Is it tacky to ask an ex-vendor for tickets?
May 30, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Manners-filter: Is it bad form to ask an ex-vendor about previously promised tickets from a few months ago?

So two months ago I asked a vendor that we worked with for tickets to an event coming up this week. They said "Sure! We have a suite, we'll set two tickets aside for you." I thanked them profusely, called my friend, and told him to mark his calendar and NOT buy his own tickets because I got tickets for us.

Then, within the last few weeks, I accepted a position at another company. It is in the same industry so I anticipate working with this vendor again at some point in my career, but probably not in the coming months or even this year. There's no way of knowing, really.

I am currently at my first week with the new company. The event is this weekend, so I called the box office of the event venue to see if they had tickets on hold/will call in my name. They did not.

Is it in bad taste to contact the ex-vendor from my new position and confirm whether I still have those tickets? It seems so tacky - "Hey, I know I left my old company and we don't do business anymore but uh, those tickets..." is there a way to eloquently word it?
posted by windbox to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, it's pretty tacky to call and ask about the tickets. However, calling to let them know you're at New Company and would be interested in talking about how you can work together in the future is probably a good idea.

And who knows, maybe they'll say "Oh, let's discuss it during (upcoming event) this weekend!"
posted by Grither at 10:58 AM on May 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think this depends a lot on the relationship you had with your contact person at the vendor. If you were more than just vague business acquaintances, I wouldn't see a problem with it, but if you're feeling uncomfortable about asking I'd sort of take that as a sign that maybe you aren't really close enough to make it anything but awkward.
posted by something something at 10:59 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Very tacky. He did not promise those tickets to you, he promised them to "The Petersen Account" (or whatever your company is). If you are no longer involved with The Petersen Account, you have no claim to those tickets.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2012 [12 favorites]

Wow. Chutzpah.

But okay, it's a question and you don't get what you don't ask for.

Did you disappear in a cloud of darkness and mystery? How long has it been since you've had a discussion with the vendor? Do they know you left your old position?

Call your contact and let him/her know you've got a new job. Chit-chat a bit, and see if it comes up.

If not, you're out of luck. Most vendors have assigned accounts, so the person you were doing business with may not benefit from handing you the tickets, but you might find out if you have a new contact, and that person may want to cross your palm.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:06 AM on May 30, 2012

if you're feeling uncomfortable about asking I'd sort of take that as a sign that maybe you aren't really close enough to make it anything but awkward.

I'm only uncomfortable about asking because I've never been in this situation before. Our relationship was not necessarily "vague" business acquaintances but we definitely aren't buddies or anything. We've been on a few lunches with them and my team, etc.

Did you disappear in a cloud of darkness and mystery? How long has it been since you've had a discussion with the vendor? Do they know you left your old position?

They know I left my old position - I sent them a goodbye email at my last day of my old job, and they wished me good luck.

I also feel bad because I told a friend that I procured tickets for us so he went ahead and didn't buy his own - the event then proceeded to sell out so I've sort of screwed my friend too.
posted by windbox at 11:11 AM on May 30, 2012

As long as you don't feel you're burning your bridges, go ahead and ask for the tickets; the worse they can do is say "geez, by rights those tickets really belong to your former company, not you" and you'll say "yeah, that's fair, I just thought I'd chance it."
posted by Sunburnt at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2012

Those tickets are for clients, and you're no longer a client, so I'd say you're out of luck. Sorry.
posted by pecanpies at 11:14 AM on May 30, 2012

One thing to keep in mind is that your new company might not take kindly to this sort of thing. Where I work asking for and/or accepting a major gift like tickets to an expensive event is explicitly against the ethics rules, and employees have to report the value of any gifts they receive from business partners.

the event then proceeded to sell out so I've sort of screwed my friend too

There's usually a secondary market for tickets. Is it for something popular like a sporting event or something more obscure?
posted by burnmp3s at 11:16 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't know the etiquette around accepting this type of gift at all, so I don't have the same immediate reaction that others in this thread do. Even after reading these responses, I'd still go with my default etiquette and call and say, "A while ago, we talked about reserving tickets for this event. I understand that I'm no longer with the company and the seats are probably reserved for the company account and not me personally, but I thought I'd check. Would I still be able to use those tickets?"
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:20 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could perhaps offer to pay for the tickets if they're still available. If they set the tickets aside for you and your friend and didn't offer them to someone else when you left your job, offering to pay full price for them would be a private gesture outside of any business relationship you might have had with the vendor.
posted by missmagenta at 11:25 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I work for a company who buys suite blocks to local sporting events. Rock Steady has it right.

Chances are, if it is that close to the event, they've contacted your original place of employment to verify someone would be attending and learned they had two additional tickets to try and find a home for. (I can say this with some certainty, because it is part of what I do monthly at my job.) If I called and asked to speak to Mr Windbox and learned he was no longer at the company, I would be on the phone with my salesmen letting them know there were 2 free tickets. I hold spaces by account name only, not specific person. YMMV.

If you managed to get in, you would be "that guy who isn't even a customer anymore" and the whole thing would probably be awkward as all hell. To compensate, if there will be people from the company in attendance (for my place, it wavers), be sure you come armed with somewhat of a future business plan, so you don't just come off as a leach.
posted by haplesschild at 11:25 AM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, I should add that suite tickets are sometimes held in a different place than normal will call. You could call again and ask to speak with the suite office and perchance your tickets are there.... but I never give my will call list to the suite manager until the night before the event.
posted by haplesschild at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2012

If I were the one with the tickets, I wouldn't mind a call along the lines of "hey, just checking, totally understand." In my previous place of business, when I put in for tickets to an event, they became "my" tickets. Yes, I generally had to explain which account/client/potential client I was planning on entertaining, but if that fell through my choices were to either 1) send them back to the pool or 2) give them to someone else. In your situation, assuming that you stayed in the same industry and there wasn't going to be some awkward situation with the other suite attendees, I might bring you anyway. (Or, I might just take my spouse, depending on my mood). So, worth a call, at least so the guy knows where you are.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:31 AM on May 30, 2012

Whelp, looks like consensus here is that the tickets are gone. I suppose I could ask for the sake of seeing what happens, but it looks like it's pretty damn tacky and given that I'm pretty green in my industry I'd rather not be known as the tacky guy.

I should note though that this vendor definitely had no intention of joining/entertaining us in the suite, it was more of a "set the tickets aside and enjoy" sort of deal.
posted by windbox at 11:56 AM on May 30, 2012

I guess I have a contrarian view here. Why did he offer the tickets to you? A: to bribe you to pick his services over another vendors. The benefit didn't go to your company who was going to pay for his services, but rather to you personally who was selecting services (or perhaps close to the person selecting the services). The whole business of offering tickets etc. to customers is pretty tawdry; burnmp3s alluded to it above. As between you and the vendor, I see no issue with taking the bribe at your new place of employment versus the old. Is it unethical or poor manners to take a bribe when you are not in a position to reciprocate with a favor to the briber? Perhaps that is a grey area. Anyway, the real issue is how your new employer would perceive this.
posted by caddis at 1:18 PM on May 30, 2012

I think the situation might be slightly different if you were The Decision Guy in your old job and will be The Decision Guy in your new job. It would definitely be in their interests to keep you happy even if you can't right this minute make any purchases. If you were just one of the bunch of guys on a team that bought stuff and your new position isn't to The Decision Guy then I think you're kind of out of luck.
posted by marylynn at 1:33 PM on May 30, 2012

FWIW, when I worked for a vendor that owned suites at the Palace (my boss' nephew was co-owner of the place) and also gave out fairly pricey gifts to customers (jewelry for spouses, theater tickets, hotel rooms in Reno, etc) who technically weren't supposed to accept them, I can tell you that once a buyer left that company he was excised from our gift list like a gangrenous limb. Even if that buyer moved to a different company in the same industry we couldn't afford to alienate his previous boss by giving him freebies. Not, at least, until his new company placed a few sizable orders with us first. I remember meeting a former buyer from one of our Big 3 automotive accounts who'd taken a new job with a Tier 2 supplier. I'd always enjoyed talking to him and we'd become friendly so I agreed to have dinner with him one day after work. He confessed to me that he felt sad that my boss never phoned him anymore like he used to just to chat and maybe make plans for lunch. "I always thought that Ernie liked *me*," he said dejectedly. Sadly, it was a rude wake-up call that as a purchasing agent, you are simply what you can do for the vendor.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:59 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a guy who used to give out a lot of corporate tickets to clients/vendors and the like, if you called at this late hour and we still had the tickets, I would sooner give them to you hoping for future business than let them go to waste. I would say that if any of my employees wanted them, they would get them ahead of you. Ask casually. Be prepared for a "sorry".
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:47 PM on May 30, 2012

I did some web work (on behalf of my employer) for the Seattle Symphony back in the late 90s, and they offered to comp me tickets to a show as thanks for a job well done. Tickets for a Mark O'Connor and Yo-Yo Ma concert were about to go on sale, and I'd been planning to buy some, so I was extremely grateful for the offer because now I wouldn't be spending more than the amount of money I'd made working on the Symphony job on tickets to the Symphony. I told them I'd love a pair to that show.

Tickets went on sale and sold out in a few days. I called my contact up to make sure we were still good with the comped tickets. Not so much. Oh, that show sold out, so I wasn't able to get any, sorry. I had been barely able to afford the tickets at face value; there was no way I was going to be able to afford them from a scalper. I still bear a grudge against the Seattle Symphony, 15 years later.

Call them up and ask. Lead off by introducing yourself in your position at the new company, and say how much you're looking forward to the opportunity to work with them in this new capacity. It's only tacky if you can't figure out a way to present it as an opportunity for both parties.
posted by hades at 12:03 AM on May 31, 2012

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