I was chatting with a friend of mine last week and for some reason we ended up discussing bad customer service from various companies in the Philippines. In my opinion, people are just too forgiving when companies make mistakes. People here take way to much crap from these businesses who are blatantly out there to rob you of your money. I was wondering if other people shared my opinion, and sure enough, she forwarded me her recent (and quite telling) experience with a big concert organizer. Her story follows:
You get what you pay for is a common saying. It is commonly used when we want to say “if we go on the cheap, we should not expect too much in return”. But what when you do not buy something cheap? What if you buy something of great value, both in emotionally value as well as monetary value? You expect the seller to be held to high standards. If I buy a Ferrari I expect them to deliver one whole Ferrari, not a Tata Nano. Although the example is extreme, what about a concert ticket?
Like so many products, concert tickets have tiers. You can buy the expensive, top-of-the-line VIP box tickets which are right up front with the artist. These are the top tier. Then you can buy the middle tier, which are cheaper than the VIP box tickets because they are further away from the artists. Nonetheless, they have a fixed seating arrangement which is generally favourable and thus a good view of the artists can still be get. Then you have the lower tier, which are much cheaper that then middle and top tier. Here you have free seating, and you will not be sure of the view you are going to get. Clearly, when you buy the lower tier, you pay less, but you also “get what you pay for” so to speak. You may risk not seeing much of the artists playing because of the thousands of standing in front of you. So if you do not want to pay as much as the VIP, but still like to be assured of a good view, then the middle tier is a good compromise.
But what if the organizer suddenly decides to change the conditions? What if I bought a middle tier ticket and the organizer unilaterally decides to change it to a free seating arrangement? Isn’t that a deceptive practice? Its like me buying a business class ticket to New York, and the airline unilaterally deciding that I should just shut up and fly coach in the back of the plane instead, for the same price! Would you take that?
Sadly, many people are.
In a recent study on consumer behavior, it was found that Filipinos are least likely to end a business relationship despite bad customer service. Our non-confrontative nature, perhaps due to our culture of “pakikisama” could be a reason. Then again it could also be a manifestation of acceptance — acceptance, that we do not deserve any better, or acceptance that we can’t do anything about it, so we should just suck it up.
Back to the concert ticket thing. Early March we bought two tickets for “The Script Live in Manila” Concert on 16 April. We decided to buy our tickets months in advance to be sure of a good seat. No sense in waiting to the last minute, pay a high price, and get a crap seat to boot, right? So we got two tickets for Box A with reserved seating. They were actually the last two seats left in our box, so we felt lucky at the time that we were able to get them.
A few days before the date of the concert, someone close to the producers tweeted that they will be selling Standing Room Only (SRO) tickets for Upper Box A as General Admission tickets. What? You mean to say that Box A had been downgraded to general admission and was now declared “free standing”? Shocked, and thinking this was surely a simple misunderstanding, I contacted them to clarify things. Surely our Box A would not be converted to SRO? Sure enough, our tickets would still have their reserved seats. Instead, they clarified, the *new* Box A tickets will be standing only. What? Wasn’t box A supposed to have reserved seating only? And wait? Are you actually telling me that you just decided to stuff extra people into our box even though there are no more seats left?
When I asked why suddenly they are selling SRO tickets for an area designated as “seating” with pre-designated seating arrangements, the answer I got was, “because it’s the only way to accommodate fans”. What? You are trying to tell me you had no clue what the capacity was of Araneta Coliseum when you got the Script signed up for a concert here? You are telling me that, even though I paid cold hard cash for a privilege to sit in Box A, I should just shut up and accept that you guys need to sell more tickets “to accommodate the fans”?
Being the “unforgiving” Filipino that I am, I had to voice out my opinion that this is clearly an exercise to shake more money out of this venture, and *not* because you like for more fans to enjoy the concert. What about all of us fans who bought your “Box A reserved seating only” tickets suddenly having to suffer a stampede of SRO ticket holders in our box, blocking our view by standing in front of us?
Sure enough, I was eventually told, albeit indirectly, that it this was purely a business decision, and that we should not mistake them for some stupid charity. Yes, clearly you are not a charity, and if you were, I would not have minded accommodating more fans. No, you are a business venture, and we engaged in what was supposed to be a fair exchange. By exchanging money, we engaged in a contract. By me paying you the value you have set for your ticket, you are expected to honour your contractual obligation the moment you sold the ticket to me.
So you expect. Upon checking out the ticket terms and conditions printed on the ticket jacket, it appears that ticket sellers just want your cold hard cash and shut up:
See condition #1 and #5? They read as follows:
#1 – no refunds or exchanges on any ticket and/or transaction
#5 – the right is reserved to add, withdraw, or substitute artists and/or vary advertised programs, seating and audience capacity.
Wham! So, based on condition #5 they can practically change the artist, the venue, pack the audience like sardines, or altogether withdraw the artist. And worse thing is you can’t even ask for a refund or exchange! This is not only bad customer service but lack of consumer protection at its finest. A slew of foreign acts have recently been seen including the Philippines in their tour. Filipinos, being the quintessential lover of all things foreign, are quick to shell out money to watch these concerts. However, unless and until you already get what you paid for, there is still the risk of sudden reschedules, failure to get refunds, refunds which take forever, and the artist rescheduling or the concert being cancelled altogether. Despite these, though, ticket prices in the country remain high. Ticket prices here are generally higher than in Hong Kong or Singapore!
You get what you pay for, at least when you’re not in the Philippines.
After letting my frustration known, I have gotten comments that I should have gotten the VIP tickets for special treatment. Special treatment? What? If I gotten the VIP tickets I would have not been screwed? I guess they are telling me that, because I didn’t just shut up and pay the highest price (more expensive than VIP tickets in Hong Kong!) I do not have the right to complain.
Thats just the way here — when you complain people tell you just to vote with your feet… sadly that’s what most of our people do. They leave the country and seek their fortunes elsewhere.
There you have it. You can buy a ticket to see Lady Gaga in a meat dress, and should not be in the least surprised when you get Willing Willie singing Poker Face dressed up in a crispy pata dress instead…