Eric Hildebrandt said they stand to lose around $700 in handling fees, which will be kept by CoSport, the authorized ticket reseller in the United States.
“It’s almost like the cherry on top of this giant bitter pill,” Eric said. “We’ve been looking forward to this since Tokyo was announced. And then the news just got worse and worse.”
The Tokyo Olympics, postponed last year amid the pandemic, are set to begin July 23. But organizers have banned spectators from outside Japan as a health measure.
In an email Saturday, Far Hills, N.J.-based CoSport gave U.S. ticket holders until April 9 to apply for a refund but informed them they were only eligible to get back the tickets’ face value — not the handling fee added at the time of purchase.
That amounted to 20 percent of the price of each ticket, up to a maximum of 6,000 yen (nearly $55) per ticket.
“When they came out and said, ‘Nope, it’s not happening for you,’ we were just hoping that CoSport would be understanding, that they’d say: ‘Yeah, this isn’t the buyer’s fault. You did nothing wrong,’ ” Eric Hildebrandt said.
“So it’s been a tough pill to swallow. The whole family is bummed.”
In an interview, CoSport chief executive Alan Dizdarevic said its ticket-handling costs have already been incurred and spent — and argued that ultimate responsibility lies with the Japanese government and organizers.
CoSport says it asked Japan to refund all the costs incurred by international spectators.
“We tried and we were told flatly no,” Dizdarevic said in an interview. “We were told: ‘No, you get the face value because that’s what it says in the ticket sales agreement. And that’s what your customers will get.’ ”
In an emailed response to questions, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee said it would refund “the full face value of the ticket, which is the same amount Tokyo 2020 received for its sale.”
It said it “receives no part of any such handling fees,” which are governed by the terms and conditions set independently by the authorized ticket resellers.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which ultimately grants CoSport control over ticket sales in the United States, declined to comment.
CoSport has been selling Olympic tickets for the past 10 Summer and Winter Games and is the world’s largest Olympic ticket dealer.
This time around it says it has sold around 70,000 tickets in eight countries, including the United States, Australia, Sweden, Norway and Greece.
Tokyo officials say about 600,000 tickets for the Olympics and 30,000 for the Paralympics have been sold to overseas spectators.
CoSport faced significant customer complaints at both the London Games in 2012 and Rio in 2016 — about punitive exchange rates and markups it charges on tickets, about long lines to collect tickets, about tickets purchased together not including adjacent seats, and about the excessive cost of packages that roll up flights and hotels with some of its best tickets.
Dizdarevic said the company’s sole business revolves around the Summer and Winter Olympics, so the cancellation of overseas tickets in Tokyo was having a major impact on its finances.
Under the terms of its agreement with the organizing committee, it has to pay for tickets in Japanese yen and sell them in local currency in each country, incurring bank currency conversion fees on top of credit card service fees of 2.5 percent — a charge that will be incurred a second time when refunds are made, he said.
Customers who paid extra for tickets to be physically shipped to them would have that charge refunded, he said.
But that doesn’t impress Bruce Loeb, a marketing consultant from New York who attended the Games in Atlanta in 1996 and had been planning to travel to Tokyo from the day it was announced. Through CoSport’s system, he had managed to get tickets for volleyball, badminton, track and field, boxing and beach volleyball.
The email from CoSport landed in his junk email folder over the weekend, but when he fished it out he was “pretty surprised and shocked and annoyed” to find out that not only would he have to wait until the third quarter to get his money back for tickets he had purchased almost two years ago, but he also stood to lose at least $800.
But what’s really annoying him is that CoSport is asking customers to waive any legal right to take further action against the company.
“That was the most infuriating part of the whole thing. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Do I wait? Suck it up and know I’ll lose the 20 percent?” he said.
Ticket buyers in some other countries may be getting full refunds. In Britain, for example, TeamGB, an authorized ticket reseller, has already announced refunds will be paid out in full. CoSport’s customers in Australia and Europe have yet to be told what will happen to them.
Dizdarevic said refunds came down to local consumer protection laws.
“In some countries there are laws, like in the U.K. as an example, where the agent — the travel agent is typically how they are considered — has to return the full amount of money, including the handling charge,” he said.
“But when they have those types of laws in place, there are typically protections for the company as well to be able to recoup those funds, whether that be through insurance or through a government program when there are these massive travel issues or interruptions.”
Ticket-holder Loeb said he feels bad for businesses that suffer because of the coronavirus but said it is hard to stomach such a steep cost.
“If they said, ‘Sorry, you’ll lose $20 or something more reasonable,’ I wouldn’t be that upset. But I’m sorry, we’re talking about a lot of money. I lost work this past year. A lot of people have lost things. We all have to suck it up a little bit.”
“The whole thing,” he added, “seems strange and frankly scandalous.”
Maese reported from Washington and Denyer from Tokyo.