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BBB TIPS

"No refund" cancellations have bitten some 'fun run' consumers

Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 1:48 pm

This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.

Better Business Bureau has been hearing lots of complaints about various fun runs that have been canceled with short notice, often with no refunds. In July, BBB of Greater Cleveland reported on a 5K Foam Fest that was cancelled with just four days’ notice. An email to paid participants said, “Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide you with a refund.” A similar event in southern California was also canceled with the same “no refund” email. The race website says it had ceased operations as of July 17. Another race company has offered Foam Fest participants a discount code for future themed races.

The two 5K Foam Fest events were to be put on by Round House Racing Team, which is based in Utah. Since the cancellation was announced, BBB Utah has received 90 complaints from participants looking for refunds of the $45-$75 registration fees they were charged. The BBB is processing those complaints now, and an alert was added to the company’s BBB Business Review.

This cancellation news came just a month after Runners’ World reported that the Electric Foam 5K had shut down after numerous race cancellations and an F rating with BBB for its parent company, Color Mania 5K. A number of BBBs and at least one national media outlet had been investigating the canceled Electric Foam 5Ks when the company announced it was closing down all the events. Some participants received refunds through Groupon. The company’s website said it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

If you are thinking about participating in a themed fun run, here are some BBB tips:

• Do your research. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review and search online for additional information before signing up.

• Understand the terms and conditions. In some cases, promoters say on their websites that they don’t offer refunds, but many consumers don’t read the fine print before hitting “I agree” to long online documents.

• Check the local venue. Contact the park or other venue to confirm that the event is scheduled.

• Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot.

• Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.

• Check out the charity. Most fun runs are for-profit, but if the promoters claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, check it out on give.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity.

Marjorie Stephens is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. Before you make a purchase, go to the BBB website at www.neindiana.bbb.org or call 423-4433 or toll-free 1-800-552-4631 to check out a business.