Meetup started offering Meetup Perks, a program for advertisers to offer members-only deals to certain groups, back in February. Sponsors “For example: If you own a bike store, you may want to post an offer for a discount on products and services to Bicycling Meetups,” Meetup says. Brands pay Meetup $5 for each user who accepts a perk. Sounds like a win-win for brands and users, no? But apparently the system doesn’t work quite as well as it should: a Meetup user in D.C. is suing the site over a botched Perk in which American Youth Symphony offered users free tickets, then charged them a cancellation fee for performance tickets that were not used within a set period of time.
All in all, AYS issued charges for $160,000 worth of unused tickets at a $20 cancellation fee for each.
Meetup scoffed at the claim by AYS, noting that the company gave out 7,980 tickets even though the total number of seats availablefor the nine AYS performances was 630; a strong indication that AYS was shooting for a “windfall in cancellation fees” from the beginning.
The trouble is that Meetup approved the Perk, leaving the site open to potential liability for damages caused by Perks. Meetup did not respond to a request for comment.
The case does not ask for specific damages, but seeks to determine Meetup’s liability to its users who were affected by the shady AYS Perk.
The Perks program did not get off to an auspicious start: it was introduced immediately after a major redesign of the site that was a bit too drastic for some of Meetup’s incredibly passionate power users. As a result, some users called for a Perks boycott until Meetup reverted to the old design.
An earlier statement from AYS, defending itself, is below:
“First, our offer for free admission to the production was reviewed and approved by Meetup Inc. who then presented the offer to the groups though their platform. Meetup Inc. clearly would not have offered this to the groups, again after having reviewed and approved it, if they believed it was not proper.
“Second, the offer was not an advertisement but a contract offer which required that each group organizer accept it or decline it by clicking through the agreement.
“Third, the Terms clearly state that by accepting the offer the groups were accepting a set number of tickets which must be used within a set period of time or a cancellation fee, equal to the face value of each unused ticket, would apply.
“In summary, our organization set out to offer a great free perk to the Meetup.com Groups. All we asked in return was that if the groups accepted the tickets, that they at least attend.
“Fortunately, some Meetup.com groups did take advantage of the offer and their attendance was greatly appreciated and valued.
“Unfortunately, many other groups have mistaken a contract providing free admission to our event for a license to treat the performance cavalierly and without regard and are now appalled at the forewarned consequences. We submit that those groups should consider the feeling of the performers who were greatly disappointed by their absence.”