In previous months, we have published some articles on less than stellar races. In May we published an article called “Why I didn’t race this weekend” and more recently we published a story called “Which New Races Should I Avoid” which focused on sub par marketing ploys of some OCR companies.
Up until now, we at ORM have never used the word scam. This may be the first time. Read on, and decide for yourself.
ORM became aware of an event this week that was supposed to be put on by an organization called Critical Mud. Critical Mud sold tickets to an event this weekend and then never bothered to show up.
So to be clear, we aren’t talking about long lines at registration, because there was no registration. We aren’t talking about poorly built obstacles; we are talking about zero obstacles. When registrants showed up at the location this company advertised, the gates were locked and there was no on around to answer any questions. This is called a scam.
In conjunction with Liz Palka from from the Virginia televsion station WAVY10, we have spent the last few days investigating this company in an attempt to get to the bottom of the story.
The man behind Critical Mud is a man named Harrel Todd Griffin. On Facebook, his profile is simply Todd Griffin. We were in conversations with him at the beginning of the month looking into his upcoming events. We had reached out to him on September 5th to ask him about his upcoming events on the 21st and 28th. Here is what he told us verbatim:
“We just had a pre-run with several people that did the VA Spartan race last week and they said maybe they spoke too soon in declaring that it was the hardest race they’d ever run. Our 9/21 event is going to be rough. We just avoid level ground like the plague, and we still add about 5-6 obstacles per mile. But you know, every course is different, you have to work with what you’ve got.”
Brand new race directors comparing their own race to Spartan Race can be cause for concern. For someone to compare themselves to the Virginia Spartan, which most of the OCR community feel is the most difficult race they have ever done, is an enormously bold statement.
The comments on Critical Mud’s Facebook page told a very different story than the promises Mr. Griffin made on the 5th. Several posts mentioned the course being “a mile and half dirt track” and not having any obstacles outside of “a few tires laid out”. There were also no t-shirts given, no medals given, and no free beer given out. All promises made by Critical Mud prior to the race. A few people mentioned that they were looking for the free photos they were promised. One called it “a joke”.
Mr Griffin’s responses on Facebook were lengthy explanations on how the discount sites, Living Social and Groupon, had incorrect dates and addresses for this race. He also stated those sites would not release information on how many people registered or their contact information so he had “no way of knowing who would show up” and “no way to get in contact with them”.
The 2nd event was scheduled to happen just one week after the first. The address listed on Facebook and on Brown Paper Tickets, where many had registered was 1520 Northside Rd, Elizabeth City, NC 27908 – This is the address of Dixieland Speedway.
One man who registered for this race was Staff Sergeant Jonathan Reid of the US Army. He put together a group of 52 soldiers who wanted to a do a fun mud run together. When he got to the location on race day he told us that there were “Basically a few hundred people with their hands in the air trying to figure out where the race coordinator or the event itself went. No one from Critical Mud was there.”
Upset customers began calling the tv station WAVY10 who then ran this story the day the race was supposed to happen.
When ORM learned of this “no race” situation, we immediately reached out to Mr. Griffin by phone. He told us that he was there and that a race certainly happened. When we asked if there are any photos proving this, he told us “We didn’t hire any photographers for this race”. When we asked him if he took any photos on his phone he stated “I don’t have a camera on my phone” We then asked how many staff and volunteers were on hand, and he said about a “half dozen”. So we asked him to produce a photo from any of his staff or any participant. He told us he would work on that and get back to us.
A day later, we called Mr. Griffin back for more answers and he refused to talk to us, hanging up shortly after we began speaking. He did, however, continue to post what many called “long-winded defensive” responses on Facebook about the discount sites mistakes, but never acknowledged a race that did not happen.
Searching for Answers
We started making phone calls to find out what was really going on. We were able to speak with Carlos Morales. His company, Alta Sky photography was contracted to shoot photos of the events on the 21st and the 28th. He told us that he was there on the 21st and was surprised at how few obstacles there were. He also told us that Mr. Griffin called him on the 24th and said “Don’t bother coming down on the 28th because I am canceling the event”. We asked Mr. Morales if he had been paid by Todd Griffin. Carlos told us that “He was not answering my calls, so I went to a coffee shop that I know he works out off”. When I found him he stated that “it could take a while to get paid but that he would also get us a lot more work at future races”
ORM’s next call was to the venue itself. We spoke with Red Swain, the owner of Dixie Speedway. He told us very plainly. “I’ll tell you what I told the TV people, I have never heard of this guy, we have been closed since our last event on August 16th”.
As of this writing we are in contact with Living Social and Groupon to find out about their dealings with Mr. Griffin and Critical Mud. We also want to establish what their corporate policies are in terms of keeping track of sales numbers and if the release registrant information to their clients.
The Future of Critical Mud
Brown Paper Tickets, has already distanced themselves from future events. Here is what they sent their customers who purchased tickets.
This message is regarding your registration for Critical Mud. The event organizer had also posted an event on Brown Paper Tickets for September 28, but that event did not take place, and no notice was given to registrants. Brown Paper Tickets has been unsuccessful at making contact with the event organizer to resolve the situation and get refunds for the event goers. At this time, we have deactivated all future events by this organizer in our system and we advise ticket-buyers to seek refunds for this event.
If you purchased a ticket initially through Groupon or LivingSocial, we recommend that you contact those organizations directly to request a refund.
We sincerely apologize for any frustration you may have experienced regarding this situation. Brown Paper Tickets is committed to providing the highest level of service to its customers – we hope that advising you on how best to achieve resolution with this issue demonstrates how seriously we take situations such as these. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at 1.800.838.3006×1, or at email@example.com.
Brown Paper Tickets
We decide to look into future locations for their races ourselves. Our intention was to call the venues and see if they were in business with Critical Mud. When we did a quick google search on their upcoming locations, here is what we found.
2 races listed for November 30 and December 28th list the following address 4191 The Circle At North Hills St. Raleigh, NC 27609 and were listed as Triangle Adventure Park. No such venue exists with that name that we can find. Also that address in Raleigh brings up a Target store location on Google maps..
An additional race listed for January 4, 2014 is 9531 South Blvd Charlotte, NC 28273. This is also a Target store location.
The most recent posts by Mr. Griffin were made last last night on Facebook. He stated the following:
“Most of the calls we’ve made and the emails we’ve received indicate that most of the people actually affected are pleased with our handling of this. We’ve had three people working as hard as possible for two and a half days to get to this point, so it’s bed time.”
He also explained that the Facebook page is only down temporarily and went to say:
“Respond as you wish, because I’m keeping my business to myself in the future.There are win/win situations out there, but based on my experiences over the past 3 days, I don’t have much hope for some folks to ever work together. For those of you that have been supportive, I do appreciate it. Your decency was noted.”