Unhappily ever after: Auckland wedding fair delayed 12 months, angry vendors demand refunds

Vendors who paid deposits for stalls at an Auckland wedding fair are fuming after it was postponed for more than a year with no clear answer from the organiser about when – or if -it will run.

They want their money back but the organiser is refusing to refund and maintains it will go ahead despite being unable to confirm any date or plan.

The Hitch’d Wedding Fair was originally set down for March 2020 in Kumeu but was postponed after New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In February this year, the organiser Jade Stack told the Herald the fair was rescheduled for March 27 and 28 – but the website states new dates are yet to be confirmed.

Stack has not responded to the Herald this week.

The fair has been running since 2018 and boasts a collection of “80 to 90” boutique wedding vendors including photographers, designers, jewellers, caterers, decor providers, florists, make-up artists, hair stylists and planners.

Some of those vendors are now considering court action to get their money back, saying Stack has failed to provide the promised event.

They are also angry and frustrated with a lack of clear communication – or any communication in some cases – from the organiser and have discovered some vendors have been paid back in full, others in part but most not at all.

The terms and conditions for the fair state there are no refunds and if the event is cancelled or postponed, vendors’ fee would transfer to “the next fair”.

Vendors spoken to by the Herald said they had been hit hard by Covid – having to shut down their businesses repeatedly due to lockdowns.

They understood the initial postponement but after a year of waiting they were angry and frustrated.

The group of owners did not want to be named for fear it would harm their small businesses.

But they wanted to raise the issue, concerned there would be others in the same boat who – in a year of lockdowns and struggle – needed their money back.

They said while the amounts owed may not seem significant, every cent counted in such a tough year.

One vendor who was owed $750, which was the full fee for her stall at the fair, said Stack was “so unprofessional”.

“At this stage, I’m thinking of making a claim in the disputes tribunal,” she said.

She – and others – had been given $300 back but were still chasing the rest of their money.

Another vendor said she felt “very ripped off” but eventually got her full deposit back.

“I got $800 back … before that we had sent 10 emails requesting money back with no success,” she said.

One woman said Stack sent her a text message – seen by the Herald – saying she was “trying to get a loan to pay the rest” of what was owed.

Several had calls from another woman named Maggie telling them the show would go ahead in April.

In an email sent to some vendors in January, Stack said Covid had “absolutely wrecked many businesses” and Hitch’d was “significantly affected”.

“Throughout this process, Hitch’d had to cover all printing, advertising, marketing and venue hire which was all paid for prior to postponing the fair.

“As part of our terms, we state that there will be no refunds in the event of cancellation or postponing, however in the event of postponing your funds are transferable.

“I appreciate this is not ideal for you all and therefore I had agreed to refund the amounts paid.

“I have refunded a lot of suppliers out of good faith, however I have exhausted all funds in our business accounts for the time being.”

Stack offered to transfer the vendors listed in the email $200 from her “personal account”and said if she took further bookings for the fair she would “be in a position to refund further, up to 50 per cent of your deposits paid”.

Further, she said if the vendors still wanted to participate in the fair the $200 would stand as “a discount”.

In February, Stack emailed the Herald explaining her position.

She did not want that full response published and said she was happy to answer “specific questions” but she did not reply further.

In her email, Stack confirmed the vendors’ money had been spent on the venue and marketing and that she was under “no obligation” to pay anything back under the terms of the fair.

She claimed she had been threatened by some vendors, which was not fair.

Stack said she was not “trying to run away” with the vendors’ money.

In fact, she claimed she was doing all she could to return their money.

Vendors were sceptical and a number were considering legal action.

“We have no guarantee that the show will go ahead and to date we still don’t,” said one.

“We have lost all trust and would like our funds back.

“Everyone’s business has suffered in Covid, but we have paid her and got nothing in return.”

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