Can Vivid Seats keep your money for a canceled show? Douglas Himberger would really like to know. Before the pandemic, he paid $689 for two tickets to a Jerry Seinfeld show in Atlantic City. The event kept getting postponed — and now he can’t get his money back.
Vivid Seats, a ticket exchange and resale company, should have refunded the money a long time ago. So why is it holding on to Himberger’s money? And what does that mean for the rest of us who are trying to get our money back for shows that were canceled during the pandemic?
Himberger’s case is about more than a company that tries to keep your money. It’s also about credit card disputes and when to use them.
What happened to these Vivid Seats tickets?
Himberger planned to travel to Atlantic City in July 2020 for the show. But a couple of days before, the venue canceled the show.
The hotel gave me a refund for our room even though it was too close to the show date,” he says.
But he couldn’t get through to anyone at Vivid Seats.
I tried emailing and calling. There was absolutely no way to talk to a human. I couldn’t even find out if they offered a credit or refund,” he says.
Himberger checked this site for executive contacts but couldn’t find any. (We’ve published them since then; here are the executive contacts for Vivid Seats.)
And then he did something he regrets.
“I know my next step wasn’t what you advise.”
Himberger was desperate to get a refund, and Vivid Seats wouldn’t respond to his queries.
I know my next step wasn’t what you advise, but I went to Discover for relief by filing a credit card dispute,” he says. “After all, Vivid Seats didn’t deliver any product and charged us nearly $700.”
But six months later, Discover found that the charge was valid. It wasn’t much of a dispute resolution. Discover asked the company for details of the transaction and the company sent Discover a copy of the credit card transaction.
But all was not lost, according to Vivid Seats.
Vivid Seats then sent me an email saying we had a credit — something they had never said in all those months,” he says. “While a credit would seem reasonable under normal circumstances, I feel we should receive a refund. It’s been two years, and it’s not clear that we will be able to use the credit in 2022 because of the continuing pandemic.”
Himberger is unhappy with that resolution. The Seinfeld show, originally scheduled for April 2020, had been postponed to August and finally July 2021.
That’s over 18 months after we bought the tickets,” he says.
Should he get a full refund after Seinfeld canceled his first show?
Did the company have to return Himberger’s money? Not according to the terms of his Vivid Seats purchase
To get a refund, your show must be canceled, and Vivid Seats gets to determine if something is canceled. If it’s just postponed or rescheduled, tickets “will not be refunded or otherwise compensated by Vivid Seats except in jurisdictions where it is required by law.”
So you have to live in California to get your money back. Himberger lives in Virginia.
There’s also a “100% Buyer Guarantee” that looks oh-so-good. It offers “peace of mind, safety and security.”
I dug a little deeper. These were the terms when Himberger bought his tickets. Vivid Seats didn’t update them to make it harder to get a refund, post-pandemic.
I’ve written about some operators who did that during the pandemic, which is the worst kind of customer disservice. But the company was just following its rules.
I’m unhappy about the way Vivid Seats and other ticket sellers have been handling their pandemic events. I’ve written several stories about shows that kept getting postponed. Event organizers apparently hoped to keep the ticket money.
- He ordered three tickets from Vivid Seats but only got two
- She canceled her Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan tickets because of COVID. Then this happened
During the pandemic, ticket sellers played word games, saying they were simply “rescheduling” their performances. In fact, they were canceling their shows and then scheduling new ones, but forcing everyone to attend the new show even if it wasn’t convenient or they didn’t feel safe.
Under these circumstances, I think a credit card dispute is absolutely fine. Vivid Seats sold Himberger a show on a specific day, but Seinfeld postponed the show several times. That’s not funny. And Discover — Discover! — should have advocated for him instead of rolling over.
We list the names, numbers, and email addresses of the Discover executives on this site.
Is Vivid Seats owned by Ticketmaster?
Over the last several months, our advocacy team has received several questions about Vivid Seats. One of them is about the company’s ownership. Based on the behavior of the company, people assume it’s a subsidiary of Ticketmaster. But it isn’t. Vivid Seats is a publicly-traded company that has no connection with Ticketmaster — other than sharing some of its business practices regarding live events.
Is Vivid Seats a third party?
Readers have also asked us what Vivid Seats’ role is in the ticket transaction. It’s a third party, taking a 10 percent commission on tickets it sells, plus shipping charges and “service” fees of anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. No wonder its tickets are so expensive!
Should you buy your event tickets through Vivid Seats?
So should you buy tickets for live events through Vivid Seats? It depends. Tickets for some events are impossible to come by, so you may only find them on the company’s site. But if you’re looking for a lower price, then you might want to skip Vivid Seats, which adds commissions and fees to its tickets. Buy directly from the venue.
How to avoid a refund debacle on Vivid Seats
Himberger’s problem was preventable. Here are a few strategies worth remembering the next time you have a postponed event.
- Before you buy your tickets, read the terms carefully. Had Himberger taken a look at the conditions of his purchase, he might have had second thoughts about the vague verbiage. Under the current terms, an event organizer can just continue postponing a show — and keep your money.
- Keep your correspondence in writing. Don’t try to call Vivid Seats (or any other ticket reseller, for that matter). Keeping everything in writing gives you the paper trail you’ll need if the company isn’t resolving your issue. If you do happen to make a call, record it (where legal). Keep a transcript and offer to show it to the company if it ever claims that you “misunderstood” it.
- Don’t be afraid of a credit card dispute, but … Himberger filed a dispute with Discover. His mistake wasn’t that he filed the dispute, but rather that he made the purchase using a card that wouldn’t back him up. We also get complaints about banks with Visa cards not helping customers during a dispute. I’m told American Express almost always sides with its customers in a dispute.
By the way, if you’re stuck in a similar situation as Himberger, you might be entitled to refund under a recent court settlement.
And here’s your refund
I contacted Vivid Seats on Himberger’s behalf about his event tickets. The company reviewed his case and agreed to refund his tickets. Hopefully, the pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and multiple postponements like this will never happen again. But you never know.