Just another customer…

I recently had an experience as a customer that serves to illustrate how some businesses have failed to realize that one size really doesn’t fit all.

For quite some time, we’ve been regular and loyal users of Fandango’s online movie ticket service. The two big movieplexes in our neighborhood are signed up with Fandango — and it works for us. I haven’t minded paying them the $1 surcharge per ticket for avoiding standing in the lines at the theatre — at least I didn’t until this incident! If I can do it on the computer, I like it.

A week ago we decided, as part of a Saturday family get together, to take in Seabiscuit. Several of us had read the book and we were looking forward to seeing the movie. Of course, we decided to do this on the first weekend the movie was out and wanted to make sure we could get tickets for the showtime we wanted (about two hours hence). No problem, I said — I’ll order the tickets on Fandango!

Out came the iBook, up came Safari and we ordered over a dozen tickets right there online. Everyone else thought this was very cool…right up until I got to the purchase page. Although I was logged into Fandango using my userid/password, and they had obviously validated me based upon a previously written cookie, Fandango prompted me to enter the CVV2 code from the back of my credit card.

I can understand merchants wanting to protect themselves against online credit card fraud. The purpose of the CVV2 (Card Verification Value) code is to allow online merchants to ensure that the cardholder has physical possession of the credit card. Of course, it’s hugely inconvenient to the cardholder — I was running around in shorts that afternoon, my wallet was in a pant’s pocket in my bedroom way down the hall, etc. But, more importantly, why did they need the CVV2 from me? Wasn’t I, after all, one of their VIP’s? Hadn’t I bought loads of tickets from them over months of moviegoing without ever having disputed a charge on my credit card? C’mon folks!

No, Fandango treated me as just another customer. They obviously have some basic rule in place (e.g., all charges over $50 must have CVV2 included) designed to try to protect themselves from fraud. But does one size really have to fit all? Smart merchants are adaptive — they treat their best customers better and get even more loyalty out of them as a result. When is Fandango going to realize that?

PS: Of course the signature panel on the back of my credit card was worn to the point that the CVV2 code was unreadable. Heh. Had to go way back in the transaction, supply a new credit card, etc. Very sucky. It’s time to request a new card from my card issuer, I guess. Meanwhile, it turns out that those lines at the theatre ticket booth really aren’t very long — for those late afternoon shows we tend to prefer!

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