The Playgoer: "Money-Back Guarantees" Catching On?

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Money-Back Guarantees" Catching On?

Following an apparently successful experiment in Chicago*, it looks like more theatres may offer some kind of "money-back guarantee" for unhappy playgoers, no questions asked. Now Syracuse Stage is offering a kind of opt-out clause for subscribers:

At Syracuse Stage artistic director Tim Bond wants audiences to go home happy. In an unprecedented guarantee of artistic satisfaction, Bond promises season ticket-holders a refund on the remainder of their subscription if they’re dissatisfied with a single show.
Now I only assume this was "successful" in Goodman in that the company, it seems, did not go broke handing out refunds. But you gotta wonder...are such offers really made in good faith? Not that they wouldn't honor the promise, of course. But surely (consistent with the whole business philosophy of the "or your money back" tactic) they're counting on folks not doing this. Whether out of politeness, laziness, whatever. It's a gimmick to instill confidence in the product, of course.

But what if, eh? What if just one of the shows at Syracuse is so lame--or so offensive, or just so long, or what if a guy and his wife just have a bad parking experience?--that, say, 20-30 subscribers bail mid-season. After all, these are unstable economic times. A family shells out $200-$300 bucks on a year's worth of theatre tix, then someone loses a job or incurs unexpected health expenses, and round about January, Mr. and Mrs. look at each other at intermission of yet another tired classic or bland new 2-character play and say, "do we really need this?"

Just sayin'.

*P.S. Boldface section emended in light of Patrick's comments below--which offer valuable clarification on the Chicago production happening at the Goodman, not produced by it. More on that project here.


Samm said...

lol, yeah don't know if that will catch on successfully. But I'd love to know the results of these money back guarantees

Patrick said...

The money back guarantee was for a Collaboraction Theatre Co and Teatro Vista co-production that was performed at the Goodman's Owen Theatre space. It was not a Goodman production.

The only reason this refund was offered was due to a backing fund provided by the Driehaus Foundation specifically for that purpose. The producing theatres could not lose money, as they were not offering their own cash back. The fund was only for the purpose of giving refunds. It did not fund the show, it only reduced the financial risk for the audience (and the producing theatres, who in theory would get a larger audience to try a risky work than they would without the guarantee).

Whether or not the Goodman Theatre itself offers refunds for its own shows, that had nothing to do with this "money back guarantee."

RLewis said...

Anyone else seeing something smart about this offer ?- they are not giving you your money back to the show you hated, they're just giving you back the remainder of your subscription; they can still go back and resell those seats. They lose nothing... well, except a subscriber. I wanna hire whoever thought that twist up.