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A Tale of Customer Loyalty, Customer Experience, and Toad the Wet Sprocket

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It had been six years since my wife and I had been to a concert together, so last Thursday night was a very special evening for us. We live in Connecticut and we were headed to the grand opening of a new, intimate concert hall in Hartford called Infinity Hall.

We were going to see the band, Toad the Wet Sprocket, who we both have been huge fans of since it hit the scene in the late 1980s. The band split up in 1998 and reunited two years ago, releasing its first new album, New Constellation, last year. It was its first studio album together in 15 years.

My wife and I decided to pay $150 to join the Infinity Stars Membership Club, which for us included the perk of being able to buy tickets two days before they went on sale to the public. We did this during the third week of July, got front row seats, and were incredibly excited.

Fast forward to last week, the day before the concert. We received an email from Infinity Hall Hartford, which read in part:

“Hello Infinity Hall Patrons: Thank you for purchasing tickets to the new Infinity Music Hall & Bistro in Hartford! We are diligently working to make Infinity Hall the best entertainment and dining destination available.

Due to differences between the initial seating layout and what was ultimately required, the location of many seats needed to be changed at our new venue….including your seat locations.”

Included in the email were new assigned seats, this time the second row against a wall. We weren’t too pleased since we had front row seats initially. I called and complained. We received a call from the box office manager around 3 p.m. on Aug. 28, about five hours before the start of the concert.

He said he could switch us back to the front row on the aisle. That sounded great, so my wife printed out the new tickets and off we went to Hartford, very excited about seeing Toad the Wet Sprocket in the front row.

With no warmup band, the concert was supposed to start around 8 p.m. My wife and I were taken to our seats around 7:35 p.m. Within 10 minutes, an Infinity Hall staffer asked to see our tickets. We showed him and he left. Another 10 minutes went by and a different staffer asked to see our tickets. This time he had two women standing behind him. He said we were all assigned the same seats.

He wanted us to go see the box office manager. I refused. The concert was going to start any minute. I asked why he couldn’t simply find new seats for the two women. To no avail. We went to see the box office manager, who didn’t even look at us. He was useless. I started asking for my $150 back that I paid to join the Infinity Stars loyalty program because we didn’t receive any perceived or actual extra benefits or special treatment.

The wife of the Infinity Hall owner heard us talking about our dilemma, and she took us upstairs to a mezzanine area and offered us a table. The table was in the back and the view was horrible. We declined the offer and went back downstairs. Another woman brought us back upstairs to the mezzanine and offered us great seats on the side of the mezzanine, closest to the stage.

We were happy with the seats and the concert hadn’t started yet. Then, we got a visit from Mike Cammelletti, the general manager of Infinity Hall, and the one person who actually apologized to my wife and I about the seating debacle. He said that whatever we wanted to drink and eat was on him, and that we would receive two free tickets to any upcoming concert of our choice.

A waitress came over and took our orders and was very pleasant. The concert itself was fantastic! My wife and I had a great time, but the sinking feeling remained that what happened with the seats was inexcusable.

I wrote the following email to Cammelletti on Aug. 29:

“Hi Mike,

I wanted to thank you, on behalf of my wife and myself, for transforming what was a horrible, stressful experience into a memorable evening. We appreciate everything you did for us.

But I have to explain why we are still upset, not at what happened last night specifically, but the entire customer journey.

My wife and I have two young girls and last night was a very special night for us as it was the first concert we had been together in six years. Plus the fact, we've been diehard fans of Toad the Wet Sprocket since the band formed in the late 1980s.

We paid $150 last month to join the Infinity Stars loyalty program so we could buy tickets for the concert two days before public sale. We did that and got front row seats. We were very excited!

Fast forward to this week: We got an email, saying the seating chart had been changed due to, apparently, a fire marshal's visit there. So, we were assigned new seats one row back and against the wall. This didn't sit well with us at all. Why are we being moved back and against the wall?

So, I called the box office yesterday and the box office manager, who was no help to us at all last night, called back and said he could move us to Row A (our original row) with Seats 22 and 23. He emailed us the tickets, we printed them out, and went to the show.

We were brought to those seats around 735 p.m. someone came over shortly thereafter and asked to see our tickets. We showed them and he left. Then someone else comes sauntering over with two women behind them, asking us to go see the box office manager because these other people were assigned the same seats.

I didn't want to go, but finally relented. Why did we have to get up when the concert was about to start? Why didn't they simply find two seats for the other people? 

We went to see the box office manager, who was useless, never looking up at us. The owner's wife heard us and asked what the problem was. She brought us upstairs and offered us a table in the back with a bad view. We didn't want to sit there. We went back down and someone else brought us up and gave us those seats we ended up with.

My frustration is on many levels, but here's the bottom line: I would appreciate a refund of our $150 to join the loyalty program because of not only what happened, but there were no apparent or perceived benefits to us for getting our tickets two days early and paying that amount of money to join a club with alleged benefits. And then add to that what we had to go through last night with our seats.

Again, Mike, thank you for your help and kindness. We appreciate it.”

And this is the email I received from Cammelletti one day later:

“Again my sincere apologies for the seating debacle.

The mishap was caused by a seating chart change that was made after

Tickets for that show were made available.

The Fire Marshall told us we had to change our seating chart to

satisfy State regulations 1 week before we opened our venue.

That is what caused us to have sold tickets to seats that now no longer exist.

I will get you a refund for your loyalty program but will keep you registered

In this program for 1 year.

Please contact me for a pair of complimentary tickets to a show of your choice.

Regards,

Mike Cammelletti”

Cammelletti was the one person who took the time to listen to us, understand what happened, and understand our utter frustration. He turned a very bad customer experience into a memorable one, and did the right thing after I emailed him.

Life is all about experiences, and our best memories of this experience are of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s exquisite 21-song set and Mike Cammelletti.

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