Wendy gives us a full report of what went down at the “Taste of Decatur” non-event yesterday. Very similar to Dave’s report on InDecatur…
As I noted on Twitter, I’m not sure the problems stemmed from the rain causing problems or if somehow the event was a scam but certainly -something- went wrong! I mean, I can’t -prove- either way, although my gut tells me scam. Some careful questioning of other ticket buyers, participating businesses and LivingSocial might reveal the answer.
I heard about the event for the first time through LivingSocial on Thursday and bought a ticket, thinking, wow, $5 (half off the $10 full price) for a tasting event at a couple dozen restaurants! Printed out the voucher Friday and went into Decatur today around noon. The fact I hadn’t heard about this event in advance didn’t bug me because there’s a lot going on in Decatur and it’s festival time in town, so lots of things I could easily have missed on calendars and media and Twitter communications.
So I arrived in Decatur via MARTA train and went over to near the pavilion on the square, where the LivingSocial voucher said will-call would be. There was nothing there — no table, no official looking people, no sign, and not even a scrawled note saying “Due to rain, check-in moved to ___________.” So I started wandering around. I wandered past the county courthouse and near Eddie’s Attic. Here I noticed the restaurant Sammiches at least had a hand-made banner out welcoming people to Taste of Atlanta. I’d already checked to be sure I had the right date, so seeing the sign made me feel better.
After that I wandered up to Ponce, looking for signs of the event, and then I walked down Sycamore over to Church St. Finally, at a loss, I went into the shelter of the MARTA station entrance to keep dry and Tweet asking if anyone knew where will-call was. I wandered around 10 min. after that before getting a reply back from Carl Black, who said check-in was at Rockit.
Now here’s where things start to get a bit weird.
I went over to where I vaguely remembered Rockit being… but walked by because there wasn’t any big sign or banner. But then I squinted and saw a little flyer taped to the window. Inside there was some vaguely organizer-looking people standing around talking. I went in, still not knowing if I was in the right place, and stood there while this one guy, an organizer, helped a couple who’d come in before me and did some explaining about the event. Shortly afterward two other ticket holders came in. We were all soaked from wandering around 30+ minutes looking for will-call. But things would be all fixed soon, right?
Well… wrong. Because neither the organizer guy talking or two other guys there paid any attention to me, the guys in line after me, or ten other people who’d arrived! He just kept talking about the restaurants and giving the couple advice on where they might go eat. Oddly, he was talking about specials, not really tastings, and was also saying they’d be sending all participants a discount card which we could use through July for discount after today. But still, we were waiting there a good ten minutes before anyone helped us. I said to the guy behind me “I guess they don’t want to give anyone their tickets?”
The couple in front of me left finally and I stepped up. Right away I explained to the man (seemingly in charge) that I and others had had a really had time finding will-call. He said “LivingSocial?” and when I said yes, he put blame on them, saying they’d put out the wrong info (pick up at Pavilion). He also said LivingSocial had refused to divulge ticket buyers phone or email addresses so they couldn’t contact us about changes in plans due to rain. Everything was just a misunderstanding, he said. He pointed to a computer screen with a spreadsheet showing everyone who had signed up in advance via LivingSocial.
Anyway, he then turned me to one of two laptops set up on the store counter and told me to enter my info (name, address, email, phone, and voucher #) so that I could be mailed a Taste of Atlanta card. With this card, I’d be able to get some discounts in future, so even if I couldn’t go to all the restaurants today or they were canceled due to rain, I could still go visit the places later. Finally I was given a computer print-out of the restaurants and a stamp on the back of my hand.
Now once I was out of there, I found somewhere dry to stand and looked at the list. I was expecting to see restaurants with a note about what we’d be tasting. Chocolate at Chocolate Bar? Guacamole at Raging Burrito? Sushi? But instead of that there was this list, which didn’t look anything near as slick as the event web site, and instead of tasting info, it was showing discounts, a lot of them rather marginal, for various restaurants. I didn’t see any tastings or “free” stuff listed except for at Sammiches, where I’d seen the banner hanging earlier. All the rest of the “deals” required purchase, i.e. get 50% off any appetizer if you buy an entree, buy one cookie get a second free, get a three-course meal for $25. So you had to pay to get food even though on would think the point of paying for the event was to get a chance to try various foods for no extra cost. So this was more like being sold a coupon book that was filled with coupons that required spending for any type of reward.
Anyway, I scanned the list and it seemed like to get any food, I’d have to pick one restaurant and go eat there — at my cost, minus a couple bucks discount.That being the case, I went over to Sammiches, where I’d at least seen a sign. Walking in I spotted a nice table with all kinds of food samples. The two owners were there, super friendly, and the food was good, so I decided to order. It was then that I noticed a lot of other bewildered people were there with me or were coming in after me. Overhearing their conversations and then questioning them, I learned they were all as confused as I was. Standard comment: “It seems like you have to pay to get any food.. Just some discounts. I thought we were going to get to sample food all afternoon like at East Atlanta Strut or something. But at least we found this place and got some food samples and learned a new place to eat.” Everybody was wet and disappointed looking. Several had gone to other places looking for tastings but there weren’t any so they went to this Sammiches, which at least had some stuff.
I went through the restaurant list again while I ate my chicken salad sandwich and fries, which were both good. I determined that there wasn’t much point in going to the other places. I’d seen a note on Iberian Pig saying they’d be open for tastings 4-6 p.m., but it was still only like 2 p.m., so what would I do meantime? Everywhere else, according to the sheet, was honoring discounts but you had to order to get them. I had just had lunch, so…? I talked to a couple women sitting near me and they said they were going home after just one place, because they’d reached the same conclusion, so afterward, yeah, I went back to MARTA and went home.
Does this sound suspicious? It seems like the event was sold via LivingSocial and made out, via web site and promo, to be something it wasn’t. The organization was very poor, signage was just about non-existent, and it just stunk. If this had been a “real” event and happened to get caught in the rain, organizers would have put out sign or people would have been on the square looking to assist people. There might have been balloons or a banner. It would have been easy to know where to sign in. There would have been fat signs or sandwich boards outside participating restaurants. There would have been a promo flyer at the MARTA station, as there is for any other festival or event. But there wasn’t. Which leads me to think this event was staged primarily to collect some cash and addresses. The restaurant deals probably are real but the businesses were taken in just like ticket-buyers. Good thing they didn’t give away much!