As a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine, Dave Brooks, the senior director of live music for Billboard, had his tickets in hand for the band’s “Public Service Announcement” tour, which was set to begin in March.

But with the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Rage tour, like others all around the country, had to be postponed and the band gave fans the opportunity to get a refund or keep their tickets for a later date.

“I actually kept my tickets, and that got pushed back a year. I’m a huge Rage fan and I’m going to wait,” he said.

Unlike Brooks, other music fans who are holding tickets for canceled, postponed or rescheduled shows want their money back, and for many of them it may not be as easy to get a refund.

“We’re in an unprecedented situation when it comes to concerts and other live events. The industry has basically ground to a halt. Any concert people had expected to go from March until today and probably throughout the rest of the summer will be canceled or postponed,” said John Breyault, vice president, public policy, telecommunications, and fraud for the National Consumers League, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington DC.

“We are certainly hearing from consumers both directly and from what we’re seeing expressed by fans on Twitter and in the media and elsewhere where they express frustration at their inability to get refunds for tickets they’ve purchased for events,” Breyault added.

But there are things fans can do to get full refunds for shows that were sidelined due to the pandemic.

Here’s some advice from Brooks and Breyault, as well as from Nick Cole of the Atlanta based Clark.com, a consumer advocacy and financial adviser group, on how to get a refund for your concert tickets.

Do your homework

The first thing you should do is some homework before emailing or calling to get a refund so that you are a more knowledgeable consumer and can better argue your case if you have to, Cole said. “My advice would be to definitely check with who you bought the ticket from, see what their policy is and then act accordingly,” he said.

What to do if a show is canceled

Consider yourself lucky if a concert has been canceled, because this is the easiest way to get your money back, and you should typically get a refund within 30 days.

“If it’s been canceled, chances are you’re going to get your refund automatically. If that hasn’t happened, contact the person you bought the ticket from, whether that’s Ticketmaster or another source, and ask for the refund. They should give it to you no questions asked,” Breyault said.

And don’t expect any sort of partial refund because you should also get any fees and service charges refunded.

“All charges, 100% percent of what you paid for the ticket should be refunded,” Brooks said.

What to do if the show was postponed

If a show is postponed, that’s when you may be stuck in limbo and things can vary depending on the ticket seller.

“When events have been canceled they’ve been pretty quick to provide refunds. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that events have been not canceled but postponed, and postponed indefinitely,” Breyault said.

That means that if an event is moved to say, a year down the line, customers are basically giving the event producers a one-year no interest loan, he noted.

“We think that’s really unconscionable given the dire straits that people are today finding themselves in,” Breyault said.

If you’re in this situation then you really need to pay attention because some ticket sellers are offering certain time windows from when a concert is postponed, or from when the concert was supposed to take place, for you to be able to request a refund before a new date is announced.

So check your email for updates and if the ticket seller isn’t emailing you with updates or new information, reach out.

“That’s when you need to get more in an active mode and say, ‘Hey what’s going on here’ and make a call, send an email inquiry. It’s never going to hurt to be your own advocate in those scenarios. Typically the person that’s persistent, polite, is probably going to get a better outcome,” Cole said.

But those who purchased tickets from major sellers may have an easier time getting their money back.

“In Southern California, the two biggest promoters are Live Nation (which merged with Ticketmaster)  and AEG and both have said all events that have been postponed, customers will be offered a refund,” Brooks said.

What to do if a show is rescheduled

So what if a show is rescheduled but you can’t attend the new date or don’t want to go?

Well, that’s a bit murky right now and what happens depends on who you got the tickets from and their policies.

“If they reschedule, I think it’s sort of up to the venue at that point whether they feel like they’re doing right by their customer because they are still providing the service they told you they would, they’re just doing it at a different time,” Cole said.

But a little polite conversation can go a long way, he added.

“My suggestion is if you’re in the situation where you definitely know that you don’t want to go anymore, whether for safety reasons or financial reasons, I would be proactive in reaching out and explaining your situation,” Cole said.

“Our mantra for this kind of stuff is polite persistence pays. There are people behind the screens for these businesses and it’s always good to give them the benefit of the doubt and usually you’re going to find that people are going to be much more helpful if you take that approach,” he said.

Don’t take the credit

Some ticket sellers may offer credits in lieu of refunds for future shows that may be higher than the face value of your ticket, which means you can do things like upgrade seats for future shows.

But according to Brooks, local ticket buyers have some protections when it comes to being offered credit instead of a refund.

“California is one of 14 states that outlaws that practice. If you bought a ticket for an event in California you should be able to get a refund,” Brooks said.

And even if you are offered a choice, Cole advises people to take the money and run.

“The best thing is to get your money while you can. You have to worry about your personal finances in the short term but you also have to worry about the ticket providers and how they’re going to weather this in the long run. A credit with a company that is going out of business isn’t of much value in the long run,” Cole said.

Go online, but be nice

Frustrated customers may be tempted to call out ticketing agencies online to shame them into refunding their tickets, and it may work.

“You know, it doesn’t hurt. Whether you call them out on social media or via a strongly worded old fashioned letter, my advice is the same, be polite, explain what you want and be respectful in how you ask for it. If you’re abusive then you’re less likely to be successful,” Breyault said.

With so many events affected, people will also find others online who are going through the same things, Brooks noted.

“Go online and see what other people who are going through the same thing are doing. If you can’t get your money back for something there’s probably a lot of people who can’t either,” Brooks said.

Last resorts

If you feel like an event producer or ticket provider is ignoring your request, then Breyault suggests calling your credit card company or bank to find out if it’s a charge you can dispute.

Cole also suggests calling credit card companies as a final resort, but since wait times are pretty much eternal at most big businesses these days, his advice is to use the chat feature online.

“It’s a little bit quicker and you have a log or a record of what’s been said and you can easily screenshot that and what’s been said,” Cole said.

Or you can go a bit further than that.

“As a final resort, you can always file a complaint with your local consumer protection office and escalate it that way. But make sure you are holding on to any documentation you received related to the show as well as any communications you had with the ticketing company and anyone else so you can build a record of how you tried to get a refund,” Breyault said.

LA Daily News