have never felt concerned walking or using public transport in the city. And on -line you see constant trolling about how scary Chicago is. It isn’t even in the top ten of US big cities for violent crime. (and yeah the guns pouring in from Indiana and gangs in some part of the city are a concern, but it is mostly pretty much contained to areas tourists are not likely to visit.)

                1. Broadway Duchess*

                  Thank you! I live in the west ‘burbs and when I shorthand with an “I’m from Chicago,” people get wide-eyed about the crime. Like, Chicago is a huge city, loads of neighborhoods, and tourists are probably not going to go to a lot of them (which is really unfortunate because it really is a city of neighborhoods that somewhat maintained the ethnic identities. Andersonville is fantastic! ).

                2. KaciHall*

                  I live in Indiana and used to frequently take the commute train from South Bend or Michigan City into Chicago. I was more worried at the stop in Gary than I was walking around Chicago.

                3. ThatGirl*

                  The Mag Mile is not the “unsafe” part of Chicago, though, it’s tourist central. (Even though people do get mugged there.)

                  And Gary (as mentioned below) is not unsafe so much as deserted.

                4. Boof*

                  I have never felt unsafe in chicago but I admit when I took my fam on the L friday night to get to a funeral I… forgot what a treat the friday night special was. I think my mom in law was sightly traumatized and my young kids had so many questions. Would do on my own buuut probably a bit of a slog and wild for a full family…

              2. MeleMallory*

                There is so much “your state is on fire, there’s sh*t in the streets, and everyone is moving to Texas!”
                Yeah, we get a lot of wildfires, but so do Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana…
                SF may have some issues with keeping streets clean, but I go there a couple times a year (more often before 2020) and haven’t seen a single turd on the street that’s not from a dog or bird.
                Are people really moving in droves to Texas? The only people I hear that from live in Texas.

              3. MamaB*

                I live in Berkeley, and there are an unbelievable number of regular commenters on Berkeleyside who do not and have never lived in Berkeley, but are just there to tell us every day what a cesspool we live in.

                The old expression “get a life” feels relevant here.

          2. Michelle ma belle*

            A county school board near me in N.Virginia had such significant issues with vitriol and threats, often from outsiders,that they had to implement a policy that only county residents could speak during public commnent time at meetings.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          And probably way less shouty about it.

          The uptick in ticket sales when the policy was announced doesn’t surprise me–those people care, they just aren’t pre-emptively loud and angry about it. They quietly go about their lives, including not purchasing tickets if it seems like you are caving to the rage-hobbyists.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Reminds me of what happened with Penzey’s Spices when they came out with a strong anti-Trump position. Much outrage on social media, many claiming they would boycott and so on…and their sales actually went up.

            (And by the way, Penzey’s has incredible spices for not much more than you’d pay in the grocery store. You can order online and they’ll ship, and they make great gifts. I have no affiliation with them other than being a loyal customer – though my husband swears I should get a commission. If you want gift ideas from them, though, feel free to ask me in the comments and I’ll be glad to consult!)

            1. KaciHall*

              Good day to try them out, gift cards are on sale today :)

              I love Penzeys. I miss living close enough to one to go so in person and not wait till I needed a decent amounts worth to have shipped.

                1. AnonEMoose*

                  Right? I love that stuff. Also, the double strength vanilla extract – spendy but totally worth it. We’ve also been enjoying the new Justice blend – it’s wonderful on eggs, chicken, and fish.

            2. MeleMallory*

              I got some Penzey’s spices as a wedding present. I used the Ceylon Cinnamon in my pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and it tasted amazing.

        4. hbc*

          To be fair, I might be vocal about, say, a requirement that students have to say a Christian prayer at my local school even if I had no kids there. The principle doesn’t matter any less if 100% of the parents, students, and teachers say they’re okay with this arrangement. I’m allowed to have an opinion on this.

          The difference being that the “principle” against masking seems to be “nuh uh you can’t make me” or a lot of easily disprovable faux biology (and often it’s people protesting a mandatory piece of cloth who also favor minimum skirt lengths and mandatory sleeves.). Like, it’s okay to have an opinion in an area that doesn’t directly affect you, but make sure it’s not based on a pile of lies and hypocrisy.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            I think there’s also a difference between a business and something like a public school. Public education is just that – the point is supposed to be to produce an educated populace, which benefits all of us. It’s a government institution. A business that is optional to patronize just feels different, if that makes sense.

          2. tamarack & fireweed*

            The quality of the argument absolutely counts. (And it’s fine to argue it out – yes, you should be able to say how you and those you care about are impacted by a proposed policy, and people are entitled to judge you for it. People should be fully able to voice an objection based on pure principle (“I am against government mandating healthcare”) and can expect a respectful counterargument (my favorite is “right now, to reduce the number of people who are getting severely sick, it is necessary to ramp up vaccinations and protective measures – I, too, would prefer for this to happen without government mandates, but given it doesn’t, the need to make it happens overrides the principle”)

      2. VivaVaruna*

        I used to deal with that all the time when I was still working in the restaurant industry. I was doubly amused every time someone said they were “best friends with the owner”. The owner was my grandfather, and anyone who actually knew him knew who I was, too. Funny how I’d never seen the people who were making this claim before in my life, or that they kept treating me like a random peon instead of a member of their “best friend’s” family.

    2. Laika*

      Years ago, I was the receptionist for an organization that suddenly become the focus of media attention for about a week over some recorded footage/an incident involving one of their former staff. The incident itself was minor but had some political implications (eg. “former employee Wakeen took issue with the slogan printed on a volunteer’s mug and it escalated in a small but public way”).

      The volume of calls and emails I had to field from people *who didn’t even live in our country* demanding for his resignation was astounding–nevermind the fact that Wakeen didn’t even work for us any more. At one point, I got permission from my supervisor to just stop answering the phone. It was just a stream of abuse from people who didn’t know what we did, who we were, etc. It was clear that they’d gotten a brief or twisted version of the story from some media outlet and wanted to be be mad about it. Truly baffling.

      1. datamuse*

        It’s genuinely puzzling to me why people do this. How empty does someone’s life have to be that this seems like a good use of their time on Earth?

        1. Justin*

          They get a boost from feeling part of a group. But the “group” is “people who do this sort of thing and then brag about it.”

    3. Loulou*

      Yup, that part was very familiar. I saw someone angrily tweeting at the mayor/governor/news stations about what an outrage it was that our city’s library was closed. This continued well after the library’s reopening, which was well publicized on local and even national news. Only problem? This person didn’t live here and had probably never been to our library! So yes, a troll.

    4. HigherEdAdminista*

      I agree. Statistics show that most people are in favor of safety policies, so it makes sense that most customers were in favor of them. But there is a small group of people who tries to make themselves seem larger by getting involved and fired up over every instance of this.

      The recent school board meetings with “concerned parents” are evidence of this. Many of these meetings featured parents who weren’t actually from the district or people who weren’t actually parents, who traveled to the meeting to make it look like there was a strong opposition, when in reality, it was a group of people not part of things who came there to influence the happenings in schools.

    5. AE*

      Yeah, reminds me of the time that #boycottHamilton was trending because Mike Pence got booed at a performance. The center of the Venn diagram of outraged Pence supporters and fans of hip-hop Broadway musicals was…not large.

      1. Claudia*

        That was doubly funny to me because, at the time, Hamilton was sold out a full year in advance, and Broadway shows generally do not give refunds unless the performance is cancelled. So how were they going to boycott, exactly? Not buy a ticket? K, no one can anyway. Or they already bought a ticket, presumably because they wanted to see the show, already gave the show their money, and just wouldn’t use the seat they paid for? That’ll show ’em!

        1. AE*

          Exactly! I feel like a lot of times when people say “boycott” these days, it actually just means “I DISLIKE THIS THING FOR REASONS” because either they don’t actually follow through, or more likely they weren’t spending money/resources on the thing in the first place.

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        The Hamilton Theatre in…. Hamilton, Ontario, (who weren’t anywhere near big enough to host Hamilton the play) also got a lot of harassment from random non-Canadians calling and emailing them to yell about “their” treatment of Mr Pence.

        1. AE*

          Yes, I remember that many people from Hamilton, ON were amused with the general hashtag situation! It stinks that the theater there was getting harrassment, though.

      3. Liz*

        Right? I’m a big fan of Pearl Jam (along with Hamilton) and I wish even half of the “OMG I’m never going to a concert again, why do they have to be so political” cohort was actual concertgoers. Maybe then I could snag a ticket for under $200.

    6. Artemesia*

      The kind of people who support the arts — museums, theater, classical music — are likely to be better educated and more civically minded. I have noticed the same thing. Our local opera companies etc require proof of vaccination which is checked at the door and masks and we have started buying tickets again because of this. Those making a big fuss are not likely to be opera lovers.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have attended a couple of classical concerts this fall. Every one required mask and proof of vaccination. I did not see or hear so much as a peep of complaining.

        1. Michelle ma belle*

          The community choral group to which I belong was able to sing without masks to an audience at a local senior community because we showed proof of vaccination and a negative covid test. The singer who balked at the test requirement was not allowed to participate.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The symphony in my city has the same requirement, and it’s the primary reason I started buying tickets again.

      3. bratschegirl*

        My husband’s arts organization got at least one “take me off your list I don’t got to show you no stinking N*zi papers” reply to their email announcing their (county-mandated) vaccination requirement for audiences, but most people have been reasonable about it. Meanwhile, we’re not yet going to anyone’s performances but our own; that’s as much time in crowded public places as we can handle. Very grateful to those who are coming, though!

    7. MBK*

      This is a perfect example of Alison’s recently coined, “Intent to Flounce.” Making a scene is the whole point. The lower the stakes, the bigger the flounce.

      1. Dragon_Dreamer*

        That phrase reminds me of the “My Life As a Background Slytherin” webcomic, and Snape’s flounces.

    8. Minerva*

      100% Agree.

      I watched a open school board meeting about basking and I saw several people who spoke against masking and vaccinations who I know for a fact don’t even have children.

      Good on these folks for looking out for the public.

    9. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Oh yeah, this happens across industries. We get anti-mask complaints through the library’s online comment form, and a pretty high percentage of the time the person complaining does not have a library card with us.

    10. JSPA*

      I’d expect many of the rudest voices come from people who don’t even live in your area, and are trolling companies throughout the country.

    11. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m not surprised either. I remember a shopkeeper being interviewed for the news, saying he’d had to close for months during lockdown and didn’t want to turn away customers who refused to mask up. I shouted that he was probably then going to lose all customers who’d be reassured to see that masking was mandatory, but as usual, the guy on TV took no notice of me.

  2. Dust Bunny*

    Yes, I would consider those trolls.

    I am still hardly going anywhere and there is no way in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks I’d go to an indoor performance that didn’t require masks.

    1. Dasein9*

      I would consider them trolls and am starting to think they’re organized. I’ve noticed the comments on my social media sites seem to follow a limited number of scripts and they show up on every public mention of masks or vaccination. One good place to see a sample is in the comments on mask advertisements. (Some companies moderate their comments and others obviously don’t.)

      1. Siege*

        A lot of them are Russian bots. All of them are acting at counter purposes to American (and other wealthy western countries’) interests. Someone is getting paid for it, too; there’s a lot of money being spread around to create disinformation that destabilizes democracy. And then of course there are just average idiots who aren’t being paid for it, but either way I am completely unsurprised to hear that the social media complaints don’t match up to actual attendees.

        Highly recommend, OP, getting familiar with Bot Sentinel and other tools. If nothing else, you can start putting numbers on who is what for the next time y’all have to look at doing something “unpopular” in case anyone gets cold feet. You’re doing that already by noting that the complaints don’t match sales histories, but it can be useful to see who’s even a human. It’s a metric I provide routinely to my board so they have correctly-calibrated expectations and know that we aren’t immune to bot attacks either.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Oh they are absolutely organized. I follow a few creators on TikTok who point out these similarities, even among real people making videos, i.e. not just commenters copy-pasting from 4chan or wherever. One video even showed a guy who appeared to be making his own argument (I think it was a rant against feminism, I don’t remember or care) but was actually reading a tweet, which he didn’t write, verbatim.

      3. JSPA*

        Some are bots, some are hired outrage generators, some are self-appointed outrage generators… few are actual or likely local patrons of the arts.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I’m vaccinated but have an unvaccinated baby at home, so I’m still very careful. I’m still not ready to eat at a restaurant although I really miss doing that. But last weekend I went to a show for the first time. I really love the performers but I was on the fence for a long time. What swayed my desicion was knowing that everyone else there would be vaccinated and masked. Without that, I would not have risked it. But the show was great and I’m so glad I got to support the performers.

      1. Isabella*

        Same here – we also have a child too young to be vaccinated, and have been super cautious. One of the only things we still do is go to the theatre, because we feel safe there (our local theater uses the precautions described by OP).

        Not only are the precautions reasonable, but they hopefully keep out some of the people who aren’t taking this seriously.

  3. Lab Boss*

    I don’t know about being trolls- I’m sure they were truly and dreadfully sincere rather than just trying to annoy you or get a reaction. But you raise a good point- before weighing the costs and benefits of a decision, it’s important to be sure that there actually are costs to be weighed. “Unrelated people who don’t give us money will continue to not give us money” lands on the scale with the weight of a Forrest-Gumpian feather.

    1. Zephy*

      I agree, to call them “trolls” would require a level of self-awareness that these people haven’t achieved. They operate on the @birdsrightsactivist sentiment of “I AM FEEL UNCOMFORATBLE WHEN WE ARE NOT ABOUT ME???”

      (note: Katie Goldin, the person who actually runs that Twitter account, is a self-aware and excellent comedian and human being.)

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      The most fascinating thing was the large amount of people (mostly on our social pages and via e-mail) that seemed the most worked up about it, but did not have any current tickets with us and, in many cases, had no ticket history with us at all (Would you consider that a troll?).

      To me, that is the very definition of trolls. People for whom this has absolutely no impact on their lives, screaming electronically about something. Same as people who leave one-star reviews of restaurants at which they have never eaten in towns where they have never visited or lived. Sincerity or lack of awareness is no excuse. I have found many of these people screaming outrage electronically do it a widespread basis.

    3. anonymous73*

      People who actively participate in online discussions that do not directly affect them just to get a rise out of others are the very definition of trolls.

    4. Artemesia*

      Much, perhaps most, of the on-line opposition to masks and vaccination requirements are foreign troll bots specifically seeking to undermine the US. They are not ‘sincere’ except for the few gullible fools manipulated by them into thinking it is somehow a badge of honor to oppose public health measures.

      Fox news requires their own staff to be vaccinated or test daily — and yet is hard at work inciting anger in their viewers by pushing anti-vax propaganda. And from the beginning foreign troll bots have shaped the on-line conversation.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      It’s the very definition of online troll.
      The alt-right outlets keep their base riled up this way and encourage their followers to go be loud and obnoxious about how their rights are being trampled because they’re being asked to wear a mask in a place they have no intention of ever setting foot in anyway.

      1. Jaybee*

        It’s not the definition of an online troll, actually. The true definition of a troll would be someone who believes masking is important and even wears a mask themselves in public, but who pretends online to be anti-mask because they like ticking people off.

        1. Lab Boss*

          That’s how I’ve always used it, at least- saying things you don’t actually believe, with your goal just being to make people angry or provoke a response. Being deliberately inflammatory as you argue your actual position makes you a jerk, not a troll.

          That only goes for genuine anti-mask people who are throwing tantrums, though, I didn’t think of the possibility of Russian trolls or other deliberate agents of chaos.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I will now stroke my chin as I consider the definition of “troll.” The internet sense of the word goes back to usenet days. Someone not a regular contributor would swoop into a group, posting a tendentious statement to get people stirred up. What made this trolling was that there was never any intention to genuinely engage. So, for example, a troll might post to a TV show fan group that their favorite show sucks. Whether or not the person posting this actually thought the show sucked, or had even ever watched it, was irrelevant. It was the stirring up of trouble without actual engagement.

      So yes, I would say these are trolls. It is possible in principle that a few might be willing to honestly engage, but not many. Indeed, I often confuse people who troll on their own Facebook walls by engaging: Cry “communism!” and I will calmly ask for their definition of the word, and go from there. On rare occasions this has led to actual discussions. More often they block me, as trolling is all they know and they find engagement confusing and disturbing.

      1. Artemesia*

        And contrary to much popular opinion the term ‘troll’ is not about that thing under Billygoat Gruff’s bridge but rather the fishing term — casting out a line and seeing if something bites.

        1. UKDancer*

          I did not know that. I had assumed it was the hiding under (virtual) bridges and being threatening to passers by type of troll.

          1. Lab Boss*

            It does work either way- but “trolling” in a fishing sense is specifically dragging bait along behind a constantly slow-moving boat. The term originated in particular for people who moved through forums without participating other than to dangle “bait” and wait for a response.

            You could also use a trolling motor to drive your boat under a bridge, I suppose, and just cross the streams :D

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Thank you Artemesia and Lab Boss! I thought “troll” was used in the creature-under-the-bridge way, but the fishing term makes so much sense!

      2. quill*

        So I used to rehab trolls recreationally (too much time on my hands, was brought into a specific forum by someone I knew IRL to be the “token adult” moderator because I’d hit 18) and I remember the days where most of them were fourteen year old edgelords who were surprised to find someone who didn’t rise to their bait.

        I blocked anyone who made bigoted statements, the people who were just annoying and looking for a reaction got exactly one second chance. And for a forum as small as ours, a significant number (like, double digits – I don’t think we ever broke 100 active members) turned into regulars as soon as they realized that the only way to get attention was to engage in good faith.

        But since 2015 /2016 “trolls” have become actually organized, and devoted to harm against specific populations. Personally I blame Gamergate, but it could have started earlier.

  4. Stitch*

    Count me as someone who would NOT attend a performance without masks/vaccine requirement but did attend a performance that required it.

    1. LCH*

      Same. I don’t live near any where with live theater but I would love to be able to see a movie on a big screen again in my life.

      1. Artemesia*

        We have seen two films in theaters recently: The French Dispatch and Belfast and while they didn’t require vaccination everyone was wearing mask. I luckily live in a city where that is the norm.

    2. ThisIsTheHill*

      Same. We went to our first musical in 2 years on Saturday. Vax/neg tests required & masks at all times – the ushers even went around with flashlights to catch people who removed masks after the lights went down. It was the safest I’ve felt in a room full of strangers since 2019.

      1. DataGirl*

        I went to my first show in a couple years Saturday night too and twice during the show they put the house lights on low and the ushers went up and down the aisles/stairs to check that everyone was wearing their masks. It was a little distracting, but appreciated none-the-less.

      2. Philosophia*

        I LOVE it that “the ushers even went around with flashlights to catch people who removed masks after the lights went down.” Here’s hoping other performance venues where the lights are dimmed take note of that technique.

    3. Siege*

      Same. I’m not going anywhere that doesn’t require them. We went to a comedy show in October and have tickets for another one at the end of the year. Probably gonna skip the Monster Jam reschedule next April though.

    4. Bilateralrope*

      It’s not just performances. I’m taking note of stores that have staff who aren’t properly wearing masks. I don’t complain. I just stop visiting them. Especially if they serve food.

      Same goes for vaccine passes. Though those have been in place here for less than a week and some places are still confused.

    5. Missing the Arts*

      So much this. I actually hadn’t gotten Nutcracker tickets this year because I assumed our city wouldn’t be enforcing masking, only to find out that they were when tickets were already sold out–but I would 100% go knowing that masks were required for everyone, but held back for a long time, even though it’s a cherished holiday tradition in our home, because I didn’t want to risk an exposure so close to the holidays.

    6. Michelle ma belle*

      I won’t go to my church. The pastor refuses to be vaccinated and I would surmise there are a number of congregants who feel the same. I learned privately that there was an “outbreak” before Thanksgiving. Nothing has been said anbout this officially although supposedly the death of a congregant likely came from there.

  5. RR*

    This is really heartening. I always wonder when I see so many people flipping out about vaccine policies on social media, how many of them are actual customers and how many simply spend their entire day trolling businesses who announce vaccine policies (where I live, this is all of them as it’s the law for non-essentials at the moment).

    1. Lady Danbury*

      Stuff like this is often circulated in antivaxx social media groups, where members are encouraged to voice their opinion (ie complain about a restriction that has absolutely no effect on their lives).

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yes! It’s a common cause in the alt-right circles to keep a base (who are the minority actually) constantly riled up and be extremely loud and obnoxious even though they may live several states away from your venue and are not and never intend to be patrons.

        I’m glad your ACTUAL patrons were all for the safety measures being taken, bought tickets, and thus can get back to enjoying the arts again.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Also, it is a mistake to confuse noise with numbers. A small group that is riled up can easily make more noise than a much larger number of people going about their lives.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah, the fact that the most vocally angry about the policy were not customers at all didn’t surprise me at all. This year has shown us that lots of people are very into “performative outrage” especially if it lets them “own the others” in some way.

  6. StressedButOkay*

    I’m not surprised at all. We’ve had to weather angry calls from people who have never had any dealings with our organization based on things they’ve stumbled across and (mis)read. People enjoy raising a fuss online, especially it seems about COVID-19, but a lot of times they don’t actually have any capital with the people they’re screaming and yelling at.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah its really easy to get worked up on the internet. But when it comes time to act, most don’t want to.

      Like all the people who said they would never watch football again if the NFL didn’t prohibit kneeling during the anthem. Ratings are higher than ever. So clearly either there weren’t a lot of them to begin with OR they were all bluster.

      Or the cops who have threatened to resign if there are vaxx mandates. Turns out its like less 1% actually do.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        For the last, I’ve seen that proposed as a reasonable step to weed out people who lurk on conspiracy theory pages and don’t care about any one else’s health or rights.

  7. Lab Boss*

    (Forgive this if it’s a double post, my first seems to have been swallowed by the comment system) This update raises a really good point, that before weighing the costs of a decision to actually know that they ARE costs. “I’ll never buy a ticket again!” actually means something coming from many of your regular customers, but “I will continue to give you the same $0 that I’ve already given you” isn’t exactly much leverage.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      To quote Firefly: “Ten percent of nothing is, let me do the math here, nothing into nothing, carry the nothing…”

    2. Just Another Librarian*

      It is so important to consider if the loud complainers are actually customers!

      The opera company we’re season ticket holders to did a survey every 6 weeks or so throughout the year to see how actual ticket holders felt and continued to feel about measures. They also just announced masks and a test or vaccine requirement and people went nuts, but they were able to say ‘well, a strong majority of season ticket holders want it this way, and they are the ones who donate on top of tickets and are the bulk of ticket purchases’. People seemed to run out of steam after that.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yep. My local performance arts center did the same. If you bought tickets in 2019 or early 2020, you were polled during the pandemic

        I’m still not comfortable seeing a show in the theater, but I plan to buy tickets once I am.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’ve had a lot of polls about what would make me comfortable about returning to live performances and I’ve put down compulsory masking and vaccine requirements on all of them.

        In normal, non-Covid times I normally go to the theatre 30-40 times a year , I have or have had memberships with various theatres at different times – I’d certainly hope that my feedback carries a bit more weight than a random person who has never been to a production.

    3. Aquawoman*

      This reminds me of the Starbucks “boycotts” by people who never go to Starbucks because their winter seasonal cups don’t cater enough to the religion of the people not going to Starbucks. And the constant mention of Starbucks makes people who occasionally go to Starbucks think, “hmmm, I’m craving a pumpkin spice latte.”

  8. middle name danger*

    My venue has also gotten a lot of hate from people who never had any intention of attending a show. We’ve also had people post on social media that they planned to bring a fake vaccination card. And people who buy tickets in person day-of-show and immediately request a refund because they can’t pass health check.

    It’s funny how the venn diagram of “people who are opposed to health protocols” and “people who react wildly illogically to something they’re opposed to” is a circle.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        OK I’ll take the bait.

        What crime are you talking about? I’m assuming you’re confused about what is and isn’t a crime, but I couldn’t resist asking

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Presumably the “fake vaxx card”. At least where I live, vaccine passports are legally mandated for a number of businesses and venues, so a fake one is indeed illegal.

          1. Prospect Gone Bad*

            Oh my eyes completely glazed over that. I would delete my comment if I could. IDK if it’s a crime or not but I wouldn’t have commented if I saw it. Weird how my eyes only saw the “bought a ticket and refunded it”

        2. urguncle*

          Forging a vaccination card is a crime and people have been charged. Faking vaccine records is a federal offense in the US. Writing in to say that you have a forged vaccine card is outing yourself as having committed a crime.

        3. RagingADHD*

          Forging a vaccine record or knowingly using a forged card is a federal offense in the US, and a felony in a number of states. If you’re confused about that, you can easily find many US Attorneys on record, as well as local prosecutors.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      It’s funny how the venn diagram of “people who are opposed to health protocols” and “people who react wildly illogically to something they’re opposed to” is a circle.

      Or: “Well, you shouldn’t have to make a cake if goes against your beliefs. It’s your business and your choice”

      Business requires masks &/or proof of vaccination, same person: “But my freedoms!!1!”

    2. DataGirl*

      I don’t know how widely available fake vax cards are and if they are easy or not to spot, but I just went to a show and they asked for ID in addition to the card and checked very thoroughly to make sure the names/photo matched. It was a moment of nervousness because my daughter was with me – she’s old enough to be vaccinated but not old enough to have photo ID, but they compared her last name to mine (thank goodness they are the same) and let her in.

      1. Siege*

        They’ve been fairly easy to get. I work in a higher-ed supporting capacity and … yeah, they’re easy to get if you want one, at least at the start of fall quarter. It’s possible demand has dropped off because our schools are largely basically taking students’ attestation; they’re requiring proof from staff. (No! That does not make sense! You’re totally right!)

        The scary ones are the ones where you get a legit card with legit info but no vaccine was actually given. I don’t trust card check (I do it anyway) as an indicator of my safety.

      2. londonedit*

        In the UK we have the NHS app/website which will generate a QR code based on your NHS online account – your vaccination status is linked to your NHS number and recorded online/on the app so there’s no way to fake that. The Covid Pass it generates isn’t law in England for entry to venues etc but many will ask for it and you’re also asked for it when travelling abroad. The only way the system can fall down is that the other way to generate a QR code if you’re not vaccinated is to have reported a negative Covid test online within the preceding 48 hours, and that really does rely on self-reporting – the self-test lateral flow tests we use here have an individual QR code on them, but you upload that and then self-report whether the test was positive, negative or void. So you absolutely could just unwrap the test strip, upload the QR code/test number and click ‘negative’ and you’d qualify for an NHS Covid Pass via the app. You’d like to think not very many people were doing that in the grand scheme of things, though!

      3. Jaybeetee*

        It just blew up in my region that it’s disconcertingly easy to take our vax passport pdfs and alter them with your own data. Luckily official records show our anti-vax population is quite small, so there aren’t zillions of those out there – just, it’s easy to do.

        1. not that kind of Doctor*

          This is my question too – how many of these things are really out there? How small is the number of people who a) aren’t vaccinated and b) are buying tickets to a show and c) are willing to go to the trouble/expense of forging a document for that purpose? My county just hit 80% vaccinated (that’s of the entire population, not just eligibles) so I suspect around here that number is pretty small.

      4. Gipsy Danger*

        In British Columbia we require masks everywhere in public, and proof of double vaccination required for every non-essential service, such as restaurants, theatres, hockey games, etc. We have an electronic QR code that is scanned by the venue, and we have to show ID every time. I’m sure it’s not foolproof, but it seems pretty solid to me. I have heard of people who have a copy of someone else’s vax card on their phone, but not sure how they’re getting around the ID requirement.

      5. Mid*

        Luckily my state has an app (that can also be your legal ID!) that can show your vaccination card, which makes it much harder to fake. I’m sure there are still fake cards, especially the paper ones, but my city has like an 85% vaccination rate so I think it’s fairly uncommon. We get a lot of anti-maskers, but less anti-vaxxers.

        1. PT*

          One of the reasons I’ve kept my COVID vaccines in the CVS ecosystem is you can pull up your vaccine record on their app, in addition to the paper CDC card.

      6. middle name danger*

        I will be real and honest it’d be easy to make a fake vaccination card or fake test results. (Which is why it’s hilarious when they’re obvious fakes or when people announce their intention to commit fraud.)

        We check everything as much as we can, and check IDs thoroughly to make sure the card/results belong to the person giving it to us, but there are so many different variations from different legitimate sources that it’s hard to tell if something is off or just from a different provider. And the standard card itself is…not complex. There’s no seal to duplicate or anything.

        Obviously, please don’t commit fraud and forge a vaccination card, but it scares me how simple it would be. Also, it really drives home the point that these people are making a show of being outraged rather than actually wanting to attend.

        1. middle name danger*

          Also, as I said on the original post, “The most frustrating thing to me has been that we were given NO guidelines on how to check for proof of vaccination and tests. Nothing on what to look for for fakes, nothing on how to add it into our ingress process. If you’re in a position to, please make your staff a one-pager at least on how to check. Someone on my team almost sent someone away because their card said Janssen instead of J+J.”

          We’ve gotten a little better at spotting things and training new people, but there’s no formal guidance like there is on how to spot a fake ID.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      We just had a huuuge theater venue open in our town that has been in the works for years (I was so afraid Covid would kill it, but I guess the benefactors made sure that didn’t happen)

      The rules are different for each show I guess, where the people coming in to perform get to set the rules they are comfortable with.

      Wicked was the first show and it was very exciting. I saw tons of angry comments on facebook like “how dare you request vaccines/test, this will ruin my poor neice’s birthday” or whatever–and that show DIDN’T have any such requirement (just masks, which were required by the venue because they were required by the state). These people are so prepared to pitch a fit to every business they’re not even bothering to check if the thing they are protesting against exists first lol. I do not envy the people that have to deal with these “customers.”

  9. Deanna*

    As someone with a brother who is a working theatre actor that has also endured the hardship of Covid and is now starting to perform again, I’m happy that OP and their company have weathered the storm! People have been less dramatic in our area about needing to get vaccinated to see a show, but these groups putting on the shows still need the crowds to survive. It’s great that people are coming back to see OP’s shows.

  10. lyonite*

    This is in line with polling data I’ve seen–mask and vax policies are actually widely popular, but a vocal minority have been making them seem much more widely opposed than they are. Glad you were able to stick to your policies! (And we just got a mailer from our local small theater today–looking forward to having a chance to support them soon!)

    1. Sharon*

      I’ve wondered about that – my anecdotal evidence is that people who care about COVID safety tend to just quietly not go to businesses they consider unsafe, while people who are against mask mandates, etc. are very vocal.

      1. Artemesia*

        we went to a restaurant early in the pandemic where the waiters were masked and then the owner wandered around with his mask below his chin shmoozing customers and we have not been back since. The place where we ate last night — every single waiter was wearing a mask properly over nose and mouth.

      2. Jane*


        As someone who’s got really tight Covid protocols and is looking for dance classes to participate in – which events and classes I attend depends entirely on which ones advertise a masked and vaccinated (no test out) policy. There are multiple classes and events that I badly want to do, and have been watching for ages hoping they’d do this, but haven’t attended.

        I don’t reach out about it because I have found that, at least with the small events I’m talking about, the policy, when it’s not mandated by the local government or the facility, tends to be about the teacher or facilitator’s comfort, so I’m unlikely to change their risk assessment in an appreciable way.

        It does make me grumpy when the local rules change, as it’s nice when the rules line up with what I’m looking for – recently they lifted the mask mandate for exercise classes. Sure enough, the dance class I had been wanting to attend when it goes back to in-person will be in-person next week, and while she requires vaccination she does not require masks.

      3. Critical Roll*

        That’s us, too. If we go someplace that’s not doing masking right we just… don’t go back.

    2. Missing the Arts*

      This intrigues me, actually. My local area has a lot of people who are vehemently anti-vax/anti-mask, so I’ve been in the habit of choosing my activities very carefully, etc–but it seems like the people I talk to in person are, for the most part, actually taking reasonable precautions, they’re just…kind of doing it quietly and living their lives. And then you get into communities like this one, where it seems like the majority of people are just appalled by those not taking safety measures. It would interest me to see some real-world stats.

  11. Prefer my pets*

    I wish the arts around here were requiring proof of vaccinations & masks…I would go but I haven’t bought a ticket or made a donation to them since the pandemic started because they aren’t. I’m spending my spare money at small businesses who are actively enforcing masks & other precautions instead.

    I wonder how much support such places have lost because of people like me compared to how much they gained/retained by caving to the science-denier crowd? In my experience, the average maga has never been a huge supporter of the arts….unless you count vehicle decals.

  12. Meg*

    Something similar happened to my local yarn shop! Since the beginning of the pandemic, the owner has been very forceful about wearing a mask and hand washing when you enter. It must have gotten out to the wider world beyond yarn because she was review bombed by people that had never been to her store, lived on the other side of the country, just because she made people wear masks in her store! Where her children are (this was before the child vaccine was available)!

  13. old curmudgeon*

    All of the performing arts organizations in my area have implemented the same policies about masks and proof of vaccination or negative Covid test results, and that is honestly the ONLY reason that I am willing to attend in-person performances. The same is true at the World Science Fiction Convention that starts next week – again, the only way I’d consider attending is with those policies in place.

    And I add a hearty AMEN to your plea to support performing arts organizations in any way possible – buying tickets for in-person performances, tickets to access online performances, donations, whatever you can do is important. I am fortunate to live in a region with strong support for the performing arts, and the orgs in my area have weathered the pandemic successfully so far (one interesting tidbit I recently learned is that a single theater company in my city is responsible for almost 2% of all the Actors’ Equity Association contracts nation-wide between March 2020 and March 2021), but even for them, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t over. Science, technology and industry are all important areas, but if we lose the arts, we lose our hearts.

    1. TooTiredToThink*

      Hey! I know that con! It’ll be my first. I loved that they were SO accommodating, too, of people with kids and letting people get refunds, etc… And the fact that they very much required vax to attend. I was just seriously impressed with how hard they are trying. Hence why I’m actually going.

  14. Jaybee*

    I’m glad to hear it went as well as it could have gone, LW. Count me as someone who’s happy to see these safety measures going into place – I’m really excited to finally be able to see live performances again (I have tickets to see Phantom of the Opera in January…what can I say, it’s a classic) but I wouldn’t be going if these safety measures weren’t required.

  15. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    So glad you put in safety requirements! That will help so many people.

    I went to see a comedian in Nov. and the only reason I didn’t cancel was because they required proof of vaccination and masks on while in the venue.

  16. NB*

    I recently went to a great performance at a major theater in my city and was comforted to know that everyone in the room was vaccinated or tested. It made me so happy to see live theater again, and it was all the better knowing that I was unlikely to pick up and spread a virus that could devastate my family, friends, or coworkers.

  17. Don*

    My experience has been that, beyond a certain point, the people who are actual customers/patrons aren’t going to keep engaging about stuff like this past some initial clarification and getting a refund. If they don’t find your terms acceptable they just move on. The folks who turn it into a quixotic crusade have the time to do so because they don’t have some other business to go conduct; this ranting and raving IS their product/entertainment.

    For a number of our pre-kid years my wife and I sold some hand-made items at art shows. It was largely a very enjoyable and pleasant pastime where we encountered a lot of lovely, pleasant people. A few bought, many more would chit chat with us, and since it wasn’t our primary source of income we could just enjoy it as a marginally cash-positive hobby. Which also meant we didn’t see any need to put up with anyone who treated us poorly. After a few years I noticed that no matter how patient and neutral I was with the cruddy people it never turned into a sale.

    One particular encounter comes to mind. After a lot of borderline insulting questions followed up with a “I feel like I could just make this myself” I said “You should, it’s a lot of fun once you buy the few thousand bucks worth of woodworking tools” in what must have been an obviously bored tone. They looked at me and said “Whatever happened to ‘the customer is always right?'” I replied “To be a customer you’d have to actually buy something.”

    The folks pissing and moaning at you on social media about policies that have 70%+ approval in the nation are not your patrons and never were gonna be. Their performative outrage and your discomfort are the only show they’re interested in.

      1. Don*

        Unfortunately they are mostly just having a smart mouth and having inherited enough genetic and societal privilege to allow me to get away with shit others might not be able to. Like the above situation where, unlike many of our fellow artists, we could afford not to worry about losing a sale we’d need to put food on the table. So mostly it’s not a thing I can help others acquire. But if you want a good start I can highly recommend the writings of Captain Awkward and her numerous lessons on finding the line between being courteous and taking unnecessary abuse.

    1. ArtK*

      I know a lot of independent artists and your story is, sadly, very typical. Good for you for pushing back on the “I could do this myself” bit.

      Also: “The customer is always right” is a lot of BS that has made the lives of folks in retail that much more miserable. I won’t add a link but the Wikipedia page on the phrase has some interesting information. It was known back in 1914 that this phrase isn’t true.

      1. Artemesia*

        Marshall Field made his fortune on the slogan ‘give the lady what she wants’ — but that was about how he arranged his store and what he stocked not about catering to nasty pieces of work.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      You need to share this story with the good people at r/talesfromretail or at notalwaysright dot com.

    3. PT*

      I worked in fitness and so our customers had to use the facility together, sharing the cardio room, taking classes together, etc. My managers ALWAYS wanted to placate these cranks “we can’t have a dissatisfied customer!”

      But what would happen is we’d placate these cranks by changing things to their liking, which meant changing things that the regular users liked into things THEY didn’t like, and it also meant they had to now share their space with jerks and take classes with jerks who wasted class time. So we would do all this work to placate one crank, and we’d alienate 5-10 people, who’d end up leaving.

      1. Don*

        My very first job back in the late 80s was selling camera gear in a retail setting so folks were spending anywhere from $200 to $3000 bucks. Being a decent-sized purchase they would be kinda thorough in making sure it was the right thing for them, so you could spend 5 to 50 minutes with a customer.

        Our company management would periodically get a bug up their ass about us answering the phones and how quickly it happened. Mostly, even as someone in his late teens, I knew better that to get into an argument about it. But one day someone was really pushing on it and I said look, if I have someone here making a purchase that’s more important than someone calling on the phone to ask what our hours are. “But those people on the phone are potential customers and if you don’t answer they will go somewhere else.” Yeah, but the person here with money in their hand is an ACTUAL customer with ACTUAL money that can be used to pay my ACTUAL salary and the ACTUAL rent. I don’t know any banks that let you deposit potential sales.

        The people who have the biggest hardon for capitalism always manage to seem the most disconnected from how it actually works.

    1. ThisIsTheHill*

      Foos are the best! I envy you; they didn’t reschedule either of the 2020 shows in my state that I had tix to.

    2. TiffIf*

      Patton Oswalt cancelled a show in Utah because the venue couldn’t require vaccinations (the venue was on a state university campus and the Utah state legislature barred governmental entities from requiring vaccinations).

  18. DataGirl*

    I just went to my first show since 2019 this past weekend. (Hadestown, which was AMAZING). A big part of my decision to attend was the fact that proof of vaccination or negative COVID test and masking was required. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy the process to enter the theater was, they had security guards outside checking ID & card (to make sure people didn’t use someone else’s card). Before the show they made announcements about keeping masks on, and twice during the show they put the house lights on low and the ushers went up and down the aisles checking to make sure people were wearing masks. It was a little distracting, especially when one usher had to stop and try to get someone who presumably wasn’t wearing their mask’s attention, but overall I’m glad they did it.

            1. ThisIsTheHill*

              Agreed! I was hesitant at first, but a friend who was even more careful during the pandemic than I was went to see “Rent” & told me how well they’re enforcing masks & that pretty much everyone complied without being asked. After all of the drama in this state, it was almost jarring how much of a non-issue the requirements were to patrons.

  19. RagingADHD*

    The people who threaten to never darken your door again over reasonable policies are inevitably in one of 2 groups:
    1) Those who never darkened your door in the first place; or
    2) Those you can’t wait to be shut of anyway because their custom was never worth the trouble.

  20. JelloStapler*

    There are so many vigilante people who just want to use their energy to have a temper tantrum about being asked to think of others.

    I would be happy to support the arts in any way that helped others stay safe.

    1. Artemesia*

      People, especially Democratic politicians, underestimate how much fun it is to hate people, throw tantrums and shoot people. The outrage is the point for people with otherwise empty lives.

  21. Peachkins*

    Glad to hear the positive update. I’m a musician and playing in my first indoor concert since Covid this coming weekend. Vaccinations aren’t required, but masks are and a limited number of tickets are available to allow for social distancing. I’m very happy to see these kinds of things returning.

  22. Zephy*

    This update reminded me to check the COVID policy at the theater I’m going to this Friday. They require a recent negative test, or, alternatively, proof of full vaccination, in that order. Masks on at all times, and they even specify that the mask must cover the nose, mouth, and chin – neck gaiters, open-bottom bandana-style masks, and anything with a valve or mesh is not acceptable. You love to see it.

    1. TiffIf*

      I have season tickets to the local Symphony and they have a vaccination or test requirement for all patrons. Though they only require masks for unvaccinated people and I have no way of knowing who is actually following that requirement. I have had my booster shot and I still wear an N95/KN95 when there.

      1. Artemesia*

        Given the Delta and now Omicron variants it is foolish to allow the vaccinated to go maskless. I know so many people who have had breakthrough infections — they have all been mild like mild colds BUT they are also contagious when they have it.

  23. The Smiling Pug*

    Thank you for this update! I’ve been involved with the performing arts in some capacity since I was thirteen, and got my Bachelor’s in Theater studies. Issues like this are close to my heart, and all my actor-friends. I haven’t seen a live show since December 2019, but I can’t wait to go back.

  24. Data Analyst*

    I’m so glad to hear this. I consider the people who complain in spite of never having patronized the theater to be something worse than trolls. It’s like the people who have been complaining about mask mandates at school board/PTA meetings in spite of their kids not going to the schools in question. I think at least some of them actually want other people to put themselves at risk in order to get in line with their version of reality, and it scares the crap out of me.

  25. Delta Delta*

    I’ve seen a bunch of shows and sporting events in 2021. I’m glad to support artists and musicians again!

    Everything indoors – I’ve worn a mask. Outdoors I’ve worn a mask some of the time since I’ve been vaccinated (I was at a fairly famous outdoor event in May and wore a mask because I was half-vaxxed; the secret bonus was that it helped me to not get sunburned, so, yay!). Wearing a mask, for me, is a lot like an additional accessory and if I’m sitting in a seat enjoying a play, it literally doesn’t change my experience AT ALL. If I’m at a concert by a band I’ve been following for 25 years and they play a song I’ve been chasing for 25 years, it’s a bummer to keep the mask on and not go bananas. But that’s a great way to get sick so I just would keep the mask on and go bananas while masked. (this absolutely happened and I did not get sick so I absolutely would repeat the masked bananas)

    1. wendelenn*

      The Masked Bananas, they were on that show where famous people wear costumes and sing and compete and people try to guess who they are, right ? :D

  26. KWu*

    “we added to our phone message that their calls would be recorded” — oh, so smart! People can be so vile when they think it’s private.

    1. Mid*

      Yup. As soon as there’s a possibility of consequences, most people calm down. Someone was demanding our store manager personally call them about masks, and as soon as I said we’d need their name and phone number so they could be called, they backed out. (Not sure how else they thought the manager could call them though?)

    2. AFac*

      That made me wonder how many “this call will be recorded for quality assurance” statements are really “don’t act like a d!ck because we’re recording the call” notifications. As someone who never yells horrible things at customer service reps, having that reason to record never occurred to me before.

  27. anonymous73*

    I’m glad things worked out for your company. I would imagine the people willing to purchase ticket based on safety protocols would outweigh the angry trolls. We finally were able to see the first show of a subscription we purchased 2 years ago after many postponements, and they require proof of vaccination and masking inside. And while I don’t enjoy wearing a mask for prolonged periods of time, I appreciate that the theater is doing this because it provides more peace of mind so I an enjoy things that I’ve missed for so long again.

  28. Allornone*

    As someone who just got her booster shot, and is experiencing some really crappy side effects, I’ll be the first one to say it’s all worth it to be able to responsibly participate in society again. Overall, my area has been irresponsible regarding mask mandates and vaccines (my governor is a real piece of work), so it might be a bit before I start feeling truly safe, but with policies like the one instituted above, it’s only a matter of time.

  29. Hedgehog O'Brien*

    I also work in the performing arts (it’s actually very possible I know OP, it’s a small world haha) and our organization has a very similar story. We’re small, but have partner organizations who are larger and we decided to present a united front and to require masks and proof of vaccination or negative tests for all performances. We’re also limiting capacity to 50% right now. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve lost a couple of subscribers who are upset about our polices, but I think we’ve retained many, many more because of our strong stance on safety during Covid. And similar to OP, many of the complainers have little to no ticket history with us.

  30. Susanna*

    Oh, what an excellent update! Fascinating that the complainers largely had no plans to go (or history of attending)!

    I love it when a protester I interview (I’m a reporter) says to me, oh, I used to subscribe but now you’re really biased so I recently canceled my subscription. I think they are then expecting me to apologize, explain, beg them to come back.
    Then I tell them we haven’t had subscriptions in years – we are all online.

    I think the anti-vax and anti-mask folks think that because they are louder, that they are more influential. Nope. LOTS of people want to go to a production or a restaurant where they feel safe.

  31. Peggy Sue*

    Nice update to hear!
    I’ve been surprised by the amounts of people not wearing masks in theatres that I’ve visited in London over the past 4 months. (Things may have changed since omicron.)
    In my experience, it appears that 80% of theatre audiences haven’t been masking in London. Not very impressive.
    Im happy to continue masking and attending theatres myself, but a couple of friends aren’t.

    1. londonedit*

      The trouble is that until last week masks weren’t mandatory anywhere in England, not since ‘freedom day’ in June or whenever it was *eyeroll*. The majority of commuters on the Tube stayed masked over the summer but outside commuting times and at the weekend it was like people didn’t think Covid applied anymore. In my area of London people largely did carry on wearing masks in shops even before the mandate was re-applied, but in central London it’s been very different (possibly down to the number of tourists from different places) and there was nothing the shops or theatres or even TfL could do before last week (even though TfL claimed to still have a mask mandate, it wasn’t actually easily legally enforceable).

    2. Artemesia*

      We went to the opera in Paris in October and not only did we have to present our Pass Sanitaire QR code showing vax status but EVERYONE wore masks throughout the performance. And same in Chicago at the Chicago Opera Theater and the Lyric.

      I have relatives in England and don’t get the resistance to common sense public health measures — a Welsh friend told us that it is not ‘the UK’ — it is England, that they are wearing masks carefully in Wales.

      1. londonedit*

        We’re also wearing masks carefully in many parts of England, thanks. I haven’t changed my behaviour at all since ‘freedom day’ and neither has anyone I know. People love to claim ‘everyone in England’ or ‘everyone in London’ is unmasked but that’s simply not true where I live.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I’ve found it’s pretty variable, and does seem to depend a bit on how the theatre handles it.

      I started going back to some theatre events in the summer after I got my second jab, and I have masked up for everything, but found there were big differences in compliance at different theatres, even though they all requested it. (Oddly, the worst one was Ian McKellen’s Hamlet in Windsor, where the audience skewed even more to the upper age range than you normally get , whereas the Cush Jumbo Hamlet at the New Vic nearly everyone was masked, despite that having a much younger and more diverse than usual audience, and the fact that , being a newer theatre, the seating is actually much less cramped – I would have expected it to be the opposite way round given the risk factors for serious illness!)

      I was at the Bridge theatre at the weekend, they sent out e-mails in advance reminding everyone they needed to wear a mask and the staff on the doors were reminding people and handing out masks to anyone who had ‘forgotten’ theirs, and it seemed as though nearly everyone was masked through the performance. I was a bit cautious about going as it was my first post Omicron outing but I was reassured by how seriously they were taking it. But a few weeks earlier at ‘The Mirror and The Light’ a lot of people weren’t (although you did have to show a vaccine pass or proof of negative LFT on the way in)

      I did notice that nearly everyone was masked on the tube last weekend compared to maybe 40-50% two weeks earlier.

      I’m seeing ‘Six’ tomorrow night so will be interested to see how my local theatre handles it – I haven’t been there since the summer, when there when quite a lot of unmasked people but also it was at a time when local numbers were extremely low and vaccine numbers locally very high .

    4. allathian*

      The only reason why I’m not attending live performances with a mask requirement is that I haven’t found a mask yet that would seal tightly enough to stop my glasses fogging up (contacts don’t work for me). I might go and listen to a choral performance with a mask on, because then not being able to see properly wouldn’t matter as much as it would for a more visual performance, such as a play, or a musical.

      Movie theaters make most of their profits from the snacks and drinks they sell, so masks have been recommended for queuing up and going to your seats, and leaving, but everyone knows that if someone walks in with snacks and drinks, they aren’t going to keep their mask on when the lights go down. My husband and I went to see No Time to Die a few weeks ago. We didn’t eat, but I took my mask off so I could watch the movie with my glasses on. Now with the omicron variant spreading, who knows when I’ll feel comfortable enough to go to the movies again.

      The Covid passport is in use here as well, but they can only use it as an alternative to regional and local Covid restrictions. They’re changing the legislation on this, but it’ll take some time before businesses can require a Covid passport simply because they want to.

  32. TooTiredToThink*

    I go to my very first show in *ages* (even pre-pandemic) on Saturday! I bought my season tickets back in July. I was getting a wee bit concerned because I had missed that they had announced a vax-only policy. Which relieved me greatly. I’m not happy about masks (don’t get me wrong; I believe they work; I just *still* feel claustrophobic wearing them and no matter what I do, I can’t get a tight enough fit so they don’t fog up my glasses), but I’ll make do. But I had already decided that if I can’t go, I wasn’t going to ask for a refund. I can’t really afford to eat the money like that, but it’s how I can help, a little bit.

    1. not that kind of Doctor*

      I’ve definitely done that & encouraged others with means to do the same. I would give that money to the organization anyway; they need it more than I do, and I want them to be there (& safe!) in the future.

    2. Artemesia*

      I hate masks — and I wear them too. There are sprays that help on the fogging of glasses you can apply before a show. They really don’t work in very cold weather outside but they work pretty well inside when things warm up a bit. I luckily have eyesight that is not so terrible that I cannot just take off my glasses when outside. It is the worst part of mask wearing to be in a museum and not be able to see the art through the fog.

    3. BcAugust*

      I will say that one of the best decisions I made with my last pair of glasses was the antifog coating. I think it added twenty dollars to the cost, but it has been wonderful the past two years.

      I got it because I was doing a ton of work in freezers way before COVID hit.

  33. TuesdaybutwaitingforFriday*

    My state has a mandatory indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccine status. Similar to the OP, several performing arts venues in my city collaborated on defining/issuing safety protocols (vaccine card or proof of negative test) and make them absolutely clear on their respective websites, their ticketing process, and all emails. Based on my experiences at the venues, everyone complies without complaint. Those who don’t wish to, don’t attend. I won’t attend any performance at any venue that doesn’t have these protocols in place.

  34. Elizabeth West*

    I’m glad this went so well for you, OP. I feel like the people being total butts about this isn’t really a bigger group, just louder. With the omicron variant possibly driving yet another wave, my tolerance for them is pretty much out the window.

    I’m triple vaxxed and still masking so for me, it’s about means. The most I’ve been able to manage is going to the cinema during very slow times for Marvel films (no WAY was I watching Shang-Chi on my laptop!). When I can, I’d really like to go see a show again.

  35. DD*

    Your comment about anti-vaxx and anti-mask ranting trolls is similar to what we saw with school board meetings in late summer. The same set of people with the same set of talking points turned up at multiple school board meetings throughout the metro area to rant at the members. In many cases they didn’t even have children in any school, much less that particular one.

  36. Bookworm*

    I’m so glad it seems to have mostly worked out, OP! I’m personally not ready to attend any indoor performance but would feel much more comfortable patronizing a venue like yours. If not for the audience and performers, then the staffers who work the venue (food, cleaning, logistics, etc.).

    I hope to get more comfortable soon as I miss museums, shows, movies, etc. and as I said, will be looking for requirements like your venue’s. Thanks for the update!!

  37. Nea*

    I’ve just been to my first theater performances in 2 years – wow, that felt good! And it was such a relief that Broadway is taking the vaccine/masks seriously.

    Two notes that I’ll pass on simply from a crowd control standpoint:

    New World Stages checked ticket, mask, vax card, and ID all at once. The line was correspondingly slow at the point of entry.

    The Brooks Atkinson Theater sent someone down the line with an ink pad and a hand stamp, checking vax cards. The line flowed much faster because when you got to the door it was ticket check (and visual mask check) as usual.

  38. Momma Bear*

    I’m glad for this update. I think that a lot of the time we only hear from the loud minority and think they are bigger than they actually are. Many people will be reasonable when asked reasonably. It was also good that multiple orgs decided to hold the line together in solidarity. I’ve skipped a number of events that were sketchy on the regs, but pivoted to those who had reasonable protocols, much like OP described. I hope OP has a great season.

  39. Jaybeetee*

    Don’t pay any mind to the people yelling and screaming when they were never going to buy a ticket in the first place. Anti-vaxxers are a small minority in most places, but seem to want to give the impression there are more of them than there are.

    I laugh when I see stuff like this in Canada. Here, we have a vaxx rate of about 90% (some variance by region, but 90% overall) – the abstainers are a tiny number of the whole. Moreover, vaxx passports and masking are provincially mandated – businesses can’t refuse even if they want to. So every now and then some outraged group talks about boycotting something or other, and they’re met with a communal shrug from the rest of the country. There just aren’t enough of them to make ant real trouble.

  40. Don't be long-suffering*

    I wish you all the best. I love the arts and used to attend performances in my city frequently. As an old lady with dodgy lungs, and the next variant perhaps not susceptible to the vaccine, I don’t know if I will ever attend a crowded room again. It’s sad, but I must rely on groups with the money to film performances I can watch from my living room.

  41. Jennifer Strange*

    The most fascinating thing was the large amount of people (mostly on our social pages and via e-mail) that seemed the most worked up about it, but did not have any current tickets with us and, in many cases, had no ticket history with us at all (Would you consider that a troll?).

    Yup, I work at an arts organization, and that’s what we’re seeing as well. We’ve had a handful of folks who are active patrons/donors express dissatisfaction with our protocols, but the vast majority of folks who are vehemently attacking us for them either have never seen a show here or haven’t seen one in 5+ years. They just want us to think the number of angry patrons is larger than it actually is. We reopened in October with in-person shows and we’ve received glowing comments on the steps we’ve taken to keep folks safe (granted, we’re also located in an area with a very high vaccine rate).

  42. not that kind of Doctor*

    Last weekend we attended the re-opening of the show that was closed by covid back in March 2020. It was an incredibly emotional experience – I almost cried more at the pre-show announcement than at the show itself.

    Masks are still required indoors in our area and a huge number of venues are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test. The theater we attended – one of the heavy hitters locally – made their requirements clear on their website and also provided the following:
    – Lists of precisely what types of proof (photo ok) and what types of testing (home test not ok) are accepted
    – Resources for people who need tests or vaccines
    – How to replace a lost vaccine card
    – Links to other arts organizations with the same requirements – so those of us who prefer to be safe know where to go.
    Also of course refunds are offered to any who ask.

    My heart goes out to all those performers and behind the scenes people who have lost so much. They provide light, joy, pathos, and empathy; we need them back and we need them safe.

  43. Emily, (former) admin extraordinaire*

    There are two semi-local performing arts organizations that I frequented pre-COVID. One is a semi-professional regional theater with two indoor stages. Once they reopened, they required masks at first, but as soon as the state/local mandates went away, they stopped requiring them at all. The other is a (Tony-award winning!) professional repertory theater festival (two indoor and one outdoor stage) with a summer-fall season, and after cancelling 2020 altogether was only able to open for 2021 after long negotiations with Actors’ Equity requiring vaccines among the cast and crew and mandatory masks in the indoor venues (and masks strongly encouraged at the outdoor stage) for patrons.

    I bought tickets for all 8 shows for the latter company. I still haven’t attended a show at the former, despite the fact that they produced a show I’ve wanted to see for ages. Not going to risk it. Sadly, I live in an anti-mandate state, so the former company is selling out shows, while the latter sold enough to cover their costs, but was much less sparsely attended than usual. There is no justice.

  44. Mitford*

    “The most fascinating thing was the large amount of people (mostly on our social pages and via e-mail) that seemed the most worked up about it, but did not have any current tickets with us and, in many cases, had no ticket history with us at all.”

    I once worked in educational fund raising at a college that considered moving from Division I football to Division II. The number of letters we got from alumni who said they’d never contribute to the school again but had never, ever given to the school before was astounding.

  45. Yet another arts lover*

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart, OP, for your organization’s commitment to safety. In the Before Times I used to go to multiple shows a year both in my area and on Broadway so I may well be one of your patrons. (The theatrical venues in my area have a compact like the one you describe….)

    I’ll be seeing my first show since 2019 this weekend, locally. My only objection to the theater’s requiring proof of vaccination and a photo ID and masking is that I’m going to burst into sorry/grateful tears as soon as I’m asked because it’s been so long and so hard just to get to this point and I have missed live theater so damn much.

    (Seriously, I’m crying just thinking about it. Apologies in advance, dear theater staff…)

    But! If those precautions weren’t in place I couldn’t safely attend. So I will bring tissues and a spare KN95 mask, wear waterproof eye makeup, and do what I’m asked to do by the theater staff while explaining “Sorry, it’s just so amazing to be back that I’m overwhelmed…”

  46. Rusty Shackelford*

    “You just lost my business!”

    {checks records} “Apparently we never had it to begin with. Good day!”

  47. SuperBB*

    I attended two events this weekend requiring indoor masks/proof. It wasn’t even a little bit of a hassle. Just showed my screenshot and continued inside. However, I do live in an area where it’s a local mandate and we have a high vax rate, so it’s just a fact of life for most people. I did see an angry post from an annual member of one of the orgs complaining that they won’t refund her membership even though she can’t use it anymore because she refuses to get vaxxed OR tested, but it’s not their fault if she’s a cotton-headed ninnymuggins.

  48. Lobsterman*

    Yeah, the Venn diagram of antivax trolls and arts supporters is not going to have a very large sliver overlap. Good on you, OP.

  49. Paul*

    There are, sadly, people who do nothing but stir up crap.

    There are even paid bad actors stirring up crap. Some are from grassroots organizations within the United States, and some are from other nations. There’s AI-driven bots stirring up crap now, too.

    That’s undoubtedly who the accounts are that are complaining about the policies even though they haven’t ever had tickets to your organization. Some are just people with way too much time on their hands, and some are actively working for different groups that want to create dissent and distrust.

    Our society is broken and online communications are a mess.

  50. La Triviata*

    I saw a video online – a woman (leading, with some friends behind her) saying that they’d all paid a fairly significant amount for tickets to a concert, were paying for hotel suites, had paid to fly to the venue … and now they were being told they had to cough up a specific amount for a COVID test, since they weren’t vaccinated. This was interspersed with comments from the person posting it with her comments, along the lines of congratulating the woman for having fun, helping the economy, etc. But after the complaint that they needed the test, she pointed out that on the page where she bought the tickets, there’s a statement that they must be vaccinated or submit to a test, and they had to agree to it before they could buy tickets.

  51. Mimi*

    I work in a place that requires masks (though not vax), and the overwhelming majority are cool – at most you get some grumbling that you can just ignore. I would, though, perhaps find some research on de-escalation techniques, just so staff can be prepared for the people who *might* become aggressive. I know it sounds extreme, but having some of that knowledge in the back of your mind can help you from being caught completely off-guard.

    (I say this because I had a very nasty experience, and I want every public service worker to be as prepared as possible!)

  52. Amanda Burgess*

    I live in a small midwestern city that has a weirdly good theatre for its size. The theatre has implemented a “must vax, must mask” policy. The people here are furious. What awful commie libs would do this?!?!?

    Except I’ve been to several shows since this policy was enacted. They were very full (I can’t tell if they were officially sold out, but there weren’t any visible empty seats) and no one was throwing a fit about masking or proving they were vaxxed or anything.

    Honestly, it’s been kind of nice to be surrounded by only people who I know I am safe around! It rarely happens, and I’m super glad it happens at the theatre. It makes me more interested in going to future performances!

  53. T*

    The issue is that masking/vaxxing has become a political divide. The vitriol and name calling that both sides spew is disgusting. It doesn’t matter what your belief is, stop casting hatred towards others under the guise of your own grandstanding.

  54. Wintermute*

    This is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL example, one I will save the link to and share freely with friends and online, of the “internet volume effect”. Online it is VERY, extremely, easy to mistake the apparent loudness of a small group of dedicated partisans for widespread sentiment. Whether it’s just political diehards or perhaps intentional bad actors (foreign or domestic) who crawl facebook looking to signal-boost social conflict either for their own political (think: stereotypical “russian troll farm” bots) or sociopathic reasons.

    It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people are not “very online” people. They will act as they’re going to act, but they’re probably not going to tell you about it. You won’t get an angry facebook rant about them not feeling safe you’re catering to vaccine deniers, they just won’t buy tickets. They won’t tell you they’re upset about your choice to cave to pressure from an activist group, they’ll just avoid your products if they have options. You won’t get a bad review on Google or Yelp, they’re just not coming back and they’re telling all their friends about what you did to them or how bad the service was.

  55. Orchestral Musician*

    As someone who makes my living playing in a lot of different performing ensembles, thank you so much! I am fortunate enough this year to be able to turn down work where I feel the organization isn’t doing enough to keep the musicians safe, but I always appreciate it when a group is taking precautions like yours is. (And this was a good reminder for me to send in a pic of my updated vaccination card for my arena concert this weekend!)

  56. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    I love the suggesting to get out there and support performing arts safely! Over the last several months, my partner and I started slowly attending outdoor concerts and feeling out the various safety precautions in place. It became commonplace for large outdoor music venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative test, and that was great! Just a couple of weeks ago the opera returned to a nearby city and we were thrilled to attend wearing masks with vaccination cards in hand. I noticed lots of contracted security/event staff checking vaccination cards and enforcing the mask requirement and it was really lovely to be back in a theatre and supporting the arts. Do it!

  57. Geoffrey B*

    Reminds me of what happened when smoking bans were introduced here for public venues. A lot of the operators were opposed because they feared losing the smokers’ business. But when it finally went through, they picked up new custom from people who’d been hitherto avoiding their businesses because of the smoke.

  58. Mack*

    I’m literally on my way home from a concert right now, which I wore a mask for and provided proof of vax to attend. A little wild for a Wednesday but I had fun!

Comments are closed.