On the hottest day Los Angeles has experienced in a looooong time, I ventured into the triple-digit heat yesterday afternoon with three errands to run: the Hollywood Bowl, to exchange tickets for that night’s performance since Susan is out of town helping out with matters in the wake of her uncle’s death last weekend; the New World Camping store, to exchange the fishing rod we’d bought the weekend before, which snapped our very first time out with it last Sunday; and a recommended body shop to get another estimate for the bumper damage to the Ford that I caused rolling into an unseen boulder on the side of the east fork of the San Gabriel River during our aforementioned fishing day trip.

HOLLYWOOD BOWLING FOR DOLLARS
I took the leap this year and became a subscriber this season, meaning I purchased a package of four performances within the Bowl’s jazz series. Susan and I have enjoyed Bobby McFerrin and Chris Botti, Robert Cray, and the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra among other acts on the first three Wednesday nights we attended. Last night’s was headlined by Quincy Jones and promised to be excellent, but I called up the Bowl yesterday to tell them I couldn’t attend and ask what my options might be. I was advised to take advantage of its ticket exchange policy, a subscriber benefit, by going to the box office.

Allow me to note ahead of time that during the call I was not informed of any service fee involved in swapping tix on the same day of the event. Had I been I would’ve gone Tuesday, not yesterday.

So I arrive at the Bowl and walk up to a representative at one of the windows. The markedly effeminate young man with scruffy facial hair behind the thick glass asks through the speaker and how he can help me. I tell him while sliding the tickets through the window. He looks at them and tells me that there will be a $10 per ticket charge to complete the exchange. Surprised by that I ask why and he tells me that’s the standard fee for any exchanges made on the day of an event.

“How disappointing that wasn’t mentioned to me when I called yesterday because I could’ve come yesterday and avoided being penalized.”

At this point the young man adopts a decidedly defensive demeanor and unhelpful tone, asking “Who did you call?”

“The Hollywood Bowl.”

“What number?”

“The number on the back of my subscriber ID card.”

He pauses and regroups before plastering a simpering grin onto his mug and launching into a pointedly condescending spiel that he’s obviously practiced a lot about how a comprehensive subscriber information manual was provided with my ticket package and in it is clearly stated that any tickets exchanged on the day of an event are subject to a $10 service charge.

I consider telling him where he can stuff that detailed document, but instead I ask “What page?”

That catches him off guard and the simpering smile falls off his face as he realizes there is actually something he does not know.

I bridge his moment of horror with “Look, had I known there was going to be an exam I’d have studied your hallowed manual and committed it to memory. My issue isn’t whether or not there’s a fee. My issue is with the representative I spoke with Tuesday when I called and said I can’t attend Wednesday’s event who could’ve mentioned that but didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, had that courtesy been extended I would’ve come yesterday and avoided this BS.

Over-dramatically taken aback at my use of the acronym for “bullshit,” the young man sat up straight and said he thought it was entirely unfair of me to expect such consideration.

Now I’m the one taken aback. “Reeeeeeally. Well then I’ll go you one further: Both the person I spoke with on the phone and you turn the term “customer service” into an oxymoron.

And with that he ceremoniously stripped off his headset, slammed it down on the counter while jumping up off his chair and flitted off in full hissyfit out of sight, replaced a few moments later by another rep who eyed me warily upon approach.

“Don’t be afraid,” I said. “I’m not as bad as your thin-skinned predecessor would have you believe.”

Taking a seat he asked what the issue was. So I gave him the quick recap.

All business and no bull, when I’d finished he asked, “So where do we go from here?”

I give it a shot: “Well, since I’m guessing you’ll be able to resell these and make my $20 almost two times over is there any way you can have mercy on this first-time subscriber and waive the fee?”

His mouth moved into a smile, but not his eyes as he looked from me to the tickets. “You’re right, these are decent seats someone will probably purchase, but I’m afraid I still can’t waive the charge.”

“Then let’s get on with it.”

And in a few more minutes the Bowl had 20 of my dollars (plus another $12 for the $6-per face-value increase between the two performances), and I was signing a receipt with an intense feeling that the Hollywood Bowl will not see another dollar from me as a subscriber ever again.

Sliding the tickets to me the man asked if he could be of any additional service.

“Well, yes. Do me a favor and apologize for me to the young lady I scared off. I didn’t mean for my frustration to compound the obvious bad day she was having.”

Somewhere out of sight from within came: “Oh that bitch!”

Turning I said “That’s 100% bastard,” and walked away.

FISHED IN
From that joyful experience I headed down to New World Camping on Western Avenue in Koreatown with the broken fishing rod we purchased from the place the weekend before last. Walking in with it I found the same man who sold us the defective pole and just from his demeanor as I approached him I had the sinking feeling an exchange wasn’t going to be easy.

And it wasn’t. I told him what happened and he looked at the pole. Instead of doing the honorable thing and giving me a replacement, he starts right in with how it will cost me $15.

I ask why and he tells me because that’s how much it will cost him to return the rod to the manufacturer.

“But why is that my responsibility?” And he launches into a tirade about customers who are chronic pole breakers/returners.

“But I’m not one of them!”

“I know, I know,” he said. But still he wouldn’t budge. It was $15 or fuck off.

I attempted to reason with him, by pointing out how medievally unethical such a return policy was when compared to other retailers, to which he exclaimed, “This is not Costco!”

“So there’s no way you’re going to replace this item unless I pay you more money for it.”

“That’s right.”

“Then enjoy that piece of crap and the $29 I paid for it, but I’m not giving you another penny now or ever.” And I walked out wondering if I had a “Give This Guy A Hard Time” sticker stuck to my forehead while vowing to make it cost this jerk more than the fifteen bucks he was unsuccessful in extorting from me.

And it will, eventually: When I got home I posted the following description of the disgusting encounter on all sorts of review sites: Yelp, Super Pages, Yellow Pages, Insider Pages, Chamber of Commerce and several others (even the store’s Facebook page where I wrote a recommendation which began “I recommend you avoid this place.”):

I purchased a $29 rod August 28, 2011 from New World Camping, and used it for the first time a week later September 4 (mainly to practice casting in the San Gabriel river). During that outing, a foot of the rod snapped off at the tip. I returned September 7 with the defective rod to make a simple exchange but the proprietor refused to do so unless I paid him $15 to cover what he said would be the cost for him to return the rod to the manufacturer. I attempted to reason with him, but he refused to listen so I told him to enjoy the broken rod and the money I’d spent on it initially but that I wouldn’t spend any more — and certainly not at a business with such an unscrupulous regard for its customers.

As to the body shop visit that was also planned, I decided not to risk enduring a third battle and instead headed home with plans to return today. I’ll be going there in a few minutes with fingers crossed that I’ve broken the streak at two.