[sic] Magazine

W-Festival in U Turn over ticket promises.

When covid19 struck in 2020/2021 it was a particularly difficult time for the hospitality industry. Hotels, restaurants and cinemas all felt the brunt, as of course did the music business with venues, promotors and third party vendors all taking a hit. Since the advent of streaming, musicians reply upon live events more than ever before. As such it was tough to observe the impact of the pandemic on artists and fans as many planned events became postponed or cancelled. The ‘not knowing’ aspect was perhaps hardest of all. I can recall several moments where I wondered privately if I would ever attend a gig again. How would it be possible, I wondered, to stand among other people in such close proximity? It seemed very remote. Yet it paled into insignificance when compared to the health and lives of other people.

The solution that some organisers fell upon was to offer their delayed services at a later date. This seemed imminently fair to me. You’ve paid your money and, for reasons that nobody could predict or avoid, the event got cancelled – no worries, your payment will stay on account and go toward future services.

You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Except….when it isn’t true.

In the case of Ostends W-Festival my original event got cancelled for those exact same reasons that I think we all understand. I then started hearing stories of pushback over refunds or exchanges. We would never report solely upon hearsay, however, having personally bought tickets for several days and for two people it became time to test those claims myself. I became the classic undercover customer. I contacted W-Festival and sure enough their support desk indeed refused to exchange my tickets. The reasoning given was thus:

My tickets had been “automatically transferred” to another event (One that I couldn’t have attended) and I should have “contacted them” to opt out of this. W-Festival were acting, as they said to me, “within the Belgian Law on this”.

This seems somewhat odd. Particularly given the fact that, a) nobody told us about the automatic transfer and b) nobody told us about the ‘opt out’. When I asked instead for a refund they refused again, saying they had “sent us tickets” for the other event.

Even if they had done so, their Q Code system should be able to show them that I attended no such event. My response was, ‘Where’s that email please?’ I was then told, (and get this) that the aforementioned email must have “gone into my spam folder”.


Someone clearly has a better view of my junk folder than I do! However, it is blatantly not the case. I have searched and filtered to no avail. Put simply, no such email is there.

But that’s okay. They can just send me a copy of that email, right?


I have requested that they resend me the alleged email several times but W-Festival have not been able to comply.

What I find most telling isn’t the loss of money. It’s the attitude. It almost as though they want people to fail. Simply no effort was made to assist in any way. No solutions/options discussed or offered. No client focus at all in fact. Just a smug and steadfast “we are within the Belgian Law”. In their very first reply to me in fact….“we are within the Belgian Law”. It practically screams “You messed up, idiot. We are keeping your money now.”

Having no knowledge of Belgian Law myself I can only take W-Festival at their word. They win. However, let me ask this. Does it seem fair? If somebody takes your money, gives you nothing in return and refuses to give it back, that used to be called something ‘else’ where I come from.

But hey, what do I know! It must be within the Belgian Law.

None of this is to pick on W-Festival unduly. Theirs just happens to be a factual, first hand example. There is a wider issue at play here than just W-Festival. I start to wonder whether this ticketing practice is becoming a business model. Launch an event, sell tickets, postpone the event, but then make people jump through complicated hoops to get their tickets transferred. Those that miss a step – kerching! – they lose their money. It is a calculated percentage akin to airlines overbooking their seats, except at least the airlines have to compensate people who don’t fly. During the height of the pandemic we all witnessed new concerts being announced, – events that couldn’t eventually take place due to restrictions. Did those customers get their money back, I wonder? I bet that not all of them did. For every person that fell foul of the process, it is clear profit straight to the bottom line for that seller.

Let me be crystal clear. I understand that the service industry took a hit during the pandemic. I understand that there must be a deficit. We all took hits. We all have deficits. My question is – is this really the way to plug that gap – taking and keeping customers money in return for no service delivery? I’m not so sure it is. Services, especially hospitality work best as partnerships where both parties win. ‘Hit and run’ tactics are not sustainable. Once people such as ourselves begin to take notice this attitude will surely backfire.

Enjoy yourselves dear readers, if attending. Be safe and enjoy W-Festival. I shall try to catch the wonderful OMD and others elsewhere.