VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Don Kempf's son, the eldest of three, was "dying" to attend the popular Winter Olympic snowboard cross events this week at Cypress Mountain. So Kempf and his family, having flown to the Games from Chicago, purchased five $50 general admission tickets from Vancouver Ticket for $300 apiece.
Early Monday, the Kempfs drove to a parking lot, unloaded the car and walked to the bus for Cypress. "We were about to board, and the guy said 'if you have category B tickets, you'll be under 2 feet of water' and that we couldn't go," said Kempf.
General admission standing-room tickets for Cypress were canceled Sunday by the Vancouver Organizing Committee because rainy weather melted the snow and created unsafe conditions. VANOC said all tickets affected would be refunded ... but what if a spectator paid $250 above face for them?
It's at this point we see the subtle difference between a broker and some guy in the street flashing tickets: After the bus frustration, Kempf was back at Vancouver Ticket, where the broker offered a full refund and the staff hustled to find five general admission reserve seats for his family. After about 20 minutes, the Kempfs had their tickets: $125 face value, costing $400 each.
"Anything that's canceled, we're offering full refunds, and sometimes credits would be offered," said Adrian Sutherland of Showtimetickets.com, a broker down Beatty Street from Vancouver Ticket. His shop has the same policy, reinforced by the special circumstances for most Olympic fans: "Typically these are customers that are only here for a few days," he said.
Don Kempf and family weren't alone in their hunt for new, valid tickets Monday morning – a VANOC parking rep at Simon Fraser University, where buses to the mountains launched from, said fans were being turned away because of the ticket cancellations.
While it's good to see the brokers getting into the Olympic spirit on the refund front, let's not miss the bottom line here: What was a $250 upcharge per general admission ticket became a $275 upcharge for the new tickets, which obviously hadn't sold yet on the day of the event. So everybody wins. Sort of.