Without a Leg to Stand On

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The other night, I was reading through this week’s Robin Miller’s Mailbag on Racer.com, when a reader’s question caught my eye. I won’t copy & paste it here, because it is way too long. It was essentially a rant from “Kyle in Raleigh”. I hope Kyle is not a regular reader here, if so – he probably won’t be happy with what I’m about to say.

Kyle took issue with the fact that when IMS re-scheduled the Indianapolis 500 last week from May to August 23, they made the decision to not offer refunds to ticket holders. Although it seems like forever, it was just a few short weeks ago that we all got that magical blue envelope in the mail that contained our tickets. I got mine on March 6th. A lot has happened since then. Little did we know then, that we would still have five months to go before we could use our tickets.

Kyle is not sure he can make it to the “500” in August. He is disappointed that IMS chose to not offer full refunds or give credits toward the 2021 race. He then proceeded to go into this long list of how much money he has spent at IMS over the years, but if he didn’t get his money back he would “reconsider his fandom”.

He referred to the fact he owns a Honda with Firestone tires and that he has brought large groups to the Indianapolis 500 since 2012. He felt that if IMS could not reward his patronage with a refund, it was a sign that they were either greedy or financially unstable. He later said if this is the way they treat fans, then IndyCar will die soon.

Well, Kyle; I feel your pain, buddy – but I don’t think you have a leg to stand on. First and foremost, if you look at the back of your ticket – it clearly says No Refunds. That sort of kills your argument right there.

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But if that doesn’t satisfy you, try to look at it from the standpoint of IMS. They did not cancel the race – they postponed it. The event that you paid to attend is still happening and I have an idea they would love you to come. In fact, I think they want as many people as possible to come. They didn’t change this date on a whim. It took a worldwide catastrophe to force them off of their May 24 date.

IMS wants to pack the house that weekend. It’ll be difficult and it will have a very different feeling. They are going to try and make the best of it. But they won’t come close to much of a crowd if they allow ticket-holders to opt out because the new date doesn’t suit them. Nor can they issue credits for 2021. It would completely screw up their planning and budgeting for next year’s race.

Do you have other plans that weekend? I’ve got news for you – the entire world has had to make sacrifices and change dates for things much more important than an auto race. I had a close friend from college lose her battle with cancer this past Tuesday at the age of fifty-eight. She had been ill for a year and a half. We knew the end was near and I certainly would have attended her funeral under normal circumstances. But due to current events, her husband can’t have a funeral or even a visitation for her. Just her husband, her teenage children and her parents will attend a graveside service for her burial. A memorial service will take place sometime in the future, but no one has a clue as to when that will be. Don’t you think her family and friends feel cheated? Where’s their refund?

Weddings have been put on hold, without even the luxury of a new date. My old boss’s daughter had an April wedding planned. She moved it to early June, but had to find a less desirable venue. Now that date appears to be in jeopardy. She doesn’t know what to do. Where’s her refund?

High school and college graduations have been cancelled. Those are once in a lifetime events that won’t be rescheduled. This year’s senior class will forever be the class that never got to officially graduate. Where’s their refund?

My point is, no one has written a manual for what we are going through. Every person on the face of the earth has been touched by this pandemic. Some have been inconvenienced by not having as many supplies as they’d like at the grocery store, or not being able to get a haircut. Others have lost their jobs or businesses, while others have even lost their lives. The fact that August doesn’t suit you does not make me think you are entitled to a refund.

I had no plans to be in Indianapolis in August. That’s when football is cranking up and I would prefer to be on my couch in the air-conditioning at that time. But you know what? As soon as I heard the new date, we re-booked our hotel and then I checked my calendar later. I will be there regardless of when they run it.

We have plans to go to Road America in late June. We paid our non-refundable air fare in January before things went crazy. Why non-refundable? Because it was much cheaper, that’s why. Road America is starting to look fairly questionable at this point. If that race is cancelled, we are out that money as long as the flight still flies. Are we entitled to a refund? No. We knew that when we bought the tickets. If Kyle has had tickets from IMS before, he should have known that No Refunds was printed in bold print on the tickets. If Road America is cancelled, I won’t be going on an internet campaign against Southwest Airlines. I’ll just chalk it up to bad luck during a worldwide crisis and remember that there are others with far bigger problems from all of this.

Kyle noted that Barber, COTA and Long Beach chose to offer refunds. I know that’s true for Barber, but I’m not sure if it is for the other two. But there’s a difference – those three races are all cancelled. They’re not happening. Kyle may have more of a legitimate gripe if the Indianapolis 500 ends up being cancelled altogether for 2020, but as it stands now – it is merely postponed.

When St. Petersburg came out and said the race was cancelled, the promoters – Green Savoree Racing Promotions – took a lot of heat when they announced that there would be no cash refunds. You could get a credit toward next year’s race or apply it to some of their other tracks this season (Mid-Ohio, Toronto or Portland). Now that there is talk that St. Petersburg will run this October, fans can use their paid-for tickets then – if it actually happens. I’m skeptical.

But the Indianapolis 500 does not compare to Barber or St. Petersburg. It is a beast like no other. Its business model is partially based on consistent ticket revenue. If they offer refunds to Kyle, then they have to offer refunds to everyone. Then what are they going to do, resell Kyle’s tickets? If they do, does Kyle lose the rights to those tickets for next year? Do they go to the new buyer who may or may not have bought them at a discount? Is it fair to offer them back to Kyle for 2021 since he cashed his in this year? Offering up refunds brings a lot of unintended consequences. I don’t think Doug Boles or Roger Penske really want to open up that can of worms.

So Kyle, while I know you’re frustrated – I don’t have much sympathy for you. We all appreciate your support for the series and the race we all love. We also hope that you can work it into your schedule to be at IMS in August. If not, we understand – but I don’t think you’re entitled to a refund, given what got us to this point in the first place.

And Kyle, to be honest – I hope you’re not actually reading this. Otherwise you may be seeking me out at IMS or another track, to exchange more than a few pleasantries.

George Phillips

9 Responses to “Without a Leg to Stand On”

  1. Things are so fluid right now, I know it’s money at stake but it’s hard to get mad about something so far away when we face such uncertainties in the coming days. Take it a day at a time to get to May, June, etc. They may issue refunds, the may change the rules as we get deeper into this, people need to understand that no one on the planet has lived through something like this or had a plan for this happening. People just need to let things play out and see where we are in a few months. That goes to the NASCAR fans who have planned dream schedules made up where all the races get run, probably not happening this year!

    Things will get back to a normal soon enough but people need to understand that companies have a lot going on right now, and some need to make tough decisions. If them not refunding your ticket means they can keep staff on that are needed to run the race, well, I don’t know, consider it a donation. I know, I know, Roger Penske is a billionaire.

  2. GP, I agree with your thoughts as to Kyle’s email to Mailbag. I wrote to Miller that he should tell Kyle to try to sell the tickets on eBay, he might break break even. I buy my tickets to the race on eBay every year as I like to change up where I sit for a different view of the event. I bought this years tickets two days before the postponement. Talking to the seller this years date change has put a lot of his plans in jeopardy,such as loosing the RV he had planned to rent. So suck it up Kyle and adjust you are not “owed” anything other than admittance to the IMS grounds and a seat for the ticket you purchased

  3. All sales are final. No refunds. Maybe Kyle should have read his ticket before he wrote in to the mailbag. Something tells me 6 months from now when he looks back at what he wrote he is going to to feel like an ass. When this year plays out Kyle is going to be happy he is alive. Having the option to be able to sit in the stands at IMS and be part of an historic Indy 500 in a historic year that he will probably remember for the rest of his life it might have more value. In the mean time Kyle, appreciate your job, house, car while you have it try to appreciate your family too. .

  4. There will be more like Kyle in the the days to come , I do not agree with Kyle . This August date will be a punch in the gut on many levels for the series with no fault of their own . The only advantage I see the IMS is the extra time to double down on promotion of IMS events .

  5. SkipinSC Says:

    My suggestion to Kyle would be the same one I am going to use: My tickets were in Southeast Vista, which, in August, will be hotter than Billy Be Damned in the sun. Consequently, I’m going to put those seats up on Stub Hub and try to buy more expensive ones that will be lower and less out of cover, possibly in the lower bowl in turn 1.

    Hell, I might even splurge and see if I can’t get some penthouse seats on Stub Hub, something which just before the date was changed, they still had available. (Admittedly, the price was pretty high, but I always said after 2018, if I was going to go back, it would be to the penthouse or a suite.

    • There are two tickets on eBay in the paddock penthouse sec 2 row F . They have been for sale for quite some time and they are good seats.The seller is looking for face value $215,,each. I would buy them but out of my affordability zone.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    COTA sent me an e-mail just about when I got my tickets in the mail that said I would be getting a refund and that my credit card would be credited in 4-6 weeks. I plan to hold them to that.

  7. Ballyhoo Says:

    I haven’t yet had a chance to read this week’s Mailbag. Not much sympathy for this dude. A ticket refund is a luxury from the promoters and is not usually done. I have had to cancel race weekends twice in the last two years due to health issues. It happens. At least I was able to cancel my hotel reservation both times and Southwest has a program where you can cancel the plane ticket and bank most of the funds for 12 months. The airline couldn’t have been more helpful when I had to do it a second time. Hopefully Kyle can sell his tix online and recoup come of his money. I think Skip has the best idea of buying up for cooler seats.

  8. discodavid26 Says:

    from a british/european perspective i can see both sides of the augment…i know with epl games and therate tickets if you cancel its more or less you problem. some are ok for you giving you ticket to somebody else as long as its a free gift or at cost price(i.e you didn’t make a profit out of it) as long as its not a regular thing or to a banned fan etc etc.now if ” they” who host the event cancel over here normally many will let you transfer the ticket but either there is always the 1st £3,£5 £7ish pounds which they keep as a “booking fee” for the admin which we al know is bs but it means both party’s get something and it stops people regularly pulling out……. now in indys case its in plain English on the ticket its non refundable…….. in what we would call a force de majeure. but what if this guy has lost out on his flight tickets because he lives far from indy (as a brit whos fairly happy about leaving the eu undemocratic union even i hold my hands up that eu’s flight refund laws are really good and fair and its going to suck losing that probably world leading protection) and in july that airline went bust? he then cannot get there and hes lost out on a cost of a/many plane seats…….in that situation would indy be cool with him selling his tickets? or leaving a few rows of empty seats?(ok thats the one stadium in the world you wouldn’t notice on TV but still) or would the good public relations off transferring the tickets to next year plus reselling this years ticket if august date goes ahead be more “wealthey” for indy speedway?

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