Monologue dialogue: No refunds at pricey show

Via Mayer and her neighbors have been unhappy with the post office for a number of years– due to allegedly haphazard delivery of mail– and she hoped I might be able to do something to improve the situation. When I learned that in all those years no one had complained to anyone higher in the hierarchy than Charlottesville, however, I lost interest fast. "You guys are going to have to do a lot more legwork than that," I said.

The conversation was drawing to a close when I reminded her that in her email to me, she'd mentioned having two consumer problems. What was the other one?

"Well, there's probably no point in going into it," she replied, "due to ties to the newspaper." Aha! My antennae went up fast.

"You must be referring to the Jefferson Theater," I said– which is owned by Hook editor Hawes Spencer.

"I'm referring to The Vagina Monologues." It took a second for me to figure out that that's where the show had been held when it came through town last month, as I'm used to thinking of the Jefferson as a movie theater.

Mayer was frustrated because she'd spent $66.75 for two tickets for the evening performance on Sunday, February 16.

Remember Sunday, February 16? Of course you do. That was the day the sleet– little white grains of lead– came down so hard and so fast that shoveling it was almost impossible, and we were exhorted to stay off the roads.

Mayer, who had planned to take an 80-year-old friend who lives on Ivy Road to the show, quickly concluded there was no way they'd make it to the performance that night and began calling the theater– where she learned that the show would go on.

The next week she contacted Charlottesville-based Musictoday, which sells tickets not only for local events but for headliners such as the Rolling Stones as well, and of course, for the Dave Matthews Band, which is managed by Musictoday owner Coran Capshaw.

In response, she received an email from Musictoday, which stated that the ticket seller "had no authority to cancel or reschedule this event. The promoter, The Roberts Group, decided to go on with the show as scheduled. Please use the below information to inquire about any potential refund."

The message concluded with a phone number for The Roberts Group in Avon, Indiana, which Mayer promptly called– and hit another dead end. Or almost: Tim Roberts, president of the company, refused to issue a refund. The best he could offer, he told her, was tickets to The Vagina Monologues when it came to Washington later this spring. Mayer wasn't interested.

Spencer told me that even if he'd wanted to, he wouldn't have been allowed to cancel the show; that would have entailed breaking his contract with the promoter, which was simply to provide the facility. Justin Billcheck, Musictoday account manager, was in a similar position; as ticket provider, his company had "no authority" to cancel the show or issue refunds.

When I spoke with Roberts, he was adamant about his decision not close down in the face of bad weather, saying, "We view it as our obligation to the ticket buyer to present the show." Furthermore, he told me, he was in Charlottesville during the show's run and was driving around town that Sunday, picking people up and dropping them off. He estimates that between the matinee and evening performances, "probably 300" people attended that day.

Roberts repeated the offer he'd made to Mayer– of replacement tickets when the show comes to D.C.– and made it clear that that was as far as he'd go. Ticket-holders who are interested should email him at jtrslc@aol.com and include their ticket information. Spencer, meanwhile, thejeff@jeffersontheater.com, has been offering a seven-movie pass for each ticket that went unused.

The moral? Be mighty cautious when planning for events that fall between December and February– and doubly cautious when paying in advance.

Do you have a consumer problem or question? Email the Fearless Consumer, write her at 100 Second Street NW, 22902, or call 295-8700 ext. 406.