'We got cheated': Calgary Dine Under the Stars customers waiting on hundreds in refunds
The September event was cancelled after the venue the company had hired flooded
Story update: Dine Under the Stars organizers say as of Jan. 20, 2020, refunds have been distributed to all affected customers.
Calgarians who paid hundreds of dollars to Dine Under the Stars in September say they're still waiting on the majority of their refunds 43 days after the event was cancelled.
Personal "domes" cost each group between approximately $60 and $100, while meal tickets cost nearly $110 per person.
The event was cancelled in early September because the venue — Deane House — flooded.
Customers tell CBC News they were informed quickly of the cancellation, but getting their money back has proved a slow-go.
'I'm pretty frustrated'
"I'm pretty frustrated," said Matt Canta, who'd purchased a dome reservation and tickets for four people.
"We're still out over $500."
Canta says in September he originally got an email saying Dine Under the Stars had been unable to secure a new venue, and they'd be issuing refunds "in five to 14 days."
"It's been well over a month since that date and we're past the day of the event now and no one's gotten their refunds," he said.
"I've heard of a few people getting their dome rental back but the minimum order for the dinner itself was for four people and that was about $500."
Canta says nearly a month after the cancellations email, he got another email indicating there had been a server issue with the payment processing company.
"I feel like we got cheated out of our money and no one really has taken the time to try and reach out to people and, like, rectify the issue," he said.
'It felt like a scam'
Chantelle Lessard says she did get the majority of her money back — but only after she opened a dispute with her bank when she couldn't get answers from Dine Under the Stars regarding their ticketing agent, EzTix.
"It just gives you kind of an uneasy feeling. It felt like a scam. The only reason I knew it wasn't a scam is because I actually know someone who attended the event before," she said.
Lessard says she received a refund notice issued on September 25 indicating she'd see her money in her account within four business days.
But, when she checked her account statement a week later, there was no refund.
"At that point I called EzTix and at that time they told me that they had nothing to do with this event anymore and I was supposed to message Dine Under the Stars, so I messaged them but they have no phone number."
That's when Lessard turned to her bank, who refunded the amount for her four meal tickets.
"They have covered it just because of insurance on my credit card but obviously they would like to get it back as well," she said.
But — Lessard says she still hasn't been refunded for the dome rental.
"The notice for that refund for the dome was actually sent to me on October 9, so three weeks ago," she said. "And once again, I still do not have it."
'Large volume of transactions'
In an emailed statement Dine Under the Stars said all of their dome reservation refunds have already been issued — as well as a large portion of the dinner refunds.
And while they agree the refund process is taking longer than anticipated, they say they're working with their ticketing agent, insurance company and a third-party payment processing company to finish the process.
"This is due to the large volume of the transactions — each one processed manually by the ticketer (sic), and then again by a third party payment processing company. Originally the third party payment processor flagged the transactions due to the large amount, which caused further delay," reads the email.
"This is not a typical one-day event, and the process we have had to go through is substantially more complex than a standard refund."
In their own email to CBC News, EzTix said they were disappointed the event was cancelled and that the refunds were taking such a long time — but said all dome rentals have now been refunded to their original payment method.
"To avoid as many delays as possible, dinner reservation refunds are being processed in smaller batches, a process underway now. While large event cancellations bring unique challenges, the delay in finishing the refund process has not lived up to our standards," reads a emailed statement from EzTix. "We thank our friends in Calgary for their patience, and we promise to do better in the future.
"All refunds are in the queue now, and guests will receive an email when their booking is refunded."
They said they'd taken every single call that comes to them from a guest of the event, and are open 24/7 with agents available to speak with customers.
Customer service complaints
Lessard says she wishes both companies had done a better job at communicating what was going on to their customers.
"The customer service experience was so horrible because when you call EzTix they said they had nothing to do with this and it was up to Dine Under the Stars company and they were dealing with it separately," she said. "And then when you asked Dine Under the Stars they said EzTix was dealing with it separately.
"So nobody was taking responsibility for what was happening and providing people who had spent hundreds of dollars on tickets an answer as to when they would get their money back, if they would get their money back and an appropriate timeline."
Canta says for people like him, this experience was meant to be special, and isn't in his usual budget.
"We had planned this – we were going on a big double date. My girlfriend and I were going with a couple of friends and they just recently got engaged that we're going to celebrate that," he said.
"Now it's just a charge that's still on our credit card."
Lessard says it bugs her that the company continues to make other sales while still owing money to customers.
"But for them to still be taking money for other events and not appropriately returning refunds for an event that's no longer moving forward, it's just incredibly questionable as an organization," she said.
"And I just don't know how you don't have the money to give back to people when you keep taking it from others."
Deane House not involved in event transactions
Sal Howell, owner of the Deane House said she was "shocked and mortified" to have their name tied to an event where customers were not being refunded.
"We're in the hospitality industry and we like to follow through with what we're doing, so I'm not sure what the story is, but I hope that the refunds are still in the works and that everything will work out."
Howell said they were never paid by Dine Under the Stars for catering or the venue because of how early they gave the organizers notice about the flood. She says they were never a part of the ticketing or sales process.