'Shockingly bad' Montreal wizard-themed event has magic fans wanting their money back
Event description promised a night out of the Harry Potter universe, but some attendees called it a scam
Harry Potter fans were left disappointed after paying more than $50 a ticket to a wizard-themed event for adults at the Rialto Theatre Friday.
Georgiana Elias was one of the first in line for the event that was supposed to begin at 6 p.m. As the line started moving about half an hour later, the excitement was building among the hundreds of costumed guests.
But when they entered, Elias said there was "nothing magical" about the experience.
"It felt like we had our own little Montreal Fyre festival," she said, referring to the 2017 musical festival that left hundreds of guests stranded in the Bahamas in a storm.
"It felt like a total scam."
While the company that put on the party, LOL Events Group, wrote on its website that specialty cocktails such as "Boozy Butterbeer" and "Polyjuice Potion" would be available (both references to the Harry Potter universe), at the bar was more familiar fare — rum and Coke, and gin and tonic.
Advertised "wizard-themed treats" turned out to be room-temperature pasta and desserts that can be found in the aisle of any grocery store.
The organizers had promised a visit to "cobblestone alley to pick your wand (have it choose you)," but the reality was a table with take-out chopsticks still in their paper sleeves that guests could decorate with glitter.
"It was just so shockingly bad," Elias said. "I wouldn't even make an activity like this for children."
YouTuber NerdECrafter posted about her experience Monday. By the afternoon, the video, titled "I GOT SCAMMED At a Harry Potter Party" had been viewed more than 15,000 times.
"So many people were dressed up amazingly, but no one is happy," she recounts in the video, where she speaks with several other disappointed fellow guests.
Before leaving early, Elias said, she was told by a LOL Events employee at the Rialto who identified himself as "Dylan" that she would be able to get a refund by sending the company a Facebook message.
Instead, she said, the company blocked her.
All Facebook posts by LOL Event Group were deleted from the group's web page over the weekend, but not before dozens of disappointed guests left comments expressing their disappointment.
Elias said that she would have been satisfied with an apology and an offer of a partial refund. But seeing a lack of response from the company, she created a Facebook group for other attendees to gather and share their complaints.
Step 1: Written request for money back
Rialto owner Ezio Carosielli told CBC News that the theatre has been getting complaints about Friday's event, but he said that the theatre was not involved with organizing the event nor did it sell tickets.
Tickets were sold via the online ticket service Eventbrite, but a spokesperson for that company said that event organizers are responsible managing all aspects of their event, including refunds.
Attendees should contact the organizer directly for any questions by replying directly to their email confirmation, the spokesperson for Eventbrite said.
By Monday, all references to Harry Potter had been removed from the company's Eventbrite page, but they remained on the LOL Events website.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, LOL Events wrote "we understand that there are some people whose experience did not live up to their anticipations," and said it was a "new company."
On Monday, no future events were listed on the company's website, although it noted that similar events in Vancouver and Toronto had taken place last month.
CBC News contacted some people who attended one of the Vancouver events. While a few did not think it was worth the $50 ticket, most said it was a fun time and that the event did provide wizard-themed drinks.
LOL Events spokesperson Julie Vander said the company is focused on "the majority of attendees that enjoyed Friday's production. We have hosted this same event in numerous other markets with an overwhelmingly favourable reception."
She said certain aspects of the event were out of the company's control and up to the hosting venue or local regulations.
LOL Events advertised the event as "wizard inspired," and is not responsible for any online commentary that implied otherwise, Vander said.
The company had at first refused to issue Elias a refund, but then reversed course. Her refund of $103.42 was processed by Eventbrite Tuesday morning.
Quebec's Office de la Protection du Consommateur said if consumers believe they were given a false or misleading representation of what they purchased, they should make a request for a refund in writing.
If no reimbursement is given within 15 days, consumers can make a charge-back request with the issuer of the credit card used to make the purchase.
With files from Valeria Cori-Manocchio and Alison Northcott