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Everything to know about refunds after coronavirus canceled all your plans

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Q. What should I do about tickets purchased in advance for a now-canceled concert, play, or other event?

A. Last week, the Museum of Fine Arts informed my wife by e-mail that she would get a full refund for a canceled concert. And the next day it followed through with a credit on her credit card account. I consider this the gold standard for refunds: prompt, full, and courteous. Some event sponsors may say they need more time to process a refund — up to 10 days. But all consumers should expect either a refund or a credit to be used for a later event.


Q. What if I haven’t heard from my event sponsor?

A. Try to be patient. An e-mail may be forthcoming. The Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, for example, says on its website that ticket holders should “wait for an email with instructions rather than calling the box office,” to allow staff enough time to determine whether its productions may be rescheduled “in these challenging times.” I also noticed that some event sponsors still have no information posted online about cancellations.

Q. But, bottom line, I should get a refund?

A. Yes, in principle. You paid for something you didn’t — or won’t — get. In Massachusetts, that’s considered unfair and thus unlawful under the consumer protection law (Chapter 93A). Unless a business is completely broke or is in bankruptcy, it is supposed to give you what you paid for, or a refund. But the coronavirus outbreak has introduced so much unpredictability that it’s impossible to rule out exceptions. Also, check for any exceptions under the “terms and conditions” section on your purchase agreement.

Q. What about tickets to Red Sox games?

A. Major League Baseball last week closed down spring training and announced a delay of the regular season by at least two weeks. For those who missed out on Red Sox spring training games, wait until next year. You will receive credit for next year’s spring training games. As for regular season games, MLB and baseball owners are working out plans. On Monday, MLB said Opening Day will be delayed until at least the second week of May.


Q. Celtics tickets?

A. The Celtics announced last week that tickets for postponed games will be honored when (and if) the games are rescheduled this season. If games aren’t played, or they are played without fans present, tickets can either be exchanged for a future date or refunded. This only applies to tickets sold through the Celtics, the TD Garden box office, or Ticketmaster.

Q. Bruins tickets?

A. No official word yet from the Bruins, but fans who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster have the option of attending a rescheduled game or obtaining an refund.

Q. What about the family trip to Disney World we scheduled for school vacation in April?

A. One of the most popular destinations, Disney World in Florida, will be closed at least through March 31. Anyone with tickets for the next two weeks will be able to use them instead on any date after the resort reopens through at least Dec. 15. Anyone who has booked a Disney resort room and package for a date through June 30 can cancel or change their date without fee.


Q. What about airfare?

A. Most major US carriers have waived change fees, which means you can change your flight to a later date without paying hundreds of dollars. Most also allow you to simply cancel your flight and reschedule it at a later date without a fee. Airlines are encouraging travelers to change or cancel their flights online because their call centers are nearly overwhelmed.

Q. What’s the deal with Airbnb?

On Sunday evening, Airbnb announced it was waiving cancellation fees for anyone who booked before March 14 for stays though April 14. That means refunds of all charges, including service fees. The company also said hosts can cancel without charge or impact to their super host status. Of course, this policy may be extended past April 14, if deemed appropriate.

Q. Can I get at a partial refund on my monthly MBTA pass because I’m not using it?

A. No, the T, has a general policy of no refunds, even during periods of reduced service (as announced Monday). This applies to commuter rail too. And I’m not aware of any bus line that has offered refunds.

Q. Can I get a partial refund from my gym or fitness center while it is closed?

A. Perhaps. Under Massachusetts law, if a gym closes, you are entitled to a refund of any prepaid dues. So that would appear to cover the sort of prolonged closures prompted by Covid-19 and entitle gym members to a refund.


One of the biggest area gyms, Planet Fitness, announced on its Facebook page Monday evening that it will begin offering free, online, at-home workouts open to anyone, member or not. But I found no mention of refunds on its website.

The YMCA I belong to sent an e-mail asking members to “continue to pay your membership fee and consider it a donation” on behalf of the community. This facility provides emergency child care, food pantry distribution, and financial assistance to those in need.

Suggestion: if you can, keep paying your dues to gyms and yoga and spin studios, particularly smaller ones, to help them get quickly back on their feet when this is all over.

Q. My day care provider has canceled; can I get a refund?

A. Yes, businesses should provide refunds or credits.

Q. My child takes piano lessons from a teacher in the neighborhood; can I get a refund?

A. If it’s an informal arrangement between two neighbors rather than a business transaction, maybe not. But maybe in a sign of neighborly goodwill, yes.

Q. What about the fee I paid for my child to attend the now-canceled camp during April school vacation?

A. It should be refunded.

Q. What can I do if a business refuses a refund?

A. The attorney general’s office says it will try to mediate disputes. You can also sue in small claims court ($40 to $150 in filing fee, depending on the size of the claims). If you win, you may be awarded triple damages (three times the amount you are owed).


Got a problem? Send your consumer issue to Follow him @spmurphyboston.