Rained-Out Concert Disaster Leads To Successful Chargeback

Ben wrote in a few weeks ago to share his successful chargeback after he and his girlfriend were rained out of one day of their three-day passes to the recent All Points West festival in New Jersey. His story raises questions about the definitions of the term “rain or shine.”

I wanted to write in about a recent success I had with a chargeback scenario that I recently had – and given the popularity of the event, I thought it merited a letter to Consumerist.

My awesome girlfriend got me one hell of a birthday gift this year: a pair of three-day passes to All Points West, the music festival put on by Goldenvoice (the guys behind Coachella) that takes place in Jersey City’s Liberty State Park. Unfortunately, the weather was less than ideal. It rained for most of the day on Friday, and if you bought a single-day pass at the door that day, Goldenvoice also let you in to either Saturday or Sunday (it was the ticketholder’s choice) for free. While I don’t quite understand the logic behind this decision (the tickets said ‘rain or shine,’ no acts were canceled and people do have access to Weather.com), I simply accepted this and was happy to be at the festival.

Saturday was gorgeous – but Goldenvoice did absolutely nothing to clean up the parksite, leaving festival-goers to trudge through ankle-deep, manure-laden mud for the rest of the festival. Again, I was fine with this – shit like this really doesn’t matter on the day where you’re about to see My Bloody Valentine for the first day in your life.

But Sunday is where the poorly organized festival truly came to a head. We got to the festival at about 12:30 or so because I really wanted to see Todd Barry (he was performing around 1:30). It was pouring down rain – but Todd was going to be in a tent. My girlfriend and I bought ponchos, and began the 20 minute walk to Liberty State Park. By the time we got there, staff was on-hand with a megaphone telling people to return to the light rail station or ferry docking point to seek shelter – and that the festival wouldn’t be opening its doors. My girlfriend and I waited in the pouring rain for two hours, and decided that it wasn’t worth it to deal with this. Our tickets said ‘rain or shine,’ and Goldenvoice failed to prepare for the weather and deliver on its promise.

At 4:30, the doors finally opened, but at this point I was back in Brooklyn, enjoying the Internet backlash against APW via Twitter and Facebook. Another friend of mine was actually held captive on a ferry boat in the pouring rain – so I guess things could’ve been worse.

But what I couldn’t believe was that after APW extended a perk to single-pass owners on Friday due to a little bit of rain (as opposed to the torrential downpour on Sunday), that nothing was being done for the cancellation of acts and general poor public relations that took place on Sunday. Details about the fate of the festival were kept to an absolute bare minimum on Twitter and the APW official site, and festival goers were kept in the dark.

I knew that if I attempted to get a refund through Ticketmaster, I would be absolutely screwed – the tickets said no refunds. But I didn’t want a complete refund; I just wanted Goldenvoice to compensate us for what they did on Sunday.

After we got home (while the festival was still occurring), we requested a chargeback for 198 dollars – an amount equal to two single day passes, plus some of the ridiculous service fees leveled at us by Ticketmaster. The passes were purchased on my girlfriend’s Chase credit card. A couple of days later, she received a phone call at work and confirmed the details of what happened: how Goldenvoice was issuing free passes left and right, how we didn’t actually use our passes at the festival and how Goldenvoice didn’t follow through on its promise of “rain or shine.”

Today, her credit card was credited with the money. I’m glad we got paid back for tickets that we weren’t actually able to enjoy, but I can’t help but think about everybody else who was also ripped off by Goldenvoice.

Which is it? Is the policy “rain or shine” or “everybody spend four hours in the train station during this torrential downpour”? Yes, bad weather is to be expected and planned for during an outdoor concert, but not on the scale that acts were canceled and concertgoers confined to a train station.

While letting Friday’s ticketholders in for a second day wouldn’t cost the promoters anything, providing refunds to Sunday’s would. Still, does that doesn’t make the disparity fair? Would you have fought for a refund of Sunday’s ticket price?

(Photo: Flyinace2000