Things are tough right now for everybody around the world. Each and every person is affected by COVID-19 in some way, big or small. The uncertainty and ever-changing timelines only add to that stress. And we’re seeing the strain at GigSalad.
With social distancing and bans on mass gatherings, events of all types are on hold for the foreseeable future. Event planners can’t have events, and vendors can’t service events. But the exact ramifications that both sides feel are a little different, and that’s something we have to take into consideration as we deal with cancellations and other changes.
Stepping into another pair of shoes
When the calls for cancellations first started coming to us, we as a company had to determine how to handle them. GigSalad is a platform facilitating a transaction between two entities (vendors and event planners) who have entered into a binding contract with each other. We earn a very small percentage of each booking as our service fee, so we only keep a sliver of the fees event planners pay to their entertainer or event service provider.
Because these are obviously unusual circumstances out of everyone’s control, both sides want what they feel is fair: vendors want to keep their non-refundable deposits and event planners want their non-refundable deposits returned to them. As much as we’d like to, we simply can’t do both.
So what’s fair? It’s helpful to step into the shoes of both sides of the booking agreement to determine the right course.
Stepping into an event planner’s shoes:
Because of CDC recommendations and/or state laws, I must cancel my upcoming event. I have paid a deposit to a vendor that I would like to have returned to me, as the cancellation is out of my control. This is money that will be very helpful to my family, as I don’t know how long my own job will be active or if I’ll be able to get unemployment.
Stepping into a vendor’s shoes:
Because of the current issues surrounding social gatherings, most of my clients are canceling events. I will not have any gigs for the next few months. Because of this, I will not be collecting any final balances, which make up the bulk of my income. If I also refund deposits to the clients, I’ll lose all of my income. As a freelancer, I likely cannot collect unemployment, either. This is the reason I choose to make my deposits non-refundable.
As you can see, both sides want what they want and there are no winners. Both sides are losing something. Nothing about this situation is fair. Not for the event planner. Not for the vendor.
So, what happens with deposits?
Performers, musicians, and event service providers are at risk of losing their livelihood right now. Many vendors establish non-refundable deposits into their cancellation policy at the time of booking for situations such as this: to protect them when they lose work.
This is why it’s important for us to uphold vendor cancellation policies as they are written and treat cancellations that happen during this coronavirus outbreak the same as all other event cancellations. If the booking policy states that the deposit is non-refundable, we will adhere to that unless the vendor makes the choice to alter their refund policy in an agreement with their client. Whatever is in the agreement is what was agreed to when the booking happened, and this is why vendors and contractors of all types and across all platforms have written such agreements: to protect their livelihood against the unexpected.
What’s the win-win solution?
We strongly encourage both sides to work toward a common solution. In most cases, this can involve rescheduling the event to an agreed-upon future date. We’ve seen this happen countless times over the past month and it’s the way to bring a win-win resolution to an otherwise losing scenario.
If the event simply cannot be rescheduled, then we’ve also seen other creative solutions work wonderfully so that neither side loses out. A canceled birthday party turns into a surprise virtual visit from a princess. A canceled house party becomes a “social distancing” party where the band plays a live, personalized, virtual show and requests are played in real-time. A canceled corporate event transforms into a multi-member Google hangout where a comedian or magician entertains from afar. A singing telegram delivers the goods via email or text.
There are many ways to resolve a canceled event, and we urge you to step into each other’s shoes at this time and be kind to one another. Vendors want to share their talent at events, and party throwers want to party. Let’s do everything we can right now to get through this, and then agree to throw an amazing celebration when this mess is over. Because we’re all in this together. ❤