Last Updated on October 7, 2021
Today, we’re telling you a story about a young entrepreneur by the name of Suresh Doss. He is – or rather, was – an amateur event planner and freelance food writer. Today, he owes the City of Toronto $36,000.
His is a cautionary tale, a story that drives home the importance of knowing who you’re working with and what you’re doing. See, Doss was part of a 2013 experiment to put food trucks in parks all across the city. Armed with an array of different meals, the trucks would keep hungry park-goers fed and content – and make a bit of money for the city in the process. At least, that was the theory behind the whole fiasco.
As you may have surmised, things didn’t exactly go as planned.
The experiment only lasted two months before everything collapsed epically under its own weight. Park patrons, though customers, were unhappy with the noise and fumes created by the trucks. Vendors were unhappy about the locations chosen by the city. And Doss? Well…
He was unhappy because he’s the one who got nailed with the bill.
See, what Doss failed to consider – or rather, what the city failed to tell him – was that the city didn’t bother to perform background checks on many of the food truck owners. End result? More than ten of the twenty-four trucks failed to pay their share of the rental deal. Their reasons were many and varied, but none of them really justifies the end result, non-payment.
So…what happened? How did a reasonable experiment go so horribly wrong? And how did an unfortunate freelancer get stuck footing the bill? How did the city skirt responsibility?
Honestly? From an event management perspective, the whole thing was doomed right from the beginning. The warning signs would likely have been obvious to any veteran event planner:
- The City of Toronto never signed a contract with any of the trucks – they simply signed one with Doss’s company, Spotlight Toronto.
- Doss’s company was given an extremely brief window in which to organize the trial – planning started in July, with a target launch of August.
- Under such a tight schedule, Doss cut corners no veteran would; he didn’t sign contracts with all of the trucks – leaving Doss literally no legal course of action in the event of nonpayment.
The nail in the coffin on this experiment was that it didn’t work! If park patrons had flocked to the trucks, trucks had made money and then paid their bills, maybe Doss would have had the time to get his ducks in a row, and get proper contracts signed. But that didn’t happen.
In short, it’s incredibly unfortunate that so many of the vendors refused to pay their dues. It’s incredibly unfortunate that the whole experiment came crashing down, and it’s incredibly unfortunate that Doss is the one stuck paying for everything. But at the end of the day he has only himself to blame.
It sounds harsh, but any seasoned event planner recognizes the risk Doss willing took on. As an event management professional you can’t just hold your breath and hope for the best when there is huge liability at stake. Contracts are there often because of harsh lessons learned. In any industry contracts protect both parties in the event that one entity doesn’t or can’t fulfill their end of the deal.
If you don’t have each and every vendor, partner, sponsor, and guest speaker sign a thoroughly discussed contract, then you’re simply inviting trouble.
In a way, Doss’s story is much like that of the men who planned Woodstock – super-restrictive time constraints, a lack of foresight and experience, a few bad vendors, and Doss, like them has been left in the lurch. Doss is an unfortunate, cautionary case study in what can happen if you seriously drop the ball as an event planner.
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