Every show on Broadway holds a certain number of seats offsale to the general public called "house seats". They are reserved for the authors, producers, cast, theater owners, etc. and are generally released 48 hours prior to each performance if not used.
(Ticket buying tip: if you're looking for great seats to any show, go to the box office 2 days prior to the performance you want to attend looking for any house seat releases.)
It is also industry standard to allow other people in the industry, from agents to ad agencies, to purchase house seats, even if they aren't working on that specific show (i.e. I can have my assistant call for house seats to The Little Mermaid).
When I started out, each GM office had a "house seat hotline" that was open from 3 - 5 PM, Monday to Friday, and anyone could call and purchase great seats to any show at regular prices with no service fee. There was even a way to hold these tickets on a "48 hour hold" which reserved the tickets, didn't obligate you to buy them, and if you didn't purchase them, they were just let go 2 days prior as previously discussed.
We've gone to email and fax now, so house seat requests can come in 24 hours a day. And believe me, on hot shows like South Pacific, they do. Every friend of a friend knows someone who works somewhere close to Broadway and wants a couple of tickets to the hottest show around.
House seats are a job that sometimes falls to the Assistant Company Manager, but many times, a person in the General Manager's office assumes the responsibility.
You know what that means?
It means that house seats cost shows money. The GM has to put someone on salary. In triplicate house seat forms are created. Phone calls, faxes, mistakes. Money, money and time and money.
Should we get rid of house seats? No. But why not add a service fee to offset the costs and inconvenience?
If we charged $5/order to the people that had no connection to the show (I'm not suggesting that we charge those that work on the show), we could pay for the staff member and expenses associated with house seats.
And what if the buyer didn't want to pay? Well, then they can call telecharge like anyone else. I hear the same locations would go for double regular price. But something tells me that just like the $1 comps, the buyers would suck it up and pay.
I'm all for being nice to the people in my industry. But I'm all for being nice to my investors first.