Eleanor Black wanted to go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert at the Vector Arena in Auckland. According to the Ticketmaster ads, tickets would be on sale on line and on the phone from. So Eleanor got onto her computer dead on nine only to discover that by 9.01 tickets for the seats she wanted were already sold out. She then tried for cheaper seats. Sold out! Undaunted, she decided to try the phone, but couldn’t get through at all. After 20 minutes she gave up. But there was a mystery here. There was seating for 10,000 people at the Simon and Garfunkel concert in the Vector Arena, so how could the seats have sold out so quickly. Eleanor took her story to Fair Go. Turns out all 10,000 tickets were gone by 9.17. Amazing? Well not when you consider that three quarters of those 10,000 tickets had gone on sale a week earlier. But not to the general public. 7500 tickets had been snapped up by Visa cardholders who had signed up to be part of Visa Entertainment. Only a quarter of the 10,000 tickets were available to the general public.
Eleanor thought this was a bit on the nose and so did Fair go. Shouldn’t the public know how many tickets are available for sale to them and how many have been pre-sold to preferential buyers? Well no, said the show’s promoters, an Australian outfit called Chugg Entertainment. And no, said Ticketmaster, the agency selling the tickets. And no, said Visa Entertainment. And they all said that this information was ‘commercially sensitive’, which is total bullshit. And none of them had the grace or the gumption or the guts to turn up on Fair Go. So all three had their names put up on Fair Go’s ‘Wall of Shame’ which is where they all belong. An appalling performance and a classic example of how not to deal with a justified complaint, if you want to come out smelling of roses.
A rather better performance was put up by Auckland’s Sky City Casino on the same programme.
The story was about a promotion the Casino had run where you could win $20,000 just by walking in the door. You didn’t even have to place a bet All you had to do was wear a wristband you were given with a ticket number on it and wait for the winning number to be called. Which is exactly what Fair Go complainant Josie did. And, to her amazement and delight, her number came up. But Josie’s delight was short-lived. She’d taken the wristband off and that was against Sky City’s Rules and Conditions for the promotion. Bye, bye 20 grand. Josie, who claimed she had neither seen nor heard anything about Terms and Conditions took her story to Fair Go. Turned out you could see the Terms and Conditions – all 22 clauses of fine print – by going to the ‘action station’ and asking for them. This, as Fair Go rightly observed, was ridiculous. And, Sky City claimed, announcements were made saying that if you removed the wristband you would void the competition.
To its credit, Sky City sent along one of its executives, Kevin Tracey, to talk to Kevin Milne.
Kevin was pretty good, He accepted that Josie hadn’t heard any announcements about Terms and Conditions, agreed that the Terms and Conditions needed to be more obvious, explained the quite justifiable reasons for the rule about not removing the wristband and, most important of all, brought alone a truck-sized cheque for $20,000 to give to Josie who was naturally over the moon. So Kevin ticked all the boxes on how to deal with a potential PR disaster: front up, admit your mistake, offer a remedy. But if we can nitpick just a little, the best thing to do when you’re interviewed on a programme like Fair Go, is just answer the questions. Don’t use your appearance as a PR opportunity to promote your company or sell your product. It annoys viewers and they see through it.
The first question Kev asked Kevin was: ‘Why does it matter if someone’s wearing a wristband or not?’
To which Kevin non-replied: ‘Kevin, first I should say this has been a fantastic promotion for Sky City. Over the last four months we’ve given away a million dollars to 40 or 50 very happy people. And you know 135 thousand of those wristbands have been given out.’ This is the equivalent of the retailer telling you that they’ve sold 500 thousand of these toasters without a single complaint and yours is the first to explode and burn down the house. Later, when Kev says to Kevin, ‘You’ve got some good news for us, which is the cue to hand over the cheque, Kevin replies, ‘I should say that for us this is about one of our customers having an experience that we don’t want her to have. We want her to have that winning feeling, but without the deflationary bit. So it’s not about the law.’ [Translation: We did this out of the goodness of our hearts, not because we were obliged to do it.] Better just to hand over the cheque, which Kevin then does. But he can’t resist one final comment on Josie’s delighted response: ‘This is what the Sky City experience is supposed to be about, Kevin. Well, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but for most people ‘the Sky City experience’ is about doing you dough.