Reader's View: Is it legal not to refund Grandma’s fees?

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This is regarding Grandma’s Marathon cancelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its decision to not refund registration fees.

I am a small-business owner. All three of my businesses have been directly impacted by COVID-19. My bar/restaurant is shut down. My vacation rental in Duluth has lost every reservation for the next three months. And our storage and residential renters can’t pay rent.

Grandma’s Marathon may be nonprofit and, sure, has staff and financial obligations to meet. But we are all in the same boat here. I can’t pay my staff, I have financial obligations to meet as well — as do all Americans. When Grandma’s said there are no refunds for cancellations, did that include them cancelling? Tell me, is it really legal to set up an event, collect fees, cancel said event, not reschedule, and then keep all the fees simply because they are nonprofit?

Grandma’s Marathon weekend is a huge weekend for us personally. Our guests that weekend already canceled — and will get a full refund because, even though I could really use the money right now, my integrity is worth more.

For those of us who have lost jobs, shut down our businesses, and are directly impacted, Grandma’s decision to convert our four runners’ registration fees into donations, without input, is more than disappointing. A “donation receipt” does nothing for us.


The decision will have long-lasting negative effects on the integrity of the Grandma’s organization. Did they not get event insurance? If not, that’s not the problem of those who registered. I’d never think it’s OK to convert guest rent into a donation without asking first. Maybe Grandma’s Marathon should have asked us if we’d donate the fees instead?

I strongly advise the marathon to rethink this decision and reevaluate the long-term effects.

Gina Bortnem



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