After organizers cancelled the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, they refused to give Donna Dandrea and her husband a refund. Can they do that?

Q: In 2019, we bought VIP tickets to the 2020 Tampa Bay Blues Festival. Because of COVID-19, organizers have rescheduled the festival twice. Along this two-year journey, ticket holders were twice offered refunds or to “roll” them over to the next year — and then the next year. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen medical issues with my husband in late 2020, we are now asking for a refund. The organizers will not respond to voice messages or emails other than a “form” letter denying our refund request.

I would like my $1,000 refunded since my husband’s doctor has told us to refrain from going to concerts. — Donna Dandrea, Estell Manor, N.J.

A: I’m sorry about your husband’s condition. If the organizers offered a refund, they should send you one promptly. But did they?

You sent a Facebook post which you say showed that the organizers had offered a refund. It seemed like an open-and-shut case. But like so many other cases during the pandemic, there was more to this.

Typically, concert tickets are nonrefundable. You can buy insurance to protect you from a cancellation, and you can always try to resell your tickets. But once you buy a concert or music festival ticket, you own it.

I asked the organizers about that Facebook post. A festival representative said the original post “was intended to alert folks of the festival postponement order” by Tampa officials.

“We had no idea at that time whether the entire festival could be salvaged,” he added. “This was early in the COVID-19 crisis, and no one knew much about our collective futures.”

But soon after that, the organizers of the Tampa Bay Blues Festival rescheduled the entire event. They even included the original artists.

If the event had been canceled, then everyone would have received a refund, the representative added. “Fortunately, such a total cancellation did not occur.”

The terms of your purchase were clear: Your tickets were nonrefundable. The organizers also believed the terms allowed them to reschedule the event and not offer a refund. According to the organizers, a social media post does not eliminate any contractual arrangements with you.

I disagree. The event didn’t take place on the day it had been scheduled. In my book, that is a cancellation. The event organizers are treating this as they would a brief rain delay. But the event has been rescheduled to April 8, 2022. That’s a lot of rain!

What’s more, the organizers should have been compassionate about your circumstances. If your husband’s health has deteriorated and you can no longer attend the festival, that should count for something.

I contacted the Tampa Bay Blues Festival on your behalf. The organizers offered to help you resell your tickets. But unfortunately, they refused your request for a refund. I recommend asking your bank if it might allow you to dispute your credit card charges.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help

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