It’s really not that hard to do the right thing. Honestly, it’s not.
All you need to do is figure out what would piss the most people off and then NOT DO THAT.
But it seems the folks at the Celiac Awareness Tour (now called the Gluten-Free Awareness Tour…because we certainly need more gluten awareness…yes that was biting sarcasm) have not learned this lesson.
There is nothing I hate more than people taking advantage of the celiac community. Nobody messes with celiacs!
(And nobody puts baby in the corner either, but that’s a blog post for another day.)
So here’s the story.
A gluten-free bakery owner reached out to me privately last week on Facebook with the following message:
During an email back and forth with her, I learned that not only did she lose $395 for the vendor spot, but also $2,500 in inventory and payroll getting ready for the event. And as any small business owner will tell you…that’s a big old chunk of change.
So I contacted the good people at the CAT, told them what I knew and asked what their response was before I blogged about it. Here is the email I received:
Regarding refunds. Our staff is comprised of part-time people and volunteers who are very caring but not always available so if there is a question or problem that requires immediate attention I prefer it come to me first so I can make sure the issue is addressed promptly. If a refund is due please ask the vendor to contact me with details.
But here’s the thing. The bakery owner has been trying to get in touch with them for months via phone calls, emails and on their social media pages and their response has been nada.
So I did a little digging and I unearthed some ugliness about the CAT and its owner Lou Reyes.
– The event in Philly was canceled due to permit issues. Seriously, the day before and they didn’t have the right permits?? Vendors come in from all around the country for these things and this is how careless they are?
– They canceled an October 2013 event in Cincinnati with very little notice due to what they are calling “lack of interest”. Again…late notice and minimal, if any, notifications. Just a total lack of respect for the community.
– They just canceled an event scheduled for November 9 in the great state of New Jersey. I called around and found out they canceled it a few weeks ago, but as of yesterday, it was still on their website and yes, they were still promoting it. Coincidentally, they took it down today. Perhaps they sensed a shit storm coming.
– I found the following on the web from someone who it seems got screwed over: “Do Not Work For Lou Reyes/Celiac Awareness Tour. I did nearly $700 worth of graphic design work for Lou Reyes/Celiac Awareness Tour and was never paid. Beware of ads on Craigslist and/or responses to your inquiries from this person. He has a history of not paying his service providers.”
– I connected with a fellow celiac today who said that Lou owes her over $800 after she presented for them last year. They had a signed contract for her travel and speaking fees and she has not seen a penny. She has now hired a lawyer.
– Yet another person told me today that it took 3 months after a conference for her and another speaker to be paid, and that was only after multiple emails and phone calls.
– The Greenville Celiac Support group was told if they helped at an expo they would be given money towards their support group. This was in fact advertised. It took emails and a note from the Gluten Intolerance Group of N. America to Celiac Awareness Tour before the support group got the small amount of money that had been promised and it was only received about 3 or more months after the event.
Do you sense a pattern here? I get the feeling I’ve only scratched the surface but frankly I’ve heard enough.
So here is my question…is the Celiac Awareness Tour just a poorly run operation or are they crooks? Are they bad business people or are they bad people?
To my fellow celiacs and the gluten-free vendors out there, I would seriously think twice about doing business with this organization. When something happens once or twice, it could be an accident. When it happens this frequently, it seems more like a business model.
And to you Lou, I’m not sure what to say. I’d love to give you the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you’re just in over your head. Or maybe I’m being naive and you’re strictly in this for the money…everything else be damned. Frankly, I don’t give a crap why you’re in this. But you’re hurting people. You’re hurting my fellow celiacs. You need to refund every damn penny that is owed to people who trusted you and you need to change the way you do things…immediately.
It’s called doing the right thing and like I said, it’s just not that difficult.
(Dude note: As I am writing this post, the woman who owns the bakery just heard from Lou Reyes and he said they are sending her $395 immediately via certified check. Score one for justice.)