Broadway Ticket Refunds and Cancellations
Most People Think That You Cannot Get a Ticket Refund After You Have Purchased Your Broadway Tickets - But this isn't necessarily true
In the Broadway stagehand strike in November 2007, there were an awful lot of Broadway show ticket refunds. The Broadway box offices had to give ticket refunds because the shows were canceled and people didn't know when they would resume, so they couldn't really get alternative dates.
But even now, at every top Broadway show, there are people eager to buy tickets that only become available on the day of the show. Some of these tickets are rush and SRO tickets that are sold at deeply discounted prices, some tickets are unused house seats that the Broadway show has decided to sell, others are VIP seats that they haven't sold at the inflated "premium" rate and have therefore been dropped down to the regular price - but there is another type of ticket that becomes available at the last minute as well, and that is the canceled or refunded Broadway ticket. So refunds on Broadway tickets do exist - it's not quite as simple as taking bad lettuce back to the supermarket, but it is possible to get a ticket refund and people are getting them every day.
You may be familiar with the term "cancellation or canceled tickets" - they're the Broadway show tickets that you wait in line for (on the day of the show) when you're desperate to get into a sold-out show. You and the other folks who couldn't manage to get tickets in advance stand there biting your nails, hoping something will become available at the last minute. But everybody who has ever purchased a Broadway show ticket also knows that the box office is quick to point out that there are no refunds or exchanges. So what gives? If nobody is allowed to return their Broadway tickets, then where are these fabled cancellation or refund tickets coming from? These refunded tickets are coming from people just like you.
Broadway Ticket Refunds
The truth is that there is some flexibility to the "no ticket refunds or exchanges" rule. Outright ticket refunds are rare (unless the performance itself is canceled or experiences a technical difficulty), but exchanges are not uncommon - so it's a kind of refund, without being a cash refund per se. It's done by calling up Ticketmaster or Telecharge and asking if they will exchange your ticket for another performance due to some unforeseen circumstance that you have. They are most likely to comply when the Broadway show in question is very popular, because then they are relatively secure that they will be able to re-sell your ticket on short notice. The Broadway show itself would rather not process ticket refunds, but they realize that they must be reasonable, otherwise they face a wave of unpopular opinion.
Ticket Insurance Policy - Guaranteed Ticket Refund
Ticketmaster actually offers a ticket insurance policy - for a few extra dollars per ticket, you are
guaranteed the right to cancel (or refund the value) of your ticket providing your excuse is on their official list of acceptable reasons. These ticket refunds account for some of the cancellation tickets that become available at the Broadway box office shortly before the performance, but there really is not a whole lot of ticket refunds going on for the most popular shows. The lesser Broadway shows however have a lot more refunds being processed. This is because ticket brokers often buy the insurance just in case they cannot sell the Broadway show ticket. The show can become unpopular between the time they buy the ticket and when they come to sell it, so having a guaranteed refund is a huge boon to the ticket broker - a refund that he would not get with TeleCharge or any of the other ticket sellers - and significantly reduces the risk. Who is the loser here for processing the refund? It's clearly Ticketmaster.
Easier To Get A Refund At The Box Office Than Sell To A Ticket Scalper
Often the cancellation (or refunded) tickets come from the leader of a large group that has some members who didn't show up and who were unable to make it. At a less popular Broadway show, these people might be stuck standing in front of the theater alongside the scalpers, trying to sell off the unused tickets. But at a hot show, the box office is more likely to take the ticket back so that they can sell it to someone on the cancellation line. The box offices of these hit shows also buy back leftover inventory from ticketing agencies at the last minute. The agency might not have been able to unload all their tickets in advance, so they're anxious to make back whatever they can, and the box office is more than happy to take these tickets and sell them to the cancellation line. Something the ticket agency isn't officially allowed to do because of their 'no refund' policies.