WWE For Free

A few staff members at The Resch Center got word Wednesday, June 17. Five days later, when the World Wrestling Federation’s “Monday Night Raw” was visiting, there would be a big surprise: a full refund for every fan in the building.

“They said, ‘Don’t tell a soul,’” the venue’s VP of event services, Kristie Haney, told Pollstar. “‘The only people who can know right now are the people who need to facilitate this. And if you tell anybody, we’re all in trouble.’”

The WWE was about to provide what is likely a first in the world of entertainment: an immediate refund to a successful, fully realized arena event. As Haney noted, the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio, was recently the site of a similar situation when Neil Diamond refunded an entire arena’s worth of tickets. But Diamond’s voice was shot and the performer chose to compensate his disappointed fans.

“This has got to be the first time in history that people saw the show, enjoyed the show and got a refund,” Haney said.
The WWE, known for its flashy publicity and outrageous story lines, combined them in Green Bay, Wis. Donald Trump has many side projects and one is the tycoon’s ongoing rivalry with WWE chief Vince McMahon, which once culminated in a slapfest at a press conference.

Now Trump would “buy” the WWE right out from under McMahon. And, because the fans had been receiving such lousy entertainment from the former CEO, Trump would give them their money back.

About five venue execs were in the know, including the box office director and box office manager. The group sat down and went through the scenarios.

“How are we going to tell people? When would they get their refunds?” Haney said.

As soon as Trump reached the airport, he would announce he was “putting the ‘green’ back into Green Bay.” So there was the possibility that the Resch Center would need to refund the show before it began. But at the last second it was decided Trump would announce the refund in the ring.

The WWE made it as easy as it could on the Resch Center. The wrestling corporation would, above its contracted rental requirements, pay for all extra staffing, fees and any other expense. The Resch Center hired two extra police officers for the lobby near the box office and called up practically all of its box office employees. They didn’t question why they would be needed at a sold-out show.

“It was kind of like, ‘Hey, I’ll take the extra hours!’” Haney said. “So it was a win-win for everybody. We really couldn’t tell them why they were coming in, and they were shocked when they found out.”

Key supervisors were made aware of the refund as soon as the doors opened. When Trump made his announcement from the ring, ushers were handed flyers that provided detailed refund instructions. Signs were posted on the doors.

Trump, for his part, made sure to repeat to the crowd that the refund took place after the show, so there would be no rush to the lobby during the event.

And, for once, living in a debt society had its advantages. The majority of the crowd, who paid using credit cards online at Ticket Star – the in-house ticketing company for facility manager PMI Group – were immediately credited a full refund including facility and credit card fees.

The rest was a piece of cake. The box office opened up all eight windows to accommodate the last-minute cash customers and those who bought through a Ticket Star outlet.

“We had to make sure things went smoothly but the WWE staff was there, with bullhorns,” Haney said. “Their staff was great. It went better than you could have ever imagined.”

But just because the crowd got a refund didn’t mean the WWE stopped being a business.

“They were on the bullhorns shouting, ‘Now that you have cash in your hands, we have some great T-shirts over here at the merch stand,’” Haney said.

Fans also had until the following Friday to return to the box office for a refund.