Yesterday, Clean Plate Charlie received a number of emails and phone calls regarding the Aventura Wine and Food Festival, held this past Sunday at Gulfstream Park.
None of them were good.
One industry insider -- who prefers to remain anonymous -- told us, "There were only about six check-in counters that I could see, and they were slow as snails, 'cause they had to check each printout coupon and then put wristbands on." And "they didn't think about the basics like trash bins, duh! It was disgusting having spilling plates of food in teeny bins. There were black trash bags which didn't look very appetizing."
We contacted Diego Ciola, marketing manager for the event promoter, South Florida Festivals, for comment and received the following email today:
Thank you for contacting the Aventura Wine and Food Festival. We are sadden [sic] to hear that you weren't satisfied with your experience at the event. As a marketing director, my job is to market the Aventura Wine & Food Festival to make customers aware of this event and I believe my job has been done successfully. Unfortunately due to the lack of front door personnel/security/housekeeping and a handful of no-show vendors along with unprepared vendors our lines were a bit longer than we expected. To make it up to you, we will be giving you complementary [sic] tickets to our next Aventura Wine & Food Festival, and complimentary tickets to the Miami Foodies Lovers 2014 Events, marketed by myself but through a different event planning group. I hope this offer will make up for your unsatisfied overall experience at the Aventura Wine & Food Festival. To receive this offer please reply back with your email address, name on the voucher for the Aventura event, the number of tickets purchased ans [sic] please put "Makeup Tickets" on subject line. You will also need to remove any negative comments posted in any social media and on the website that you purchased your ticket. I hope this makes up for any inconvenience and dissatisfaction. In addition, these makeup tickets will allow you entrance to the events one hour before the event begins.
Marketing Manager USA
We called Ciola again and this time reached him immediately. He told us that the event was not oversold and that, "out of a few thousand attendees, we had 196 complaints."
Ciola said that inadequate security and lack of understanding that people had to obtain wristbands before entry caused the long lines. The fact that some restaurants who committed to the event didn't show up also caused the 58 vendors who were onsite for the festival to run out of food. Ciola, who acknowledged this was South Florida Festivals' first food event, was contrite.
"We learned from this. We learned to have better security and book additional restaurants on standby. Next time, we'll email or mail wristbands to people in advance."
Ciola also addressed the sanitation complaints. "We did have a company that handled that. There were about a dozen garbage cans; there should have been more. Housekeeping should have moved a bit quicker."
As far as allegations that the company oversold the event through multiple discount ticket outlets, Ciola said that "people were being let in without wristbands. People were coming in for free."
When asked whether he would offer refunds, Ciola said that his company never actually sold any full-priced tickets and wound up selling all entries through third-party sites like Groupon and LivingSocial and that it's up to those companies to issue refunds. Groupon did send an email stating that it would process refunds to any unsatisfied customers. Ciola will, however, send complimentary tickets to future events to anyone who requests them.
And as for the email that states that a ticket to next year's event is conditional on the fact that people remove negative comments on social media?
"We're really not requiring that any comments be taken down. But we can ask, can't we?"
The marketing manager vows to respond to all calls and emails regarding the event. "Obviously, we're trying to make everyone satisfied in the end. There were issues that happened. This is a lesson learned for us. I understand. I'm a consumer too. For $38 [the cost of a discounted ticket to the event on LivingSocial], you could go out and have a good meal."
Diego Ciola can be reached at [email protected] or 786-483-7714.
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