Even if you on line bill pay, you better check your bills. While all companies are needing to find ways to increase their revenues, small fees and charges may be on your monthly bills that you haven’t looked at yet.
IN this episode, another in our continuing series titled “Strange things charged online to my credit card that I didn’t ask for and can’t get refunded.”
Q. In early July, I purchased six tickets at $40 each from Ticketmaster.com for a Cirque du Soleil performance. I was offered something called “event ticket insurance,” which, the site explained, would provide a refund, under certain circumstances, if I or others in my group couldn’t attend the show. The cost was $7 a ticket — 17.5 percent of the ticket price. I clicked the “no” box to decline the offer.
But in August, I noticed a $42 charge for “event insurance” on my credit card statement. I called Ticketmaster and was referred to the company that actually markets this product, Mondial Assistance. A rep there politely informed me that I had clicked “yes” to the offer and had been sent an e-mail confirming it. The e-mail, I later learned, had been filtered into my spam folder and I’d never seen it. For some reason, the header on that e-mail said “Travel insurance,” another Mondial product.
When I asked Mondial for some evidence that I had agreed to buy event insurance, the rep basically asked for evidence to prove that I had not. When I asked for a refund, the company refused, saying its 10-day money-back offer had already expired.
A. “Event ticket insurance,” hmm?
Insurance typically makes financial sense only when it covers really expensive problems — you know, like surgery and hurricanes. A policy for your tickets to the Keith Urban Escape Together World Tour? The Haggler does not see this as a smart allocation of dollars.
The idea, though, apparently has some fans. Mondial Assistance, which is owned by Allianz, the German conglomerate, says it has covered millions of tickets since it began offering Event Ticket Protector in the United States in 2006. The policies provide refunds in case of unforeseen problems, like an illness or a car accident. The company declined to say how many claims it had paid.
Mr. Stokes, by way of background, is a former C.F.O. of a company that supplied the biotech and health care industries, and he is now a senior lecturer at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts. He is the kind of guy who will tell you, unequivocally, that he’s never spent a dollar on insurance at a car rental agency, and, if you have enough time, he will explain in terrific detail why. (The short version is that the expense can’t be justified by the potential liabilities, and most drivers are already covered.)
When Mr. Stokes says that he remembers the offer of event insurance and that he remembers turning that offer down, he doesn’t sound wobbly. He sounds emphatic.
Nonetheless, executives at Mondial Assistance, based in Richmond, Va., say that they would not have his credit card information unless he had clicked yes. And they say this with a tone of knowledge and authority while uttering phrases like “purchase path.” So we’ve got ourselves a he-said-they-said situation. What would really come in handy here is some physical evidence, like a screen grab of the checkout page from Mr. Stokes’s Ticketmaster purchase.
Mr. Stokes has that very document, and he e-mailed it to the Haggler. It lists Ticketmaster’s building facility charge, convenience charge and order processing charge, but nothing about event ticket insurance. Proof positive? Not at all, says Daniel Durazo, a Mondial spokesman. “We’re two separate companies selling two different things,” he explains. “That’s the reason you don’t see our products in the final checkout process. The order goes directly to us, it’s billed by us, and the confirmation e-mail comes from us.”
It sure would reduce confusion if Mondial’s fees were listed on that checkout page. Of course, that would also inflate the final bill for those tickets, and maybe that’s not what either Ticketmaster or Mondial wants, particularly in a transaction that already has a bunch of tacked-on fees.
Mr. Durazo said the company would take another look at its checkout process, though he added that his product manager offered to “bet his job” that it worked flawlessly.
“He says in the time we’ve been in business, we’ve received about five complaints like this one,” Mr. Durazo says.
According to the company, Mr. Stokes’s travails were caused by none other than Mr. Stokes. Nonetheless, as a gesture of good will, the company is refunding his $42.
“Well, that’s nice of them,” Mr. Stokes said, in a tone that didn’t exactly drip with gratitude. He went on to a critique of Ticketmaster’s Web site: “Once you click ‘no’ there is nothing in the transaction that confirms your ‘no.’ So if Mondial says you clicked ‘yes’ there is no way to prove it. At minimum, it’s irritating.”
Then there is the related problem of e-mail confirmations that aren’t read because they look like spam — an issue we’ve encountered in this space before. Fortunately, again, the Haggler has an elegant solution, which should be adopted by all e-merchants immediately:
Whenever an e-mail lands in your in box that confirms an expense charged to your credit card, it automatically causes your computer to make the “Whoop, whoop, whoop!” noise of Curly from the Three Stooges until you open the message or unplug your computer, whichever comes first.
Problem solved. Next!
oXYGen Financial, Inc. co-CEO Ted Jenkin is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.
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