When Keith Irvine’s daughter was a toddler, she had asthma and frequently needed to sit still, with a mask over her face, breathing from a nebulizer that turned liquid medicine into a mist.
Irvine often held her in his arms sitting on the couch in their Waltham home while she inhaled the medicine, listening to songs from Irvine’s collection of 1970s music.
Neil Diamond was (and still is) Irvine’s favorite, and a few years later, when his daughter, Jennifer, was in kindergarten, Irvine took her to her first Diamond concert. She loved it.
Today, Irvine’s living room is adorned with a treasured photo of Irvine and Jennifer, now 31, dancing at her wedding, with the lyrics to their special song, Diamond’s “September Morn,” superimposed on it.
Jennifer had given it to her father.
Irvine wanted to return the favor. So when Diamond announced this year that his current tour would be his last because he has Parkinson’s disease, Irvine, 61, looked online for a Diamond memento he could give Jennifer to celebrate their shared passion.
Irvine and his wife, Mary, ordered a special commemorative plaque on Aug. 25 from Live Nation Merchandise. It was supposed to arrive within 10 business days. But it didn’t.
The souvenir is described online as a “50th Anniversary Custom Commemorative Plaque,” with a photo of a smiling, on-stage Diamond in the middle, surrounded by postage-stamp photos of the dozens of albums he has released over multiple generations. The Irvines ordered it with Jennifer’s name engraved above the words: “A Fan is a Friend Forever.”
Live Nation Merchandise immediately debited Mary Irvine’s credit card for $250 (plus taxes and shipping), but there was little communication from the company afterward.
“It’s been a horrible experience,” said Irvine, chief dispatcher for the city of Waltham’s 911 call center. “The worst part is no straight answers. We really want that plaque but dealing with them has been so difficult.”
When the package hadn’t arrived by late September, Mary Irvine fired off her first e-mail: “Can you please update me on when I should expect my order?”
The reply from Live Nation Merchandise was instantaneous and weirdly worded: “Thanks so much for your contact! An actual human representative will be in contact with you shortly!”
But “an actual human representative” never did call. That first apparently automated e-mail provided the hours of the “support center,” Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but included no phone number.
When Mary Irvine sent another e-mail in the beginning of October, she demanded, “Where is my order? Over a month late!” Live Nation Merchandise responded with another promise of prompt contact from “an actual human representative.” Again, nothing.
At that point, Keith Irvine went on Twitter and sent a direct message to Live Nation Merchandise, and got a response: “Hello, you will be hearing directly from customer service by the end of the day.”
That didn’t happen, but on Oct. 17, the Irvines received the first communication from Live Nation Merchandise that contained the faintest recognition of the problem they faced: “We apologize for the delay! It looks like we are waiting for a replenishment on an item in your order.”
“We do expect to have ALL orders fulfilled in the coming weeks, into early November,” it said.
That didn’t happen either.
I tried for days to contact the company. All I got were promises of being contacted “shortly” by a “human representative.”
Keith Irvine said he was just looking for a little straight-forward information. “If it’s not available, tell me, get me a refund, and let’s all move on,” he said.
But on Thursday night, the Irvines got an e-mail offering not only a full refund but a $100 credit. And the company promised the plaque would be shipped this week.
“We are so sorry for the extended delay with your 50th Anniversary Tour Custom Commemorative Plaque,’’ the e-mail said. “We understand how much this plaque means to you and your family. As fellow fans, we want to make it up to you!”
Seems like they have. Keith Irvine’s checking account was credited Friday night and the plaque arrived Monday morning.
“It’s as nice as I thought it would be when we ordered it,” Keith said in an e-mail Monday.
Then, on Tuesday, things got even better. A package from Los Angeles arrived at the Irvine’s house — from Neil Diamond himself. Diamond and his wife and manager, Katie, had caught wind of the shipping debacle last week and worked behind the scenes to straighten things out.
Inside was an autographed picture of Diamond signed “with love” to Jennifer and a 50th anniversary commemorative booklet dated and inscribed by Diamond to “Keith and Mary, with my best.”
“I’m just over the moon,” Keith said.
Stolen bike follow-up
Cynthia Graber filed a claim against the MBTA after her expensive bike was stolen while locked to a bike rack at the Davis Square station in August. What made her claim seem strong is that it was stolen because the T had failed to bolt down its bike racks, and that cleared the way for a thief to easily slip off her bike lock and bike.
After I wrote about it, the T fixed the racks almost immediately. That, to me, was tacit acknowledgment of the T’s responsibility. I also pointed out in the column that the T’s bike racks at nearby Porter Square and Alewife were properly bolted down, more evidence of the T’s responsibility for the lapse at Davis.
When the T refused to reimburse her for the $1,200 bike, a gift from her father, she went to small claims court. But Graber’s claim was thrown out of court last month because the law gives special consideration to public entities like the T.
There’s a higher threshold to clear when you sue the T — or another government agency — a nod in the direction of the centuries-old concept of “sovereign immunity.”
Claims can’t be filed against the T in small claims court, which has low filing fees ($50) and informal court procedures that don’t require a lawyer — it’s consumer-friendly, in other words. The T must be sued in Superior Court, where lawyers are a practical requirement.
Graber said she will probably go no further in court. Still, she told me she’s “totally thrilled” the T fixed the bike racks as a result of her going public.
“It won’t be so easy to steal bikes in the future,” she said.
But Graber said it would have been nice if someone from the T had actually said it was sorry.