I am very keen to ensure this post is absolutely factually correct, given that LSM seem to be threatening to take action for defamation over my previous blog posts.
We were offered F1 tickets for Silverstone 2013 as a "package" and I thought it would be a good idea as most of the staff are keen on F1.
I spoke to LSM on the phone, and we agreed an "all in" price. I have the call recording of this. They gave the impression that it was somewhat urgent, and sent a booking form to be signed and sent back right away to secure the tickets. I signed and sent back.
The original details, and the telephone call, and the large print at the top of the booking form were very clear - they stated the venue and date, and stated the package price, the VAT and the total. Then there are a list of detailed terms, which is known as "small print" and was in fact print that was very small. This included a statement that a ten percent booking fee would be invoiced at a later date, 4 weeks before the event.
I signed the terms without reading all of them in detail - after all the key matters of the contract had been agreed on the phone - what we were getting, and how much "all in". The figures on the top of the contract were as agreed, good.
I was, of course, concerned, that this was a scam. We had to pay in full up front [except that it wasn't actually in full was it?]; then we were told we would not get the tickets until a few weeks before the event; then this booking fee invoice arrived (which was, in fact 20% of the package price, not 10%); we were told we had to pay before getting tickets. We paid, under duress, obviously; what choice did we have? Then we were sent an itinerary and wrist bands, but not tickets. We were then told we would get tickets on the day. You can, perhaps, see why I was concerned that this was some sort of scam (and I said as much on my previous blog post).
The one bit of good news here is that the tickets were real. When we arrived we got tickets, and breakfast. We got the meal after the event, and so on. The meal was in a private room in the adjacent hotel - that was, apparently, the "private suite" part of the "Grand Prix Race Day". I do not personally believe it was what I was led to expect or that it was particularly good value for money, but in that respect it was not actually quite a scam, so my fears were somewhat unfounded.
I do apologise to LSM if anybody thought it was an outright scam, although I think I did make it clear that it was simply a concern that I had, and not an allegation or accusation, just a fear.
However, we are still left with this "booking fee". On the day we got the invoice we queried it, and were told that it was on the contract. Only when I said I had checked the call recording and the price had been agreed "all in" did I get an immediate email saying that I would get a credit right away. They don't even deny saying they agreed an "all in" price.
Eventually, after some chasing, we got half of the booking fee. After more chasing we are now told that they will not be refunding the rest - that I signed a contract, and that is it; that they did make a mistake charging 20% not 10% and refunded the difference but no more.
My view is that we agreed a price "all in" and they then did not honour that. My view is that they then agreed to credit the booking fee - my email was very specific about the amount and the reason for asking for it back and they agreed to credit. Now they are refusing to.
This is where we get in to opinions to some extent...
I personally cannot see any valid commercial reason for the price quoted not to include the 10% booking fee. It is not like VAT (which they did quote on the booking form) where we may be able to reclaim the VAT and as a business transaction the VAT is irrelevant - the booking fee is always part of what we have to pay for the package. If they can tell me some legitimate reason for not including the booking fee in the "headline" price, then I'll let you know - I just cannot see one.
In my personal opinion, the only reason one puts this booking fee in as a separate item in the small print, and not in the main details on the invoice or the original advert or the telephone call is to catch people out. They admit that other companies have been caught out by this, so they know it happens. We have a call recording of this admission. If the purpose was not to catch people out, why not change the form and processes when previous customers had been? Why keep doing this knowing you are catching people out and annoying customers unless that was the intention in the first place?
In my personal opinion, the only reason to invoice the booking fee separately, later, is to ensure that customers cannot back out - having paid the bulk up front which is, by then, non refundable, customers are stuck and have to pay. Indeed, they have a cancellation allowed up to 16 weeks before the event, but they don't invoice the booking fee until 4 weeks before, ensuring it is always too late to back out.
These last points are my personal opinions here, and I am happy to entertain other possible reasons and welcome LSM commenting on this themselves.
It is a shame - they are clearly concerned over my previous posts - when they said they were going refund the booking fee I explained that I was happy to post a positive blog post about how they were "true to their word" and so on. Sadly they have chosen to take this rather negative view on the matter. Pity.
I hope this post serves as a warning to people to check the small print, always.