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Confessions of a Box Office Manager: A very cheeky refund

On what they thought would be a quiet Saturday, our Box Office Manager has to deal with a customer who's out for a refund at all costs

Box Office Manager

This is my favourite bit of Saturdays in work: matinee first act well underway, performance off sale, final reports sent to producers, couple of single seats to sell for tonight, really almost nothing to do. Bliss. The clerks on the other box office windows are on Facebook (naughty), I've got a mug of tea on the go as I trepidatiously read the online menu of a restaurant I'm meeting mates at later. The eatery was chosen by a friend who, during 2018, holidayed in Brazil and worked in Japan (or was it the other way round?) and is determined to relive both experiences. On the same night apparently, as he's picked a Japanese-Brazilian fusion place... and I haven't a clue what to order.

I'm just trying to work out how to pronounce "kobe churrasco" when I realise that the foyer is filling with people: it's the interval. Crikey, that came around quickly. A lady strides up to my window, clutching a copy of the show programme and brandishing a ticket.

"Good afternoon, Madam, how may I..."

"Never mind that!" she snaps, testily "I want a refund."

"And I want a Porsche plus a holiday home in St Lucia, but I'm unlikely to get those either!" I snap back.

Of course I don't. I actually say "I'm sorry, is there a problem?"

"YES there is a problem, A BIIIIIIG PROBLEM!"

"Oh dear...and what might that be?"

"I've seen this show before."

"Er..."

"Yes, I have seen this show before and. I. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. SEE. IT. AGAIN." She helpfully punctuates each of the last eight words with a thwack on the counter with the programme, presumably lest I think she. IS. HAVING. A. LAUGH.

"But, um, did you book the ticket yourself? For this performance?"

She rolls her eyes as though I have just asked her something really stupid. Maybe I have, I just don't know anymore. "Well, of course I did! Online!" she mock-simpers, patronisingly. I feel we are unlikely to walk away from this one as friends.

"So..." I am struggling a bit, to be honest.

"SO...I want a refund because I've seen the show before. It's not rocket science is it?!"

The uncalled-for belligerence is starting to rankle now: if I had hackles they would be rising. "Hang on a minute. You booked yourself into the matinee of a show you'd already seen before but actually didn't want to see again? Why would you do that?" (It's on the tip of my tongue to say "what's WRONG with you?" but I'm not too far gone to realise that this would be the customer service equivalent of throwing a lit match onto a hay bale...)

"I forgot" she glares at me as though she has just flung down a verbal gauntlet. Is this a wind-up?

"Right..."

"So...I got confused between this show and another show. I thought I was booking for that. This show is dreadful. Dreadful! And now you're going to stop dithering about and refund my money." I've heard of attack being the best form of defence but this is taking it to a whole new level.

Cancelling a seat at this stage involves putting the performance back on sale, refunding the ticket, taking the show off-sale again, re-sending the reports, and then contacting the producers, explaining to them why the final figure is less than the one they originally received. It's fiddly but it is do-able...at my discretion. Given her charming attitude, I'm disinclined to help her out. Plus she would have walked past all the external signage for THIS show in order to take her seat...and that signage is hardly subtle.

Then again, anyone can make a mistake, can't they, and... I'm just pondering what to do when she starts drumming her fingers on the countertop and turning up the death stare a few kilowatts.

"Problem?" she snarls, "God, how hard can it be?"

Right, that does it.

"I'm awfully sorry, Madam" – my voice sounds terribly pinched suddenly – "but I'm afraid it doesn't work quite like that. May I refer you to the terms and conditions on the reverse of your ticket? It is non-refundable. I am sorry that you made a mistake but nevertheless you bought this seat fair and square. It is entirely your error. From now on may I suggest that you keep a closer eye on what you have and haven't seen in the West End and beyond, to avoid wasting your time and money in the future. Good day to you."

And breathe. She stares at me for what feels like about ten minutes. I stare right back.

"And is that your final word?"

"I'm afraid it is."

"Right, I want to speak to the box office manager."

"You ARE speaking to him... Madam."

"Well!" She turns on her heel in the direction of the stalls, muttering something about 'taking this further'. Good luck with that.

Fast forward a couple of minutes and the ringing bells signify the end of the interval. The duty manager comes flying into the box office, bellowing the theatre address into his mobile.

"...and the ambulance is on its way? Thank you so much...yes, we'll be waiting for you out front. Bye." Whatever's happened?

He hands me a ticket for the current performance. "I'm sorry love, you're going to have to get the show back on sale and refund this one. A lady collapsed in the stalls corridor. We've brought her round and she's OK now, bit bewildered but we're sending her off to get checked over. She's here on her own."

"Ah right, no problem, let's have a look." I go through the process on the system, locate the booking – full price, done online by credit card – refund it and hand the receipt to the manager so that this poor lady can see that at least she's getting her money back.

He goes back to her and I start composing an email to the producers explaining the slight alteration in the final figure. I am distracted though by the sight of my refund-seeking chum from earlier belting through the foyer towards the doors with one of the ushers in hot pursuit. As she reaches the exit, she turns towards me, waves what looks like the refund slip I just issued to the manager, grins gleefully...and she's gone.

Barely a minute later and the duty manager is back, looking a bit shell-shocked.

"Did you just see what happened?" he pants.

"Well...what DID just happen?"

"It was the most extraordinary thing. That woman! One minute she's sitting on a banquette, sipping water and shaking like a leaf, then I gave her that refund receipt and she perked up no end. She grabbed it off me, took her handbag and ran like hell. I've never seen anything like it!"

"Ah...well there's a bit of a story there..."

"Tell me! Oh wait, I'd better cancel that bloody ambulance."

He stalks out again, shaking his head in disbelief. I am doing the same. Part of me is fuming that this woman got her money back, especially given how plain nasty she was...but another part of me is slightly awestruck by her sheer chutzpah. This afternoon's duty managers report should make for some interesting reading, that person got her way in the end, the producers coffers are very slightly down, and I have got a strange story to tell my friends (all of whom have ‘'normal' jobs) over the Japzillian dinner later...but hey, nobody died.

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