Diane Haber and her husband pay $750 for a Santa workshop in Colorado. But after the pandemic hits, they want to postpone their seminar. Can they do that? Or can you even get a refund for a Santa workshop?
My husband, Tony, lives and breathes Christmas. Since people always tell him he looks just like Santa, and his response is, “I am Santa,” we started doing Santa gigs last year.
Since we were newbies, we decided to attend Susen Mesco’s Professional Santa Claus School. We sent in our $750 deposit and looked forward to the classes in Colorado on Labor Day weekend.
Then COVID-19 hit. Due to health issues and our age, we did not feel it was appropriate to attend. We called Susen, explained the situation and asked if she would apply our tuition for next year. She said no.
We did sign a contract that said the deposit was nonrefundable and nontransferable, but that was before the epidemic. Under normal circumstances, I can understand the restrictions, but these are not normal circumstances. This is a lot of money for us to lose since we are both retired. Can you help us get a refund or apply the $750 deposit to next year’s tuition? — Diane Haber, Crystal Lake, Ill.
This is one of the more unusual requests I’ve received. I didn’t know there was a Professional Santa Claus School. But there is. The school offers Santa candidates “tools, knowledge, experience, insights, mentor connections, thought processes, skills, tricks, tips and exclusive training to go SO much further beyond your expectations!”
I reviewed the correspondence between you and the Santa Claus School. While most of the communication took place by phone, you were able to share an email and a copy of your contract. The contract confirms that there are no refunds. But given the circumstances, I thought transferring your credit to the 2021 workshop might be in order.
So can you get a refund for a Santa workshop?
This kind of reminds me of the eternal question in travel: Can you get a refund on a nonrefundable ticket? (The answer: maybe.)
I contacted the school on your behalf. In a lengthy reply, the owner noted that the Santa School began taking registrations in January from its waiting list and new inquiries. After you signed up, you received membership in the school’s private Facebook group of over 200 graduate Santas, where they share “nonpublic industry information, techniques, tips, resources, exclusive access to and offers for Santa jobs prior to being made public to the industry.”
The school gave you access to its back office with over 40 workshops and tasks, from learning sign language to starting a business. You received access to the school’s blog, which features 32 detailed educational lessons on handling children, growing your business, working with parents, and more.
Also, the seminar you decided not to attend relocated to a new hotel. The school made arrangements so you could either participate in person in a ballroom with only 30 attendees or virtually.
So you’ve already received much of the value of Santa training, at least according to the Santa Claus School.
The school stood by its decision to deny you a refund or credit. However, you have one more option, which, in the holiday spirit, I’ll call the Santa Clause. You can file a chargeback on your credit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you can dispute a charge for products that were not delivered as promised. A change of venue to a larger ballroom or a virtual event might qualify. Here are a few more tips on resolving a consumer problem yourself.
I wish I could have helped you resolve this case. No one should have to pay for giving their health a high priority. But even this consumer advocate can’t replace the lumps of coal under your Christmas tree.
Some things are really nonrefundable …
Maybe that’s the takeaway from this case. But what do you think should — and shouldn’t — be nonrefundable. I’d be very interested in your thoughts. The comments are open, as always.