Partygoers who spent hundreds of euros on tickets, accommodation, and flights to attend the Drumcode techno festival in Malta in September were left disappointed earlier this month as Drumcode, a techno music agency, announced the event was being cancelled following “an accumulation of problems” with Pollen – the UK company responsible for organising the event.
A fortnight later, customers’ demands to the latter are being met with silence and the company has entered administration.
According to Drumcode – which is pushing frustrated customers to communicate their demands with Pollen directly – it is unable to issue refunds to customers as the agency is not in possession of customers’ money or contact details, and does not have the power to obtain them.
“We will continue to push Pollen to fulfil refunds,” it pledged, in a comment on Instagram. Drumcode’s inability to contact customers via email – justified by the lack of access to customers’ contact details – has also raised eyebrows among customers.
Soon after the cancellation of the festival, Pollen’s parent company, London-based owner Streatteam Software Ltd. announced that it hired Kroll LLC to handle a breakup and sale of its disparate businesses, entering administration. In its announcement, it pointed to Covid-19 restrictions, the global economic downturn and bearish sentiment among venture investors, which combined to “put too much pressure on the business whilst at a critical stage of a start-up’s maturity.”
Meanwhile questions on the losses of customers in the hundreds, if not thousands of euro, are being met with silence from the travel and luxury event start-up, ticket-buyers confirmed to The Shift, and frustrations voiced on social media channels.
‘There goes €600 that I’ll never get back’
One ticket buyer told this newsroom that he has “no hope” of getting refunded, in light of Pollen’s situation. “There goes €600 that I’ll never get back,” another woman wrote in a comment reacting to Drumcode’s post this week. The agency’s announcement remains one of the only pieces of evidence that the event has actually been cancelled, as it remains promoted on Pollen’s website.
“Pollen does not respond to requests for tickets refunds, I sent two emails and via the contact form on the homepage. There is no answer,” a customer said. “Altogether I’ve lost on 2k as I’ve booked for me and 2 other people for my own birthday,” another revealed with dismay.
Tickets for the four-day festival were selling at some €129 for party passes and from €299 up to €569 for packages including accommodation, according to Pollen’s website. The packages did not include flight costs.
Customers who had similar experiences from other events cancelled by Pollen indicated that they were either still waiting for their refund months later, or spoke about having finally received the refund, but not without a struggle.
“It took me four months, 19 emails, four telephone calls and social media grievance to get a full refund for WeAreFestival (Mexico). I’d suggest anyone who bought packages to report them to Trading Standards – they’ve never delivered what they say they would irrespective of actually going ahead with something, what they advertise and what they hold themselves accountable for are worlds apart,” one customer advised.
Meanwhile, media reports by Bloomberg throughout August have painted a picture of a company that has, in recent months, struggled to pay wages to its employees and issue refunds to its customers, leaving behind it a trail of complaints. In recent months, customer complaints about Pollen poured in so quickly that staffers couldn’t keep up, one in-depth report reveals. So much so that the company resorted to a “slapdash triage system” to handle refund requests: a spreadsheet that prioritized people who “complained the loudest on social media”.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg announced that the US Department of Labor is questioning former employees of the troubled startup in order to compile information about unpaid wages.
The Shift had reported earlier this month that 356 Entertainment, connected to events in Malta such as Summer Daze, Lost and Found and ABODE on the Rock, which is one of the event companies favoured by Malta Tourism Authority’s head of events Lionel Gerada, is an official partner of Pollen, according to Pollen’s website.
The Shift has sent questions to both Drumcode and Pollen, but no reply was received at the time of writing.