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Locked Down and Locked Out—How to Get a Refund

The coronavirus pandemic has no doubt caused unprecedented financial disruption for all of us. One aftereffect is the dilemma of what to do about getting refunds. Consumers are anxious about how to get money back for things they’ve already planned and paid for before our new reclusive social order. Maybe it’s tickets to the theatre or a sporting event. Maybe it’s air travel. Or, many question why people are paying for car insurance in a world where we’re doing a lot less driving.

Let’s look at each of these scenarios to find some resolution.

EVENTS

Many special events, outdoor festivals, Broadway plays and concerts you booked to see are now canceled. As states around the country begin to reopen, it looks like it will take some time until things are totally back to normal in the entertainment industry. Make sure to check your ticketing company for information about refunds and ticket credits.

Ticketing brokers such as Ticketmaster will issue you a full refund for all canceled events. Entertainment website Vulture has information about refunds and reschedulings for other ticketing sites, such as Live Nation, Vivid Seats, SeatGeek and AEG Presents.

For major sporting events: The National Hockey League’s and the National Basketball Association’s games were stopped just as their seasons were approaching the playoffs. Major League Baseball shut down in the middle of spring training. For refunds, a team-centered policy is in effect—check with the team you purchased the tickets from.

According to Law360, major sports leagues are holding out hope that they will be able to make up games postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, attorneys say their reluctance to offer full ticket refunds could invite lawsuits from fans and scrutiny from lawmakers. Upcoming seasons for all sports leagues could be disrupted or shortened, or played without fans in attendance. “That means some ticket holders will be demanding their money back, creating legal risks for leagues, individual teams and ticketing companies if they refuse, attorneys say,” according to Law360.

Analysts estimate the virus has already cost the global box office as much as $5 billion. Streaming provides these companies an extra out in an emergency. And in some areas that still have them, people are flocking to drive-ins to get their movie fix. For consumers, most theater memberships are paused while the closures are in effect. Check Vulture’s site for refund information.

Many of the major movie theater chains are planning to re-open in July. If so, it will be dramatically different, with proposals including: cinemas selling tickets only for alternate rows, or requiring moviegoers to register in advance.

TRAVEL

Travel and travel planning are hugely disrupted by the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. Overseas travel restrictions are governed by the U.S. Department of State. Complicating things, the State’s Travel Advisories have been updated more than once. Check the department’s website for the latest traveler information.

In turn, according to the New York Times, “the travel industry scrambled to keep up. Caveats and exclusions disappeared from cancelation and change policies – even for airlines, which can be notoriously difficult. The cruise industry, after stammering with a full range of responses, finally threw in the towel and outright suspended sailings for a month. Tour operators like Abercrombie & Kent fell in line, too.”

Looking for a travel excursion refund? The New York Times has 4 takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Be patient; the travel industry is scrambling to keep up with the tectonic shifts in travel restrictions.
  • As a result, customer service centers are also scrambling. Expect long wait and response times.
  • If your trip isn’t right around the corner, it’s best to wait to cancel it—especially if you don’t need to immediately access the funds.
  • It’s in everyone’s best interest to be flexible right now.

Airbnb and other short-term rental sites are in disarray. According to USA Today, “…all sides of the home-rental business are in the lurch as international and domestic reservations made through Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway, Booking.com, TurnKey and other vacation rental platforms are suddenly clouded by uncertainty.” The article states that policies differ “from hard-hit communities and those hosts with properties in places that had been less affected.” Click here for more information if you made reservations.

Disneyland and Walt Disney World hotels, stores and theme parks have partial plans for a phased re-opening over June and July.  If you’ve booked vacations, pore over this site for answers about refunds. New ticket sales are currently paused.

AUTO INSURANCE

We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has cut traffic. Fewer cars are on the road and are just sitting in driveways. Then why should we be making full premium payments on our car insurance?

Jake from State Farm has good news. He’s back in the office, wearing khakis, and is dispensing money back in terms of partial refunds, credits and one-time payments to insured drivers. Other big name insurance companies have noticed as well, and are taking refund action. Check out Martketwatch to see who’s offering what, and also to see if it’s a good time to shop around.

Disputing card charges
Should you dispute the charges on your payment card? Many merchants, in response to the Covid-19 situation, are offering refunds. Some have adopted flexible policies (e.g., fee waivers and credits/vouchers). A merchant may offer a credit or voucher for future use if that is acceptable to you as the cardholder. If you decline the merchant’s offer, at your request, the merchant should promptly process a refund.

If you find the merchant unwilling to give you a refund, try to work directly with them to resolve any disputes BEFORE attempting to initiate a dispute with your card company.

Resources: Vulture.com, USA Today, InsideTheMagic.net, MarketWatch, Inc., NBC Universal, Axios Media, The New York Times Company