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Got tickets to a canceled or postponed event? Here’s how to get a refund

Some Tampa Bay venues are offering swift refunds for concert and event tickets. Others are not.
Fans cheer at the 2019 Reggae Rise Up Festival in St. Petersburg. The 2020 event was postponed from March until October, and organizers decided not to issue refunds.
Fans cheer at the 2019 Reggae Rise Up Festival in St. Petersburg. The 2020 event was postponed from March until October, and organizers decided not to issue refunds. [ Jessica Bernstein ]
Published Apr. 21, 2020|Updated Apr. 23, 2020

For his wife Lisa’s 60th birthday, Rick DeWitt in February purchased a VIP ticket to the Tampa Bay Blues Festival. They would fly to St. Petersburg from Westcliffe, Colo., in early April and meet up with friends for a day of music by the water.

Less than three weeks later, the festival was postponed due to the coronavirus. Organizers assured ticketholders that “arrangements will be made to return monies paid to us," according to a statement posted to Facebook.

Not long after, though, that policy changed. When Lisa DeWitt reached out about a refund, she was told no refunds would be offered — her tickets would instead be good for the 2021 festival. That original Facebook statement, which she’d screenshotted, was gone within 24 hours.

“These ‘no refund’ policies, when the event is rescheduled, are clearly noted on our ‘Ticket Information’ language on our website and was a condition of every online sale through Etix,” the festival’s website now states.

“I’m $550 into it,” DeWitt said. “If they would just give me the money back like they said they would in the first place, everything would be fine. But they keep changing their story.”

It’s a story that might sound familiar to anyone who’s had tickets to an event canceled or postponed by COVID-19.

Related: Coronavirus event cancellations in Tampa Bay

With tens of thousands of concerts, festivals and sporting events shut down from March through the foreseeable future, many consumers are getting antsy about whether they can get refunds for their tickets.

On April 17, Ticketmaster President Jarred Smith tweeted that the company does not “intend to withhold refunds on postponed shows.” That has not stopped New York state officials from launching an investigation into whether the company subtly changed its refund policy in the wake of COVID-19. (The company has said it was a clarification, not a change.) And it has not stopped two members of Congress, Democrats Katie Porter and Bill Pascrell Jr., from calling upon Ticketmaster to refund everything.

According to Variety, two major promoters, Live Nation and AEG, have initiated a refund program that will kick into place May 1. If a concert is canceled, fans will either be automatically refunded, or in some cases must request a refund.

If, however, a concert is postponed to a new date, ticketholders will have 30 days from that point to request a refund through Live Nation-owned sites (like Ticketmaster) or AEG-owned sites (like AXS). Ticketmaster has also said it will waive its seller fees for resale postings created through May 31.

“Exact offers will vary based on show and venue,” reads a Live Nation statement obtained by Variety, “and will be shared directly with ticketholders when they are available, beginning May 1.”

Related: Had tickets to a now canceled sports event? Here's how to get a refund

In an email, Tampa Bay Blues Festival president Charles Ross said the festival initially tried to refund buyers who couldn’t attend the rescheduled festival “for serious reasons like medical events, family commitments, etc.," but it became “too complicated to interface with the buyers, so we chose to follow our published procedures.” They did change their policies to allow ticketholders to resell passes to a third party.

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“We are pleased to report that the vast majority of purchasers understood the delay was strictly for their personal safety, and they have worked with us on the rescheduled dates,” Ross said, adding that most 2020 performers, including Aaron Neville and Jimmie Vaughan, have been re-booked for 2021. “Under these extreme circumstances, it’s as close to a win-win as we could fashion."

It doesn’t feel that way to DeWitt, who has started a private Facebook group, “TBBF We Want Our Refund,” for ticketholders to vent about the festival’s refund policy.

“I don’t know what next April is going to bring, and whether or not I can travel from Colorado,” she said. “I understand their plight, but they also publicize that they sell out their VIP tickets every year. So why can’t they just refund our money, like they said they were going to, and sell to someone else?”

What about my show?

In general, tickets purchased for an event that’s been canceled can be refunded. For most online purchases, that will happen automatically, but it’s good to confirm that through the retailer or venue. Most tickets to postponed events will be honored on the new date.

“Our hope is they choose to come to a show because we look forward to them having a great experience with the artists,” Ruth Eckerd Hall president and CEO Susan Crockett. “It’s why we do what we do.”

One caveat: Many organizations have closed or changed their box office hours; those that are open may be dealing with high call volume. And some venues require you to wait until a new date has been announced before inquiring about a refund. So if you can’t get answers immediately, be patient.

Here’s how some Tampa Bay venues and entities are handling ticket refunds. If there’s an organization not on this list, and you want to know whether you can get a refund, contact us here, and we’ll try to add it.

Venue and organizations

Amalie Arena: It’s a confusing time to be a ticketholder at Amalie Arena, between events being postponed, moved, canceled — and then there’s the Lightning, who have their own ticket refund policy. The arena has outlined what’s going on with each of its events here.

Florida Orchestra: The orchestra, like other nonprofits, is encouraging people to consider donating the cost of their ticket, or exchange it for credit for a future performance. But those specifically requesting refunds can get them by contacting (727) 892-3337 or ticketcenter@floridaorchestra.org.

Mahaffey Theater: Tickets to postponed shows will be honored on the new dates. The theater is asking fans who can’t attend those performances to leave a message at the box office at (727) 892-5721. Click here for details.

MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre: Live Nation, which owns the amphitheater and promotes shows around Tampa Bay, has created a website where fans can search shows that have been postponed or canceled. More details are outlined in Live Nation’s ticket policy. For help, click this link.

The Palladium: The St. Petersburg theater, like a lot of venues, is asking patrons to consider keeping their tickets, exchanging them for credit or donating the cost to its programs. But it is also allowing ticketholders to request refunds. Click here for details.

Raymond James Stadium: Refunds are already available for the Sunset Music Festival (see below) and Tampa Bay Vipers. Refunds will be available for Kenny Chesney, once a new date is announced. The Rolling Stones, who have pushed back their July 5 show, have not yet announced whether refunds are available. Click here.

Ruth Eckerd Hall: Refunds are available for all postponed or canceled shows programmed by Ruth Eckerd Hall, including those at the Bilheimer Capitol Theatre and other venues. Ticketholders may also keep their tickets for new dates, receive credit for another show, or donate the cost to the venue’s nonprofit missions. Click here for details.

David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts: The Straz Center has always offered ticket refunds for canceled or postponed events, and is keeping that policy during the pandemic. Ticketholders may also choose to donate the value of their ticket to benefit an organization like Opera Tampa or the Patel Conservatory, or receive credit for a future show. Contact comments@strazcenter for more options. Click here for details.

Tampa Theatre: At the moment, ticketholders may receive refunds for events that have been canceled. For events that have been postponed, they must wait for the new date before contacting the box office about refund options. In the meantime, contact gargoyles@tampatheatre.org for information. Click here for details.

Festivals

Sunset Music Festival: After the massive electronic music festival at Raymond James Stadium was postponed from May 23-24 to July 3-4, organizers promised “tickets will be 100 percent refunded in entirety, including service fees” — but only until April 24. Click here for details.

Tampa Bay Blues Festival: After initially announcing tickets to the 2020 event could be refunded, organizers decided that won’t be the case. They will, however, assist in reselling tickets for those who cannot attend on April 9-11, 2021. Click here for details.

Reggae Rise Up: Upon postponing their event from March until Oct. 2-4, the St. Petersburg reggae-rock festival announced there would be no refunds (which is in keeping with their normal rain-or-shine ticket policy). However, because of some lineup changes for the new dates, organizers are allowing some ticketholders to swap their daily tickets as follows: Friday tickets may be swapped for Sunday tickets (and vice versa), and GA Friday-Saturday tickets may be swapped for GA Saturday-Sunday tickets (and vice versa). Click here for details.

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