Consumers get shafted—again!

It has happened again! Another no show by a foreign artiste who was scheduled to perform here and once again questions are being asked as to who is to blame—the performer or the promoter.  Last Saturday a scheduled performance by Jamaican act Mavado was cancelled mere hours before the show was scheduled to take place here.
I have written on these issues for as long as I have been a journalist, which is about twenty years or so. And the list of no show artiste here is endless. But truth be told, not just Dancehall and Reggae artistes have been in breach, although they have been the main culprits, but Soca performers and acts contracted by the Saint Lucia Tourist Board at various Jazz festivals as well.  The reasons in most cases when artiste do not show up for a show include double bookings by various agents, promoters failing to pay the stipulated fifty percent deposit ahead of time, missing flights and in some cases just pure delinquency on the part of “high risk” performers.
However, in the case of last weekend’s concert “Mavado and Friends” the issues seem more complicated. From where I am standing, it is not just a case of “he say, she say,” or proportioning blame anymore, but asking, who is looking after our consumers when such ‘non refundable’ cancellations take place, who is in their corner?
Since December 2011 it was advertised that popular Dancehall performer Mavado (David Constantine Brooks) would be performing here in Saint Lucia on February 11, 2012 at the Beausejour grounds. Billed as “Mavado and Friends” other performers for the show were to include Laza Morgan, Peter Ram and Gyptian. Promoted by IG promotions, an entity out of Barbados, at a little past 6pm Saturday February 11, it was announced by the lead female promoter on Radio Caribbean that the show was cancelled. For many this came as no surprise. Those in the know included several media and radio personalities, whose silence was literally paid for with a few advertising dollars in the name of sponsorship. But oh how they came home squealing like little piglets, once some consumers who had bought tickets started calling them out. Again, who is on the side of our consumers and fellow Saint Lucians?
Just to back track a bit. In 2007 Mavado was in Saint Lucia for a second show which never took place, after he was served with legal documents declaring a lawsuit by popular promoter here DJ Litchie. In the first instance fans had purchased tickets for the “Litchie Sounds” promoted event but on arrival at the venue they were told that Mavado had not made it to the island and a refund offered causing the promoter to suffer great financial loss.  In what was probably the first here, Litchie (Shane Theodore) sought legal redress against Mavado and his management.
Months later promoter Shazi Chalon sought to capitalize on the hype surrounding Mavado at the time and his immense popularity, embarking on another Mavado-headlined concert.  Again loyal fans showed up at the Gaiety on Rodney Bay for the event. Mavado for a second time, although this time in Saint Lucia, did not make it to the venue. The reason I later discovered was due to the fact that he was served with court papers by officers of the court on behalf of Litchie.
Shazi charged back then that the actions were “mean spirited,” adding “I do not have a problem with the lawsuit but he could have done it after the show.”
Mavado, still one of the biggest names in Dancehall having recently signed to DJ Khalid’s label and going international with songs like “Delilah” and “One by One” with Laza Morgan is then booked by a Barbadian promoter who seeks to capitalize on the artiste’s popularity in Saint Lucia.                 Soon as word was out about the concert; on the streets, the barber shops, the entertainment spots, among media persons (off air and off paper of course) red flags went up. Still, at least one radio station opted in as a sponsor as well as a major telecommunications giant, even after Mavado’s legal troubles were well known, not just here, but in Jamaica and Barbados. The performer had a court appearance in Jamaica a few days before he was scheduled to appear here.  RCI carried several radio drops and interviews with Mavado’s voice as well as that of the promoter assuring the public that he would be here. But while on the surface all looked well, behind the scenes everything was anything but smooth.
This week DJ Litchie confirmed with the STAR that the court had granted him judgment against Mavado after he had filed in 2007, and that he would have been served had he entered the island. “The promoter knew that and she even tried to reach an agreement with me to pay off some of the cost ahead of the show,” Litchie says.
“We started talking since last year, but after I sent her a copy of the contract and judgment, nothing ever happened,” he revealed.
With all this in mind did the promoter withhold this information from sponsors and the public and did some radio announcers knowing all of this simply just go along with the promotions?
On Saturday the first reason given for the cancellation was that Mavado had missed his flight and that the show would be rescheduled. No reason was given for the fact that Gyptian had also not arrived in Saint Lucia.                         However on Monday February 13, the promoter was literally crying a different song. On RCI’s NewsSpin program with Timothy Poleon she stated that Mavado did not come to Saint Lucia because of “legal issues” but would say no more on the matter. In a teary tone she told the host that she had promoted several shows where an artistes had been paid to come and she had never encountered such a situation.             “This is the situation. I am definitely gonna have an event but I can’t in good conscience risk my credibility as a promoter and tell someone that I will agree again or give them another chance and try again. I can’t do that . . . there are so many legal ramifications, things I would like to say but can’t say. What I can tell people beyond a shadow of a doubt, I am doing a show February 21 (2012). What I can tell people is that I am sincerely sorry.”
Again, what of the consumer, those who forked out EC$50 advanced tickets for the concert? What is their recourse? Another show minus Mavado may not be to their liking, so why didn’t the promoter offer the option of a refund?
On the back of the ticket there is talk of a “refund” in fine print if the show is cancelled, but it also gives the promoter the right to change the date, but not necessarily the performers.
According to local attorney Leevie Herelle, this is where we need to put in place what obtains in England and is called “the unfair contract terms act” which would protect the consumer.
“In Saint Lucia we do not have similar provisions to protect the rights of consumers and I dare say the vulnerability of the Saint Lucian consumer is often taken for granted. You would think that after having events like the  Jazz festival for twenty years that we would introduce such legislation,” Herelle feels. He also explained that the fine print on the back of the ticket makes it a legal contract between purchaser and patron who paid to see Mavado and is entitled to a refund if they make a claim.                 “However the agreement on the back of the ticket absolves the promoter from any loss or injury and this is where the unfair contract would come in because this ought not to be.”
In the case of the legal action taken by Litchie, Herelle says he is well within his rights to do so once it is understood where the case is filed and how judgment would be exacted given that Mavado is based in Jamaica. “What I do know is that under various CARICOM treaties a judge will grant you permission to pursue a case against someone in another island,” Leevie says.
How soon before we enact laws to deal with these scenarios? How many more cases should Saint Lucians suffer before we say enough is enough? Interestingly enough this same promoter was denied entry for Mavado to perform in Barbados just last year based on his legal troubles. Do the Barbadians take themselves more seriously than we take ourselves and our people?                 Nuff said!

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