Barry Saunders

Saunders: Jilted by Aretha and a Durham hotel

Aretha Franklin has cancelled or postponed five shows in the area since 2005.
Aretha Franklin has cancelled or postponed five shows in the area since 2005. Getty Images

Doris and John Galbraith of New Bern won’t be at the DPAC for Aretha Franklin’s rescheduled concert May 19.

Even money says Aretha won’t be there, either.

Unlike some Aretha fans from whom I’ve heard – fans upset at her for constantly canceling and are thus in no mood to forgive her divatude – the Galbraiths said they won’t be there because they’ll be in Chicago for a wedding.

Even had they been here, they wouldn’t be staying at the Aloft hotel in Durham.

“Once burned ...” Doris Galbraith laughingly told me Wednesday.

Her husband and she feel they were burned when Aretha canceled Thursday night’s scheduled show and the hotel refused to give them a refund or rebook them a room at the chic and conveniently located hotel.

How conveniently located to the Durham Performing Arts Center is Aloft?

If the hotel were any closer to the stage, guests could lie in their beds and make a song request. “Hey! Sing ‘Do-Right Woman,’ Aretha.”

As is her wont when it comes to appearing in the Triangle – she’s canceled five shows here since 2005 – Aretha deflated fans’ spirits with her latest cancellation. Aloft and some hotel room booking agencies deflated the checking accounts of the Galbraiths and others who won’t get recompense or rebooked.

I asked Tim Rogers, Aloft’s assistant general manager, if victims of Franklin’s latest no-show had any recourse.

If it’s a pre-paid rate, when you book the rate you accept the terms. ... It’s fully non-refundable.

Tim Rogers, assistant general manager of Aloft hotel in Durham

“It depends on where they made their reservation. If you were to go online and look at our availability for next week, you might see one rate for $179 that has a 24-hour cancellation policy. The next rate may be 20 percent off, but the terms that come with that are, when you book it, you pay for it, there’s no refund on it.” Nor can you reschedule, he said.

“It’s not based on what you’re coming to town for,” Rogers said. “If it’s a pre-paid rate, when you book the rate you accept the terms. ... It’s fully non-refundable” if you get the discount or booked through another entity, as did the Galbraiths.

“Most people, if they booked the pre-paid rate with us for Thursday,” Rogers said, “we’re allowing them to reschedule that within the next 90 days.”

The DPAC announced Wednesday that the show has been rescheduled for May 19. Let’s see now, that’s 112 days from today.

Aloft, what’ve you got?

A hotel spokeswoman said May 19 is the same period when the music, arts and technology festival Moogfest will be in downtown Durham. “It’s going to be tight” finding a hotel room anywhere downtown, she said.

Doesn’t the hotel exploit its proximity to the DPAC stage in its marketing? You betcha

Sorry, Franklin fans.

It doesn’t seem fair that people trying to get the best deal are penalized if the weather is bad or a performer comes down with diva-ness and doesn’t show.

“Regardless of what happens with the DPAC or anything else,” Rogers said, explaining the hotel’s view, “you’re paying for that hotel room.”

Yeah, but doesn’t the hotel exploit its proximity to the DPAC stage in its marketing?

You betcha. On its website, it encourages you to “make sure you leave time to catch a show during your stay at either the historic Carolina Theatre or at the Durham Performing Arts Center, located directly next door.”

Unsaid, though, is that you’d better make sure whoever you’re coming to town to see shows up.

This is an instance where the Galbraiths and everyone who booked a room could be made whole for minimum inconvenience to the hotel. Instead of penalizing people for trying to save a few coins or telling them that what happens at the DPAC is irrelevant, why not offer them a room without a deadline – or at least one that goes beyond 90 days.

For instance, it would not be without precedent for Queen Re Re to reschedule again, would it?

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