It’s been a busy six weeks for the Seattle Thunderbirds figuring out ticket refunds for three Western Hockey League games cancelled in March at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.
The regular season games were cancelled at the city-owned arena because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A short time later, the WHL called off the entire season, including the playoffs, because of the outbreak.
“Ninety-five percent of all refund requests have been issued,” said T-Birds spokesperson Ian Henry in a Monday email to the Kent Reporter. “Five percent have issues of not purchasing tickets through our ticketing site and were purchased on the secondary market and it is not our obligation to refund.”
Seattle sold a total of nearly 17,150 tickets for the three games on March 14, 17 and 21, Henry said.
The T-Birds sent emails to ticket holders in late March to offer them a refund or to have their ticket value doubled to be used at games during the 2020-2021 season between Oct. 1 and Dec. 18.
“Approximately 75% of those ticket holders have responded,” Henry said. “There has been an overwhelming positive response. The majority of the ticket holders have selected to have their ticket value doubled for next season.”
One suite holder for the March 17 game, however, contacted the Kent Reporter last week because after a request for a refund nearly six weeks ago the T-Birds still hadn’t refunded the money to a credit card.
The suite holder said they exchanged nine emails and three phones calls with T-Birds staff over several weeks in an effort to get the money back.
“This is one of the refunds that slipped through the cracks,” Henry said.
The suite holder was very prompt with the request, Henry said. But the initial email reply didn’t come with an order ID number and was placed with other requests that had incomplete information.
“The salesperson communicated with our office on this, but there does come human error and challenges in this process of us all working away from our office,” Henry said. “Regrettably, it was missed on our first round of refunds for the March 17 game. The credit card was refunded fully on May 1.”
One employee was processing close to 3,000 refunds, according to an email from a salesperson to the suite holder. That email also stated the refunds were being done in small batches to help maintain cash flow with no revenue coming in to the T-Birds.
Henry declined to answer how many refunds requests were received. He also didn’t answer questions about the impact of the three cancelled games to the T-Birds budget and how much potential revenue was lost.
In its initial email to ticket holders of the three cancelled games, the T-Birds asked people to pick the option to get tickets for next season rather than refunds in an effort to benefit its off-season operation to keep current with expenses from the shortened season as well as assisting its employees. The option also helped with absorption of ticketing fees, credit card and other fees that will still be applicable to the T-Birds business.
Henry said that 99.999% of the ticket holders were completely satisfied and thrilled with the refund plan.
“There have been a couple that have fallen through the cracks and we have since made right,” he said. “That was mostly a result of our staff working remotely and some communications challenges by not being in the same office. There are a few ticket buyers that we do not have contact information as they purchased with cash or at the box office directly. We continue to credit those fans as they contact us.”
Henry said the T-Birds still receive daily requests about the tickets sold for the three cancelled games from the email that was sent out six weeks ago.