Some ticket holders are furious with the Clearwater Jazz Holiday for doing little to alert them that Buddy Guy has canceled his show on Saturday night. And offering alternative tickets instead of refunds isn’t sitting so well either.
The four-day music festival of blues, pop and jazz artists starts Thursday at The Sound in Coachman Park. The venue is run by Ruth Eckerd Hall, but the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation rented The Sound for the event. They used the hall’s ticketing system, but it is the foundation that runs the weekend of shows.
Consumers have limited rights when it comes to tickets they have purchased for shows. This came up during the pandemic when a wave of artists canceled shows and promised an unnamed future makeup date. Instead of giving refunds, many venues kept the ticket money and promised to issue new tickets for the future shows.
Tickets frequently are nonrefundable, and many are nontransferable, making them harder to sell. Refunds are up to the event organizer or venue.
“They don’t have to, but I think the right stance for venues and ticket sellers is to offer consumers refunds,” said John Breyault, spokesperson for the National Consumers League.
Many venues, including Ruth Eckerd Hall, did give ticket holders refunds during the pandemic and still offer refunds for lineup changes or postponed shows if buyers don’t want a ticket for future shows, said Katie Pedretty, spokesperson for Ruth Eckerd Hall. In this case, Ruth Eckerd Hall isn’t calling the shots.
Steve Weinberger, CEO of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation, said that in a multi-act festival, artists are subject to change. They didn’t even have to offer a ticket exchange, but they did.
Ryan Marshall of Safety Harbor said this is the second time he’s had a bad experience with a change at The Sound in Coachman Park. He did get a refund on his tickets from Ruth Eckerd Hall when there was a two-hour lightning delay for the Goo Goo Dolls and OAR show. His complaint was that there had been no posts on social media or at the park about the delay. He left after an hour of no communication. He was later able to get a refund for his concert tickets but not the $20 service fee on each ticket.
A Ruth Eckerd Hall spokeswoman said there were posts on social media that day and that live stage announcements were made “once we had a better idea of wait time.”
Marshall had tickets to blues legend Guy’s show and was dismayed to learn of the cancellation Tuesday night, and that there would be no refunds. Guy, who is 87, had canceled shows going back to Sept. 2 because of unnamed health issues. His team had waited until Tuesday to alert Clearwater and St. Augustine that his Florida shows would also be canceled.
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The Jazz Holiday still has not posted any announcements on its social media sites, even though several people have asked about Guy on the event’s Facebook page. There is no announcement on its official website, which quietly changed Saturday’s lineup to remove Guy.
Weinberger, from the Jazz Holiday Foundation, said the direct email system through Ruth Eckerd Hall’s ticketing site sent to ticket holders was the fastest and most efficient way to alert them of the change.
But that doesn’t sit right with some.
“They knew there was a fairly substantial chance that the headliner may not be available to perform yet kept his name as the headliner until several days before the event to sell additional tickets,” Marshall said. “Serving a halfhearted consolation by offering tickets on short notice to performers they may not want to see, in seats that were not equal to the ones purchased, and events that customers cannot rearrange their schedules to attend is a poor look.”
Weinberger disputed that.
“We had every indication from Buddy’s team that he was a go and it was not until that day that they said he had to cancel,” Weinberger said. “So we are as disappointed as the ticket purchasers are.”
Thomas Fillion of Tampa paid $108 each for two premium reserved tickets to see Buddy Guy. He did not notice a vaguely worded email sent out from Ruth Eckerd Hall on Tuesday with the subject line “Updated Clearwater Jazz Holiday Schedule.”
“I found out about it from the article in the Tampa Bay Times,” Fillion said. “I want a refund or credit for an upcoming concert of my choice.”
The “no refunds, shows are rain or shine” policy has been prominently displayed all along, Weinberg said, as has the warning that artists are subject to change in a multi-act music festival like this.
“We understand that people are disappointed. As are we,” Weinberg said. ”But this is still a great music festival with some great acts each day.”