When Rhode Island Comic Con organizers announced on Facebook last week that actress Kate Beckinsale was canceling her scheduled appearance, it brought back bad memories for convention goers.
In 2015, headliner Carrie Fisher canceled her appearance just a day before the convention, due to illness. Organizers made sure refunds were given for pre-purchased perks, minus surcharges.
The same response was put in place for the Beckinsale cancelation. People who bought the devoted VIP packages (over $200) were refunded for the price of the additional items. Their convention admission (and fee) remained.
But given the number of guest cancelations – 11 at last check, more than 10 percent of the original lineup – the Facebook comments took a turn. Some insisted they be refunded their entire package, claiming Beckinsale was their reason for attending in the first place. Others pointed out there was much more to the convention, and that the remaining celebrity guests were still great. The original post has garnered more than 240 comments, on both sides of the issue. RICC is assisting customers with questions about refunds on Facebook.
"With a star-studded guest list like we have this year, we expect for conflicts to arise. Our guests are actors first and that occasionally takes priority,” said RICC’s Susan Soares. “We are just as disappointed as the fans. However, it is beyond anything we at Rhode Island Comic Con can control."
It’s important to note, guest cancelations happen at plenty of other conventions.
Carrie Fisher canceled her appearance at this year’s Denver Comic Con, due to a filming conflict. Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” canceled on Salt Lake Comic Con . A family emergency meant Gillian Anderson of “The X-Files” had to skip Boston Comic Con in 2015. Those examples are from the first page of results from searching “comic con appearance canceled” on Google.
While some conventions may allow you to spend the money on something else, the “no refunds” policy is pretty common. San Diego, New York City, Salt Lake City – no refunds.
For RICC, it’s covered by a disclaimer at the bottom of the guest page, reading “GUEST LIST SUBJECT TO CHANGE AND REFUNDS WILL NOT BE GIVEN IF A PARTICULAR GUEST IS NOT IN ATTENDANCE.”
Despite whatever public pressure may exist, I wouldn’t expect RICC to change their policy anytime soon – again, it’s the industry standard. And there’s no easy answer to the problem. Should the convention wait longer to make announcements, and possibly impact ticket sales? Or do the fans buy in early to lock in their spot, and just cross their fingers?
It all just seems like bad luck.