Demand Refunds for Your Cancelled Events! (and a Followup on Travel Insurance)

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A crisis tends to separate good actors from not-so-good ones. A story in two acts.

Act 1 - Don’t let StubHub keep your money!

I like StubHub. I’ve bought tickets on StubHub for almost 20 years, and one of my favorite money-saving tips is to Buy Event Tickets at the Last Minute (on StubHub) for amazing deals. But their behavior during the pandemic has been…sketchy.

In February, my wife bought two tickets to see comedian Ali Wong in April. Unsurprisingly, a couple of weeks before the show, the show was rescheduled for July. At the time, I was pretty sure the show was not going to happen.

Last week, we received an email that the show was cancelled. But don’t worry:

To compensate for the inconvenience, we're providing you this coupon worth 120% of your original order.

Thanks StubHub! Oh wait, I don’t get my money or purchase fees back, but instead a coupon to a future live event we probably won’t go to for several months or more? Hm, that seems…sketchy.

The story gets worse. As it turns out:

  • On March 12th, a StubHub spokesperson said that “Our policy is to provide a full refund with fees if an event is canceled.”

  • On March 25th, StubHub quietly changed their refund policy, taking away the ability to get a refund for a cancelled event. This policy applied retroactively, even though we bought our tickets on February 3rd

  • Because this is America, a class-action lawsuit is underway

Soon after we received that email, I called StubHub to politely, but firmly and repeatedly, request a refund.[1]

Surprisingly, the representative said “sure!” and told us we’d receive a refund in 3-5 days (still waiting). Others on Reddit have said that they too have been offered full cash refunds if they request it. We’ll see if the money comes through.

StubHub is surely banking on the fact that most people will keep the coupon and move on, letting StubHub (and the ticket seller) hold onto their money until live events return. Doesn’t seem like the most customer-friendly behavior. If you’re in the same boat and want a refund too, call StubHub customer service. And let me know how it goes!

Act 2 - Travel Insurance Fine Print

Long ago, before COVID, I wrote about the pitfalls of travel insurance. Basically, it is very expensive for what you get, has tons of exclusions, and makes you jump through a ton of hoops to file a claim.

Unfortunately, in many cases a global pandemic seems to be one of those exclusions. The major travel insurers appear to be declining claims for many people who choose to cancel their trip because of COVID concerns (who are not themselves sick with COVID). Another example of sketchy behavior, and three cheers to Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) for taking a closer look at the situation.

The real moral of this week’s issue is to make sure the product you think you’re buying is the one you’re buying. StubHub purports to be a ticket marketplace that protects fans when events are cancelled (so you can feel as safe buying on StubHub as buying directly from the venue), but that commitment seemed to go out the window when things got tough. Travel insurance claims to protect you when things go wrong, but it turns out that promise has as many holes as a slice of Swiss (or, my favorite, Jarlsberg) cheese.

I hope this has been helpful. If you liked it, please share it with a friend! Also, please send me your feedback, requests, and success stories.

[1] Always be nice to customer service!