I visited the River Road Ice House on the evening of Saturday, July 5th, 2008 at approximately 12:15 AM. Note the time...
I don't know if you have heard of the River Road Ice House. As Anchorman Ron Burgendy would say, they're kind of a big deal. Or rather, they have that opinion of themselves.
So here's how it went down. My buddy Big Brian and I pulled up on our hogs at 12:15 (Technically Sunday morning) to the River Road Ice House. There are TONS of cars, and motorcycle parking up front, which we were not allowed to take advantage of. There is live country music coming from inside. There are four people manning the entrance. A young woman taking money (the crook), a yound woman handing out wrist bands, and two police officers (both consummate gentlemen).
I walk up the wooden steps, and ask what the "cover" is. At this point, I do not realize I am literally buying concert tickets, and the young woman does not inform me. She just says "$20.00." I pay her $40.00. $20.00 for me, and twenty for Big Brian. This seemed high to me, but hell, it's a packed bar on 4th of July weekend, so I thought it resonable. For about the next 30 seconds...
We turn to the other woman. We get wrist bands.
We turn to walk in. The yound woman who took our money gives us two pieces of information that we did not previously have.
1) The bar closes in 45 minutes, at 1:00AM, rather than the traditional 2:00AM I am expecting, especially on such a weekend.
2) Everything inside is cash only.
At this point, I analyze the situation. I do not have any more cahs. I do not have a bank card. ATMs charge crazy-high interest rates on Credit Card cash advances. This machine is probably going to charge me $8.00 or so to get cash to begin with. I am still outside the front door and have received nothing for my money. I do a little economics, and decide that 45 minutes in an obviously packed (and very loud) bar with no way to buy drinks is not worth the $40.00.
I explain this to the young women (AKA the thief.) very politely, and ask if I can have my money back. Since I have not yet been inside, had a drink, or received anything else for my $40.00 (with the exception of a paper wrist band), I think this is a reasonable request.
She says no.
I get concerned. I explain fully...
"I'm sorry... I don't have any other cash. I don't have a bank card. I have no way to pay for drinks. The bar closes in 45 minutes. It looks packed enough that I might have trouble getting a drink in that time if I DID have a way to pay for it. I have not yet been inside. I have received nothing yet in exchange for my money. I'm very sorry to be a hassle, but please, may I get my money back and leave.
She responds with the excuse that "The money is in the drawer. I cannot take it back out."
I point out that she just put it in there, so she must have a way to open the drawer. Would she please do that and give my money back?
Still no. She says we already have wristbands.
I offer them back to her in exchange for the $40.
Still no. Now rudely... "Look, it is just like buying any other concert tickets... you wouldn't use ticketmaster and expect a refund."
I was surprised by this statement. I didn't realize I was at a serious concert... I thought I had just been lucky enough to stumble across a nice Texas Ice-House. Speaking of which, I'm actually FROM Texas. I expect people to be polite and respectful. This girl was neither. It was pissing me off, but I kept my cool.
I explained that I didn't realize that I was at a "concert" and thought I was just paying a cover charge. Apparently Kevin (F'ing) Fowler was playing. Cool. Great singer, great band, I would've loved to pay $40.00 for a Kevin Fowler show. At 10:00PM. Not for 45 minutes. After our argument, that was looking something like a dollar a minute. Hell, the eagles don't even get that for hall tickets.
I broke the WHOLE thing down for her again, making the following points.
1) I didn't realize they closed at 1:00 when I paid.
2) I didn't have any way to buy drinks.
3) There was no time to get settled anywhere to enjoy the show.
4) I still had not entered the venue.
5) The value proposition here was looking more miserable by the minute.
6) She had $40.00 that rightfully belonged to me in her cash drawer.
7) Would she please open it up and give it back so I could be on my way.
At this point, I might add, even the cops are looking at her like she is being unreasonable, and THEIR job is to back HER up. I didn't test their loyalty, but God bless them both.
OK, so the theif says, and I quote: "You have two options. You can pack it up and head out of here, or you can go inside and enjoy the show."
Now, I was PISSED. I asked to speak to a manager. Now, in most establishments, managers are on the customers side. They typically give you what you want, if it is reasonable, and if they don't, they at least apologize. The REASON for this is not that the customer is always right. the REASON is that people have mouth's and use them, and they want to protect their reputation. I wanted to talk to THAT guy, not this little thief that was now emotionally invested in being rude and unreasonable to me.
She said no. Flat out said "no, you cannot speak to manager."
"The hell I can't!" I thought. But I was wrong.
So the strategy became this.
Go inside while it was still an option. Speak with various bartenders. Explain the story. Find someone sympathetic. Get a manager. Explain the situation. Get my money (or at least some satisfaction). Walk out and be on my merry way.
That's not how it went down.
The first bartender I spoke to was near the (filthy!!!!!!) men's restroom. He listened carefully, was totally sympathetic, and said if it was his call, he would refund the money. He told me to try the bar by the front door for a manager.
At the front bar, the girl whom I asked to speak to a manager put on her rude face ask said, bluntly: "Why?"
That look was as good as a flat out no, but I explained anyway. She deferred to the other bartender at the front. I explained again.
She ALSO said that she would be inclined to refund my money, and indeed had the power to do so, but refused nevertheless, stating that "the decision had already been made."
I asked for the owner.
I was told he was there, but was busy with the concert. I said I would be happy to wait.
She told me no. Again.
I said I could either speak to a manager or go back to Austin with Big Brian (who knows everyone in Austin) and explain the way I was treated to every single person I knew there. She wasn't phased.
I waited. And waited. The place took 40 minutes to clear out after 1:00AM. When the crowd thinned out, someone asked me to leave. I asked for a manager.
Without even being asked for an explanation, I was told no.
I was reasonable, calm, collected, even downright pleasant all night. I simply wanted what I felt like justice done, but since the thief had taken my money, there was nothing I could do on this earth to get it back.
I recommend to anyone and everyone that you stay away from the River Road Ice House. It is a den of thieves, the bathrooms are filthy, the building is a fire trap (I thought about calling the fire marshall as it was OBVIOUSLY over capacity... but decided to play fair), the help is rude, and nobody there will call in the slightest if you are an insatisfied customer.
I was treated unjustly, made every reasonable effort to allow the establishment to make things right, and am wholeheartedly dissappointed with the outcome.