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Will call is a North American term for a box office where patrons of entertainment venues go to pick up pre-purchased tickets for an event, such as a play or concert, either just before the event, or in advance. With the onset of the Internet and e-commerce sites, which allow customers to buy tickets online, the popularity of this service has increased. The term is also used analogously in the wholesale and retail industry.
Box office rules and hours vary. Some may not open until an hour before event time, while others may be open during regular business hours every day. Some buildings advise patrons to arrive very early to pick up tickets to avoid long lines.
In the days before the telephone, the phrase "I will call on you" was commonly used to mean that someone will visit you, or speak to you. The phrase has since largely fallen into disuse, with the word "call" being much more commonly associated with the telephone than speaking to someone in person. The term "will call", however, has stuck, and means that the customer "will call on" the company to pick up the tickets or merchandise, as opposed to having the items delivered to them.
In a linguistic process similar to initial-stress derived nominalization, the first syllable of the noun phrase is usually stressed ("WILL call") rather than the second syllable in the verb phrase ("will CALL").
The equivalent term in the United Kingdom is COBO, an acronym for Care Of Box Office. Sometimes this term is only used internally in the box office/ticket office, with certain venues/sellers using the less confusing term "Collections" for the public. Normally in the UK the term used is 'at the door'; such as 'tickets can be collected at the door'.
In the wholesale and retail trade industry, a will call item is merchandise that is to be picked up at the seller's place of business. A will call memo is given to wholesale delivery drivers as an instruction to pick up items at the address stated on the memo. In the last twenty years or so, the term "pick up" is replacing the older term "will call".
Will call also refers to customers picking up merchandise in person for businesses that normally ship their products.