Dear Ace Tickets: Is the customer always right or are you never wrong? Pick one.

September 21, 2009 by chu 

photo-of-grandstand-1-blocked-seats1

Net: Ace Tickets refunded skateboarding tickets we overpaid for through our own ignorance, yet refused to refund “pole view” tickets at Fenway Park they assured us were unobstructed.  Sur La Table re-funded a four year old purchase without a receipt on a product they no longer carry. Both have solid customer ID technology, one used it to build loyalty, the other to damage it. Which one are you?

Ace Tickets – The Good

For my son’s birthday party, Patty purchased four “Premium Seats” from Ace Tickets for the Boston Dew Tour skateboarding championships for $50 each.  Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the event only to find that we could have bought the same tickets at the door of $25.  Patty emailed Ace Tickets to complain about being scammed. Within a few hours, she received an email back from a customer service rep defending the sale and the “buyer beware” nature of the ticket broker business, noting that if ticket holders want to try and sell tickets at above face value – even for events that are not sold out – that is their prerogative.  If buyers pay more that they could have, that isn’t Ace’s problem.  Not incorrect, but also not the kind of response that makes you want to return to the site or recommend them to others.  Then they did something that surprised us – they sent a $50 gift card as compensation for the experience.  As we noted in our post Customer Service Disaster Recovery, they went a long way toward turning a bad customer experience – albeit one that was our fault – into a good experience.  They were also smart to give us a gift card as it gave us a reason to give Ace another chance.

Ace Tickets – The Bad

I just returned from visiting the Ace Tickets location where I used the gift card as partial payment for an upcoming Red Sox game.   Given our relatively good experience with Ace customer service for the Dew Tour tickets, I also finally brought them the picture of the horribly blocked seats we bought last season for a Red Sox game.  These tickets were in “Grandstand 1,” a section notorious for obstructed views, so when I called Ace to buy them – purposely not buying them online – I asked if the seats would have a clear view.  The Ace ticket agent assured me they were unobstructed, so we made the purchase, only to be greeted with the view pictured here of an I-beam that perfectly blocked the pitcher’s mound.

When I shared the picture above with the Ace agent in Brookline, he fist looked up our account on their system and confirmed that we had purchased seats for the July 7, 2008 game.  I was impressed that he found the record and readily admitted that the seats could have been blocked, but the employee was only authorized to wave a $25 handling fee on my next purchase.  “If the Red Sox don’t put on the tickets that they are obstructed, that’s all we can go by.”  Given that we paid at least $150 for the seats, the $25 rebate and blaming the Red Sox wasn’t a great experience.  This is yet another example of a company that (a)  has the data to know that we are good, frequent customers and (b) acknowledges they made a mistake by claiming that the product was better than it actually was and then (c) not taking advantage of the opportunity to correct the service disaster.

As a related aside, I found a great site www.preciseseating.com that will give you the exact view from any seat in Fenway Park.  Wished either I or the Ace Tickets salesperson had access to this when I bought the seats. preciseseating2

Sur La Table – The Great

sur-la-table-logoFour years ago I bought a hand blender at the kitchen store Sur La Table.  Shortly thereafter, someone gave us one.  So I put the – fortunately – unopened one in the mudroom closet next to our back door as a reminder to return it. There it remained until last week when I needed something from our local Apple Store, which is in the same mall as Sur La Table.  So I tossed it in the car, fully expecting that I would not be able to return the device.  When I brought it into the store, without a bag or even a receipt, and explained to the associate that I had purchased it roughly four years ago, he took one look at it and said, “I don’t think we even stock this item anymore.” Then, he proceeded to ask for my name and phone number, looked up our records online and told me exactly what I had paid for it.  He gave me a store credit, which I exchanged for a griddle that was the same price.  The associate even apologized for having to charge me a small incremental amount because the Mass sales tax had increased since I bought the blender!

Next time I need a kitchen appliance, I am lot more likely to head to Sur La Table than any other store nearby and will probably go there instead of online, in large part because of the brand building experience I had.  Not so for Ace Tickets. Both companies have invested in the technology to know my purchase history – one used it to confirm a purchase and fulfill an unreasonable request for a refund, the other to confirm a purchase and not accept responsibility for their customer service reps untrue product claims.

Which company are you?

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