An Epic Vendor Fail

by admin on November 13, 2013

My husband and I were married 6 months ago, and I still can’t get over what our reception site put us through. This is a long saga, but bear with me until the end, because it just gets worse and worse.

It all started well. We booked our venue over a year in advance. This was a well-respected venue where several of our friends had their weddings. The staff there was extremely helpful, and we developed a very friendly relationship with the venue’s event planner/manager (who is the son of the owner) over the year of planning. We’ll call him Adam.

On the wedding day, we arrived at the venue, and Adam was not there. We had not been told that he would not be there, and we weren’t introduced to anybody else who would be our management contact during the event. Turns out, there was no manager working that night. For my 200+ guest wedding, Adam just trusted that his hourly staff knew the drill well enough to run things themselves.

Issues began immediately. We had a buffet. Our contract was not for a certain amount of food (400 shrimp, 100 servings of beef, etc.), but guaranteed the venue would keep the buffet stocked for x number of hours for our entire guest count. We had arranged to have a gourmet cheese and vegetable display available, along with cocktails, when our guests arrived. What we were promised (and paid for) was a beautiful display with wheels of brie, aged cheeses, Italian meats, and chilled, grilled vegetables. What we got was deli meats and cheeses, and a vegetable tray with ranch dressing. To make matters worse, they ran out after about 25 guests had a chance to grab a bite, and never restocked the station.

The problems continued when the dinner buffet opened. After about 1/4 of our guests made it through the buffet line, the buffet was almost bare. When they finally restocked the buffet, they omitted all of the vegetarian items, which was a huge problem as my husband is from a (mostly vegetarian) Hindu family, and I myself am a vegetarian.

During this time, my wedding planner had been standing at the kitchen door, trying to get someone to acknowledge her, to no avail. Finally, fed up watching my guests stand around waiting for any scraps of food to hit the empty buffet, I went to the kitchen and asked to speak to whomever was in charge. Since there was no manager, the staff had to confer among themselves to figure it out before a young man stepped forward. He explained to me that it is “difficult” to feed 200 people all at once. I explained to him that feeding 200 people all at once is exactly what I paid them to do, and for a venue that says it can accommodate up to 400 people, that excuse is not valid.

Realizing there was no point in taking out my frustration on this poor kid who was obviously in way over his head and pay grade, I walked away and cooled off. At that point, what could I do? All of my guests were eventually fed, although our ten item buffet was more like five items. The rest of the night was beautiful, aside from a waitress who took it upon herself to ask me what was wrong after seeing me speaking to the kitchen staff. I told her it was ok, not her fault, and I’d wait to speak to a manager in the morning. She persisted in finding out what the issue was, so I explained my concerns to her. She snapped at me that I was wrong, everything was perfect, then stormed off.

The next day (Sunday) I called the venue to speak with Adam. He was unavailable, so I left him a message and sent him an email. No response. I called again on Monday multiple times. Again, no response, but his staff insisted I leave a message with them. I told them I would rather speak with him directly and please have him call me. It became very obvious that they were playing goalie for him, so I had a friend call, saying she was interested in talking to someone about hosting her wedding there. They told her she could come by between 1 and 4 and Adam would be available to meet with her. So my husband and I went to the venue during that time (this is Tuesday after our Saturday night wedding). Adam was “in a meeting”. We told them we’d wait. After waiting over an hour, we finally left, but asked them to have him call us.

He did not call, but the next day (Wednesday), my husband received an email from Adam asking my husband to tell me to stop trying to contact him, and his attorney would be in contact. He then chastised us for having anything to say to him after the stunt we pulled at our reception. Completely baffled and at a loss for what he could mean, I tried to call him again. This time I persisted until he picked up the phone.

His first words were something along the lines of “I really can’t speak with you, you need to wait to hear from my attorney.” I explained to him that I was baffled as to why that was necessary, to which he responded that I need to stop playing dumb and i knew exactly what happened. He became very abusive to me on the phone. I was in tears (definitely too much post-wedding emotion). I was completely shocked by his behavior. I finally convinced him that I had no clue what he was talking about, but that there were several serious issues during the reception, which I’m sure he was aware of. At that point he said he wouldn’t even hear my issues, but that he expected a call and an apology from my mother, and that he would be pressing charges.

Baffled, I asked him to explain, at which point he finally told me that my mother assaulted a staff member. He said something about her grabbing a server’s arm and pulling her hair when she was upset about the food. At this point he told me he had nothing else to say to me and hung up.

I was VERY shaken by this. My mother is 62 years old, a professional, and DEFINITELY not a brawler. My husband immediately called and emailed Adam to ask for a copy of the police report, since an accusation of assault and threat of legal action is significant enough that surely he filed an incident report.

The next day (Thursday) Adam emailed my husband and said that he would now speak with us. He had spoken with the staff member he claimed my mom assaulted, and it turned out that nobody in my wedding party or his staff was involved in the assault incident, but in fact it occurred in the restaurant part of the venue between two restaurant guests. There was no apology and no further explanation for how a fight between restaurant guests turned into a story about my mother assaulting a staff member, just a note that he would now deign to speak with us.

I wrote Adam back, and copied his father (the venue owner), along with an explanation of the events that had occurred up to this point, and asked for a meeting. His father immediately called me and set up a meeting for the next day.

At the meeting the first thing Adam said to me was, “It’s so unfortunate this misunderstanding happened. I am very protective of my staff and immediately jumped into protective mode when I heard there was a fight.” No “I’m sorry”, no accountability. Just a passive, “Oh, how unfortunate”. I asked him how somebody so protective of his staff waited until five days after the incident to even speak to the staff member to find out what happened, to which he had no response.

I also asked how a fight between guests in a separate part of the building, with no connection to my wedding, turned into an assault accusation against my mother. He told me that, actually, there was no squabble between guests, and that was also a misunderstanding. In fact, one of his staff members WAS assaulted. At 3 am. On the way to her car. FOUR HOURS after my wedding ended and my mother and guests departed. I told him that didn’t explain why he accused my mother. He shrugged his shoulders and just said, “I’m protective.”

When I asked if it was customary for them to hold an event for over 200 people with no management in the building, he said that he hadn’t had a Saturday night off in forever, and that I was so easygoing he thought it would just be smooth sailing so he could finally have a night off. His father was obviously gobsmacked and spend most of the meeting silently fuming.

My husband finally asked Adam to apologize to me (which he still hadn’t done a half hour into the meeting). He offered an apology filled with “but”s, which I apparently didn’t accept graciously enough, because he called me out for not forgiving him immediately, after we had such a great working relationship for a year.

At the end of the day, they reimbursed us for part of the cost of our wedding cake, which represented about 2% of the total bill we paid to the venue. Walking out, I was just thrilled that I never had to step foot in the place again.

Here’s the kicker, though. We chose the venue, partially, because we wanted to be able to go back. It is located on a quiet side street in a busy part of the downtown entertainment district of our city. It’s a gorgeous historic building with a very nice restaurant where we hoped to celebrate anniversaries and other life events. We were going to have a brick inscribed and put into the sidewalk in front of the restaurant (an option they offer couples who get married there), so we could show our kids our brick and say “this is where mom and dad got married”. Instead, we never want to set eyes on the place again, and avoid going anywhere close to it when we can. 1111-13

And the name of this venue is?   I hope you also filed a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau, and published reviews on Yahoo and Google, too.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

NostalgicGal November 13, 2013 at 5:21 am

I’d have been all over BBB and any other review site possible. I also hope that the owner has a long reevaluation of what his son just did; as that sort of stuff can quickly drive a business into bankrupt. There IS hiring and training managers one could trust if the issue of rotation or someone being sick as a solution… instead of just taking a night off!

OP, too bad it couldn’t have ended better. You’re still married and the fault doesn’t lie with what you did; it’s a let down on a vendor’s part. I do think that you should’ve gotten more compensation; at least you got the truth sorted out.

(I watched this happen at another sort of business where the father was trying to hand over to the son and even the staff there were trying to force the heir into actually learning how to take care of a customer and run the business-after a year they were about insane dealing with him, I accepted having him wait on me because the floor manager was my friend, he messed up my simple order so bad the floor manager had to meet with me afterwards, and I did pay the approximately 25% difference on how badly he’d undercharged me to what it should have been [yes ten year old me, turn back my clock a few decades] would have been able to have taken care of what he’d had to… Dad turned over anyways a few months later, and let’s just say that within 3 years the mail order part, the stock items that were made inhouse and supported several regular staff had gone away, and son filed bankruptcy–Dad got to watch son destroy a successful multimillion dollar business and it went on block. I still wished I could have raised $40k for that one $750k machine that went by in the auction….)

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Ally November 13, 2013 at 8:01 am

What an idiot this guy is – you could have sued him and the company for breach of contract. Heck, under a certain amount, you could have pretty easily done it yourself in small claims court. The judges there are used to pro se litigants, so you bring your contract, a witness or two (the less potentially biased, the better), pictures, and an explanation.

Most courts make you go to mediation first, so he’d be required to talk to you and explain himself.

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Ripple November 13, 2013 at 8:03 am

It is not that hard to keep a buffet for 200 filled for x number of hours when it is planned in advance. Cafeterias do it all the time. And they generally are trying to feed many more than 200 in a very short time. A venue that is designed to feed 200 people at a reception plus a restaurant should have no problems.

What broke down is the management. There should be more than one manager at the operation so that they can take turns having Saturday night off. Surely Adam isn’t there every night of the week, or even every weekend. Just because the OP was easy-going throughout the year didn’t mean that something wouldn’t go wrong during the reception (as it obviously did) and there should be someone capable of getting things moving again. Was there no one in charge of the restaurant part who could (should) have stepped in when things started to fail?

When Adam wouldn’t contact you, you probably should have gone directly to his father, the owner, rather than keep trying to get Adam. The owner has the final say on how the operation is run, even if he isn’t involved in day-to-day activities.

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AS November 13, 2013 at 8:05 am

I am fuming now! That jerk of an Adam is “protective” about his staff. And hence, he accuses – your mother?!? That is atrocious. I am insanely protective of my family! I am sure you are too. I guess the OP handled it way better than I probably would have if someone had wrongly accused my mother.

I think as the admin said, you should report to your local Better Business Bureau and publish reports on all the places possible- yahoo, Google, Weddingwire, etc.

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AS November 13, 2013 at 8:05 am

Oh! And you have his emails as proof.

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Lo November 13, 2013 at 8:49 am

I agree with Admin here.

File a complaint, complain at all review sites in which they are listed.

And tell your story to anyone who will listen.

This is far beyond a misunderstanding. This is a business punishing it’s customers for it’s own ineptitude.

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Charliesmum November 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

They didn’t serve the right cheeses etc that you ordered, they didn’t keep the food flowing, and they only reimbursed you for some of the wedding cake price? Please share the name of this place, because that kind of customer service needs to be called out. I think in addition to BBB you could give them a bad Yelp review, too.

It really sounds like you handled it the best you could, and I’m sorry it caused you stress at your wedding. I hope you and everyone are able to kind of laugh at it now.

(I have to admit it makes me so happy in comparison as to my wedding venue – Sandcastle Winery – they were amazing, and the wedding coordinator was with me every step of the way)

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ferretrick November 13, 2013 at 9:53 am

Seriously. There is simply no excuse for this, and I would be bad mouthing them on every social media outlet for about a year. Don’t forget Angie’s List as well.

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Jay November 13, 2013 at 9:57 am

“At the end of the day, they reimbursed us for part of the cost of our wedding cake, which represented about 2% of the total bill we paid to the venue”

So they win! You paid a ton, they provided next to nothing, and you walked away with, what, a lame apology?

The name of the venue should be attached to the title of this post. And should be mentioned in a hundred other places as a place to avoid.

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Wild Irish Rose November 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

It always shocks me when “professionals” behave like this. When my BIL got married, he and his wife had their reception at a country club. It’s important to note that this was a mixed-race marriage (my SIL and her family are Asian). You would not believe how her family was treated. Her brother was accosted by an employee for not wearing a jacket, which apparently was required. In all fairness, my husband got the same treatment for the same thing, so they went to the coat closet where the employee told them they could find jackets, and selected the loudest, most obnoxious jackets they could find. My BIL thought that was hilarious. The maid of honor, who was the bride’s best friend and was also Asian, requested a cake knife so the HC could cut the cake, and was told that the venue didn’t have one. Seriously, what country club doesn’t have cake knives? It was ridiculous, and finally, my BIL approached the rude employee and reminded her how much money they were spending at this place and to lay off his bride’s family.

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Pamela November 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

Sounds as if “Adam” thinks that the best defense is a good offense. He should reconsider. It sounds as if you chose his venue at least in part because your friends had a good experience there, but you won’t be recommending them at all.

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Allie November 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Two things come to mind: first, if he’s so protective of his staff he should have been there; second, if he doesn’t like working Saturday nights, he is in the WRONG line of work. My husband was a restauranteur for many years and never had a Saturday night off. It’s not always easy, but it’s part of the job. The one time he did take a 3-week overseas vacation he had his sister take over for him (she was well-experienced in restaurant management although she had changed jobs and hadn’t worked in the biz for some years. She enjoyed those 3 Saturdays immensely.) If things were as bad as you say, I would have sued them.

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Jill November 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Usually there is something I read in these postings that just doesn’t “ring true.” Your recollection, however, sounds like an accurate depiction of what happened. And I am so sorry you and your guests had to deal with such lackadaisical service. I have nothing to add beyond the admin’s suggestions, which should prove powerful in terms of turning your sad situation into a way to warn others.

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JD November 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

OP, what a terrible thing to happen on your wedding day! I’ve heard and read so many wedding vendor horror stories, but this is one of the worst as far as total lack of professionalism from a place that should have been the epitome of professionalism. I admire your and your husband’s persistence and ready answers to their weasely comments and avoidance techniques. I agree with admin — file a report with the BBB, and let the truth be known at will, if you haven’t already.

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cookiemonster November 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm

That was actually the first story here that I read all the way through — every point made sense, the OP was concise and did not add lots of back ground and characters that didn’t need to be in the story. Bravo for a story well done OP. Sorry for the problems. So sad. But instead of thinking negatively about it, hopefully one day it will become maybe a funny story and you really will enjoy going back there –just maybe long after the current owners are gone? :-)

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Politrix November 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Yikes! Hugs to the OP, and if it’s any consolation, just remember that the wedding typically lasts one day, but the marriage lasts a lifetime :)
If you have everything in writing, the failure of the venue to provide what they’d promised constitutes a breach in contract, and may be grounds for a lawsuit, if you want to go that route.
And by all means, contact your local newspaper to complain, hit up every board on the Internet, etc, to warn other engaged couples to avoid this place like the plague. Should the owner try to contact you again, explain nicely that you refuse to meet with him or discuss it further — and will continue to warn others — unless they refund you a substantial amount.

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Miss Raven November 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I am blinded by rage on your behalf, OP! I agree with others that what happened was a serious breach of contract. It has only been six months, and you still have plenty of time to consult with an attorney regarding the refund of the majority of what you paid to this place.

They did not provide the services you paid them to provide. They did not keep the buffet stocked, they barely fed your guests, they provided a poor excuse for the appetizers you selected (at about 1/10 of the amount you paid for), and they never attempted to correct even one of these issues.

I would be tempted to have the credit card company reverse the charges, and when the venue attempts to contact you, tell them to speak with YOUR attorneys.

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Jen Mo November 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm

I agree with the poster who suggested suing. You didn’t get what you paid for, not even close, so why would you accept the pittance they grudgingly gave you? DH and I have sued the few times it’s been warranted (and on one occasion sent a letter of intent that we would be filing on such and such date unless we were reimbursed x amount, and it worked like a charm), and we’ve won each time. I won’t roll over for anyone, and particularly in this situation I would be way to angry to just let it go. They got to keep your money for services they did not provide as agreed upon!! And were total jerks about it to boot.

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AIP November 13, 2013 at 3:44 pm

2% reimbursement for 50 half-fed guests out if 200? Ah lads!

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Shoegal November 13, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Oh my – that sounded like a nightmare. I had nightmares prior to my own wedding where everything fell apart. I was petrified that something would go terribly wrong.

The part that just irks me is having to walk into the kitchen to complain. The bride having to take a break on such a special day to complain to someone. I had a similar experience where I hired a DJ that performed at my friend’s wedding. He did a great job. I hired him – and on the day of the wedding he called my mother to say he couldn’t come due to illness and that he replaced himself with another DJ. My mother didn’t hire him but I suppose he refrained from speaking directly to the bride on her wedding day. Anyway, what could be done? The DJ who was there was AWFUL and performed so poorly – I was crushed. He messed up all the names – there was uncomfortable silences in the festivities and he did nothing that I had outlined with the original DJ. At one point, I said something to him because he completely messed up the dance with my father – and he had the nerve to argue with me!!! I looked at him and said that I couldn’t possibly fight with him about it now – and walked away. It was difficult and I was fuming. I danced with my Dad and moved along. Guest commented to me afterwards about how lousy the DJ was. My friend who had hired the original DJ called him and personally told him that the replacement was terrible. My mother took it upon herself to call the DJ we had hired and told him how terrible the replacement was as well- he actually argued with her and did not offer any sort of refund.

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NostalgicGal November 13, 2013 at 8:06 pm

Reading and mulling further; I have much experience with venues breaking contract, not for weddings but multiday events involving space, food, and other related things.

I’d be in court over this ASAP.

Pure plain and simple, they broke contract over what was supplied, how it was supplied and everything.

The front about the assault sounds like son was trying to cover derriere with dad and dad figured it out in short order (that is what triggered my memory of the college grad who couldn’t write down my purchase on an invoice, extend prices, and manage a total with an adding machine and ended up destroying the business his father had spent decades building eventually).

I am glad OP at least you got married and you so need to go to the internet and let everyone everywhere know about how you got treated there; plus the BBB. As long as you are totally truthful, you are not in the wrong.

Small claims because they broke contract. Half a cake price is not enough for what you paid for and didn’t get.

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mpk November 14, 2013 at 9:33 am

I feel bad for what you went through, but I would say check with an attorney before you do anything. If you accepted the 2 % reimbursement, that might be construed as a settlement and you might not be
able to sue them for anything more. So, check with your attorney and see if there is anything else you can do. What they did to you was disgraceful.

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Ashley November 14, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Surely there is some sort of breach of contract situation going on here that OP could take them to court for. Cause yeah, if a bride ends up in the kitchen of the venue at the reception, SOMETHING is wrong.

Then to accuse the mother of assaulting someone and using it against OP before finally admitting that there were security tapes proving the situation to be ENTIRELY different than he tried to tell the OP? Wow.

If it were me, I’d find a way to take it to court. What I lost in legal fees would be worth getting the rest of my money back. Idk if OP is willing to do that at this point but it’s better than letting them “win” this one.

At the very least I’d tear them to shreds on the BBB, Yelp, and whatever other wedding review sites I could find, and use all the emails I could as proof.

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Stacey Frith-Smith November 15, 2013 at 12:00 am

Your resolution is really unacceptable. There is absolutely no way that a refund of a portion of the price of the cake is just. If you must, get a consumer advocate involved. (Attorney, BBB, Chamber of Commerce, any social media or mainstream media forum). Add your family and wedding party members to the list. Sometimes all it takes is a firm “if you don’t ______, then I’ll _____” . If your proposed follow up is unpleasant enough, they’ll capitulate. You could easily, EASILY, pursue breach of contract, slander, false threats of arrest/ criminal complaint against your mother… Good heavens, OP! Follow up, please, for your own sake.

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Wendy B. November 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

Why did you wait so long? After he refused to speak with you, you should have either a)called his dad or b) called an attorney for breach of contract. As it was, you were too nice.

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Library Diva November 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I’m not usually one to advise suing, but in this case, I think you should do it. And yes, hit up Yelp, Google, Weddingwire, every site you can find and tell the world what happened to you. I feel terrible for you, OP. And I agree with NostalgicGal about what’s likely occurring behind the scenes here. Adam’s dad needs to have a stern talk with him that may involve him looking for other employment. It’s a sad truth that just because the business is in the family doesn’t mean that the heirs apparent care about it or have any talent for running it. If this is how Adam does business, his father will live long enough to see the place forced to close.

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Cat November 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I think Adam has the word “protective” confused with the word “liar”. He is not protective; he is a liar.
Perhaps these venues require that you pay in full in advance. I think I’d take it to small claims court if that’s the case.

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June First November 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

*snort* Good one!

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ermine November 16, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Sue them for breach of contract and make sure to write detailed reviews naming the venue on every single review site there is.

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Angel November 17, 2013 at 8:19 pm

You should come back and share the name of the vendor. There are a lot of young ladies in my family and I want to make sure none of them ever use this vendor for their weddings!

What happened to you was awful, OP, but I would urge you to use this as a good learning experience for yourself and for others. I would have no problem reporting them to the BBB first and foremost. And any other site that offers business reviews. Several months ago I trashed a local pizza place on Yelp, and my review has since had several helpful votes. And it makes me feel better that talking about my negative experience helps people make a decision about where to go for dinner. I also have no problem submitting a positive review when I have a good experience.

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Kirsten November 18, 2013 at 9:18 am

You left after this with half the cost of the cake? That was it?

Wow, I’m sorry but you got totally spanked by these people and spat on while you were down. This is just treating you like a doormat. I’d write them a letter threatening to sue their arse for breach of contract. I doubt it’d go to court before they coughed up some more money.

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June First November 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

OP–How terrible! I echo the comments on legal action.

However, this line also struck me:
“During this time, my wedding planner had been standing at the kitchen door, trying to get someone to acknowledge her, to no avail.”

I didn’t have a wedding planner when I was married last year, but I would think the planner would be running interference on the day-of, so the poor bride doesn’t have to worry about guests *actually being fed* at the wedding reception.

Ideally, as soon as Adam wasn’t making an appearance, Wedding Planner should have been whipping out the cell phone and issuing an all-points-bulletin for his whereabouts.

In addition to feeling bad for OP, I feel bad for the other venue workers dealing with Adam on a day-to-day basis. Especially since there’s a saying that if someone likes a restaurant, they’ll tell three friends. If they have a bad experience at a restaurant, they’ll tell eleven. If Adam is hurting the venue’s reputation, he’s also hurting the livelihood of the other workers.

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Cathy November 19, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I’d have sued them, AND written bad reviews all over, AND notified BBB. Ridiculous!! What a crappy operation, and they have no business BEING in business if they drop the ball like that. Really shocking. I’m sorry you had that experience. Every wedding/reception has some flaws but that is really unforgiveable.

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Enna February 8, 2014 at 9:56 am

I would have done what the Admin has said as well as take them to court ofr breach of contract.

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Cheryl July 22, 2014 at 12:52 pm

At that point, the son isn’t lucky to have had a lawyer contact him for breach of contract. With what you paid for that was suppose to be elegant turned into basic trays you could get a Wal-Mart, I would have insisted that more than 2% be given back to me. The son would be charged with slander towards your mother, you and your guests. Also, I would put on Yelp and any other website possible a bad review to which you stipulate that you deal with the father and not the son, it maybe ok.

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