Consumer Alert

Theater’s closing leaves ticket holders in the lurch

By Mitch Lipka
Globe Correspondent / July 12, 2009
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Q. North Shore Music Theatre requested subscriptions for the 2009 season earlier than usual. I used my American Express card to pay for the subscription (about $700) in October. Early this year, the theater said it was canceling the 2009 season unless it raised $5 million.

They have not raised the required money and canceled the season. They said they are not refunding season ticket deposits. They said that they put ticket deposits given later than October in an escrow account, but not the earlier deposits. Can you help me get a refund of my subscription?

Bill Rizzo

A. I called the theater’s listed phone number, but it was disconnected, and e-mails sent to the spokeswoman asking for an explanation of the representations made to lure the early subscribers, went unanswered. But the group did post a statement about its failure.

“In the last two months we have been able to make progress toward our fund-raising goal, but sadly, this is not enough to fund a 2009 season and keep the theater open,’’ theater board chair David Fellows said in the statement. “Without a season this year, we are unable to address the substantial debts of our creditors and restore the theater’s economic health.’’

As you have found, dealing with a defunct business can be enormously frustrating and present an often insurmountable challenge. In a bankruptcy, you’ll likely be pushed to the back of the pack - after creditors with more standing are paid. And, as is typical in these cases, at best you’ll receive a small fraction of what is owed.

After speaking with you, I found that you contacted the credit card company, which was the right action to take. But beware: The Fair Credit Billing Act gives consumers 60 days after the receipt of a credit card statement to object to a charge.

Now, you should lodge a formal complaint with the state attorney general’s office. The theater seemingly handled the money it collected differently when you paid than afterward. And there is some question about representations made to folks like yourself in its solicitation for ticket sales.

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