Can I get a refund for my wedding rental?

wedding rental

The COVID-19 outbreak cancels Mike Feehrer’s wedding. But Relics Rental, a wedding rental business, wants to keep the $3,534 he paid. Can it do that?

Question

I need your help getting a refund of $3,534 from Relics Rentals, a wedding rental business. The State of Illinois closed all restaurants and bars last March. Our wedding, which was scheduled for March 28, was canceled. We still got married, but just with a priest and no reception.

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I called Relic Rentals, but it would not provide a refund. A representative offered a $3,534 credit for that amount to be used over the next year or a refund of our deposit, which is about 50 percent of the total amount.

I explained that I would not have an occasion to use the credit. The representative said the business had “damages and costs” associated with providing the services. My fiancé, Amy, spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Relic Rentals.

The representative also claimed other wedding vendor companies were not giving refunds. That’s not true. All our vendors, including our caterer, florist and hotel, have all issued full refunds.
I propose a full refund, less $250, to compensate the company for the time. I think that’s a fair solution. But when I call the company, it just goes to voicemail. Can you help me? — Mike Feehrer, Plainfield, Ill.

Answer

I’m sorry about your canceled wedding. In a situation like this, I believe the business should offer either a credit or a full refund. And you’ve already tied the knot, so it’s not like you’re going to have a big ceremony anytime soon.

As I read the correspondence between you and Relic Rentals, I could see both sides. You’re trying to keep your money during a challenging economy. Relic wants to protect its business.

We’ve seen this countless times in the last year. A company tries to hold its customers to original agreements even in the face of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. And it doesn’t always end well.
I should note that Relic Rentals was accommodating when it offered to refund your deposit or give you a one-year credit. Its normal policy is no refunds or credits, according to its website. And you agreed to that policy when you paid your deposit.

As a reader, I sympathize with Relic and wish it the best of luck in getting through the pandemic. But as a consumer advocate, I believe its refund policy is, well — a relic. (And it’s not the first one.)

Do you deserve a refund for your wedding rental?

I contacted the company on your behalf. Jan Oelke, the owner, responded.

“While current events have obviously required dramatic alteration to long-developed plans for weddings and events, those engagements and clients have been the recipients of time, work and resources to date,” she told me. “It is the policy of Relics Rentals to work with the client in rescheduling or postponing their rental reservation. However, simply canceling an event and refusing to reschedule or postpone is not a requirement of the current environment and it does fall under the cancellation portion of our standard policy as outlined in our contract.”

Oelke said the company offered other clients a credit for future rentals and services, valid 365 days from their original event date. She offered you two options: either a credit or a 50 percent refund of the total rental reservation.

You filed a credit card dispute under the Fair Credit Billing Act, but your bank sided with the merchant. You received a $1,767 refund from Relics Rentals.