No way to make ‘La Nouba’ — how about a do-over?

Question: I need some help. My friend and her husband have been extremely good to me this past year. It has been a difficult year for me personally and they have opened their home to me and their friendship has been unmerited.

As a token of my appreciation, I recently purchased two tickets to Cirque du Soleil “La Nouba” in Orlando for them. They booked a hotel and planned on making it a fun-filled weekend. The tickets state on them to arrive at least 30 minutes early. They actually arrived one hour early and were instantly presented with an overwhelming obstacle: There was absolutely no parking.

They rode around the parking areas from 5 until 7:45 p.m. At that time, they knew that they had missed over half of the show, conceded defeat and went back to their hotel room.

I didn’t find out about it until the following Monday when I asked how the show was. My friend then told me the tale of the “worst traffic she had ever seen.” She also stated that all of the parking areas were full and closed off and that once in the stream of traffic, looking for a parking space, that it was impossible to get out of the flow. My friend didn’t want to tell me because she was disappointed and knew that I would also be disappointed.

I called Cirque du Soleil and was told that my friend should have called the box office and explained her parking dilemma, and that their tickets could have been re-issued for a later showing. But there is no phone in the box office.

Now I’m being told that I need to personally come to the box office to try to re-negotiate a refund or re-issue of the tickets. But I live two hours from Orlando, so that’s not an option. Can you help? — Jenni Turbeville, Okeechobee, Fla.

Answer: Cirque’s purchase agreement for its tickets doesn’t address your friend’s particular problem. But they seem to suggest that while Cirque can cancel any performance and reschedule, you don’t have the same flexibility.

That may seem a little one-sided, but it’s in line with other live events. Imagine if the ticket terms were fairer, allowing you to cancel any time up to the moment the curtain rises, and get a full refund. Cirque would probably go out of business.

At the same time, I think special allowances should be made for circumstances that are within the theater’s control, like traffic. Cirque has a responsibility, at least in my view, to provide adequate parking for its guests. If no one can get to the show, what’s the point of having one?

Your friends were attending a performance on a busy holiday weekend, so they probably should have given themselves a little extra time. But even if they had, they reported circling in the parking lot nearly two hours, so I doubt if that would have done much good.

There must have been others who couldn’t make the show, too. Cirque should have either printed a warning on its tickets during these peak times, or allowed the no-shows to come back at a later time without having to visit the box office in person. But at the end of the day, your friends were responsible for making it to the show on time — at least according to the terms of their ticket. So strictly speaking, Cirque didn’t owe them anything.

Still, knowing Cirque and having attended its shows in the past, I don’t think it would want you or your friends to be disappointed. I decided to share your story with them, and a representative contacted you by email, offering to re-issue the tickets.

(Photo: mookiefl/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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