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January 22, 2016

Fandango: Another No-Go For Comcast

By EconMatters

Occasionally, EconMatters share personal experience to provide certain on-the-ground insight of a company.  For example, I wrote one piece on Home Depot (HD:NYSE) while sourcing for a few appliances (by the way, HD stock has appreciated about 240% since it was published at Seeking Alpha). 

Most recently, I wrote "Comcast, We Have a Problem" describing the horrible customer service we experienced with Comcast Houston.  Today, I am going to share another horrendous experience with Fandango.

For readers unfamiliar with Fandango, this is a U.S. based corporation that sells movie tickets via internet or phone.  I always thought Fandango as an independent tech start-up aspiring to hit its IPO one day, but before writing this post, I did a research on Fandango's corporate ownership.  Guess who owns Fandango?  You got it, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) acquired Fandango in April 2007, and Fandango is now part of Comcast's NBCUniversal asset. 

Similar to Comcast, Fandango has significant monopoly power within its sector as it is one of two major online advance movie ticket sale sites, along with MovieTickets.com.  I thought it was just my bad luck, but now it all makes sense that Fandango has horrible customer service just like its parent company, Comcast.  (Honestly, I could not make this up even if I wanted to)


I've never bought movie tickets online until Star Wars: The Force Awakens which opened just before Christmas last year.  Worried that the tickets might be sold out because of holidays, I bought a pair of tickets at Fandango online.  Of course, Fandango charges a 'convenience fee' on top of the regular movie ticket price.  I have no complaints about the premium and the entire process at Fandango's site.

The issue came when I arrived at the theater, there were no seats available except the first front four rows.  I was not going to watch a movie with my head tilting back 180 degrees.  So I immediately walked out before the preview even started.

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As soon as I got to my laptop, I contacted Fandango Customer Service via Live Chat to request a refund .  The chat window opened flashing the following message almost like from the Twilight Zone:
You are currently number 159 in the queue....You should be connected to an agent in about x:xx:xx.... The average amount of time a customer has to wait is xx:xx.

That was so bizarre for a company to flash such poor customer service statistics to every customer in the Live Chat like it was business as usual.  Honestly, if I run a company with such embarrassing queue number and wait time, I would hire a programmer just to hide those numbers from everybody in the whole world instead of flaunting them at Live Chat!  I can only imagine the wait time at Fandango phone lines must be even worse. 

While I cannot not remember exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds the Live Chat message said, but the actual wait time was about two hours.  The only reason I stayed on was to find out exactly how long I had to wait in this modern tech day and age with an intenet-based company in the United States.  It was aslo because I had to work on a project on my laptop, so it was not hard for me to just keep the chat window open while working on my project. 

When I finally got to chat with a Fandango Customer Service person after about two hours, I was advised Fandango does not allow refunds or exchanges after 2 hours before the showtime.Since I walked out of the theater just minutes before the showtime, I did not qualify for a refund!  Fortunately, the movie theather (Edwards, part of the Regal Group) did my refund without any problem, but Fandango still got the 'convenience fee' that provided no conveniece at all.    

In this case, Fandango oversold the tickets (you can't conceivably count the first 5 rows of seats in any movie theater as "available" to sell tickets).  This is one indication of serious flaws in Fandango's business/operation model.  Another indication came when I asked the Customer Service person why the long wait time, the rep apologized and said it was because of the Star Wars opening. Well, due to the well-hyped pre-marketing campaign by Disney, any semi-competent management would have anticipated the increase in call volume and staffed accordingly. 

Again, just like its parent company Comcast, Fandango is penny wise, pound foolish.  It is eerie and disturbing how Comcast seems to be cascading down its "predatory dinosaurs" business model to its subsidiaries and unfortunate customers.  And as describe in my previous post -- Bad management believing in bad business model will take down any company regardless how lucrative.

Note: We recently launched a YouTube Channel discussing daily trading and market events.  Check it: http://www.youtube.com/c/Econmatters

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Item Reviewed: Fandango: Another No-Go For Comcast Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Econ Matters