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Gephardt: When the show won’t go on, what recourse do you have for a refund?

By Matt Gephardt and Sloan Schrage, KSL TV | Posted - Apr. 28, 2020 at 12:17 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – This pandemic is changing all our plans. Many eagerly anticipated shows and events have been canceled or postponed. But the KSL Investigators have heard from many Utahns who say they can’t get a refund on those shows.

The law is clear: If you pay for a product and you don’t get it, you are due a refund. But as millions of Americans are learning the hard way, there is an important exception to the rule – tickets.

A birthday splurge

Shauntele Curry-Smid had a huge night planned for her family on March 21st. She spent over $800 on four tickets to see hip-hop / R&B superstar Post Malone at Vivint Smart Home Arena, as a birthday gift for her son.

“We’re huge fans and you know, we think of him as a local,” said Curry-Smid. “We just thought we’ll splurge and spend the money and budget, and make it happen.”

Of course, it didn’t happen with COVID-19 shutting down all gatherings larger than ten people. Curry-Smid said she wanted a refund so she could give the money to her son who has lost hours at work.

She bought the tickets through third-party ticket broker Vivid Seats.

“I asked what the options were, and they said that there aren’t any, that it hasn’t been canceled, so they can’t refund my money,” she said.

Vivid Seats advertises a generous refund policy, but only for shows that are canceled, not postponed – even if the shows are postponed until who-knows-when.

Shauntele Curry-Smid bought four tickets to the postponed Post Malone concert, but isn’t able to get her $809 refunded. (Photo: KSL TV)

For now, she’s stuck waiting for event organizers to set a new date or finally nix a concert scheduled to happen over a month ago.

“I’m not unreasonable and I suspect I’m not the only,” Curry-Smid said. “There’s got to be a bunch of other people that are saying, ‘Do something.’”

“Unfortunately, an awful lot of us have had plans canceled due to the coronavirus and an awful lot of us have lost money,” said Ted Rossman of Bankrate.com.

The industry analyst said the numbers are staggering.

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 62% of people had plans that coronavirus has forced to be either canceled or postponed. The losses to consumers will likely be in the billions.

The study also says, “Among all U.S. adults who had laid out money for canceled plans, only 30% will receive a full refund.”

Still, Rossman says it never hurts to ask because some folks have had luck with partial refunds.

“You could also potentially offer an alternative,” suggested Rossman. “Tell the company, ‘Hey, I know you can’t give me a refund, but could you at least give me a future credit for a different event?’”

For shows, concerts and sporting events not going on as scheduled, while it is not the venue’s fault, it is certainly not the fan’s fault either and they paid for a product they did not get.

So how can refunds be legally withheld? The answer KSL heard over and over – take a look at the terms and conditions.

Read the fine print

The tickets we buy often come with a no-refund policy. That’s especially true for events held by arts organizations.

Others only offer refunds if an event is officially canceled. An event postponed indefinitely is still considered a good ticket, meaning you legally got what you paid for.

KSL found artists, venues, promoters and ticket sellers do have some leeway.

For example, Taylor Swift announced last week that she will offer refunds after postponing all her 2020 shows because of the pandemic.

Ticketmaster, the official ticket seller for Post Malone and thousands of other events – enraged ticket holders when it changed its policy at the start of the outbreak to make it harder for fans to get refunds. But after a huge amount of backlash, the ticket seller giant changed its policy again.

Many ticket sellers are refusing refunds for postponed shows, saying the tickets are still valid for a rescheduled show. Ticketmaster recently announced it will grant refunds for some postponed shows that have a new date. (Photo: KSL TV)

It will now issue refunds for postponed events by Live Nation (Ticketmaster’s parent company) performers, including Taylor Swift and Post Malone, that have a new date.

In an email to KSL, a Ticketmaster spokesperson said it is “working with event organizers as quickly as possible to issue refunds for postponed and rescheduled events that have been impacted by COVID-19. Over 50,000 have been canceled, postponed and rescheduled globally on Ticketmaster’s platform. To date, we have already secured authorization to offer refunds for over 60% of them.”

While the move could be welcome news for many frustrated ticket holders, it is still no help to Curry-Smid since she bought her tickets from a third-party site.

KSL reached out to Vivid Seats on her behalf, and it is holding firm.

“The customer still has a valid ticket,” a spokesperson wrote. “If the status of the event changes and the tickets are no longer valid, customers will be immediately contacted by Vivid Seats with their refund or credit options.”

“There’s got to be some type of system when this happens,” said Curry-Smid. “Let us know that there is going to be another concert but if there’s not a date and it’s been this long – cancel it, something. Just don’t leave people in limbo.”

Razor-edge profit margin

Frustrated Utah theater fans are also being told, “Sorry, no refunds.”

“Nobody could plan for a pandemic,” said Sally Dietlein, co-founder and artistic director for Hale Center Theater.

The theater abruptly halted two productions, “Strictly Ballroom” and “Bright Star” when the state shut down entertainment venues because of COVID-19, and plans to postpone several others.

“We cannot know when we can open again,” said Dietlein. “There is no way we can understand when people can sit next to each other again and feel comfortable.”

Dietlein said the hard reality is arts programs all operate on razor-thin budgets. Offering refunds, even for canceled shows, would put those programs in jeopardy.

Sally Dietlein explains to Matt Gephardt why Hale Center Theater isn’t able to offer refunds for every canceled ticket. (Photo: KSL TV)

But you can get a credit towards a future production.

“It’s because that money has already been spent in producing that particular thing and so it’s gone. But we can give that seat to you in another show,” she explained.

The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is another non-profit arts organization that says it cannot issue refunds for its canceled performances. They had to close out the rest of the current season in mid-March.

“We had about a $1,000,000 worth of tickets outstanding and it would absolutely bring us to our knees to have to refund that money,” said interim President and CEO Patricia Richards.

On its website, the Utah Symphony | Utah Orchestra is offering another choice to patrons besides exchanging their tickets for a different show for when performances start again. Ticket holders can donate the cost of those tickets back to the organization and Richards says many are taking them up on that offer.

“It would be very important in helping us get through this downtime and have the resources to start up again when we’re able to perform live again,” said Richards.

COVID-19 sidelined the entire run of “Disney’s Frozen” at Eccles Theater, yet it’s still considered postponed. ArtTix, which is run by Salt Lake County Arts and Culture and sells tickets for Eccles and several other county venues, says it can’t refund those tickets yet.

“We are the ticket seller, the presenter is the ticket owner,” said county Arts and Culture spokesperson Cami Munk. “They have the final say in how their tickets are handled. So, we just are processing tickets as people are requesting a refund, or we’re asking people to hold on to their tickets for new show dates.”

On its website, Eccles says if it’s not able to get a new date for “Disney’s Frozen,” ticket holders will be notified and offered credits and/or refunds.

“What’s been really awesome to watch is that season ticket renewals are still renewed at a high rate. So, people are planning and for the future and planning on attending live events,” said Munk.

Right now, many people with tickets to sporting events may be feeling the same sort of limbo as Curry-Smid.

Games on hold

Sporting events are also on hold.

But while Major League Soccer halted all games, Real Salt Lake’s Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll said it’s too early for refunds or credits on season tickets.

Empty seats at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Photo: KSL TV)

“As we get more details, we can work through that with our fans,” said Carroll. “Last month, we offered our season ticket members the opportunity for deferred payments. We had less than 10% of the fans take us up on that. Our fans have been very patient, and we appreciate that.”

A full season is still in the works, although pushed back until June 8th for now. But getting all the venues, vendors and concessionaires on the same page is really complicated – not to mention the other teams.

“We’ve got 25 other markets where they’re trying to figure out what does it (the season), and how does this work and how do we reschedule everything,” said Carroll.

As far as single game tickets go, Carroll says they plan to work through credits.

“If there’s a game that we have that they couldn’t make, then we’ll obviously have to figure out how to get a refund for sure,” he said.

Venue by venue ticket information

Here’s how some venues are handling ticket refunds.

Vivint Smart Home Arena

Vivint says it remains in a holding pattern with the NBA for Jazz games and different promoters for concerts and events. No games have been canceled and most events have only been postponed. They’re waiting on cancelation or rescheduled dates, then there will be variable options for ticket holders to use their tickets, seek refunds or get credit.

The Depot

Most events have been postponed, some even have new dates, while several shows have been canceled. Tickets bought for performers with canceled shows can be refunded where they were bought, but just the sheer volume or requests for its nationwide ticket seller means it can take 30 days.

George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Theater

Eccles Theater is asking patrons to hold on to their Broadway-at-the-Eccles tickets as they work out new dates for “Disney’s Frozen” and other shows. Holders of canceled performances of “Dear Evan Hansen” will be refunded minus ticket processing fees.

For other performances outside the Broadway-at-the-Eccles program, ticket seller ArtTix says it will work with shows and presenters to determine what rescheduling or refund options there will be.

Maverik Center

The Maverik Center has posted a running list of postponed, rescheduled or canceled events. Inquiries about refunds should go to the center’s box office at (801) 988-8888. Tickets for several events have been sold through Smith’s Tix, for refunds contact (800) 888-TIXX or customerservice@smithstix.com

Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theater, Rose Wagner, Mid-Valley Performing Arts Center

These venues fall under the Salt Lake County Arts and Culture program, with tickets sold by ArtTix. Refund options vary from presenters and venues so inquiries can go to 801-355-2787 or to arttix@slco.org

USANA Amphitheater

Performances booked at the USANA Amphitheater fall under the Live Nation umbrella, which will refund canceled and postponed events that have a new date. As of right now, USANA has no canceled or postponed events but as COVID-19 is pretty fluid, that could change.

Hale Center Theater

Hale Center Theater says it will contact ticket holders to reschedule their tickets as soon as it knows when it can reopen. Refunds are not available, but patrons can use their existing tickets for a future show or exchange them for a gift card.

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera

All tickets to canceled performances that cannot be rescheduled can be exchanged, dollar-for-dollar, for a gift certificate. Patrons are asked to consider donating those gift certificates back to the program.

Utah Shakespeare Festival

Festival organizers tell us they’re offering patrons full, unrestricted refunds to any tickets for the 2020 season at any time. They’ve waived all box office exchange fees for the entire season. Refund inquiries should go to the box office at: 800-PLAYTIX or guestservices@bard.org.

Tuacahn Amphitheater

Tuachan says it will reach out to ticket holders to reschedule tickets. If you’re not able to attend the new date, you can get a gift card that will be valid for any performance in the next 18 months as opposed to a refund. You can reach their box office at 435-652-3300 or boxoffice@tuacahn.org.

Wiseguys Live Comedy

Wiseguys tells us they have already refunded $200,000 in tickets, and will refund any ticket for all shows impacted by COVID-19. Refunds will automatically go to the card used to purchase the tickets. Anyone with questions has been asked to contact wiseguys2001@gmail.com

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