No laughing matter for harassed parents

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 1994, 12:00am

LAST week we brought you the story of the young salesman at Urbtix who tried to sell us tickets to the Russian circus some six hours after it was officially cancelled.

When we said we heard the show was cancelled, he casually replied: ''Yes, I know it is cancelled.

''But we haven't been told to stop selling the tickets yet, so they're still available if you want to buy them.'' Perhaps he had no idea of the damage he and his colleagues at the Urban Services Department's (USD) ticketing arm caused. Our informed circus contacts tell us that more than $200,000 was spent on useless tickets that day.

With prices for the big top ranging between $60 and $220 a seat, that means between 1,000 and 2,000 people - mainly children - must have been unnecessarily disappointed, as well as the thousands who had booked earlier.

That represents a lot of hankies, ice creams and compensation trips to Ocean Park for harassed Hong Kong parents who are already going spare about how to entertain junior during the long summer holidays.

''There are a lot of angry people out there,'' one source said.

Apparently the URBTIX officer who should have ordered the files closed claimed she was too busy with her other work to authorise the boys and girls down at the phone exchange to stop selling tickets to the show.

A USD spokesman said the officer had been cautioned.

''I can assure you this will not happen again,'' he said. ''And if it does there will be very serious implications.'' The chaps down at USD (who insist they should not under any circumstances be referred to as clowns - a preference that we on Keeping Posted respect) maintain there was no funny business as far as they were concerned.

But there is one version of the circus story that suggests certain government departments made a tacit (or otherwise) arrangement with one circus promoter that other circuses would be discouraged from appearing.

One of our colleagues told us the whole incident had encouraged him to try something similar himself: ''As a freelancer I'll insist that no other person in Hong Kong can work as a freelance journalist, because I was there first.

''That should shoot up my rates a fair bit.'' Glenn Gale is on leave