I’m seeing red after car bomb refund fizzles

By | May 17th, 2010

Note: This is the debut of a new feature, in which I’ll be troubleshooting general consumer complaints. Got a problem? Send it my way. I’ll do my best to help.

Question: I had tickets to see the Broadway show Red at the Golden Theatre in New York on May 1. Unfortunately, that was also the day a car bomber tried to strike in Times Square, so I couldn’t get to the theater unless I wanted to try to break through a police barricade.

When I phoned the next day to ask for a refund, I was told by Telecharge that the the Shubert Organization, which owns the theater, was refusing to give refunds. A surly representative said I could try sending an e-mail to Telecharge but they have not even had the courtesy to reply. I’ve read about some people from out of town who received refunds, but apparently not those with tickets to shows in Shubert-owned theaters.

I am an adjunct professor at a Chicago university and a widow and buying that ticket was a real splurge, but because I teach art history, I really wanted to see it. I can’t believe that Shubert is taking the opportunity provided by this unfortunate incident to take advantage of tourists and use a terror attack for their own profit.

I would hope that you could publicize the fact that not all theater owners are being as cooperative as those who have been cited in recent articles. Some are apparently too consumed by greed. In the early years after the 9/11 attacks when New York was in dire need of tourist dollars, I found the city very welcoming. Now that things have normalized, it’s open season to prey on tourists.

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Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, Chicago

Answer: You should have received a refund for your show. And even if you didn’t, the representative you spoke with shouldn’t have been surly.

The night of May 1 was a chaotic one on Broadway. According to some accounts, half the seats were empty because patrons were blocked from making it to the performances. Refunds were being issued on a case-by-case basis, but in your case, the answer appeared to be “no.”

The Golden Theatre doesn’t list the terms of its ticket purchases on its site, but Telecharge does. “If you have already completed your order, you cannot return any of the tickets,” it says. “They are nonrefundable.”

The Shubert organization didn’t have to authorize refunds after the car bomb. But since many of its customers couldn’t get to the show through no fault of their own, it might have been nice for it to exchange their tickets for a day when they could make it.

Why do theaters take a hard line on refunds? Because your ticket is a perishable commodity. Once the curtain rises, your seat can’t be re-sold — it’s gone.

But attempted car bomb attacks don’t happen every day. The theater should have a heart.

I contacted the Shubert organization on your behalf. As it turns out, the theater owners had authorized refunds or exchanges to anyone who requested one.

“This information was relayed to customer service fairly early Sunday morning,” said Mary Breilid, Shubert’s theatre operations director. “Naturally, nothing was done Saturday evening because there was a rather frightening event which was on-going.”

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There’s an explanation for the rude agent, too.

“I do not wish to defend his surliness — because there is no excuse for it and we do not wish for our patrons to be subjected to rudeness — but perhaps he was inundated with calls that day,” she told me. “I have been in touch with his supervisor, and he has been reminded to treat all customers with the respect and courtesy they deserve.”

You’ll be getting a full refund for your tickets.

(Photo: Stuck in Customs/Flickr Creative Commons)

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