In February, Michael Bond purchased tickets to a concert scheduled to take place in April at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia.
As is the case in all his concert and travel purchases, Bond also bought insurance with Allianz Global Assistance, the industry’s premier coverage provider.
Then the coronavirus struck.
“The Birchmere postponed the concert until August, but we have other commitments with our grandchildren,” Bond said.
When Bond reached out to Allianz, he was told that “the fine print in the insurance agreement” negates any refund.
“You should have known about the coronavirus, it was in China,” Bond said an Allianz representative told him.
The Bond family isn’t alone, and neither are D.C. residents.
At City Winery in Philadelphia, a family of five also purchased tickets in February for a Sheila E. concert scheduled for April 17.
The family had been visiting the City of Brotherly Love and checked their schedules and realized that they’d indeed be able to return to the area for the concert. They proceeded to purchase tickets that totaled roughly $300.
Recently, the family received this email message from City Winery Box Office Manager Justin Dye:
“Please be advised that due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions, the Sheila E. performance has been postponed. As soon as we get a new date locked in, we will be reaching out to you with options that will be available.”
When the family responded that they were facing financial difficulties because of the pandemic, the response was equally unsettling.
“Thank you for reaching out to the Philadelphia Concierge Team, your email is important to us,” was the automatic reply received by Ben Griffith, who originally planned to make a second trip into the city from Ohio to see Sheila E.
“As we closely monitor the current situation, our team is communicating to the best of our ability,” the email from City Winery noted. “Our staff is limited and working around the clock to ensure everyone’s safety and to provide the most up to date information we can regarding the status of upcoming shows and events.”
“We called, we emailed. There’s been nothing,” said Griffith, who purchased tickets in February as a treat to his family, which includes his two daughters, both aspiring drummers.
“They don’t want to give us our money back,” Griffith said. “You’d think in the interest of their business, and because this pandemic is causing problems for so many people financially, they’d give you your money back. It’s not like they went through with the show. It’s our money, and frankly, we can use it to buy food or something else that might be needed.”
Eileen McNamara Lash, of Fredonia, New York, told The New York Times that she spent days on the phone trying to get refunds for another event.
“I just put the phone down on speaker and just let it go for a couple of hours,” she said. “At one point, it actually died on me, and that’s why I had to disconnect and then start over the next night.”
City Winery CEO Michael Dorf did not return requests for comment.
Throughout the nation, concerts, events and even Broadway shows have been canceled or postponed. Some have complied with refund requests, while others have balked.
When the NCAA canceled its famed March Madness tournament, the organization said refunds, except applicable fees, would be issued within 30 dates of the cancellation.
On Broadway, where all shows have shut down indefinitely, the refund process has been described as painless.
Kristina Aquilina, who had two tickets to “Come From Away,” walked into the box office of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theater and was told that Telecharge, the vendor from which she had bought the tickets, had already granted her a refund, according to the New York Times.
Notices posted by the Shubert Organization, the largest landlord on Broadway, revealed that most purchases would be refunded automatically to the buyer’s credit card.
If the ticketholder purchased through a source separate from Telecharge, the box office, the discount TKTS booth, or the nonprofit Theater Development Fund, that person would have to go directly to the vendor.
StubHub, a marketplace for third-party ticket sellers, sent an email offering customers that purchased tickets to now-canceled events a “coupon worth 120 percent of your original order to go to the live event of your choice within the next 12 months.”
“Alternatively, you can choose to receive a full refund for the original order amount (including service and delivery fees) to the original payment method,” the company said.
However, officials at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, were among the more challenging.
“We have a strict no-refund policy on badges,” South by Southwest officials noted in a statement.
The badges cost as much as $1,725, and the company said it would consider offering a deferral of the badge until next year or two years after that.
The Ultra Music Festival that takes place in Miami told ticket-holders that they would not issue refunds to the canceled event.
There is now hope that Ultra officials will change their minds after Miami-Dade officials declared that all venues must close.
“We completely understand how extremely frustrating this is because so many of you are looking forward to coming to Ultra, having already made travel arrangements,” Ultra officials wrote in a statement posted on its website. “This is, however, an unprecedented issue which is not being taken lightly, and we must continue to defer to the authorities for guidance. Ultimately, there is no higher priority for us than the health, safety, and physical well-being of each of you, together with everyone else involved in the production of the event. All ticket purchasers will be contacted by email regarding the next steps.”