After seven hours on the phone making calls to different companies and local government agencies, retired nurse midwife and Spokane resident Katie Wagner finally called it quits.
In March, she had bought a $41 ticket for a September showing in Seattle of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” which promises “a 20,000-square-foot light and sound spectacular featuring two-story projections of the artist’s most compelling works,” according to the show’s website. (Current ticket prices on vangoghexpo.com range from $36 to $64.90.)
According to the website, the location would be revealed closer to the show date. So for six months, Wagner waited and waited … and waited.
“As the time got closer and closer, they still hadn’t revealed where this was going to take place,” said Wagner. She emailed and called Fever, the exhibition’s ticketing company, and it assured her that the venue would be revealed at a later date.
“They said that’s part of the thrill of this whole thing: It’s a secret place,” said Wagner. But soon, her ticket date for Sept. 22 was approaching and no venue had been announced.
In March, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about the show, citing ticketing issues as well as confusion between “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” and the similarly titled — though different — “Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition,” coming to Tacoma this December.
Now, as “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” dates rapidly approach, with no venue yet announced, Pacific Northwest ticket holders are taking to social media to express frustrations and concerns. While some write that they’ve received refunds or rescheduled their tickets via vouchers provided by Fever, others posted screenshots of canceled tickets or described emails from Fever saying the show has been delayed; some say they’re having difficulties getting refunds; still others say they’ve been issued vouchers worth only a fraction of what they initially paid for their tickets. According to customers, the responses from Fever customer service about what exactly is happening with the show have been inconsistent.
When contacted, Fever sent the following response — the same response that several ticket holders have reported receiving:
“As our team works to finalize the installation, we have encountered delays in shipment arrivals for the Seattle experience, due to the impact of COVID-19 on global transportation logistics. Despite our best efforts to keep in time with the scheduled opening, we are required to delay the opening date of Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience by a few days, which has already been notified to affected users.”
Fever did not give a date for when the exhibition would open. Its website says only that it’s running “From September, 2021” at a “secret location in Seattle (to be announced soon).”
Customers who were given the option to trade in their tickets for new dates say that the only dates they could find were for December or January.
Exhibition Hub, the producer of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For Wagner, her opportunity to see the show has now come and gone.
The day before she was supposed to travel to Seattle to see it, she made calls to Fever customer service. When she finally got through, she said, the representative told her that there was a problem setting up the show because of COVID-19 and Washington state policies. The show had been delayed and emails sent to all ticket holders. Wagner says she was never notified.
That’s when Wagner made a few more calls — to Visit Seattle, the local Better Business Bureau, and eventually the state Attorney General’s Consumer Protection office, with which she filed a complaint.
She’s not the only one.
Seventeen complaints have been filed with the consumer protection office since March. The Attorney General’s Office is looking into them and says that 10 of those who filed complaints have received refunds. The other seven were filed in the past week.
“We are in the process of requesting responses to these new complaints,” said an office spokesperson. “We ask companies to respond within 21 days.”
There is currently an alert for the company on the Better Business Bureau website, warning that there is a “pattern of complaint” from consumers. According to its website, BBB is waiting for a response from Fever after contacting the company on Sept. 16 “to request its voluntary cooperation in addressing the identified issues in the Pattern of Complaints.”
Visit Seattle, the marketing organization promoting tourism in Seattle and King County, hasn’t had any luck, either.
“We have had no contact with these event producers,” said Kauilani Robinson, the director of public relations for Visit Seattle. “And because we could not verify the organizers or the venue, which is highly unusual, we have not promoted this or associated with it in any way.”
Lauri Bach, an Oct. 9 ticket holder who moved to Washington only three months ago, said that she sent five emails to Fever customer service and received two replies assuring her that the Seattle venue would be announced closer to the opening date in September.
Bach was skeptical and turned to social media. She posted in several Facebook groups asking if anyone had been to the show or heard where it would be.
“I didn’t receive a single positive response,” she said. In the comments on her posts, some said their tickets had been canceled. Others said they were told the show was delayed due to “logistics issues” and were offered a refund or a voucher to book tickets in December. Still others said they received no communication at all.
Meanwhile, Wagner said she’s mostly disappointed that she wasn’t able to see the show.
“I was looking forward to seeing it for months,” she said.
Update 9/23: Organizers of “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” have set a new opening date of Oct. 15 for the Seattle show, though it still has not announced a location.