The Great American Mud Run, the self-proclaimed “muddiest 5K obstacle course in America,” has cancelled its Nov. 2 event in Manchester and will not be issuing refunds to those who registered for the event.
The event was originally scheduled for July 27 but was postponed to Nov. 2 just four days prior to the event due to what event organizers deemed “unforeseen logistical issues.” The event offered refunds at that time to anyone who wished to opt out, according to emails obtained by the Manchester Times, but those refunds were never processed and upon announcing the cancellation of the Nov. 2 event race organizers announced refunds would not be distributed.
Organizers announced the event would be cancelled in an email to participants Sept. 9 and soon after cancelled all of its remaining 2013 events. In an email to the Times, officials with Great American Mud Run (GAMR) claim low registration, marketing expenses, equipment rental fees and venue deposit have left the company insolvent.
“The type of events we put on are extremely expensive to execute in a fun and most importantly safe manner,” reads an email sent to the Times. “The number of participants registered for our Manchester event were significantly lower than we projected. Unfortunately, we spent heavily in marketing, put down a significant deposit with the venue owner and incurred significant up front equipment rental expenses. This has left the company insolvent.”
Great Stage Park officials – where the event was scheduled to be held – confirmed that they had received a “hold-the-date” deposit from GAMR. Great Stage Park is the same park that hosts the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.
“The only connection we have with Great American Mud Run is we were going to lease our property to them,” said Jeff Cuellar with AC Entertainment, which co-produces Bonnaroo and owns the property. “Our communication with them ceased right after they canceled their first [event on July 27]. After they cancelled their first one they asked for back up dates and from that point forward we never heard anything else. We were beginning to ask questions, too.
“This is a shame,” added Cuellar. “Obviously this is something we can’t necessarily control. It’s unfortunate for everyone who signed up to run that event.”
The email sent to the Times by GAMR, which was later echoed in a statement on the company’s now defunct website, goes on to explain the event’s no-refund policy.
“As is standard in our industry, we have a no-refund policy that all participants agree to when registering for one of our events,” the email reads. “Participants agree to this no-refund policy by typing their initials during the registration checkout process.”
Anthony Duncan, a Pulaski, Tenn. native who signed up for the event, said a big group from his church was planning to travel to Manchester for the race and had already registered.
“We prepaid for everything … it was like $82,” explained Duncan. “The mud run sent an email [in July] saying it had been postponed and that anybody that wants a refund should send an email to this [other] email and we will process your refund. It also said do nothing and you will be reentered for the Nov. 2 and I thought that might be cold so we wanted to cancel. I got an autoreply saying our refunds will be given out starting Aug. 1. Then later I get this email saying the Nov. 2 event has been cancelled and they apologize but they can’t issue refunds.”
GAMR officials said in an email to the Times that they want to “make it right.”
“We understand that registered participants affected by this cancellation are upset and want resolve. Although all registered participants have agreed to the [no-refund] policy we are trying to make this situation right. We will continue to look for ways to attempt to refund our registered participants, but as previously stated at this time the company is insolvent.”
Department of Commerce is involved
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has gotten involved and opened an investigation into the situation.
“Our consumer affairs division has received five complaints so far and we also talked to 15 contacts with consumers with questions,” said Kate Abernathy, public information officer with the Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Our attempts to reach [GAMR] have understandably not been answered. I assume they are taking a lot of traffic.”
Abernathy encourages anyone affected by the cancellation to file a complaint with the department.
“They can file a complaint with us and we can attempt to mediate.”
She also cautions customers to be careful when reading fine print and accepting terms and policies.
“We suggest that in the future any individual signing up for an event like this be a smart consumer,” Abernathy added. “Read the refund policy and don’t just click ‘I accept all terms.’ It’s important to know what is in these documents and in this case contest those charges with your credit card company. GAMR is leaving participants with not a lot of options here. File a complaint with us. We have opened an investigation.”
The run was scheduled to be held at Great Stage Park (Bonnaroo). The park held the Warrior Dash in each of the last two years. Warrior Dash and the Great American Mud Run, although similar events involving a 5K run, obstacles and plenty of mud, are separate entities. Warrior Dash has an Oct. 5 event scheduled for Tennessee this year but it will be in Pulaski instead of Manchester.
Anyone wishing to file a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance may call at 615-741-4737 or fill out a form online at http://tn.gov/consumer/complaint.shtml. Complaints can also be mailed to 500 James Robertson Parkway, Davy Crockett Tower, Nashville, TN.