Always read fine print before signing up for a race
Back in May, Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York reminded consumers to do their homework before participating in any 5K race or other event. Now, Better Business Bureau locations across the country have been receiving many complaints about various fun runs that have been canceled with short notice, often with no refunds.
Recently, organizers of the Dirty Girl Mud Run canceled its event in Charleston, West Virginia. Participants who registered for that event won't receive any refunds "under any circumstances," according to a post on Dirty Girl's Facebook page. There is Dirty Girl Mud Run event scheduled in the Buffalo area in September.
Last week, BBB of Greater Cleveland reported on a "5K Foam Fest" that was canceled with just four days' notice. An email to paid participants said "Unfortunately, we're not able to provide you with a refund." A similar event scheduled for southern California was also cancelled with the same "no refund" email. The race website says organizers have ceased operations as of July 17. Another race company has offered "Foam Fest" participants a discount code for future theme races.
On June 7, a "5K Foam Fest" was held in Batavia. It was put on by the same company that canceled the two previous races, Round House Racing Team, which is based in Utah. Since the cancellations were announced, BBB Utah has received 90 complaints from participants looking for refunds of the $45-75 registration fees they were charged. The BBB is processing those complaints now, and an alert was added to the company's BBB Business Review.
The news of these cancelations came just a month after Runners' World reported the "Electric Foam 5K" had shut down after numerous race cancellations and an "F" rating with BBB for its parent company, Color Mania 5K. A number of BBBs and at least one national media outlet had been investigating the cancelled "Electric Foam 5Ks" when the company announced it was closing down all the events. Some participants received refunds through Groupon. The company's website said it was filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you are thinking about participating in a themed fun run, BBB offers the following tips:
Do your research. Check out the company's BBB Business Review and search online for additional information before signing up.
Understand the terms and conditions.In some cases, promoters say on their websites that they don't offer refunds, but many consumers don't read the fine print before hitting "I agree" to long online documents.
Check the local venue. Contact the park or other venue to confirm the event is scheduled.
Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot.
Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.
Check out the charity. Most fun runs are for-profit, but if the promoters claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, check it out on give.org to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to more famous charities.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for business reviews on more than 4.5 million companies, and charity reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 112 local, independent BBBs across the U.S. and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. Visit bbb.org for more information.
Groupon and Facebook are BBB-accredited businesses.