A group of southern Wisconsin runners is trying to warn others around the country about a 5K race that they said does not deliver what's advertised.
The Electric Foam 5K was held outside the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday night, May 17. Roughly 200 participants arrived expecting giant foam guns, pulsating dance beats and an overall after-party to drive attendance at the race. Instead, they found two children's bubble machines, no marked course, signed no waivers and had no fun.
"There was supposed to be a big deejay, foam everywhere, glow sticks, people dancing, just like an awesome party and there was nothing" said Jaime Strickert, a Janesville resident who set up a "Electric Foam 5K Scam Madison WI" Facebook page.
She and others have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and notified media outlets in cities set to host an Electric Foam 5K in the future. They believe their warnings led to the cancellation of the event in Dallas this past weekend.
"It definitely wasn't what it acted like it was going to be," said Shannon Gilbertson, who also drove up to Madison from Janesville for the race. "They made it seem like you'd be running through large quantities of foam."
"It was more like bath-time bubbles," Strickert said. "It was bath-time bubbles coming through a fence."
Emails and phone calls to Wayne Street -- CEO of Street Events, the company that runs the Electric Foam 5K races -- went unanswered. A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau said her efforts to reach the company to resolve the complaints she's received have also gone unanswered.
The women said they will be more cautious in the future and encourage others to do the same by using social media and the Internet to discover past experiences.
"Be wary that this kind of situation is out there," Gilbertson said. "Make sure what you're signing up for is actually what it's going to be."
Better Business Bureau's Tips when signing up for a local marathon or run:
- Confirm the race has happened before and, if so, where? What was the experience of other participants of that event? (Were stations and resources available as promoted? Was the race organized? Did everything run as planned per the advertised promotion?)
- Understand cancellation policies. If there are "acts of God," or other unforeseen events, are you able to get a refund? Under what circumstances, exactly, will you be refunded?
- If coming from out of town and booking travel with preferred vendors, travel services, or accommodations providers, do your research. Check with BBB.org
- Look at the route and consider whether it will meet your needs
- If the organizers are partnering with a charity, find out how much money will be going to the charity. Check out the charity with BBB.ORG
- Be clear on the organizer of the event. Where is it headquartered? Make sure you have more than just a website address. If you run into a problem later and are requesting a refund, you'll have to know who to contact and where they are physically located. (What happens when the run is over and the organizers leave your town?)
- If possible, talk to past participants of the event. What was their experience overall?
- Google the name of the event and check reviews online as well as BBB customer reviews at BBB.org