It looked like a pretty good deal at the time: For $269, you could buy a voucher for five all-day lift tickets at Mount Bachelor at Joe's Sports & Outdoor stores - a savings of anywhere from $4 to $15 per day, depending on which days you skied.
The deal turned out to be not so sweet, though, when Joe's filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early March - and then Mount Bachelor management decided it wasn't going to honor the vouchers, except for those sold at the Joe's store in Bend.
The mountain's marketing manager, Alex Kaufman, told reporters that Joe's still owes the resort more than $100,000. "Normally, Joe's would pay Mount Bachelor for the amount they sold by month. December, January, February, we never received that money," Kaufman said.
Bachelor has told people who have the Joe's vouchers that they can buy a lift ticket for the discounted price of the voucher and then go back to Joe's to try to get a refund. Joe's says it will give voucher-holders a refund, plus a coupon good for 30% off on their next store visit.
While we feel sorry for Mount Bachelor losing $100,000 (potentially, depending on how things shake out in bankruptcy court) we feel a lot more sorry for folks who purchased vouchers in good faith, having no way of knowing that Joe's was about to go banko, and then suddenly discovered they were holding worthless pieces of paper.
The Oregon Department of Justice apparently feels sorry for them too. "We don't think that Mount Bachelor should be forcing consumers to have to pay twice and then go get a refund from a company that any day now could be ordered not to give those refunds by a bankruptcy judge," a spokesman for the department told KOHD.
One thing we're having a great deal of trouble figuring out is what Bachelor thinks it can gain by not honoring the vouchers - aside from a lot of bad public relations, which it's already had more than its share of in the past few years.
If Joe's owes Bachelor $100,000, Bachelor's claim is against Joe's, not the people who bought the vouchers. And where's the downside of honoring the vouchers? After all, it's not as if the mountain would have to hire dozens of additional lift operators to handle the thousands of Joe's voucher-holders who'd show up. The mountain might even make a little money selling them food, rental equipment and so forth.
We're inclined to believe this was a decision Bachelor management made without thinking much (if at all) about the ill-will it would generate in the community - a pattern we've become all too familiar with since Powdr Corp. took over the mountain.
So far no consumer complaints have been filed over this issue; if they are, the Department of Justice has indicated it may compel Bachelor to honor the vouchers. Meanwhile here's THE BOOT to the collective keister of Bachelor's management, in the hope (probably in vain) that it will encourage greater sensitivity.