The events this week of Hurricane Sandy left me both in awe and shock as it did no doubt so many others.
But whilst no one needs sympathy right now over assistance in getting back on their feet, when looking at the events world and thinking about all of the people whose most special of occasions may have been completely destroyed – just what are the ramifications of a last-minute event cancellation?
Most contracts contain a Force Majore clause which is exactly what this type of weather situation covers. A couple of years back when the ash cloud hit over Europe the same clause was used for many clients and the cancellation of their events – as this kind of “freak of nature” just can not be foreseen and is therefore a release to the client. The hope would be that in most cases the clients will simply re book their event for the first available opportunity and over time things level out – however, so many other elements have to be considered – just a couple to think about;
What if space is not free on these new dates?
What if the event can not take place any other time with many guests travelling, or simply the client decides to cancel all together – do the venue and all other suppliers just discount the cost in it’s entirety?
What about a wedding occasion, when so many additional aspects have only one chance to come together at the same time?
Insurance – do you need it anyway if you have the Force Majore clause?
What if your reason for cancelling is personal and not actually a Force Majore – do the same rules apply?
From the bottom up….
I have worked on events where in the lead up to the special day a family member has fallen ill and the event has had to be postponed. Force Majore does not apply in this situation and although a cancellation charge may well apply to the booking (depending on the lead time to the event day) I personally (and would hope most places would too) try and be as flexible as possible, and work with the family to simply move the event to another available date. At the end of the day, there are so many other things to consider too when arranging an event of this nature that the venue is just a small part and the stress and strain the family itself would be under is not be something that should be compounded by inflexibility.
Insurance is a good idea for exactly the reason above, and something I would recommend to all brides and event organisers. If it comes to it and you never need it, then the money spent is a great cover for you. If you are unfortunate enough to need it, then the insurance is invaluable when it comes to having to re arrange your event all over again and you can at least then do so with piece of mind without being out of pocket.
Corporate venues and hotels as well as suppliers alike all take a risk on both their event space, bedrooms and equipment when something like this happens. As the disasters are, for the most part unforeseen (even in the case of Sandy when no one was sure of just how bad the storm they knew was coming, would be), you have to make your decisions on the spot – and whilst the flexibility isn’t always the same, how you react to either corporate or social events when something like this happens is what sets true service providers apart from “everyone else”. Taking the long term view is extremely important. I have worked somewhere where a significant amount of money was to be lost due to an unforeseen incident that came up, and although we stood to lose out in the short term (in the end the event did take place later on in the year) the impact to our reputation had we taken a hard line would have been irreparable.
I would love to hear from you, with your experiences of either having had to be the person who cancelled or was cancelled on…..what was the most important lesson you learnt?