LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — The actors at Summit Theater spent months practicing for a musical production only to have it canceled after the first weekend of shows because of COVID-19.
That bad news was followed by more bad news: All the proceeds from the first weekend are missing.
The ticket broker that the community theater group used never handed over any of the nearly $1,400 in sales that were made from that one weekend of performances.
“I first tried to call them because they are supposed to have 24-hour support available,” Summit Theater business manager Ginger Birch said.
But all she heard was an automated response informing her they were only accepting emails, so she emailed them.
“There was no response, not even an auto response,” Birch said.
Over the last year, she’s kept trying. She’s never gotten hold of anyone, which is why Summit Theater called FOX4 Problem Solvers for help.
“That $1,400, although it sounds like not very much, is actually a great big deal to us,” Summit Theater President Becca Stabno said.
Problem Solvers immediately went to work. But the more we dove in, the more bleak this problem became.
For starters, Summit Theater isn’t the only one out money from that same ticket broker.
Brown Paper Tickets, a company based in Washington state, owes money to more than 500 nonprofits, small businesses and ticket buyers, according to a lawsuit filed in September by the Attorney General of Washington state.
The lawsuit claims the total amount owed is more than $6 million. Brown Paper Tickets has either denied or refused to comment on most of the allegations in the lawsuit. However, according to a court filing, it did claim it was in the process of repaying some of the money.
Brown Paper Tickets, once seen as a potential competitor to Ticket Master, has been in business for more than a decade. Many of its clients liked the fact that it still sold tickets over the phone and charged lower transaction fees.
“They were great on customer service,” Birch said.
But that great customer service has disappeared. Brown Paper Tickets isn’t responding to its clients or FOX4’s emails or phone calls. However, the company’s website is still up, and it’s still selling tickets.
Listed on the site is an event at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in April. A spokeswoman for the museum told FOX4 that it doesn’t use Brown Paper Tickets and the April event is being put on by the Bach Aria Soloists.
We called the Bach Aria Soloists to warn them about Brown Paper Tickets, but (unfortunately) they already knew. A spokeswoman said Brown Paper Tickets owes them more than $9,000, money she feared they will never see.
Unfortunately for Summit Theater, this is a problem we can’t solve. However, we encouraged Summit Theater to contact the attorney general of Washington state and ask to be added to that $6 million lawsuit. That could be its best hope for ever seeing any money.