Should You Offer Race Refunds?

Most races don’t offer refunds, and for good reason. While cancellations can be tied to legitimately unavoidable circumstances, such as injuries and unexpected conflicts, they can also be a result of participants who weren’t serious, didn’t train, or didn’t plan.

With the hard-won profit margins inherent in hosting endurance events, and the fact that directors must invest in all the set-up costs for their event, refunds just don’t make sound business sense. However, no-refund policies aren’t as cut and dried as you might think.


1. Customers don’t know always about the policy.

According to Krys Davis, Founder of Wicked Wine Run, it’s common for runners to be unaware of no-refund policies for last-minute change of plans or inclement weather.

“Although our policy is clearly stated throughout our website and during the registration check-out process, some of our customers overlook this.”

2. It feels bad to say ‘no’.

Event Directors have feelings, too. You care about your athletes and understand the burden of lost race fees.

3. Arbitrating what qualifies and what doesn’t gets tricky.

Putting yourself in the position of having to decide which reasons are valid for breaking your policy and which aren’t is stressful. If exceptions are made, word can get out. Even if you point to your no-refunds policy at that point, you’ve lost leverage and left room for pressure and argumentation.

4. Unhappy customers can get social.

Today, customer service is aired on social media. Organizers have to suffer through bad press that can get a lot of coverage if an unhappy participant tries to exact revenge or apply pressure. Trying to stop the bleeding can result in others seeing that tactic work and emulating it.

Krys Davis says, “Most of [our customers] do understand why this is standard practice in the race industry. But there is a very small percentage of a percentage that becomes frustrated because we can’t make ‘one exception’ just for them.”

5. You don’t want to lose registrants. 

Early registrations help fund the cost of the event, giving you the ability to pay vendors and purchase needed supplies. When you have a no-refunds policy, registering months or a year in advance is risky for participants, feeding Director concerns about suppressed early turn-out or a high probability of refund requests, especially for big-ticket events.

Additionally, Charles Allen of Premier Event Management says that a “perception [develops] that you aren’t flexible as an event organizer with people’s constantly changing life events, that you take money and don’t offer an out.” This can leave Directors nervous about impacting participant loyalty.

Ultimately, Organizers know that their bottom line cannot sustain a policy of refunding fees. A common workaround to protect both your business and your participants is providing a transfer policy. Krys states that “Because we do understand that situations come up, we have a very generous transfer policy. So even if a participant has an unexpected schedule conflict, we allow them the ability to transfer to a friend or even transfer to the next year with advanced notice.” This minimizes risk for both events and athletes, even if it’s not the perfect solution for the registrant.

A BETTER WAY: A NEW KIND OF Registration Fee Protection 

With typical offers that protect runners’ fees in the case of cancellation, on-the-go registrants can easily miss the offer or forget to add it at check-out. This oversight opens the door for the frustrated responses mentioned above. Additionally, offering such policies and handling cancellation claims can add administrative labor to already taxed directors.

Enter: Registration Protection by Booking Protect. This innovative protection plan is different in three critical ways:

  • Directors don’t have to do a thing. This product feature is integrated into the registration flow in your ACTIVEWorks Endurance software. You never have to handle funds.
  • Registrants must choose to opt in or out. As a required field in the registration form, it’s impossible to miss the refund protection offer and the form cannot be completed without acknowledging the plan. To move forward, they must accept or reject the offer. That means you’ll never have to hear “I didn’t see that” again.
  • Directors can earn a share of the revenue. This feature of Registration Protection makes it truly a win-win for Event Organizers.

If you’re already an ACTIVE customer, contact your Account Manager for more info or to claim your revenue share.