Culture customers expect more than they’re entitled to, says complaints board

The board in charge of consumer complaints suggests that concert and theatre-goers need to see their experience more holistically

A customer buys tickets for a large performance, only to complain about a railing obstructing her view shortly after the show begins. After initially being moved to a new seat, she later demands a full refund due to a set of inflatable flowers blocking the performance.

Another concert-goer demands her money back for seats she bought for a Madonna concert in Horsens, claiming that the standing audience had blocked her view of the stage and the big screen – although she stayed for the entirety of the concert. 

The above are just two examples of cases taken up with Forbrugerstyrelsen, the consumer watchdog, over cultural events: complaints that mark a growing trend in consumers demanding their money back based on their subjective experiences. As the board explains, however, the solution comes down purely to objective factors – something that customers often have trouble determining.

“You should get what you pay for, so if you pay for a place to sit and you only get a place to stand, or if you pay to see a Madonna concert and another artist shows up instead, of course that’s a problem,” Henrik Sedenmark, a special advisor for Forbrugerstyrelsen told The Copenhagen Post. “It’s normally very easy to see where the problem is, but some people expect more than they are entitled to.” 

While the issues are often clear to the board, consumers don’t always see things the same way. “They just feel that they didn’t get what they paid for,” Sedenmark continued. “So when they find that Whitney Houston is singing horribly, they complain about that. But we didn’t hear her, and we can’t determine if they’re right or wrong.” 

As sociologist Birthe Linddal Jeppesen explained, the trend in subjective complaints suggests a change in attitudes for the modern consumer.

“Modern people are very focused on themselves, so they are also very easily disappointed if it doesn’t go as they had imagined,” Jeppesen told Information newspaper. “They want value for money. And I’m sure if you ask them, they don’t think that their complaints are subjective. If the modern consumer doesn’t think the experience was worth what they paid for, they react to it.”

But according to Sedenmark, the consumer should also be able to distinguish between what they think they paid for, and what they actually did.

“We see a concert as a total experience: it’s not just seeing it or hearing the music, it’s also being there,” he pointed out. “So when we had a complaint from Madonna’s concert in Horsens saying that they couldn’t see her because of the 85,000 other people in front, they weren’t entitled to a discount.”

Sedenmark also maintained that the concert-goer should have contacted the venue staff during the concert so that they could have solved the problem. He conceded, however, that during a large concert it is to be expected that not all guests will have an optimal view of the stage, and that the event should be looked at holistically.

“She showed up onstage and sang the songs, so as a consumer you got what you paid for: the time with the artist.”