Sunday, August 21, 2005

Tennis Canada Own Goal

For around ten years, likely more, I have been buying tickets to the Friday afternoon session of what is now the Rogers Cup, the annual professional tennis tournament held in Toronto, in alternate years a men's or women's tournament. This session is attractive as the quarter-finals narrow the field somewhat so one has a reasonable expectation of quality, if not of even play; and I do not see the point of later rounds, each of which features at most one singles match. Each year, I buy my tickets for next year at this year's tournament.
Some years it rains and no matches are played; the rain policy (or at least practice) has been to credit this year's purchase to a purchase next year and in those cases, I have always simply applied the credit to the same session in the following year, and there have been such cases.
This year Tennis Canada sent me, with my tickets, a change in the terms of conditions. (I am not complaining about this, however arbitrary it sounds - I expect if I go look at the terms and conditions of my original purchase, it allowed them to change the terms and conditions at their pleasure.) The new T&C say that if I want a refund from a rainout the credit must be applied to a session IN THE SAME TOURNAMENT (i.e. the same year!)
Well, I have NO interest in any following session in the same year (as explained above - and there are other issues - e.g. this year I had other commitments competing with all following sessions). So the value of the tickets to me has dropped catastrophically. A rain problem means they become valueless, rather than essentially having roughly the same value in the following year, which is not too bad a discount.
Those who know Toronto's weather last week know it is a miracle that two and a half matches were completed in the Friday afternoon session this year - we had the largest rainstorms in years starting at around 3 pm.
So how does this affect my future behaviour? Well, I am no longer prepared to carry the risk of buying tickets in advance, as they can lose all their value simply because of some bad weather (such as we have experienced in the ten years of attendance). So that habit is gone. In fact already this year for the first time in years I did not visit the advance ticket office to get next year's tickets.
But there is more to this. I and those I go with have their own schedules and have to go out of their way to clear the time from their jobs to attend the Friday afternoon session. Now that Tennis Canada has made it foolish to buy the tickets until right before the session starts (because rain can make them worthless) how likely is it that we will be willing to go through the trouble to clear our schedules for it? I suspect this year was my last visit to the tournament. Too bad - I have always enjoyed it - it has been a highlight of my planned vacation days each year.
One small point - the Friday afternoon session that I did thoroughly enjoy this year was very sparsely attended. I expect it to be more sparsely attended next year.
And the great thing for me is that other vacation plans for future years should find me close to the French Open early rounds each year so maybe there are substitutes.

UPDATE (2005/09/20) : I am surprised and impressed. I love a serious commitment to customer satisfaction.


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