NOTE: Because people are quick to get the pitchforks out these days, I want to be clear that I am not directing my frustration at any of the parties involved. Rather, just modern technology, and difficulties it can bring. 

Last night, I made plans to go see a movie at the theater at the DECC. Tuesday nights are $5 Tuesdays, and I was intrigued by the new Ghostbusters movie. Seemed like a great and inexpensive way to spend a cold December night in the Twin Ports.

As I have done dozens of times flawlessly in the past, I purchased my tickets online via Fandango and went about the rest of my afternoon ahead of the evening's show I had plans to see. When I rolled into the DECC parking lot before showtime, I was greeted by a friendly face at the parking booth, asking what brought me to the DECC that evening. I explained I was heading to see a movie, and the attendant explained that the theater had closed due to a burst pipe.

No big deal, right? Knowing that Fandango allows for refunds or exchanges, I attempted the process on their app to initiate an exchange for tickets at the Hermantown theater for a show. Or perhaps a refund and then make a separate purchase. Whichever was easier. In the process, I got a message reading "your refund or exchange cannot be processed because there was an issue". I tried a few times, and got the same result. Bummer. Maybe customer service can help.

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Like most big companies now, it is rare to get to talk to a human. Looking for a customer service phone number on a big company's app or website is often like finding a needle in a haystack, with the idea being you can/should interact with their AI customer service bot or send an email through a contact form.

I did as recommended via their app, and submitted a support request. Well, tried to anyway. In trying to submit the support request, I got an error stating "your request cannot be submitted at this time". I tried a few more times, with the same result. Bummer again.

Anyway, I went on to see the show at the Hermantown theater, and by that time, didn't expect to be able to get ahold of anyone at customer service, considering it was pretty late.

Today, during regular business hours, I tried again to submit a help request. Same issue as last night. I did manage to find a phone number online for support, and gave them a call. I was greeted by an automated answering service, where I had to do the "press 1" thing a couple times. I got to what I assume would be the last prompt before talking to someone, and after hitting the key on my phone, and the same bot that had been walking me through the prompts declared "something went wrong" and disconnected the call. Are you serious?

I tried a second time, same result.

At this point, I have rationalized with myself that A) lots of companies are dealing with staffing issues due to the pandemic - maybe this is in some way related and B) it is literally only a few bucks I've lost.

Like I said in the note off the top, I am in no way upset with or bashing Fandango or any of the other parties involved. It is more than anything else just an example of how technology is extremely convenient when it works - but frustrating and difficult when it doesn't.

I might try a time or two more to recover my money, but I'm not out a whole lot if I don't.

At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at a cloud (I'm only 36), I thoroughly appreciate technology - but I appreciate even more real, human interaction and customer service. I've said for years how "sure, online shopping is convenient", but the ability to ask a knowledgeable (and real-life) person for their expertise or help is invaluable.

So, what did I learn from this whole situation? More than anything else, it just serves as another reminder that technology is certainly not a replacement for a real person.

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