Sunday, September 07, 2014

Never assume you know the deal without all the facts

Over dinner on a late summer evening with friends, the conversation at L.S.'s house turns to professional baseball. L.S.'s home-town team is doing well in the standings and tickets are hard to come by.

One dinner guest happens to have season tickets to the home games. After L.S. mentions that his oldest grandchild has become quite a fan of the team, the dinner guest reveals that he has tickets for an upcoming game - one he won't be able to attend due to a conflict.

"Sweet!" L.S. thinks. He and the grandchild can take in a game.

"Are you interested?" the dinner guest asks.

Without hesitation, L.S. say, "Yes!"

L.S. promptly calls his grandson to see if the date is free and ask the boy's parents if he can be out on a school night. The child is excited and his parents are excited for him to see his first professional baseball game.

"All set," L.S. tells his dinner guest.

"Terrific," the guest responds. "I can drop off the tickets later this week. I'll give them to you at face value."

Suddenly, L.S. feels stupid. He'd thought, foolishly, that the dinner guest was giving him the tickets. But the guest clearly thinks he's doing L.S. a favor by only charging him face value since the games are sold out.

He's got great seats and the face value of the tickets reflects that greatness -- $125 per ticket.

L.S.'s grandson is already excited about the game and L.S. doesn't want to disappoint him. L.S. also doesn't want to seem like a cheapskate, nor does he want to make his guest feel bad by suggesting that he assumed the tickets would be free.

The tickets would cost more than L.S. ever would normally have spent on a sporting event. Buying them would put a significant dent in his monthly expense budget.

What's the right thing to do?

If L.S. truly can't afford the tickets and buying them would cause financial hardship, he should tell his friend the price is a bit steep and pass on the opportunity. The next step would be to tell his grandson the deal fell through -- a potentially difficult task, but better to temporarily disappoint him than go into hock to attend a baseball game.

However, if L.S. can afford the tickets and wants to take his grandson to the game, the right thing is to pay his friend face value.

Suggesting that the friend should simply hand over the tickets for nothing or sell them to L.S. at a discount would put the friend in an awkward position. After all, while he could have been clearer when making the offer, he never said the tickets would be free.

It's always best to be clear on the cost before making commitments. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Anonymous said...

Jeff's answer is correct. L.S. should have asked for a price when the suggestion was made.
L.S. should do what makes sense but if abstaining is best, he should tell the owner at once so the owner can get rid of them elsewhere.
Alan Owseichik
Greenfield, Ma.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, the ticket holder knew his offer to the intended recipient was understood by the recipient from the get-go that it was a gift, so it doesn't take a genius to decide that the ticket holder played a dirty trick on the father. But, we are now living in a world where even people who make what they think are generous sounding offers like this expect to be remunerated for the cost of the tickets, kindness be damned. A sad world we live in!

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charlie -

The ticket holder had already paid for a season's worth of home games; a sunk cost of $250 x 80 games = $20,000. To "recoup" the face value is downright chintzy. I'd tell him that the face value of the meal he just ate was $250. Even steven!

Joe Read
Anaheim, CA

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