Both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles had thrilling and captivating seasons that ended too soon. In the midst of playoff fever, thousands of Nats and O’s fans plunked down money for League Championship Series games. For some fans, including this writer, that amounted to thousands of dollars. These fans were assured they would be refunded if the games didn’t happen. (Season ticketholders were told the money they paid for their guaranteed seats would be credited to next season.)
Now that Nats fans and O’s fans are looking to get their hard-earned money back, both teams are withholding the “service charge” fees that could end up amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars per team. Keep in mind these “service charges” were applied to people who opted to print their own tickets at home. So the teams couldn’t even use the excuse of shipping/printing costs.
Worse, when the New York Yankees tried to do this 10 years ago, the New York State Attorney General smacked them down. From Deadspin:
The legality of pocketing the fees is…questionable. In 2002 the Yankees pulled the same move, keeping nearly $1.5 million in service charges for playoff games they never played. The State Attorney General got involved and forced the team to refund 90 percent of that cash. The last 10 percent was deemed more than enough to cover the team’s actual costs. Since then, the Yankees and most MLB teams give full refunds.
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As if the holdouts weren’t odious enough, the Orioles initially tried to pass the buck on their free money, claiming they were handcuffed by an MLB policy that requires non-refundable service charges. After hearing from MLB, and being told that this is obviously a lie, they changed their story and admitted the choice was theirs and theirs alone.
That’s some really great public relations, Nats and O’s. And this comes on the heels of the Nationals refusing to ensure that fans had a safe ride home after late night playoff games by agreeing to put down a deposit to extend Metro service by an hour.
There’s one other issue here. At least in the case of the Nationals, fans are being told it could take six weeks before their refunds are processed. This means thousands of fans are out thousands of dollars for six weeks while the team gets to sit on the balance — and collect interest. If this is what is happening, an immediate investigation is warranted into the team’s actions.