The Story Of Suresh Doss Drives Home The Real Cost Of Event Management Blunders

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Today, I’m going to tell you about a young man 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 violently under its own weight. 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 slammed with the bill.

See, what he failed to consider – or rather, what the city failed to tell him – was that it didn’t really 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 their conduct.

So…what happened? How did a reasonable experiment go so horribly wrong? And how did an unfortunate freelancer get stuck footing the bill?

Honestly? From an event management perspective, the whole thing was doomed right from the beginning. The warning signs should be 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.
  • His company was given an extremely brief window in which to organize the trial – planning started in July, with a target launch of August.
  • Because he was forced to such a stringent schedule, he didn’t sign contracts with all of the trucks – meaning there was literally no penalty for them in the event of nonpayment.

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.

That may sound harsh to some of you. You might think I’m being unfair. But the simple truth of the event management space – of any industry, really – is that contracts exist for a reason: to protect both parties in the event that one doesn’t fulfill their end of the bargain.

If you don’t have each and every vendor, partner, sponsor, and guest speaker sign a thoroughly-discussed contract, then you’re simply asking for trouble.

Doss is an unfortunate case study in what happens when you seriously drop the ball as an event planner. In a way, his story is much like that of the men who planned Woodstock – as a result of too-restrictive time constraints, a lack of foresight, and a few bad vendors, he’s been left completely in the lurch. Don’t make the same mistakes he did – give yourself time to publicize and plan, and sign your contracts.

Otherwise, you might end up in just as bad a spot as he is – or worse.