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UPDATED: City to offer gift card-refunds to anyone affected by Ticket Rocket fiasco

'We do not have the legal responsibility (to make refunds according to the service agreement), but there is a moral responsibility, in that this company has left lots of us in a very frustrated state'

If you had tickets to a cancelled concert or hockey game at Mosaic Place and didn’t receive a refund, you could be eligible for a gift card to a similar event.

During its Sept. 8 regular meeting, city council voted 6-1 to provide a gift card — and not a cash refund — of an amount equal to what ticket purchasers spent to buy tickets for Moose Jaw Warriors games on March 14, 17 and 21, to the ZZ Top concert on May 10, and the High Valley concert on May 28.

This means if you purchased three tickets for $330 to attend the ZZ Top concert, city hall will provide you with that amount in a gift card.

Coun. Brian Swanson was opposed.

To acquire the gift card:

  • Spectra Venue Management Services, on behalf of Mosaic Place and the municipality, will reach out to ticker purchasers to inform them of the plan
  • The ticket purchasers must fill out forms that verify their purchase; sign an affidavit stating they have not received a refund, and; must provide any other required information
  • City administration and Spectra will work to verify each ticket purchase before issuing the gift card

While a council report explained that the exact refund amount was unknown, later on, the document said it could cost more than $200,000 to repay ticket holders, an amount city hall does not have. This means taxpayers could be responsible to cover this.

It is expected to take a month before the gift cards will be issued.

Background

Ticket Rocket was supposed to issue refunds by Aug. 22 for these cancelled events since it held all the proceeds, explained city manager Jim Puffalt. However, it did not do this and city hall does not believe it will happen, either.

City hall had concerns about Ticket Rocket’s ability to make payments in February during the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, he continued. After the March events were cancelled, officials began asking the company every week for the money; it eventually provided the money for the Scotties but nothing else.

“We do not have the legal responsibility (to make refunds according to the service agreement), but there is a moral responsibility, in that this company has left lots of us in a very frustrated state,” said Puffalt. “It’s certainly bad public relations and service to customers who wanted to go to the shows, and they can’t get a refund.”

The municipality and Ticket Rocket signed a settlement agreement on May 29 that resolved all matters and claims between the parties. However, the settlement did not release the company from its legal obligations.

Some people who purchased tickets have obtained refunds through their credit card companies, although how many is unknown, Puffalt added. In contrast, others can’t receive similar refunds since they used debit to purchase the tickets.

The Moose Jaw Express attempted to reach Ticket Rocket for comment but did not hear back by press time. News reports from New Zealand suggest the business has gone into receivership.

Council discussion

City hall wants to issue the gift cards quickly and does not want ticket purchasers to wait any longer, Puffalt told Coun. Scott McMann. Municipal officials know people have been patient even though it’s been hard on them since they are out money.

“Shame on Ticket Rocket for doing this to our community and not fulfilling their contract,” Coun. Crystal Froese said. “… we do have an obligation to these people. This is the only way I can see of moving forward with this.”

Coun. Heather Eby was concerned that anyone with a gift card might have trouble redeeming it since council recently hired a new ticket provider. Puffalt replied that the company has guaranteed this would be seamless.

Eby received a couple of calls recently about this topic, with one person reading the council report online and expressing disappointment that this was the only refund option, she said. She understood the frustration but thought this was the best decision council could make. She also pointed out that not every ticket holder is a Moose Jaw resident.

“To put a $200,000 (burden) on taxpayers would not be fair to the taxpayers of Moose Jaw,” she added. “This is a good thing for us to do and it is necessary. I’m sorry for people who are not happy, but it’s much better than an alternative of having nothing.”

Swanson agreed with Eby’s comments about not saddling taxpayers with the cost, pointing out the gift cards are not free money, there will have to be an accounting for the money, and this will be lost funds for the municipality. He thought ticket holders should go through their credit card company for a refund.

He noted that while people are excited about future concerts, a friend of his who works in the entertainment industry has indicated insurance companies likely won’t accept the liabilities of packing people into a concert venue in the near future.

This situation is not perfect, but council is making the decision to reimburse those who have been affected, said Mayor Fraser Tolmie. This is important to recognize and shouldn’t be shooed away. Instead, council needs to take responsibility and ensure it protects the prestige of the city for future concerts.

“It might not be for a while before we have concerts, but we have to look at doing the best we can with our own reputation,” he added.

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Sept. 21.