Pricewatch: Readers’ queries
Consumer concerns this week relate to the GAA’s customer service, Ticketmaster’s service charges (again), and dry Good Fridays
Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea: looks like he might have experienced the GAA’s customer service. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
GAA’S HARDBALL APPROACH TO CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS
Anne Marie Flynn is a diehard Mayo supporter and a holder of a Croke Park season ticket, but she has a problem – and it’s not just that her county hasn’t won an All-Ireland since dinosaurs stalked the land. The season ticket costs €85 annually and allows users to attend all their county’s games for the duration of the National League, the first Championship game for free, and a discount on tickets for every subsequent Championship game in which their county features.
Under the scheme, if your county makes it as far as the All-Ireland final, and you have attended 60 per cent of their games that year, you are entitled to purchase an All-Ireland ticket. If your county doesn’t make the final, but you have attended 100 per cent of games, you are entered into a draw for tickets regardless. “So all in all, it’s a pretty good deal, and a progressive initiative, but everything hinges on that attendance record,” she writes.
It works like this: season-ticket holders enter the grounds through a turnstile, and, depending on the fixture, either get their season ticket or a PDF print-out scanned. The data is then uploaded by volunteers from the grounds, and the ticket holder’s account records are updated in the days following the fixture.
The problem starts here. “I noticed that my attendance record hadn’t been updated for the last Mayo game,” writes Flynn. “I’d attended the game as normal, had my ticket scanned and had been admitted without any issues.”
When she contacted the GAA she was told to check back a couple of days later, but the record still had not been updated. Then she was told attendances would not be manually updated as the GAA had not had any reported scanning issues from the venue. She has “a few problems with this”. She says that, while the venues or operators may not have reported issues, there was “clear evidence” that a significant number of supporters were affected. “I am part of a supporter’s club and we have been contacted by a number of people claiming their attendance has not been updated,” she writes. “Ultimately, correcting these errors does not cost the GAA anything (apart from the labour), as we have already paid in advance for the service, followed the correct procedures as instructed, and all we want is for accurate records to be maintained.”
Flynn persisted, and eventually the GAA agreed to update attendance for the last game, but “are basically telling us not to come running to them if it happens again. I take issue with it on principle, and the injustice and unfairness of it. In what other line of business could a company get away with such inflexibility, to the degree that they would tell a customer in advance that they won’t deal with complaints?”
We contacted the GAA and were told our reader’s experience did “not reflect our policies or procedures accurately”. A statement from the organisation said “the GAA ticket office deals with all queries received (by phone, by letter, by email) from individual season ticket holders on a case-by-case basis. This includes any complaints or attendance queries.”
TICKETMASTER SERVICE CHARGE: WE’LL GIVE IT ONE MORE TRY
Ronald wallace asks if we can “explain how it costs ticketmaster €23.80 to process four tickets, at €50 each, for the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre? They were booked online and printed at home, so in effect I did most of the work. Another example of rip-off?”
We have been over this ground many times. Each time we contact Ticketmaster with complaints about their service charges, they explain, in the manner of a parent talking to a particularly stupid child, that the charges are, in fact, great value and entirely justified.
However, we thought we would give it another go, and contacted the company again. A spokesman gave us a statement – one the company had clearly prepared earlier. “This per-ticket service charge is the main income for Ticketmaster, and this cost varies from event to event.” The fee “contributes to our credit/ debit card processing services, merchant fees and distribution costs, and also helps pay for the technology, including installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software, telephone lines, associated labour and access control at venues that makes it possible to provide the most convenient – and safest – ticket buying options available.”
IS BYOB A LOOPHOLE ON GOOD FRIDAY?
A reader called Garbhán has a question. “Restaurants cannot sell alcohol on Good Friday but is BYOB allowed?” Our instinct is to say, “of course, because it is the sale of alcohol not its consumption that is forbidden”. Then we thought we had better check to be sure.
We contacted Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, who told us BYOB “is not legal in restaurants on Good Friday”. He said his association had asked the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, to bring in a new “Good Friday agreement”.
“He promised us two years ago he would change the law,” said Cummins. But the law has yet to be changed. “Tourists are puzzled by the Good Friday laws.” It’s not just the tourists.