Dick Move, then forgiveness, at the Space Needle.

Posted on
Jun 30, 2010

My friend Desiree came in to town from Florida a few weeks ago, and among the many activities we packed into the few short days she was here, we planned a trip to the Seattle Space Needle. Our friend Jamie was also with us, and since she has an annual pass to the Space Needle, she was able to get us reduced tickets (and you know whether it’s the amount of fat in milk or ticket prices, I love things that are reduced). When she purchased her annual pass, she was also told that one of the perks of being a pass-holder is that you get 25% off at the Space Needle gift store. Again, discounts = awesome.

We had a lovely time at the top of the Space Needle with Desiree. If you’re visiting Seattle, I strongly suggest you go …

I am starting to perfect the one-handed self-portrait.

I am starting to perfect the one-handed self-portrait.

Afterwards, we visited the gift shop, hereafter referred to as “the place where shit went down.” For the record, I think that souvenir photos – the kind you are forced to take when visiting almost any tall building (or novelty museum, or before heading on a boat tour) are ridiculously over-priced and occassionally tacky. Sometimes, though, the photos are hysterical, and include friends of yours who you’ve known since the fourth grade, and consequently MUST BE PURCHASED.

This was one of those times …

How could I not buy this? This is our relationship in microcosm.

How could I not buy this? This is our relationship in microcosm.

So we chatted with the girl behind the counter, told her about our discount, and she quickly told us the price we’d pay for our photo – essentially $15 instead of $20. This was incredibly advantageous, because while $20 constitutes “too expensive”, $15 is just barely under the limit I find acceptable to spend on impulse buys.

I pulled out my credit card, and the girl took it and started ringing us up. She asked her supervisor was the discount code was, and her supervisor noted that it had been discontinued a few months before.

“There’s no discount,” the first gal explained. “It was discontinued a few months ago.”

We stood, a little confused.

“Yeah,” I said, “But you just quoted us on a lower price. Can’t you give us the discount, anyway?”


And at this point, folks, shit went down. They flat out refused to help us. They went from kind and courteous to downright rude. There was eye-rolling. There were cocked eyebrows. There was righteous indignation (on our parts).

We mentioned that the discount had been valid when Jamie bought her pass. We felt that Jamie’s discount should have been grandfathered in, and should still count.

The answer remained “no.”

Dick Move, Space Needle Gift Shop.

This was no longer about five friggin dollars. This was about principle (isn’t is always?). In the end, I found myself quite unimpressed with the behavior of the staff at the Space Needle gift shop photo processing kiosk (There. I said it). At the point where we were politely asking for a discount that we have previously been quoted on, they should have given it to us and called it good (seriously, the profit margins on those photos are obscene. A $5 reduction wouldn’t have hurt anyone). I would have simply walked away, but the picture was so damn awesome, and frankly, I really wanted to get it. I figured we needed it as a balm for this stupid customer service. And we needed it at 25% off, but whatever.

Angry Desiree is angry (sort of).

Angry Desiree is angry (sort of).

So I purchased it, full price. The photo was adorable, and I’m glad I did. But I was still peeved about the whole exchange, the lousy customer service, the lack of a discount I felt we were entitled to. So I did what any passive-aggressive, rule-abiding Seattlite would do: I wrote them a sternly-worded letter.

And, oh, how it was sternly worded.

I explained my displeasure at being in the process of paying and then being told I had to pay more. And how I felt Jamie’s discount should have been valid.

I received a prompt reply and an apology from a woman named Lisa. She explained that the discount hadn’t been valid for years (and that Jamie had been misinformed  by whoever sold her the annual pass – weak), but that the exchange shouldn’t have gone down as it did.

Frankly, that’s all I wanted to hear. If someone had said, “Shoot! I’m so sorry – that discount hasn’t been valid in ages,” from the start, I’d have been perfectly content, and wouldn’t have had to resort to the barbarism of a complaint email.

But Lisa insisted on going one step further, and sent me two free passes to the Space Needle. For the record, I felt this was unnecessary. I don’t like it when companies reward complaints with free stuff (I think it just encourages illegitimate complaints, and it doesn’t solve the original problem). And I didn’t like the guilt I felt upon receiving the free tickets – because it wasn’t a fair exchange. I wanted a $5 discount – not $40 worth of free passes.

But it still was a lovely gesture, and a smart one – I applaud her for it.

Fortunately, my friend Katie is visiting next month, and I’ve promised the tickets to her (she has the noble profession of being a teacher. She deserves free stuff).

And I’ll suggest maybe she should skip the photo kiosk.

Leave a Comment

  • Jason

    I will have my picture with that salmon when we come up.

  • The first time I visited Seattle, the Needle was really low-rent and charming. We took our picture (for free!) with “Sneedle” and my brother got a legion of us up to the top using his annual pass — no questions asked. I miss the run-down vibe of our most famous landmark.

    And this is the only image I could find of Sneedle. http://www.mascotstalker.com/sneedle/ (Mascot Stalker is awesome, too.)

  • Everywhereist

    Jason – they also have a ginormous Starbucks coffee mug as well as an umbrella and other tacky props. You can use them all.

    Philip – I like Sneedle. I don’t know what he is, but I like him.

  • How sad! I always assume when I run into people like the rude staff at the photo kiosk that they hate their jobs. The only way they get through their miserable days is by finding some small mean-spirited pleasure in being rude to customers. They’re probably rude at home too. So while I find it hard to pity them sometimes, I pity their families, which makes me feel a little bit better.

    • Lovesherjob

      How sad are you! I am glad you can so easily pity people, who are working to support their families by providing often times rude tourists with memories. Native Seattle residents are usually happy, understand the info, and are the best to work with.

      Most people love working at the Space Needle btw. The average staff member has been there over 5 years which is high in a retail environment. They are also one of the most diverse companies with a major portion of staff women and minorites.

      They literally can’t change a price in the computer, regular employees can’t any way. They have to keep up with around 10 discounts for different places…and half the people who visit want a discount on something. They are so awful that they now give a FREE digital download of each picture (this started last Nov). Maybe they did drop the ball on this lady’s encounter. But no one is perfect and they more than made up for it.

      Also, in the summer they have seasonal staff to deal with the 5,000+ people that come in all day. Maybe the author mis-understood, either way an apology was issued. Have you never done anything wrong at work Trisha!!!!??????

      Out of the 250,000 that average a Space Needle Visit each year, finding only 1 complaint online says they are doing something right. Why don’t you try to understand mistakes can happen anywhere…and that a photo isn’t life or death. Don’t pity people and don’t assume anything…it makes an ass out of you.

      I pity you that you are so wonderful, happy and UNGRATEFUL that you feel the need to judge others.

  • I’m going to play “bigger than a breadbox?” with Maggie and the fish at the Space Needle. That’s a $20 memory to trot out at graduation.

  • Everywhereist

    Okay, Deanna, I confess: I don’t know that that game is.

  • Try to get her to hold the fish and see which one is bigger. Not that creative. But the idea of my munchkin wrestling a trout or Starbucks cup tickles me.

  • Everywhereist

    In all fairness, that sounds awesome. 🙂

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