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Attendees Demand Refunds From Detroit Chinese Food Festival Organizers [Updated]

Ticket holders say they encountered long lines and sold-out food stalls

Detroit China LLC [Official image]
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A Chinese food and culture festival hosted in downtown Detroit over the weekend is drawing criticism from ticket holders, some of whom are demanding refunds. Frustrated attendees at the Detroit China Festival hosted on Saturday, September 22, at Grand Circus Park say they waited in lines for hours and in some cases were never able to purchase food. At least one food vendor was allegedly shut down during the event by the health department.

The organizers of the Detroit China Festival, a development group calling themselves Detroit Chinatown LLC, heavily marketed the event on social media and in appearances on local news stations. “Join 10,000 other foodies for the opportunity to taste authentic Chinese street food from 15 of the best Chinese restaurants in Michigan,” the festival’s Facebook page reads. The event promised food as well as local and international entertainment. Tickets sold online for $5 to $10 plus processing fees ahead of the event and customers were informed that they could purchase “tokens” inside to use towards the purchase of food and merchandise.

The Detroit China Festival was scheduled to run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. but some customers noted that food at some of the stands was running out as early as 2:30 p.m. “Just got here and they said they’re out of food supplies. Stay home if you’re only interested in the food,” one attendee, Lily Nguyen, posted to the event page on Saturday. “Terrible planning, sold too many tickets and then turned people away when the venue was at capacity. Will be disputing the charges for buying tickets in advance,” wrote another ticket holder, Aaron Stone. Many attendees described a general feeling of disorganization with long lines to get into the event, long lines to acquire food tokens, and hour-long lines for the food that had in some instances run out.

Some Detroit China Festival visitors drew comparisons to the recent, ill-fated Detroit Sushi Festival that left customers demanding refunds. Other customers, notably, came to the defense of the event organizers who introduced the festival for the first time this year.

The organizers were conscious of the chatter on social media during the event and quickly issued an apology on Facebook that promising refunds to people who purchased tickets but were unable to get food.

Hello everyone, thank you so much for being interested in our event. Our tickets were already sold out and we won’t sell any more tickets. For people who purchased tickets but didn’t get food, we will issue a refund. We will announce detailed information soon. It’s our first event and we admit we have a lot to improve. We promise we will do much better next year. We are surprised that so many people are interested Chinese food and culture. It will motivate us to do better in the future. Originally we planned to do it at Hart Plaza but we had to change plans at the last minute due to complicated reasons. This really messed up our plan. All in all, we are sincerely sorry and we will come up with a solution to take care of everything.

Some commenters applauded the organizers owning up to the challenges of developing a large event like the Detroit China Festival. However, as of Monday afternoon some attendees were still inquiring about how to obtain their refunds.

Eater reached out to Detroit Chinatown LLC for comment regarding the festival and how customers can acquire refunds, but had not received a response as of publication time. Stay tuned for updates.

Update (September 27, 2018, 9:05 a.m.): Detroit Chinatown Inc. shared a new statement on social media on Wednesday afternoon discussing the challenges during its inaugural Detroit China Festival. The company acknowledged that the long lines “left a bitter taste in some people’s mouths.” While the group disputes customer’s claims that food stalls ran out of food, they say they “set up refund lines and gave out hundreds of refunds to event goers” on Saturday.

In order to “further show our seriousness in this effort we are offering a limited number of ticket refunds for those who purchased their tickets through Eventbrite.” To obtain a refund, ticket holders who purchased their passes online through Eventbrite should send a message via Eventbrite with and explanation of what happened on the day of the event.

Update (September 27, 2018, 2:41 p.m.): The refund period has ended according to a statement by Detroit Chinatown Inc.

2018 Detroit China Festival [Facebook]