Scores of runners who entered a family-oriented running event at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on Saturday left feeling disappointed and ripped off, with many demanding refunds from the company that put on the event.
Dozens of participants flooded the for-profit Run or Dye company’s website and Facebook page this weekend with grievances, virtually all complaining about a disorganized and understaffed event that left participants unserved and confused, without dye packs or race bibs, or the souvenir T-shirts they’d paid for ahead of time.
“The event was a total bust,” said Tina Suhrke, who says she paid roughly $45 to register and park at the fairgrounds for the 9 a.m. Saturday event.
That fee was supposed to cover, among other things, a T-shirt, a dye packet and a photographer for the run. But no photographer showed up and organizers ran out of T-shirts and dye before even half the crowd had registered, she said.
Run or Dye is one of a number of companies that host themed events where participants run through clouds of colored powder on their way around the course, a riff on a Hindu religious festival where colorful dyes are thrown.
Representatives for the company didn’t respond to several voice and email messages Sunday, and the live chat customer-service function on their website wasn’t operating Sunday.
A representative for the Sonoma County Fair, which rents out facilities for events, said Sunday night she was unaware that there had been problems. A Run or Dye event a year ago at the fair went smoothly, Deputy Fair Manager Katie Young said.
“We have to wait to speak to organizers in the morning when we get to the office and see from their perspective what happened,” she said.
But based on the complaints relayed to her by a reporter, she said “We certainly would think twice about booking the event again.”
“We want to book events the public is going to enjoy and are going to be successful for the community,” Young said. “We take that into account when we book for the first time, or choose to bring them back again.”
Several runners who said they tried to contact the company behind Run or Dye said they had heard no responses, and one said the company deleted some complaints from its Facebook page and blocked her from commenting.
This was Suhrke’s first time participating in such an event and she said she’s unlikely to do it again.
“It put a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.
The event, which was billed as 5 kilometers, or about 3.2 miles, inexplicably ended up being just a little over a mile, Suhrke said.
Other participants said they’d been told that two or three identical laps were needed to make a 5K.
Suhrke said she tried to find someone to complain to during the event but could only find apologetic volunteers, not employees. Afterward, she complained via the only avenues she could find: The company’s Facebook page and “contact us” feature on their website. She hadn’t heard back Saturday night.
Leslie Mola of Sebastopol went to the website Yelp to complain, which led her to check out Run or Dye on the Better Business Bureau’s web page, which rates the company an “F” and shows 169 complaints in the past three years.