Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has caused the cancelation of nearly all the conferences, events, and gatherings with more than 10 people throughout the world. Since multiple well-known conferences have been giving their attendees two options, full refund or deferral to next conference dates, as soon COVID issues have been settled. However, there is one conference, Florida Silent Weekend (FSW), that attracted some unwanted attention by undertaking a unique approach by forcing its attendees to pay a $15.00 processing fee for an event that was canceled by COVID 19, which is considered a natural disaster act, which is an uncontrollable act of nature.   

Florida Silent weekend posted their policy on canceled weekend indicating a partial refund of all attendees (minus the $15.00). FSW expects its attendees to underwrite their business expenses. What did they do? They told people they’re saving money! Their website cites a 20 percent processing fee for those that cancel their event spot “our statement on the website of charging a 20% processing fee is valid. You, therefore, agreed to that when you registered.” (The Florida Silent Weekend).

Bear in mind, it is typical for people to lose their full registration fee or surrender a percentage of their registration costs if they (the attendees) cancel. Fees are not typical when the conference is canceled by the host/ authorities, it is the host’s responsibility to ensure a full refund or offer deferral registration to future conferences. Is this ethical on their part, or Are they making these choices out of greed?

The hosts listed a full explanation justifying the $15 dollar processing fee for a conference they canceled. Some of the reasons listed are typical business expenses. Something stood out among the listed expenses: “several presenter airline tickets (early, so that they would be less expensive)”. Did you know, all airlines have given a full refund or the option for travel credit for future travel because of COVID-19.   

The laundry list also included expenses such as their business license, website, and hosting of the website, etc. The hosts should be responsible to cover their own expenses because YOU are not the ones who canceled the conference, the Host/Authorities did. They are trying to convince you otherwise. 

For your information, this is a typical business expense and it is easily written off in their accounting practices.  Something else to think about.  Did this conference host have conference insurance which would have covered that easily! There are event insurances available for this reason. 

If you are a victim of this unethical practice by the Florida Silent Weekend, dispute the charge with your credit card company. Let the credit card company know that the charges are being disputed due to the conference being canceled because of a national disaster (COVID-19). You will most likely get a full refund.

Those who oversee the Florida Silent Weekend should think twice before charging their attendees a processing fee for a conference that the host/Authorities canceled.