The first time most of us heard of "Taste of Decatur" was Thursday morning, when LivingSocial.com offered the tickets at half price ($5). There was virtually no advance marketing. The local blogs would have been happy to promote it had they been notified.
The name of the event steals the byline of the longstanding "Garden of Eatin," which has the byline "Taste of Decatur." That event helps support many worthy causes in Decatur. That is what came to mind when I read the LivingSocial email, but that is not what this would be, had it actually happened. In that sense, it was at least deceptive. If this fiasco has any negative impact on the attendance of that event, it will be a damned shame.
Ellis O'Neal of the Tag.Mag Marketing Group appeared on CBS Atlanta to promote the event, speaking of a street festival and a discount card.
The weather was bad Saturday morning, so many of us were checking the Taste of Decatur website, the event Facebook page, and @tasteofdecatur on Twitter for some sign of whether the event would take happen or be canceled. We saw NOTHING at any of these sites. Even after the fact, the website does not acknowledge the event did not happen, nor offer any plausible explanation, which we are owed.
I finally put on my hooded rain jacket around 2pm and headed up to the square. There was NOTHING. So I went to the Rockit Boutique (the designated WILL CALL site). As I entered, a gentleman apologized for the event not happening, and said I could get a refund or a discount card for percent discounts at participating merchants. Even though he didn't offer any details, I elected to apply for the discount card (since I'd only paid $5 for the ticket). They had three laptops set up, where you could enter your LivingSocial certificate number. I was assured I'd be mailed a discount card.
If you bought a ticket but did not make it to Rockit yesterday, you can apply online. Enter the certificate number on your "livingsocial" form.
Some merchants, such as the Iberian Pig, provided their own tastings after 4pm.
Apparently there's some fine print on either the LivingSocial.com or TasteofDecatur.com sites which says it was never intended to be an outdoor, street event, so we'd have been equally confused and disappointed had the weather been great, but we might have been looking for somebody to string up in a tree on the courthouse lawn. (OK, we wouldn't actually go THAT far.)
One of the owners of the Rockit told me they had control of the process at the onset, but lost it to LivingSocial. He said they were unable to post on the Taste of Decatur website that the event was actually cancelled Friday evening.
Update: We now know Ellis Stanley of TAG.mag was the primary organizer, not Rockit Boutique.
I have no basis to call this a scam. There's no proof anybody was trying to simply take our money. (If we don't receive either a refund or a decent discount card, I'll change my mind on that.) But I can say this was a FUBAR from start to ending. It was badly mismanaged. There was virtually no advance advertisement, and no notification of cancellation. (We had to do that ourselves on Twitter and Facebook.)
I suggest we boycott LivingSocial.com and Tag.Mag henceforth.
Update: LivingSocial had no way to know in advance this event would not go as advertised. It is now refunding the money spent on tickets, which is a reasonable remedy, so we have no reason to boycott it.
The City of Decatur says it had no involvement in this event. It even insistent the city logo be removed from the website.
Update: The City has since stated it was helping TAG.mag understand what was required for an on-street event, but TAG.mag elected at some point to hold all activities on merchant premises, thus not requiring a permit or City services.
As more details of this fiasco are exposed, they will be posted here.
For another (but similar) take on the fiasco, from a couple I shared a wine with at LEONs around 2:30pm after it was obvious there was little going on, see this post from the Random Oenophile.
Cecilia Dominic, who has a Random Oenophile site about wine and writing and writes for Decatur News Online is now reporting the Decatur Youth Fund, which the ads claimed this event was sponsoring, knew nothing about it.
Wendy has a similar report over at Decatur Metro.
We still have more questions than confirmed answers at this point, but we're determined to get to the bottom of all this, whether it smells good or not.
We Decaturites are used to events coordinated by Cheryl with the City of Decatur. They typically run like clockwork. When they must be canceled due to weather, the city websites are updated to so indicate and e-mails are sent out to the local media. We're not happy with events run like this, which reflect badly upon our fair city and our merchants, by association.