Is this enough compensation? Crossed wires leads to canceled SeaWorld passes

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Christopher Elliott

Annual pass holders are the lifeblood of year-round theme parks. Without these die-hard fans, who often plunk down thousands of dollars for the privilege of visiting the park, Orlando would be a ghost town in September.

So when Hal Flomerfelt had a little problem with his SeaWorld passes, he assumed the park would take care of it right away. After all, both he and his wife had been loyal passholders for nearly a decade.

He assumed wrong.

Flomerfelt and his wife participate in a program called EzPay, a payment plan that allows you “the flexibility to pay for your Passport in monthly installments without adding any additional fees.”

They had been members of the program since its inception, paying $9.95 a month for both passes to be deducted from their checking account using their debit account number.

On 8/13/11 when I received my checking account statement I noticed that the June and July payments had not been taken out of our checking account. I immediately called SeaWorld to find out what was going on.

They told me my passes had been cancelled due to the bank declining payments.

Related: What’s your problem? Shocked by an $800 phone bill.

What happened? Turns out his bank, Wachovia, had been acquired by Wells Fargo and issued a new debit card with a different account number.

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He tried to get SeaWorld to reinstate his EzPay, which was grandfathered at the $9.95 rate, but the theme park had other ideas.

My only recourse was to open up a new EzPay with a monthly payment of $18.95 a month. This was double the payment I was paying for many years.

When we initially started our EzPay plan we were guaranteed our payment would not go up as long as we did not cancel.

SeaWorld says the plan I had is no longer available and they can’t reactivate my account. But if my EzPay had not been declined, I would have continued paying the same monthly payment.

I didn’t think this was right, either, so I contacted SeaWorld on his behalf.

The theme park reviewed his file and noted that his EzPay account wasn’t updated with his email address and license, which presumably prevented SeaWorld from contacting him. However, it agreed to reinstate the EzPay program at the new rate and to offer $1.16 per month off the new rate. It refused to revert to the old rate, though.

That response doesn’t make any sense to Flomerfelt.

I do not think this is fair. I asked why they did not contact me when the bank first declined my payment and was told they did not have my email address and it was my responsibility. Yet I have received emails from them touting all the specials I was entitled to with my pass.

My passes were cancelled 7/25/11. I asked to speak to a supervisor and got the same response and was told there was no way they could reactivate my passes at the price I was paying. The system would not allow it.

But if SeaWorld can knock a dollar off his monthly pass rate, then why can’t it reset the rate back to where it was? Can’t the “system” allow that?

Did SeaWorld do enough for this valued customer, or have its managers been spending too much time near the shark tank?

(Photo: eschi pul/Fickr)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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