Industry – 1, Pirates – 0? Not So Fast Landlubbers!

Author: Matthew Payne

After we published our recent piece on Pirates and Poachers and the devastating effects they can have on room block bookings (which you can read here) we learned of a recent ruling in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against travel agency Tarzango, in which the latter was ordered to pay approximately $750,000 in damages for ‘deceptive advertising practices’ to the US Poultry and Egg Association in relation to room block bookings for its annual trade show and conference, the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE).  In 2017, Tarzango sent unsolicited emails to IPPE exhibitors and attendees, misrepresenting themselves as being an official housing affiliate of the show, when in fact this was not the case.

Already a few in our industry have dubbed this ruling as a landmark decision because it recognizes the growing threat of poachers and pirates to conferences and events.  However, Joshua L. Grimes, Esq. of Grimes Law Offices LLC, cautions meeting planners against leaping to the conclusion of this decision being a ‘game changer.’

Grimes stated that Tarzango, “never entered an appearance in the litigation, and didn’t fight US Poultry’s allegations in any way.” He also highlighted another characteristic of misleading behaviour by some pirates and poachers through their use of shell companies, making these perpetrators difficult to track down for litigation purposes due to the lack of a physical address.  

“I am a strong advocate for combating poachers, so I applaud US Poultry for taking steps to hold Tarzango accountable for their wrongful business practices,” furthered Grimes. “But meeting planners should be cautious about seeing this decision as a game-changer in the fight to put poachers out of business.”

You can read more background on the aforementioned decision here. Whilst it’s fortunate that this decision does in some way acknowledge the plight of meeting planners being threatened by pirates and poachers and brings it to the attention of a wider audience, the fact remains we must all continue being vigilant and utilize our event attendee bases to help weed them out. “We’ve put up alerts on our website and in our newsletters,” said John Starkey, president of US Poultry. “Many long-time attendees and exhibitors now forward these emails to us asking if they are legit, and it was from those emails we were able to demonstrate (that Tarzango was) claiming to represent IPPE.”

So make sure you spread the word to attendees and exhibitors through your website, emails and other publications, keep conversations on the subject open between fellow meeting planners both in person and through online forums, and together let’s all continue in our efforts to curb the spreading of room block poaching and piracy at our events.