A U.S. ticket seller’s financial difficulties have left a Shuswap non-profit having to fundraise in order to provide refunds for a cancelled event.
According to Shelley Desautels of Salmon Arm’s Boxing for Wellness Society, more than $4,400 is owed for tickets purchased for this year’s Hit2Fit Boxing gala and fundraiser. The event, scheduled for April, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the 2018 event, participating fighters raised $30,000 for the SAFE Society and the Shuswap Hospital Foundation. This year’s event was to support the Shuswap SPCA and Canadian Mental Health Association Shuswap-Revelstoke.
After the postponement was announced, the Boxing for Wellness Society, which runs the event, emailed everyone who purchased tickets, saying if you want to donate your funds to the society, no action was required. Those wanting a refund were advised to submit a request to Brown Paper Tickets.
“So everyone did their part in it,” said Desautels. “And then we just kind of left it thinking things were done. And then we started getting word back from ticket purchasers that they hadn’t seen any money.”
Desautels soon learned Hit2Fit ticket buyers weren’t alone.
“I started digging into it and it seems like there’s a lot of these groups that are owed money,” said Desautels.
Attempts made by the Observer to contact Brown Paper Tickets were met with automated responses.
On the company website’s contact page is a link for individuals seeking refunds. It takes you to a separate webpage with a message dated Sept. 14 from the company’s president William Jordan. In it, Jordan sates the company is working through a backlog of refund requests.
“While we can’t offer an estimated timeline for your specific refund at this moment, our team has been and continues to initiate full refunds to ticket holders (including BPT service fees) and pay event organizers on a daily basis,” reads the statement. “We continue to examine our processes to identify opportunities to safeguard customers moving forward.
“It’s a long process with thousands of events canceled, postponed, or abandoned. Like many businesses, we were unprepared for a crisis of this scale, but we are making headway.”
The next step for Boxing for Wellness was to submit a claim to the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General’s Office in Washington. From this, Desautels said the society received the portion of the ticket money that people chose to donate.
Thinking they’d made progress, Desautels and the society dropped the matter until they began receiving more complaints from ticket buyers who’d yet to receive a refund. After this, Desautels learned the Washington Attorney Generals Office, after receiving 583 complaints, had filed a lawsuit against Brown Paper Tickets which allegedly owed more than $6.75 million.
“This is a huge thing…,” said Desautels, explaining some Hit2Fit ticket buyers were eventually able to get a refund through their credit card company. “Another person got denied. It’s been hit or miss on who is getting money back.”
Now the Boxing for Wellness Society is looking at fundraising options to cover the refunds itself.
“They are expecting us to (provide refunds) and we’ve said we would,” said Desautels. “We have said that because we don’t know when the money is going to come back, and these are people that bought tables which are $625 on their credit card that they probably want back.
“So we said we’d fundraise for it. It may take two years to get the money back but eventually you’ll get it from us.”
Desautels stressed that it is the society which oversees Hit2Fit, not Salmon Arm Bulldogs Fitness and Boxing Centre owner Peggy Maerz, who helps organize it.
“People are going to Bulldogs Boxing thinking Peggy owes them money,” said Desautels. “But this is Boxing for Wellness which is completely separate. We’re the ones that put out the money. We’re the ones that raise the money and get the funds. Peggy doesn’t see a cent of it.”
Desautels noted the funds raised at Hit2Fit by Boxing for Wellness goes towards grants for people who want to get into boxing and might have financial difficulties or disability needs.
Looking ahead to 2021, Desautels said plans are in the works for a possible live-streamed Hit2Fit event. While this likely won’t be the big gala/dinner fundraiser of past years, part of the incentive is to keep the event going.
“We might just cover our costs. Who knows? But we don’t want to lose momentum either,” said Desautels. “So we’ll do it the way that we can for now so that when we can finally have events in the future it can come back again.”