GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — As concerts, sporting events and theater productions fall victim to COVID-19, many angry ticket holders say they can’t get their money back.
In some cases, it’s because of changes in ticket sellers’ policies sparked by the unprecedented number of cancelled or postponed events.
Mike Gianoli of Rice Lake, Wisconsin had planned to attend the March 23rd Minnesota Wild hockey game with his family. His wife spent about $900 on tickets as a Christmas gift, buying them through the secondary ticket seller Vivid Seats.
The family had planned to make a weekend of it in the Twin Cities.
“It would have been a real good time,” Gianoli said.
But like so many other events, the Wild game was postponed due to coronavirus concerns. The NHL has yet to officially cancel or set a new date.
Gianoli wanted his money back, but was informed by Vivid Seats that wouldn’t be possible. The ticket agency was offering credit for cancelled events – but no refunds for postponed games.
“I don’t know if I’m going to want to go back to that game when it’s rescheduled,” Gianoli said. “Until they find an antibody or they get a miracle cure, you don’t want to go into a crowded stadium.”
“They should cancel. Give us our refunds,” Mike said. “I like the money in my wallet rather than theirs.”
Gianoli’s experience is becoming common across the country. Frustrated ticket holders enraged at policies that force them to attend events that have yet to be rescheduled or lose money.
A Wisconsin man filed a federal lawsuit against Stub Hub because of their policy. During the COVID crisis Stub Hub is giving credits rather than refunds for cancelled events. For events which are postponed, even if no future date has been announced, people have been told to hold onto their tickets.
Ticketmaster sparked outrage by changing their refund policy to say only “cancelled events are automatically refunded.” The policy used to offer refunds for postponed or rescheduled events as well. Ticketmaster says they are waiting for guidance from the event sponsors.
Live Nation which owns Ticketmaster said in a statement to KARE 11 the “unprecedented volume of over 30,000 events impacted…has led to event organizers needing additional time to reschedule their events before deciding to offer refund options.”
The Wild tells KARE 11 ticket holders who purchased through Ticketmaster, their official seller, could get refunds.
Family plans for Frozen
Susan Volek of Belle Plaine says she had a hard time even getting through to someone at Ticketmaster after theater production of Disney's Frozen at the Orpheum Theatre was postponed.
She had planned to take her kids and granddaughters. The family had bought six tickets costing hundreds of dollars. But she says Ticketmaster won’t refund her money.
“I understand this isn’t the ticket agencies, they didn’t bring this on themselves. But the people didn’t either,” Susan said.
Finding a date that worked for the whole family was hard enough the first time. She doubts they’ll be able to find another date that works - or that they would feel safe going to a theater.
Hennepin Theatre Trust which puts on Frozen told KARE 11 it is still trying to schedule new dates. They say they understand customers’ concerns. “Postponing and rescheduling events provides ticket holders an alternative to attend at a later date. Obviously, new dates won’t always work for everyone. We work directly with those ticket holders,” a spokesman said.
They advised those with tickets to contact them at through their website if they wished to receive a refund, although the spokesman cautioned there could be delays.
How to protect yourself
So, what can consumers do to protect themselves?
KARE 11 asked Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office. A spokesman told us there is no specific law in Minnesota addressing the issue. Because of that "the ticket seller’s policies or terms and conditions for the sale are generally going to dictate what the sellers and buyers’ rights and responsibilities are."
The Attorney General's office had this recommendation. "If people want refunds for canceled or postponed shows, our office’s advice is first to dispute the charges for the tickets with their credit card company. If that doesn’t result in a refund, they could fill out a Consumer Assistance Request Form with our office and we would try to mediate the problem with the seller to get them a refund."
Unlike Minnesota, Wisconsin does have a law that generally requires promoters to provide refunds when events aren’t held on their originally scheduled date.
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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
There is also a data portal online at mn.gov/covid19.