Ask Me Anything: Refunds and Exchanges for 2021 and Beyond

Jamie Alexander

Director, JCA Arts Marketing

Jamie helps cultural organizations understand the behaviors of their audiences and create data-driven strategies to continually engage them.
February 09, 2021

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Should we offer no-cost refunds and exchanges on all tickets in the future?


Yes and no (or not exactly). Yes, you should offer refunds and exchanges when in-person performances resume. No, they shouldn’t necessarily be free. The flexibility to get a refund or exchange tickets in the new world could be a new value fence*. I’ll explain…

This was a hot topic at the INTIX conference a couple weeks ago: new audience demand for flexibility is impacting the agreement that an organization has with a patron when it sells a ticket. Uncertainty about the coronavirus, government restrictions, and one’s comfort level mean that if audiences are going to buy a ticket for an in-person show, they want assurances that they will not lose money if that show is cancelled or if they are unable to attend.

From a pricing perspective, this demand suggests that flexibility should be considered a benefit, or a value fence, that affects the price of a ticket. Many organizations have already used flexibility as a value fence to an extent in the past, as subscribers often have exclusive access to free ticket exchanges as a perk of subscribing. However, this new world presents the opportunity to have different pricing levels for single tickets as well, based on the flexibility of the ticket.

Consumers are already used to the idea of different prices for the same product, based on perks and benefits. Consider the travel industry—airlines have offered “Basic Economy” and “Economy” for some time, in which travelers select different prices for the same seat, depending on the perks they want. A similar model could exist for the performing arts, where a patron may pay a premium for benefits at the time of ticket purchase, like:

  • Full refund options
  • Ability to exchange tickets to a different date
  • Access to digital recordings of the performance
  • Ability to transfer the ticket to another patron

Framed in a different way, a customer could also have the option of foregoing these benefits to get a cheaper ticket.

That last item on the list above, the ability to transfer a ticket to another patron, is an interesting benefit. With the advent of blockchain technology and companies like True Tickets, performing arts organizations will be able to control whether or not a patron can give a ticket to somebody else. This is especially useful in preventing scalping, but also in allowing organizations to add another value fence to their pricing.

As in-person performances return and the world starts to wake up from its pandemic slumber, exploring and testing such new pricing models will be important to meet patrons’ needs and recover revenue.

*Value Fence = the reason why a ticket is more or less expensive than another ticket.

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