CHANDLER, AZ - Winter WonderFest in Chandler is hoping to win back customers after a wave of negative online reviews prompted the organizers to apologize and promise to revamp the event.
Winter WonderFest, located at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, is opening for free on Friday from 5-9p. While rides & admission are free on Friday, future admission is being reduced to $10 per person.
After the event opened on November 24th, unhappy customers quickly took to social media to call the event overpriced and underwhelming.
Winter WonderFest touted itself online as 'the greatest holiday event in Arizona.' The reviews from unhappy customers drew an apology from one of the organizers, who promised to improve the event.
"I really (would) like you to give us a second chance," said co-founder Peter Orr.
Orr told ABC15 over the past few days he's added a snow pit and additional lights to significantly improve the festive atmosphere. He admitted the event wasn't quite ready to go on opening night.
"I've learned that you can never be too prepared," said Orr. "You need to be very careful with how you market, and how you advertise things."
Orr is trying to win back customers like Laurie Barnett, who pre-purchased tickets but told ABC15 the online reviews scared her off.
"It looked very much like a last-minute, get a few rides and put them up," said Barnett.
Barnett said she may no longer go, despite spending $64 on four tickets for her family.
"I'm not really optimistic, to be honest," she said. "I think one week is not enough time for them to produce what they had advertised and had made the event out to be."
However, Barnett said she will look at the changes organizers made and says perhaps she will be pleasantly surprised.
"Maybe," she said. "We probably (would) make more of an effort to get there."
Orr said while he will not offer refunds for customers who came on opening weekend; however, he will accommodate customers who have not yet attended, and who have pre-purchased tickets at a higher price point.
Since tickets are now $10 a person, he told ABC15 he will make up the difference with ride tickets.
While not commenting specifically on Winter WonderFest, the Arizona Attorney General's Office provided general tips for consumers when dealing with holiday festivals:
Tips on How to Avoid Falling Victim to a Holiday Festival Scam:
• Research before purchasing. Search online for the name of the festival. Search online for bad reviews. If it’s the first year of the festival, wait to buy tickets until you arrive instead of purchasing online
• Check for (working) contact information: Be sure the festival website has a phone number, physical address, and email address. Be wary of sites that make it hard to reach someone, such as those that rely on a contact form instead of offering a customer service phone number.
• Read the fine print: Look out for disclaimers that warn you about paying for each ride or taking pictures at the festival.
• Purchase Tickets on Websites that Guarantee a Refund: Websites like Groupon says they will work with customers to obtain refunds.
• Avoid tickets sold on Craigslist and other free online listings: Scammers are skilled at providing realistic tickets and fake receipts.