Calgary Stampede Inhospitality Survival Guide – “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars”, title inspired by “United Breaks Guitars”

July 11th, 2011 Update: After repeat correspondences with Calgary Stampede‘s customer service, it is unfortunate that Stampede and I can’t come to a resolution (re my car being towed by Stampede‘s mistake) that is satisfactory to them and me. And there is no point in going back and forth further on this. So in order for me to come to a closure and to turn the negative experiences into something that can help me grow, I’ve promised myself to do the following three things.

1) To make this a fun experience for me. I’m going to try to create a music video featuring my Calgary Stampede car towing experiences. I’ve only made a handful of music videos before and the last one I made was actually inspiring and fun, if I may say so myself. So I look forward to creating another fun MV.

2) I’ll try to write/crowdsource a song with new lyrics featuring my Calgary Stampede car towing experiences. And yes, you guess it, this new song will be called something like “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” (working title inspired by “United Breaks Guitars“). Dave Carroll really showed us customers that we are not beholden to faceless organizations who care little about customer services.

3) This last one is closest to my heart. I will try to write a “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” business case study to share the various lessons contained in my experiences. I think others businesses can learn something important here. You see, I think Customer Service Excellence is one of the most important goals for a company to aspire to achieve. This goal is so important to me that I have a blog dedicated to writing about the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful customer service experiences I have seen over the years.

Sure, this “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” case wil be shorter, in terms of time, effort, and scope, compare to my 2006 iStockphoto Case Study and case study extras, but it should still be a lot of fun to share my insights.

NOTE: My horrible experiences isn’t like what Dave Carroll had experienced. But I believe there are still much for businesses to learn from my treatment and how businesses can better serve customers in the future.


Will & Kate Wristband Lineup - pix 51 - Tickets in Hand. Yeah !!!

It was a once in a lifetime occasion to see the recently wedded Will & Kate (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) in Calgary, so I lined up early Wednesday morning at Max Bell centre for 3+ hours to get the wristbands plus filed some report (see video).

On Thursday, we got to BMO Centre early at around 3pm and parked at a Stampede Parking lot (as our wristband info card suggested). We parked at a lot on our left as per the instructions from the Calgary Stampede traffic person (someone standing in the middle of the street directing traffic). Everything seemed ok so far.

After seeing Will and Kate, and discovering our car was gone from the parking lot, we were told by a Stampede parking attendant that our car had been towed to some parking lot across the river! Huh, what was going on? We parked as we were told by a Stampede traffic directing person! How could our car have been towed? So the parking attendee tried to find his supervisor for further instructions.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 45 - After parking our car at Stampede parking as told by Stampede parking attendant earlier. We discovered it was towed to some far away parking lot.

Unable to find his supervisor via radio, he walked across the street trying to get help from another Stampede employee. This was when things turned from bad to worst/ugly. This employee, to protect the rude and inhospitable, I will call him “Faceless Andy” and covered up his face.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 46 - Faceless Andy told us to walk, yes walk, to the far away parking lot even though our car was towed because Stampede's mistakes. We parked as told. Andy set the standard of Stampede inhospitality.

Faceless Andy told us to walk, yes, WALK, to the far away parking lot across the river, even though our car was towed because of **Stampede’s mistakes**. Wow, really, this is how “helpful” Stampede is?!

Again, we parked as told. It was Stampede‘s mistakes, and now Faceless Andy didn’t even have the common courtesy to try to help us by offerring us a ride to get our car back?! What the “f” is this attitude? Remember, this tow lot is across the river, some distance away, and somewhere we had never been to. If you ask me, Faceless Andy truly set the standard of Stampede inhospitality and rudeness.

Really? Since when did Stampede start hiring employees this unhelpful and rude? Is this how Stampede‘s guests are supposed to be treated now? Worst, we, the thousands of wristbands holders actually went to see Will and Kate! We were in fact special guests to see the royals, following parking instructions as printed (yes, printed) on the 2011 Royal Tour information card! Instead of trying to be extra helpful, I saw indifference and rudeness.

Since Faceless Andy was getting us absolutely no where, and others nearby weren’t able to help. The parking attendent tried the radio again and finally was able reach his supervisor Joel.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 47 - After some convincing, Joel, person in charge of the lot, finally realized Calgary Stampede made a mistake in towing our car and agreed to give us a ride to the far away lot.

At this point, I wasn’t surprised that supervisor Joel had absolutely no idea about the parking arrangement for the Will and Kate event at the BMO Centre that is using Stampede’s parking lots! I basically had to show him the printed parking instructions and then explained to him what the arrangement was as I understood it. So this is the guests job now? And then told him what the traffic directing person told us re where we could park, “a parking spot on the left”. We had no idea, and there were no clearly posted note, that the lot was a “Stampede’s directors only” parking lot and “unauthorized” vehicles would be towed. You see, the gate to this lot wasn’t locked and there weren’t anyone guarding it as Joel explained it should have. So even this was Stampede’s fault, they could and would just towed people’s cars away. Really, absolutely beeping nice!

About four minutes of explaining and talking later, Joel finally accepted the fact that Stampede had made a mistake and offered us a ride to pick up our car.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 48 - The ride with Calgary Stampede's Joel was nice-ish, kinda like a ride in a police car to see where your stolen car was taken by thieves.

Here is how I described the ride: “The ride with Calgary Stampede’s Joel was nice-ish, kinda like a ride in a police car to see where your stolen car was taken by thieves.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 49 - Calgary Stampede's gate-keepers of our stolen car.

Calgary Stampede’s gate-keepers of our stolen car” was the feeling I had with these people at the gate of the tow car lot.

And then I wondered if these were the other lucky recipients of the Calgary Stampede’s inhospitality “you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed note”?

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 50 - Other recipients of the Calgary Stampede's inhospitality you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed note ?

Finally, in front of our car. Our Calgary Stampede’s inhospitality “you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed” note that lead to our car gone missing. Thank you Stampede for wasting our time and ruining our evening.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 51 - Our Calgary Stampede's inhospitality you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed note that lead to our car gone missing. Thank you Stampede for wasting our time and ruining our evening

The following is a picture of our Will and Kate wristband (notice the parking instruction) and the Calgary Stampede’s inhospitality “you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed note”. They will be part of our memory keepsake to remind us the fun in seeing Will and Kate. And also how rude and inhospitable Calgary Stampede’s treatment of its guests had become.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 52 - Our Will and Kate wristband (notice the parking instruction) and the Calgary Stampede's inhospitality you-are-going-to-be-f-cking-towed note will be part of our memory keepsake.

Concluding thoughts

If Calgary Stampede is incapable or unwilling to extend the hospitality expected of them, events with VIPs (especially those with many out of town guests are expected) should NOT be held at or near Calgary Stampede ground to avoid any future frustration, humiliation, and wasted time and energy of Calgary’s guests.

Next Steps

I will tweet about this and try to reach out to Calgary Stampede (twitter) and see what they will do to right this wrong. Of course, at this stage, I have sort of given up on Calgary Stampede and will not be surprised too much if they don’t do anything. Will see.


6 Responses to Calgary Stampede Inhospitality Survival Guide – “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars”, title inspired by “United Breaks Guitars”

  1. Eeefu says:

    Tho faceless, I wish you had a photo of him so I can print Andy, stick him up on my work cubicle wall and be reminded I can (push my luck and) try to tell my client “take a hike” when my team made a mistake AND take no consequence.

    Couple lessons to learn for Stampede 2011 committee:

    1) plan the logistics ahead properly for the “special supervisors parking lot” properly in such big event;

    2) customer-first mind set for all staff – “who cares about those whose car was towed despite they parked as instructed” is a big No-No – it’s convenient for someone to (execute unjust towing rights to) try to patch up the “missing supervisors parking lot” mistake;

    3) be creative and flexible when resolving problems: s/he could have just give instructions to mark the missing space around cars the attendant had already let in;

    4) prevent at all cost to put Stampede’s “faceless Andy” on any client-facing role if he’s good at other things – he’s too bothered to have any care for his clients; and

    5) if you will address this to Stampede and/or the Calgary city, I wish to see their comments on this incident and in particular, faceless Andy’s behaviour – I want to see if they think it was acceptable or not and if they will do anything to discourage these from happening in the future.

    Joel should receive a little star.

    Sometimes, an apology from the officials suffices to ease your puzzled mind.

    Again, I am so sorry about the barbaric treatment you experienced but try not to let this hassle ruin your overall memories on this royal-themed, near-perfect Stampede 2011, even if you don’t hear from them.

    BTW, lovely photos on the bouquets! Very nice thoughts.

  2. kempton says:


    I agree with many of your points and thanks for taking time to share them.

    re: “faceless Andy”, I don’t think it was his area but his unhelpful response did make matter worst.

    re: Joel, he was helpful once we told him of the mistake. But Joel, to my understanding after reviewing the video tape of him explaining, was also the person ordered the towing of my car! So I am not sure I can give Joel a star.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  3. Hi Kempton Lam,

    I am the Calgary Stampede Community Manager, we would like to extend our apologies for this incident and will be addressing the lack of customer service with the employee in question.

    This is the information that I have been given about what happened:
    “The vehicle was parked across from HQ in the Courtesy Car lot. The gate was to have been left closed, but obviously wasn’t.”

    “Unfortunately the wristband instructions did not include the word “paid” when referring to parking, as wristband holders did not receive free parking.”

    We would like to make up for an inhospitality that you received and offer you:
    -2 entry parking vouchers that would be valid for 1 entry each July 18 – December 31.
    -2 gate admissions to the park during this years Calgary Stampede

    If you have any questions please feel free to email me at

  4. kempton says:

    Hi Calgary Stampede Community Manager.

    Thanks for responding promptly to my troubles at Calgary Stampede. Please understand I want those Stampede employees better trained and up to a standard that Calgarians and especially out-of-town visitors can and should expect from Stampede. Please understand that I don’t want anyone to be fired for this, my point is to improve services for others in the future, not to get back at people who wronged me. What’s the point to simply get back at people? Have better services others should experience actually is meaningful to me.

    Now a few points,

    * We parked as other cars in the lot were and there weren’t any “tow away” warning sign. In this case, Stampede SHOULD NOT had towed our car away! In a parking lot still with many spots left, you guys really went out of the way to tow my car just because you could!

    * The parking instruction was approved by Calgary Stampede, right? It is unfortunate that Stampede’s fault and mistakes in unclear instructions resulted in our car being towed. Again, it is a problem in Stampede’s thinking. Is this Calgary Stampede’s logic: “When in doubt, it is the visitors’ fault?”

    To make up for the inhospitality we received, we are willing to accept the following:

    – 2 of the your best rodeo show tickets (South Infield or VIP passes) at 1:30pm on Sat July 16th (Ticket masters still has the two South Infield tickets left when I check now)

    – 2 single-entry parking vouchers that are valid any time in 2011.

    I hope the above terms will be acceptable to Calgary Stampede.

    Alternatively, we will be delighted to accept your guarantee in getting Will and Kate to come back to Calgary this July to redo their Calgary royal tour, this time, without our car being towed by Calgary Stampede and spoiling our fun.

    I will send this to you via email to ensure prompt response as those South Infield (or VIP passes) rodeo tickets are limited on Sat July 16th .


  5. kempton says:

    6:44pm update: Calgary Stampede reiterate their original offer and it was still unwilling to redress the inhospitality we experienced to our satisfaction. I’ve resent them my last email to ensure it was not lost.

    Our request was reasonable and easiest to grant because it is completely within Stampede’s power to give as what we asked for are Calgary Stampede show tickets and parking for the event.

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