Back from Toronto Gourmet Food and Wine Fiasco – I mean, Show

The Toronto Gourmet Food & Wine Show was no doubt one of the worst managed trade shows I’ve ever attended. Sometimes I mince words, let me be really clear here. I believe the organizers might have been on crack or perhaps they were a doing a group project for their 7th grade Home Economics or Business class.

Why the harsh words, you ask? Let’s see, I’m back a week now and I still haven’t received my “advance packet” from the press contact…but that’s just a start. How about the fact that her excuse for the delay was that she was “waiting for an email with (your) address.”

Of course, I have no less than five email confirmations that she had received and read those emails. Not to mention they have my online registration and confirmation with my address, telehpone, etc. Really, I couldn’t make this shite up.

Follow me, won’t you as we take a quick spin through trade show hell…

1. North or South? Toronto has a HUGE Convention Center – NO indication which side to enter on in my online confirmation. The taxi driver is a kindly, older Indian man who says “I am sorry Miss, there is only one word for the person that does not tell you which side of this Convention Center to enter on: Incompetence!”
2. First set of Booths – no signage for Media or Samples or tickets.
3. After standing in line, I find that, in fact, the Media and VIPs line is downstairs.
4. All of us who pre-registered “media and VIPs” are now standing in a second line which is half the length of the exhibition hall, holding our electronic confirmation printouts, complete with a bar code to be scanned for admission.
5. But no one with the show has a bar code reader. So we wait. And we wonder: what exactly is the point of pre-registration with scannable admission confirmation…?
6. After I’m finally at the front of the line, I learn my tutored tasting ticket (singular, I guess we don’t want to let too many people who might actually write about and promote your wines into these sessions, even if there are available seats…) is not with my media pass. Oh no. I have to go queue up again, in another long line, back upstairs.
7. Next, I’m told I must go back “to the 700 level to the info booth with the huge information sign”. I explain I was just there and saw no sign. “It’s huge.” Is the curt response from walkie-talkie girl.
8. Except there is nothing on the 700 level, except empty rooms. One more floor up, I’m back to the original booth and original line from which I was directed downstairs for the media pass. No “huge information booth” sign is in evidence, either. At this point I’m not surprised.
9. Back in the now-longer line for sample tickets enabling me to sample the vendors’ gourmet food products and wines. We’re told that if we have our exhibition hall pass, we can enter and we will find the lines inside “much shorter.”
10. Except that they are not. And we are not surprised.
11. Sample tickets in hand, I’m now looking for specific vendors, according to my numbered layout in the guide.
12. Except that there are no markers to indicate aisles or locations of booths but for two sides of the hall pillars. Only at the tops of the pillars, and only on only two sides. Round numbers such as 700 or 500. But if you’re looking for booth 525, you’ll have to go find the side of the pillar numbered 500, and walk up and down the aisle counting, as individual booths did not even have numbers displayed.

Booth Bimbos – and I mean that in a gender-non-specific way.
Let me just share one aspect of the show, which I is the one flaw not resting squarely on the shoulders of the show planners: the booth bimbos. Presumably, this rests on the shoulders of the various vendors. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why they would:

  • rent space at the show;
  • ship product and marketing materials, and then;
  • leave the education and promotion of their product to someone who doesn’t know a thing about it, and doesn’t care?

You think I’m kidding?
– When I ask the guy (whom I had assumed was with the producer or the distributor) to tell me something about about his Pouilly-Vinzelles wine he says: “It’s a white burgundy.” (This I could tell from the shape of the bottle and the color of the wine.) I ask if it’s from the same area as say, Pouilly-Fuissé or Pouilly-Fumé? He replies, “Yes.” And I ask, “the difference then is…?” and he basically mumbles unintelligibly. I say, “Would it be terroir?” “Yeah, that’s it.”

– I ask the chocolate truffle gal about her “cocoa nib truffle” that I was encouraged to try by another vendor. She has no idea what a “nib” is. She also has no idea what “cacao” is, I was foolishly trying both variants and had actually begun to explain to her how chocolate truffles are made…fool that I am. Blank stare. Blink, blink. Poor dear probably thinks they grow on trees in perfectly formed little balls.

– When I go to the official store to buy wines I sampled which are not available elsewhere, everything rings up at $99.99, no matter what the clerk rings in. This includes my little $2.50 pamplemousse spritzer which I’m encouraged to try and which is only available at the show. Fun.

Those are just a few of the highlights. I was assured that value would be received for the cost of my time and travel. Interestingly, this was primarily outside the show. Organizer gal and her boss seem to have taken off after the show, no materials, answers or apologies have arrived. Not that I expected them.

Check my Suite101 column soon for the real standout product (perfect for holiday gift-giving and entertaining!) and one more customer service nightmare.

In the meantime, I’m running a series on Gourmet Gifts for 2006, covering everything from “sky’s the limit” (how about a primal of heritage beef or a cooking tour of France?) to great gifts under $20. Click here to check it out: 2006 Gourmet Gift Guide.

I also cover gifts you can make and a special opportunity to give a terrific gift that’s both delicious AND helps homeless families with job training, education, child care and housing.

See, I may be cranky, but I’m no Grinch.

~ by jacqueline1230 on December 6, 2006.

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