There are some venues that are happy to sell tickets to people, but at times, not to single people.

You’re a single person, pop onto an exhibition or event website, select a date and time, and tickets are available to other people, but not to you.

The single person is not welcome – only couples are allowed.

This crops up in one very specific situation, where there are timed entry tickets, and the venue is down to its last two tickets for that timed slot.

Two tickets left and they don’t want to sell one.

Commercially it makes a lot of sense.

It’s a fact that most people visiting places tend to do so in multiples — two adults and sometimes some the little ones as well. When you have two tickets left, selling one, means you have one ticket left to sell — and that’s a lot harder to shift as there are far fewer single folk than couples to sell to.

So, just two tickets left for that time slot – sorry single folk, we’d rather you visited on another day or time.

I’ve been told about this a few times over the years — so it’s not a covid thing — emails from irritated people who find they can’t book tickets to an exhibition I’ve listed in the weekly newsletter — but it’s a difficult thing to test unless you spend ages checking every website hundreds of times looking for the elusive moment just two tickets are left in a time slot.

(I could have written a script to automate scraping pages – but its still a lot of work for one situation)

Some manual experiments though have found for example that the National Gallery and Tower Bridge both allow you to book one ticket when just two are left for that time slot. Others are harder to be sure about, for example, the Barbican lets you type in how many tickets you want, and some seem to rarely get close enough to selling out to trigger the singles-trap.

Then there’s an exhibition I visited and was able to finally see this effect in action.

After you select a date and time it shows how many tickets are left, and does offer you the option to buy one ticket when only two are left, so you think you’re OK.

However, when you add the single ticket to your basket — you’re told that “Your seating request may be too complex to be reserved online.”

But decide to buy the two remaining tickets in the same time slot, and the “complex reservation” problem mysteriously vanishes. You can buy one ticket at any time slot without a problem except when there are just two tickets left to buy.

I have been told over the years about venues who do similar things to stop single people buying one of the last two tickets available.

Commercially it makes a lot of sense.

But it’s damn painful to be told you cant visit an exhibition when you want, simply because you failed to find a partner to go with. We single folk already have a hard enough time of it as it is without being told we’re not good enough to be let into London’s cultural venues.

It’s time that the venues were told to stop discriminating against single people.


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  1. Frankie Roberto says:

    To be fair, I suspect if there were 3 tickets left, they won’t sell tickets to couples either?

    • ianvisits says:

      While I can’t rule it out, naturally as much as possible I tested that situation – did not find it happening.

    • Barry Francis says:

      I don’t know about at the exhibition but I know when I’ve tried to book tickets to a comedy show for a mate and myself at The Cliffs Pavilion in Westcliff on Sea if there are three seats left in a row they won’t let you book two.

      This is through the website, I haven’t tried by phone or at the actual box office, so I don’t know if there is a way around this.

  2. Andrew Davidson says:

    I can’t speak to exhibitions in which I’ve never come up against this issue, but theatres will always sell you the ticket over the phone or in person if you ask for that seat. The seat selection algorithm is trying to stop multitudes of single seats which are hard to sell. If there are only a few seats left they’ll be more than happy to sell them to anyone, knowing they’ll more than likely offload them with last minute purchases anyway.

  3. Jon Jones says:

    Event tickets are just one of the joys of singledom. Pre-packaged food & BOGOF special offers are for the couples. (Or the very obese single!)

    • MilesT says:

      Buy one, donate one. Either to a needy neighbour (if perishable) or to instore collection for food bank if suitable.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Easier for singles to get last-minute theatre seats, plane tickets, etc and I’ve never had problems turning up at restaurants.

  5. John B says:

    Name and shame!

    • Al says:

      Agreed. Will start by mentioning Caffè Concerto in Westfield Stratford many months back (pre-Covid), who claimed there were no single tables even when there were plenty of available tables including single tables as well as tables outside.

      Even then they refused to serve me (even when willing to sit on at a table outside) without providing an adequate explanation nor responded to my complaint, which is a shame despite previously enjoying going there prior.

  6. Gerry says:

    Banning singleism is long overdue. Supermarkets are some of the worst offenders: Tesco, Waitrose et al make it very obvious that singles aren’t welcome. Surcharges on single items are the rule, e.g. 3 for 2, any 3 for £X, any five for £Y, £5 off if you spend £80 etc.

    For single people, barcodes were the worst shopping change that ever happened: the previous system was completely fair when products had sticky labels and everyone paid the same price.

    Thankfully, single surcharges are rare in Lidl and Aldi (and Sainsbury’s have abolished most of them), so perhaps they’re finally realising that discriminating against 40% of the population just doesn’t make business sense.

  7. Ian Dendy says:

    I haven’t found it very easy to buy tickets, as a solo, to travel on some Heritage railways.

  8. Andrew Gwilt says:

    Just like I got banned on your Facebook page and Twitter page. But never mind I understand the reason why.

    • ianvisits says:

      Because you’re very rude to people who disagree with you — as we discussed, at length on Twitter.

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