Double-dip: Concert-goers, bring your email

For Valentine's Day this year, Lynn Ramsson bought tickets for herself and her fiancĂ© to hear Southern Culture on the Skids at Starr Hill Music Hall– or at least she thought she did. The question arose when, after driving 45 minutes from their home in Staunton, the couple arrived at the West Main Street club and learned that venue manager Nikki Vinci couldn't find Ramsson's name on her list of ticket buyers.

Ramsson had used her Visa check card to buy the tickets- which cost $28- on Starr Hill's website, starrhillmusichall.com, but Vinci could find no record of the purchase. Although the performance was sold out, she allowed Ramsson to buy another set of tickets and told her that if she could document the online purchase, Starr Hill would give her a refund. Ramsson agreed, and the couple proceeded with their Valentine's Day celebration.

When Ramsson got home, she found the ticket-seller's confirmation email and forwarded it to Vinci, as requested; she later forwarded me a copy of her message and Vinci's reply saying that a refund would be issued. She also discovered why Vinci hadn't been able to find her name on the list; the order had been placed using her middle name– so that while Vinci was searching her list for the name Lynn Ramsson, the tickets were actually under the name Lynn Margaret.

Ramsson claims that she exchanged "two or three emails" with Vinci regarding the refund, but it never materialized. Finally, she says that she went in person to Starr Hill and left a note for then-general manager John Spagnolo, but got no response; she also claims that he ignored two subsequent phone calls. Finally, a little more than four months after her Valentine's Day excursion, she emailed me.

"At this point," she wrote, "my issue does not sit with the money; I simply cannot understand how a seemingly reputable venue like Starr Hill would feel comfortable treating customers this way.

I spoke with Spagnolo, who is now the general manager of Starr Hill's "sister restaurant," Blue Light. Vinci has since been promoted to general manager at Starr Hill. Spagnolo began by saying that they had refunded Ramsson's money two months ago, and claimed that Vinci had called her a week earlier. As for the messages Ramsson left for him, he claimed he'd returned them and had yet to hear back from her.

He explained Ramsson's responsibility for the interaction: The music hall's website clearly states that online customers must bring their emailed confirmation to the venue, something Ramsson hadn't done. If she had, Vinci could have quickly located the tickets.

I also spoke with Vinci, who, like Spagnolo, claimed Ramsson wasn't returning her calls. She also said Ramsson had apparently given her an outdated address, which Ramsson denies. Vinci promised to contact Ramsson, get her address, and send a check-but had done of those things by the time we went to press.

So now we know: Read the instructions when buying tickets online– whether they're for a concert, a movie, or a flight– and if it says to print the message with your confirmation number and take it with you, do that. (Even more basic, make sure you've entered your name correctly.)

As for Starr Hill's role in the transaction, acting quickly to resolve this glitch would have preserved Ramsson's goodwill– and kept the dust-up out of the newspaper.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.