Students on the hook for dresses after local proms canceled


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GROVE CITY, Ohio (WCMH) — With prom canceled for high schools across the country, some families are off the hook for an expensive day, but girls and their parents may be stuck footing the bill for a dress they can’t wear. 

For a high school senior, prom is a rite of passage which is something Olivia Johnson from Grove City has planned on for years. When she heard prom wasn’t going to happen she was devastated and now she’s out of memories and money. “We found the dress and I just felt special in it,” she said.

So special, she agreed to pay $329 dollars for it, starting with a $160 deposit she made from working part-time at a fast-food restaurant. “She has lost a lot already this senior year and the whole class of 2020 has [too]. It was just gut-wrenching when they decided to cancel the senior prom.” 

Now she’s not only out of a prom but her deposit. “We can’t get our money back [nor] any other seniors can’t get [their] money back for the dresses they put down.”

 Olivia, like a lot of high school seniors, signed a contract acknowledging there were no refunds for dresses or deposits. It’s a common practice by dress companies, according to consumer reporter John Matarese, to prevent people from wearing the dress and returning it.

“They would wear them to the dance and basically, Monday morning bring it back to the store. So, stores don’t accept the dresses back. They don’t accept wedding dresses back. They don’t accept prom dresses back. They don’t even accept formal wear back because they don’t want to rent the dresses out for free.”

Keeping the money is legal, according to the Ohio Attorney Generals’ office, “So long as the store was willing to provide the dress and the deposit was agreed upon as being non-refundable, the consumer may be required to forfeit her deposit.”

Refunding the deposit would be up to the store on a case by case basis which is something that could potentially put local shops out of business or lead to quote “unequal treatment of customers” as stated by the company where Olivia bought her dress. 

“I just think they are going to make a profit off of the other dresses, from the other kids around this area at the other schools and I think it would show a lot of grace if they helped out these seniors who didn’t have a prom.”

According to John Matarese, this is an issue a lot of businesses don’t want. “If they make the exception for one family how many dozens of others are they going to have to make exceptions for?”

Olivia doesn’t want to buy a dress for a day she won’t get.

“Just getting ready with my friends, just having the whole day off from school, and just going out to lunch or breakfast together and just have the whole day to get ready, take pictures and go out to dinner.” 

Even caught in this situation Olivia remains grateful for her time at Grove City High School.

“I’m very happy that I went to Grove City. It was the teachers and the friends I’ve gotten close with and I’ve connected with very well over the four years I know no matter what happens this senior year they are going to be there for me.”

If you are stuck with a dress you don’t want you can go to the store and ask if you can return it in exchange for a store credit that you can use in the future for a formal event like a wedding. John Matarese says most stores will do that for you. If you are still not satisfied, you can contact the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.

According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, you can also call your policyholder to talk about your potential coverage for the loss of paying for an expensive dress.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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