Monday, June 8, 2009

Beware of online ticket ordering: Marcus Theaters hit me for a $12 a month fee

You think you can trust someone, especially someone who works in your neighborhood. But the economy is turning once reliable friends into unreliable sources trying to get your cash.

Recently, I purchased tickets online to see a movie with my family at the Marcus Theater. The idea is buying them in advance so my son can get a good seat at one of the great animated films that they are making for adults but selling to children, and at least enjoy the film. They are always packed. If you don't get there 45 minutes ahead of time, you can't get a good seat. And if you get there 10 minutes ahead of time, you won't get a seat for the big movies.

Last week, on Thursday June 4, a $12 charge mysteriously appeared on my bank card. It was listed to "Reservation Rewards." I had no idea who that was. ( is their web site, I discovered, and they are owned by another company called ""). I was planning to explore that charge today (Monday).

Last night, on June 7, we went to the show to see "Up," a great animated film featuring the voice of another great actor Ed Asner. We had a blast. It was a good movie although the theater was a filthy.

This morning, I received an email telling me "I had signed up" for something called "Reservation Rewards" and that they would start billing me $12 a month so that I could get all the "benefits" of joining their scam-like system.

Reservation Rewards claimed I would get discounts on movie tickets. Then how come I paid top dollar for Sunday's movie? The only reward, it seems, is for Marcus Theaters and Reservation Rewards.

It is WRONG to enroll someone surreptitiously in a monthly payment plan without specifically getting their approval, but adding a small check box maybe on an online purchase form WITHOUT clearly explaining that the dupes are be dragged in to a MONTHLY automatic deducation of $12?

As I explored the site more, and explored my alleged account, I discovered how much of misleading system this really is. They created an account for me (and said I created it). The account though was automatically set up. When I tried to eliminate the credit card information on the account that Marcus Theaters set up through ReservationsReward, it told me I couldn't make changes without filling out more information -- forcing me to either add more informationa nd thereby be complicit -- or face more troubles.

I used the link they provided to connect to them which automatically signed me in and then asked me to update your account. What a bunch of lowlifes. I asked for an explanation but have not received one yet but I will keep pursuing them.

The surprising thing I saw was that they announced they would now be billing me $12 and had charged my account $12 as of June 8. Well, June 8 is the day AFTER I just returned from the Marcus Theaters!

And when I checked bank on my online debit card at the bank, the $12 they charged me on June 4 miraculously was removed.

What's going on?

In fairness to Reservation Rewards, they responded fast when I inquired. Here is what they wrote:

Dear Ray, Thank you for contacting Reservation Rewards. We try to make our offer as clear as possible and we apologize for any concern you may have experienced. Our records show that on 5/9/2009 you or someone in your household completed an online transaction with After your transaction you were offered and accepted a membership in Reservation Rewards. Immediately next to the offer, the Offer Details were displayed, which included the agreement that we could bill the fee to the credit card you used for your transaction with The person who signed up for Reservation Rewards would have given permission to use that specific credit card. In order to sign up they would have typed in the email address two times, like a signature and also clicked the button to accept the membership.

When a misunderstanding occurs, we are more than willing to cancel the membership and provide a refund. This membership has been cancelled and we have issued a refund of $12.00 for the membership fee you were charged. This credit should be posted to your credit/debit card account within 3-5 business days. We retain such data in a manner that complies with law.

It is our policy to retain certain personal data of customers, for example, name and address, card details/billing information and relevant correspondence between us for a limited period of time and in connection with legitimate business purposes, including preventing fraud, enabling us to address and deal with any complaints and for financial reporting and audit trail purposes. We will not use or disclose to a third party a customer's personal data for any form of marketing purpose, and we can agree to remove your data from our marketing and customer service databases.

I didn't mind paying the extra $1 they charged for every ticket I puchased online, a charge they call a "convenience fee" because I was being told they were taking the $1 out of my pocket. But to be charged $12 and to be told it would be a monthly fee, is outrageous.

I give them credit for doing the right thing and cancelling the account. But how many thousands of people are doing the same thing and don't even know they have signed up because of a cleverly worded online ordering system. I'm not stupid. I can read. I NEVER would sign up for a "reward" system that costs me $12 a month from my account.

All I can tell you is to BEWARE. If you buy tickets online, chances are you are going to be automatically enrolled in "Reservations Reward" or a similar system.

From now on, when I go to a Marcus Theater or order tickets for Ravinia, I will pay cash. That's if I go back to their theaters!


-- Ray Hanania

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