Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Stupid is as Stupid Does

It's apparently the Week of the Moronic Patron here at Box Office.

We have a membership-based system that's kinda like what most theaters call a subscription, but different. Instead of signing up for, say, a series of Saturdays, or buying a book of passes that you then use to buy tickets later on, you buy tickets to a certain number of shows in the season, all at once, and get an discount on those tickets, and a bunch of other perks. It's pretty straightforward. There is a limit to how many tickets you can get at the discount, and that's pretty straightforward too.

So yesterday I was filling an Internet order, and the patron wanted four tickets to a show next week, which we didn't have. The rest of it was easy, and she got enough shows to make her a member even if we couldn't make the first one work out, so I filled the rest of it and then called and left a message asking her to call us about the problem. I moved on to the next order, and noticed a few things: This patron's last name was the same as the middle name on the previous order (actually not on the order, but on the old account that was already in the computer for her); they had the same address; they had the same email address; while the second order had fewer shows than the first, all the dates and times matched the corresponding events on the first order; and the number of tickets Patron #2 ordered was enough to put them over their limit for the discount. I called my boss to confirm that we allowed one membership per family, not per person. She corrected my wording to "household," but yes. I waited for Patron #1 to call back.

The thing is, they could have easily gotten away with it. If the orders had been split between two different operators, or if I had just been less observant. Truthfully, it was the email address that caught my eye, 'cause it had an odd domain name. And they made a point of using different credit cards, so it was particularly dumb of them to use the same email twice.

Patron #1 called back before too long, and a coworker picked it up. He knew the situation so he explained to her that part of the problem was with the double order. "My husband and I are separated," she told him. He pointed out that both orders had the same address on them, and she said, "I'll just change mine to my office then." At this point, he called me (I was working out of a different office that day).

"I'm not touching that," I said, "give it to Manager." She'd need the paperwork, and I wanted to hear how she handled this one, so I ran upstairs. When I got there, Manager was on a different call, and she told us she had to finish it and it would be a while. I took a deep breath and picked up the phone.

"Hi, ma'am, so we've got a couple of problems here. First of all, we've got two orders for your household and the total -- "

"Nevermind about that! What about my tickets for next week?"

"Um, okay... We don't have four seats together, let alone eight, if I were to combine the two orders." (Clearly I wasn't going to let that go.)

"Well what do you have?"

"We have single seats and some that have obstructed views."

"That's fine."

"Ummm...how many?"

"Eight."

Oy. As it turned out, we didn't have eight singles even, and some of the partial views are decent and arranged in a way that often leaves the good single seats next to them unsold. So, genius that I am, I suggested that she take a couple of pairs where one seat was full view and one was obstructed. Since the partial view seats cost less at full price than her discount, it gave her the right number of full price vs. discounted.

So that problem solved, I gingerly said, "So, the rest of your dates are fine, but now that we've put all of those seats on your order there aren't enough shows on the second one to qualify for a membership anyway." (Let's see how many ways I can explain to her that she can't get away with scamming us.) "Shall I just combine the two orders?"

"Oh yeah, yeah, just combine them. I just did it that way because we'd waited so long to do this this year, and I didn't think we'd be able to get that many tickets."

Wait, did she just admit she'd been lying?? Yep, she totally did. About the dissolution of her marriage, no less! The things people will do to save $18! (Seriously, that's all it would have been!)


So then today a young woman/girl (late teens, early 20s?) came to the box office window, bought a ticket, and gave me a credit card. It wasn't signed, so I asked for ID, and I offered to loan her a pen so she could sign the card.

"Oh, no, if you don't sign it then they have to ask you for ID, so it's safer that way."

"Ummmm... Yeah, unless someone, y'know, steals it and signs it himself."

"Oh? Really? Oh yeah. I guess so. Okay."

She signed the card, but in the end I wish I hadn't given her the pen. I kinda wish I'd taken down her card number and gone on a spree on Amazon.

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