You’re headed to New York for a conference that starts Wednesday morning, so you have to be in the city the night before. You decide to catch the opera Tuesday night. Your plane is scheduled to land at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, the opera starts at 7:30: No problem, right? You buy a ticket, one of a few left.
On your trip, you fly through Chicago. Weather there delays flights left and right, including yours. Your plane finally lands in balmy New York just as the curtain’s going up.
Who owes you a refund for your opera ticket?
You live in the East Mountains. You have tickets for a sold-out Broadway touring show at Popejoy. The night comes for you to attend the show, but the wind has been howling through the canyon all day, carrying sleet and snow with it, turning I-40 into a skating rink. The State Police closes the canyon. Meanwhile, the weather in town is windy but dry. The show goes on without you.
Who owes you a refund for your Popejoy tickets?
Shows, especially touring productions, seldom cancel a performance. If you had a company whose inventory were limited by time and capacity, you too would try not to let any of it go to waste. Unlike cropland, no one pays a theater company for empty acreage.
Most shows carry a provision in their contracts indemnifying all parties against force majeure, or superior force. If a tornado flattened Popejoy Hall, nobody would owe anything to anybody for lost performances.
The same basic principle applies when you buy a ticket. The back of our tickets spell out many of the limitations of your purchase. Basically, the text tells you that Popejoy is not responsible for traffic accidents that close highways. Or sudden illness in your family. Or bad weather at your house. Or even bad weather at our house.
That doesn’t mean we’re not sympathetic. We who work at Popejoy are your neighbors. We live here, too. While a producer from New York might not understand how bad weather can strike all around Albuquerque but leave the city untouched, we do. And when we can, we want to help. But that help frequently has limitations.
Often our hands are tied by our contracts with the production companies, by the number of performances in our hall, or by the lack of any available seats on subsequent nights. A sold out show means just that, and we can’t make more seats materialize. The fire marshall, rightly enough, would have something to say about that.
Remember: buying a ticket ahead of any performance is a bit of a gamble on your part. You are betting you will be alive, healthy and unimpeded that night. The odds are heavily in your favor: the vast majority of people do make it to performances for which they’ve purchased tickets ahead of time.
However, when a force majeure in your life interferes with your attendance here, please contact us to let us know and ask what we can do. While we can’t arrange a command performance for you and yours, we will help you where we can.
Terry S. Davis
Photo: Les Misérables, photo by Paul Kolnik