When A Nurse Tried To Get A Refund On Her $200 Walter Koenig VIP Ticket From Epic Con Ohio Geek Fest

A VIP ticket to a Comic Con is an ultimate luxury item. Costing hundreds, you get preferential treatment, you get decent exclusives, you get to meet a celebrity of your choice, for some it's the only way to do Comic Con. For others its a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As it was for Ohio nurse Wendy Bell. She told me

I am a long time Trekkie. I really wanted to meet with Walter Koenig. I bought the pricey 200.00 Celebrity VIP ticket on 10-09-14 because it seemed to offer a lot of great things: an autograph and photo op with Walter, plus a limo ride with him to a restaurant scheduled for Saturday night called "Carvers" which is a steak house apparently. Also some things like a t-shirt and other bits and pieces.

On the Friday of the convention they were also to provide you with a special VIP luncheon meet and greet at a venue

You could see how this might be appealing. This was the advertised site:

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Sadly Carvers was suddenly unavailable. And the VIPs went to a different venue, with a buffet that was, well…

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A turkey sandwich with a bag of chips each.

>Wendy wasn't there though. Becaue Walter Koenig had tweeted that he wasn't coming on the 16th October.

Wendy emailed Epic-Con for confirmation of this and got it. She asked for a refund and was told it might take a few weeks.

 I told her there was no reason for her to wait weeks and she quit responding to me. When I posted to the Epic-Con Facebook page inquiring on a refund, my posts kept getting deleted. Whomever the moderator is (I've been told it was Kevin, Sheri's husband) he was actively deleting posts that questioned or complained about the con.

On the 21st of October, the Dayton City paper ran a story prominently featuring Walter Koenig as a guest at the convention, using a large picture of him.

Wendy emailed them and pointed it out, only to be told that the paper had not been informed of the cancellations, which were mounting at that time. But endy had more people to talk to.

I called Crowd Torch, who was the ticket broker. They stated to me that the promoter has to authorize the refund (which hasn't been done.)
Crowd Torch has an email address that you can dispute your charge and they sent me an email that said all correspondence is sent to the promoter. So I emailed stating I wanted a refund.
I left voice mail for Sheri Yarbrough at Jackobyte her company.
I called my credit card and they are investigating a charge back.
If that fails, I'll contact the Ohio Attorney General.

Every comic convention had guest cancellations, usually for conflicting demands or ill health. Epic-Con had many more cancellations, over the lack of supply of flights and hotels to guests. Their website says that they will refund VIP tickets if the guest does not arrive – but nowhere does it give an indication that this may be several weeks. This is especially an issue if chargebacks on card payments have a limited time in which to be triggered.

The whole show appears to have been an omnishambles. But anyone with a sense of PR acumen about them might have realised that while you can get away with stiffing a banker, a politician, or a fanboy living in his parents' basement  – but if you have a nurse wanting a $200 refund, you get on it, and maybe give her an extra $50 for her troubles.

'Cos she's a nurse. And people are going to put that in headlines. A bit like we did.

Organser Sherri Lean posted the following on Facebook.

This is to address all of the issues from this past weekend. I want to deeply apologize to all of the attendees and vendors who feel betrayed, to the guests who were unable to attend and to the ones who did. I can admit mistakes were made and things did not go according to plan. I did not attempt to defraud anyone and there has been inaccurate statements being made that I never said. I am only one person with my family, not a large corporation with tons of money. I am a small business owner just like the rest of you. When I thought about doing Epic-Con Ohio it was to help others out, it was to help Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, it was to help Dayton out. I have always cared about my reputation, my family and friends. I took a risk and took on more than I could handle. I listened to the wrong advice and didn't head the warning signs and advice from others. I can't erase what happened this weekend but I will make it right. It may take a while but I will. It is unfortunate that very vicious rumors that the show was canceled, the show had been shut down by the Fire Marshall, that I took all of the money and ran off; all of these falsehoods hurt my show, the vendors, and guests who actually took a chance and showed up. For everyone who say I didn't care and was rude or didn't apologize to people are wrong. I did speak to vendors and apologize, I did speak to guests and apologize. I know some of you will not support Epic-Con Ohio in the future but hopefully you will after a few years. I hope that whoever is responsible for the negative press and rumors that were actually started earlier this year will back off. Understand that when you are being bombarded by angry celebrities and vendors it is impossible to go around and speak to people individually, I did the best I could while dealing with my health issues which flare up even more with stress. I had to be taken to the EMS on site because of it. If I was out of it, it's because most of the time I was trying to keep from passing out, no sleep for weeks as well as not eating and barely drinking for days. I jeopardized my own well being for this show for it to just crumble. I know now how to correct the problems and hope that I am given the opportunity to redeem my name and reputation. Some of the things being done and said are wrong and I will prove so.I know there will be a flood of negative, hurtful, and demeaning comments and private messages coming my way. I do appreciate and welcome any constructive criticism because that actually helps to grow and improve which is my goal for future shows.

Once again I sincerely do apologize and I also want to thank everyone who has supported me from the beginning and still do even though you too are being persecuted.

Sheri LeAnn

il_570xN.673049941_p2x4Responses however have not been sympathetic. Guests "taking a chance" seemed to mean buying their own air tickets because the show hadn't. Few of the commenters seemed in a forgiving mood, and one badge-maker had a rather badge obsessed take on the show.

FotogSyn We were the ones that designed the badges. I did speak to Sheri multiple times and did so calm and collected. I do understand things happen. We've been attending conventions since 1994 and we average between 35-40 conventions a year. The thing is, we offered to make the badges for you…and you wanted to print them yourselves. Which was ok. We were fine with that. But we were also to be placed in the main room next to a celebrity that we work with. Not in a Barn where after parties were going to be held and where there wasn't going to be any foot traffic. We emailed you the night before to find out setup times and where we were going to be located so that we would know. You did state that you would email us in the morning with booth placement. We arrived at the venue and walked into the barn. There was nobody in there, and nobody knew what was going on or where anyone was to go. In fact, a fight almost broke out because a vendor was so upset that tables were placed the way they were where people could steal items and not have a closed in area to sell their merchandise. I asked if this was the area to setup, and was told yes. So we started setting up…which we had to just pick the area…we asked where people were going to be entering….nobody knew. The only reason I found out that there was another building with all the vendors in it is that we had to find the restroom. There were no badges…and after only being there for 30 minutes we started getting approached by people as to where the badges were. I had no idea. 30 minutes before the convention was to start the floor map appeared….30 minutes! Then vendors were asked to move, after they set-up. Finally when the badges arrived…we saw the badges. These were printed on standard paper and inserted in a plastic holder from Wal-mart. People started to complain because some of them paid a large amount of money to receive the badges. Some even wanted to purchase other badges to collect them. In the email I sent you I also even gave direction on how to get them printed so that they would come out like they were displayed. Toward the end of the evening we finally received the guest badge. Which was the size of a business card. Not 3×5. Then people started coming to us about why the badges looked the way they did. I asked Sheri and was told that this is the way they printed them. Ok…..when you go to a UPS store to get something printed that people want to collect you should know this will not get printed correctly. They only have a copy machine. It would be like having health problems and going to a restaurant to get checked out. UPS deals in mail, not making prints. Go to an Office Depot…Staples, Office Max. Then when you run out…don't just print them out on your computer and cut them out yourselves. It's like trying to sell a copy of Superman #1 and ripping off the cover and expect people to give you the same amount for one without a cover. Take some pride in it. We did when we designed these badges for you. We even tried to get the Back to the Future people to park the car inside the Barn…..tried to tell you to park some of the cars in the Barn to create some traffic. Every vendor in that Barn took it as that you didn't care because instead of being proactive and trying to fix the problem you just let it go, or place it on your daughters shoulders. We addressed to you how many attendees approached us as to the badges….that they were not the same ones advertised…..and they were not special as you placed on this page to everyone. They were extremely upset. Our name is now associated with the product that you produced. We even brought one of the attendees to you because over the course of the entire 3 days…more than 200 people came to us. So this morning we started offering the badges to everyone….we even asked you to just cover the cost of them…nothing. You basically told everyone that this is what they were getting and gave them something else. And when we approached you did nothing. Where did all of the money do that the attendees paid for the badges???? Also, do not ask for money from the vendors that are already NOT making money for donations to help pay for the lunches for the celebrities. They paid for hotel, table, travel and merchandise already. Also, food vendors….. why have them if you are just going to undercut their prices by offering cans of soda??? They were also upset when they heard about it. We are giving you the path to start making this better by giving the people what they paid for. They are even willing to pay for the shipping to receive it. Yet when posted you delete the post, and when emailed you ignore the email? The problem is not going away, no matter how you try to ignore it. Everyone has problems…..everyone has bills to pay. Yet you do nothing and just expect us to now have to make sure that the people that paid for these badge get what they paid for. on our dime! It's not right, and it's rather shady. Ignoring a problem doesn't mean it goes away….saying sorry (it's nice) are just words without any action to them….do something…be proactive in making things better and making sure that you give people what they were promised. I sent you an email….I asked for you to JUST cover the expense for the metal to be bought. We will cover the printing cost and the customers ordering the badges are covering the shipping cost…what more can you ask them to do???? Or, us to do??? Do the right thing…..take steps in the right direction instead of just throwing more gas on the fire. It's not personal….it's ethical. To bring your health issues into it, isn't right. A lot of people trusted you…..a lot of people. You doing nothing is just proving them right in what they are saying. Do the right thing.

Responses to that also took up back to the treatment of guests,

Shane Brooks I bought 2 VIP tickets and yea when I got my badges I thought they was a joke. I could of went and photo copied them and just have them away. And as for the VIP luncheon. Some teenagers brought out ham and turkey sandwiches on wheat bread threw them on the counter and walked away. Then they had some small bags of chips and and cooler full of pop. I was told it was a buffet. Didn't know they meant buffet of sandwiches. I also won a autograph voucher on there page. I asked about it several times and every time was told to come back later. After about 6 times in 2 days I just gave up.


Chris Kernaghan the CON DID NOT ASK FOR MONEY…. I and the D20 girls asked for money because the celebs had not been taken care of. and I felt it was wrong of the CON to treat them that way. When I saw there was no green room for the Celebs, no food or even water for them I and the d20 girls projrct decided to step in and ask the vendors in the barn to help out the celebs… we did this cause unlike the CON we knew it was the right thing to do… it is shame that Dayton and geekdom has a black eye over this…but Sherri is the ultimate one who is responsible for the CON of many many people.. and she should be held 100 percent accountable and taken to court if any money is owed anyone. I shouldnt have to take vendors to feed celebs… that should been handled by the Epic Con themselves.. the treatment of everyone by the people in charge was uncalled for, unnerving and ultimately..disgraceful.

And still they came…

Zack Kauffman We lost $600 because of you and your Hiding this weekend! We showed up to set up on Thursday night and there was not one person there that could tell us anything about ANYTHING! We waited over an hour to talk to anyone! We never even got to talk to anyone, you were no where to be found! There was only one person there that was with the con and she was "just helping out". No one knew anything. No floor map, they didn't even know how many vendor table they sold! It was such a mess and we could not talk to anyone we weren't sure if the show was even going to happen! This was all on Thursday night before the show so we decided to drive another 12 hours to another con to make back the money we spent on being a part of epic-con! $150 for the booth, $382 for the hotel (which we lost) and about $100 in gas! We drove 12 hours to get to Ohio then went to the fiasco of the setup, slept about 4 hours and drove 12 more! I am very happy with the decision we made to leave and I will be contacting Paypal about how to get our money back! Shame on you for blaming everyone but yourself, I have seen you guys blame the celebs, the vendors and even the fans!!! If you would have made this post last week and just let people know you were in over your head then those people wouldn't have wasted hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get there!

Sonya Thompson I was suppose to be a guest at the show and the only reason that I DID NOT SHOW UP and take a CHANCE on the show, was because you guys could not get me a flight there. I do appreciate your apology and know that you had some things that happened, I know that you will correct them for the next time that you take on such a venture, but to put that out there like the celebs did not show up because we didn't want to take a chance, kind of bothers me. That is sending a message out there that we all cancelled on you, and that is not the case. I turned down other shows to do Epic con and I had a contract with you guys. For the record I did not cancel on you and there are many others that did not either. 

This is not meant to be a negative, just a setting the record straight comment. Many blessings to you and your family. May the universe shine down on you with a bright light to help guide you back where you need to be in good health and in everyday life.

Jim O'Rear Health issues are no excuse for not addressing the numerous questions and emails sent from all of the celebs and vendors involved. Communication is key. If you were too sick to run the con, the logical thing to do is cancel the event, refund everyone, get well, re-group, and emerge again when you are well enough to do so. It takes no time at all to answer an email. That's what professionals do…. not ignore emails. Every celebrity and every vendor would have completely understood any problems that might have arisen if those problems were communicated and if they were communicated in a timely manner. Ignoring a situation and then changing everything 2 days before the show opens is not the proper way to run a con. Now you have sealed your fate with breached contracts and a soiled reputation. The geek crowd is a loyal crowd who don't easily forget. Communication and common sense is what should have been used to salvage this.

Jason Wilkerson First and foremost this isnt to bash but to be truthful. This convention or anything near Dayton will obviously never happen again because of the huge issues that occurred not to mention the numerous amounts of lawsuits coming your way in the coming weeks not to mention the future of whatever business you own being completely up in the air after this nightmare. Best thing for you to do is worry about the thousands and thousands of dollars owed to the guests who bought their own plane tickets as well as whatever contract has your name on it and forget about ever doing another convention unless you hit the lottery. The worst thing again and I explained this to you was you left your kids hanging out to dry because Saturday morning you dissapeared from 9:30 am until 2:00 pm and they took the blunt criticism and stress that kids dont need to deal with while you were gone. Apologize to them first and then to everyone else second.

While others have been finding legal records of a foreclosed mortgage and a closed company regarding the organisers. But remember, not all is lost…

Jt Powers Never say never Dashcon is happening again

 

UPDATE: Doug Bradley writes,

Doug Bradley Hi everyone!

Firstly, many thanks to everyone who came out to see us at Chiller theatre in Parsnippany, NJ.
I also want to make a gesture of solidarity to everyone – including friends and colleagues – who were so horribly screwed over by the charlatans at Epic-Con in Dayton Ohio.
For the record, I was approached to do the show on two occasions and declined, not least because of the absurdly high guarantee they were offering which was of a size that not even well established shows would offer. Luckily we smelled a very large, rotting rat and declined but had no idea of the scale of the scam they were preparing to pull off. I hope as many of their victims as are able will follow through intentions to sue them and give them their day in court which they so richly deserve. As well as abusing guests and vendors, they have also stooped low enough to use a cystic fibrosis charity to lend a cloak of respectability to their scam.
The convention world is a tightly closed circle mostly run by honorable people with the best intentions for the benefit of guests and fans alike. In 25 of attending these shows I have never encountered anything as disgraceful as the behavior of these crooks.
If given the opportunity, I may tear their souls apart.
Peace and Pain
-Doug

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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