Today I was dealing with a business that had the word “Christian” in their name. They are purportedly a Christian trade show business, but I have been dealing with them for months over their failure to perform to the terms of an agreement. The agreement was related to a booth rental and speaking engagement I had with them earlier this year here in North Carolina.
I will summarize the situation: They advertised and promoted their trade show to Christian retailers, small businesses, authors, and speakers as an event that has been held for nearly two decades and that is attended by thousands with hundreds of exhibitors. The event had perhaps 40 exhibitors, each spending between $300 and $1000 for their booth and “extras” (e.g., power, wi fi). The booths were to include a table, tablecloth, draperies, floor cover, and chairs. Perhaps half of the larger booth rentals were provided with those items. None of the smaller booths were set up at all. To compound the issue, the organizer failed to show up for setup until nearly four hours into the designated setup time. The event was held on a 98-degree summer day with humidity that you could cut with a knife. Why does the temperature matter? Because there was also no air conditioning at the venue until the event officially opened. And—wait for it—the venue was in the loading bay of the conference center, which is two stories high. We had no air for the entire first day and it finally began to cool off the morning of the second day.
If there had been crowds of thousands in attendance, it would have been a nightmare. But we were all spared that as the two-day event had less than 50 attendees not associated with the exhibitors and performers.
As to the speaking rooms and workshops, they had a designated lovely cool, air-conditioned room all prepared. But the organizer decided it made more sense to have me speak in the loading bay … I mean the conference floor. Now I am not a quiet speaker, but even I can’t compete with a forklift, praise band, loudspeaker announcements, and the sounds of people loading in or tearing down their booths.
The upside to the event was I met several very nice exhibitors. The downside? It cost me my time and around $700 for travel and the booth rental, and some exhibitors travelling in from out of state were out thousands of dollars. One exhibitor told me she put her last $300 into the booth rental as the last chance to get her business off the ground.
I attempted to get a refund of my booth rental. I emailed and called the organizer contact to no avail. No response. Deafening silence. I had fortunately paid via credit card, so I contacted the credit card company to challenge the charge. That got their attention, and I received a call from a low-level accounts payable clerk who did not care about my experience, but wanted to know why I would challenge the charge. That is still the only contact I have had with the organization.
Today I spoke with the collection agency rep who was given the task of collecting my already paid $300. I provided him with documentation of the fact the account was already paid. He was not happy. He is taking action. Not against me, but against the Christian trade show company. Believe it or not there are laws and rules for what can be turned over for collection. A disputed charge is not one of them. A paid disputed charge is not one of them. The collection company has asked their legal department to look into my options for action against the trade show company.
What does it say about the state of our world that organizations professing to be faith-based don’t live and act according to biblical standards? What does it say when non-believers exhibit higher moral and ethical standards than believers?
I don’t know if the Christian trade show company is in fact truly faith-based or run by believers. Their rep professed her faith at the conference as she proceeded to trample on commitments, promises, and even legal agreements. She proclaimed that organizing and running conferences was her mission. So if I take the trade show organizers at face value based on their name and their words, I will accept they are believers. But there is a disconnect, a great chasm, between their words and actions.
Our faith must be integral to how we do business. What we profess with our mouth has to be reflected in our heart, and visible in our actions. Yes we will stumble, but we only fall and fail when we don’t accept responsibility. This trade show group could have stepped up and apologized and said, “We made a mistake. Here’s your money back.” They could have asked questions and started a dialogue. I checked out their Facebook page to see what is going on with them. I saw questions posted asking why certain events around the country have been cancelled. My human side would love to post the entire story of my experience with this company. My faith side says, “Wait on the Lord and He will set things right.”
Where does the balance rest between holding one another accountable versus keeping silent versus keeping others from being taken advantage of? What is the just, wise, and Christian thing to do? I find my answers in waiting on the Lord. I gave Him this situation to resolve and to direct my next steps. I do know that however God chooses for the situation to be handled and resolved on earth it will be a much better solution than I could ever devise.