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Dirty Girl Mud Run won’t issue refunds

By Rachel Molenda, Staff writer
KENNY KEMP | Gazette file photo
Organizers of the Dirty Girl Mud Run, which was slated for Saturday but was canceled over an internal financial dispute, say they will not give refunds to those who signed up for the event.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and hundreds of them took to social media Wednesday to let Dirty Girl Mud Run organizers know just how upset they are that the Charleston race, set for Saturday, was canceled just three days before taking place.

Participants who registered for this weekend’s Dirty Girl Mud Run won’t receive any refunds “under any circumstances,” according to a post on the organization’s Facebook page.

More than 300 people commented, calling Dirty Girl thieves, “a dirty business” and chastising the page for deleting its first post related to the Charleston event, which participant Sonya Beard said garnered close to 1,000 negative comments. There’s also a Facebook group called “Dirty Girl Mud Run Rips Off Charleston, WV,” which asserts the company has “pocketed” the money it collected.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court over participants not getting their money back. The lawsuit, filed by the law firm Preston and Salango, asks to be granted class-action status.

Shawna Robinson, of Nitro, said she registered to run in the event — which was scheduled for Saturday at Cato Park — in February. Now she’s out $75, she said.

“Back when I registered, they didn’t even have a venue yet. They were still looking for a venue,” Robinson said. “The earlier you register, the cheaper [the cos

About 2,500 people registered for the event. Registration cost between $65 and $95, depending on the date a participant signed up. The Dirty Girl waiver states, “All entries are final with no refunds,” and also states event officials can cancel or change the race “if in their sole judgment such cancellation or change is necessary or prudent due to emergency, severe weather or local or national disaster.” The clause goes on to state that there will be no refunds issued under such circumstances.

The Dirty Girl Facebook post stated that the event could not “be held due to circumstances out of our control.”

Human Movement Management, a production company hired to put on the event, entered into a contract with the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau on April 1, according to the contract.

Human Movement, and Dirty Girl owner 100 LLC, told city officials and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau that they were in the midst of working through financial issues when a shuttle operator pulled the plug on its participation in the event.

Park Tours, which was to transport participants to and from Cato Park, gave both groups a 4:30 p.m. deadline Tuesday to make payment for its services. Neither Human Movement nor 100 LLC paid the company by that time, according to a statement from the city of Charleston.

The question of whether the run would go on was unanswered as late as Sunday evening, when Human Movement contacted the city and the CVB to say it was canceling the run over a financial dispute with 100 LLC.

Jeff Suffolk, president of Human Movement, would not explain to the Gazette the financial issues between the two.

The lawsuit, filed against 100 LLC and Human Movement, by Charleston resident Kristy Fulks, who signed up and paid to participate in the run, claims that failing to refund the registration fees violates consumer protection laws.

Michelle Haskins, of Charleston, registered for the run on Saturday, but said she wishes she had waited to do so, given this week’s unfolding events.

“If their fees were due at the end of June, they probably shouldn’t have let people like myself register, charge me more and cancel it 24 hours [later], 48 hours [later],” Haskins said.

Neither Robinson nor Haskins had gotten a refund as of Wednesday afternoon.

Not all participants are losing out. Beard, also of Charleston, said she filed a dispute with her bank to get a refund.

“I told them that I had signed up and that they had canceled with less than a week [to go] due to they had not secured the venue, arranged transportation or checked with the city,” Beard said.

There also were problems related to the remainder of a $10,000 deposit that was never paid to the city. Human Movement was contractually obligated to pay that deposit — $5,000 in March and $5,000 in June. 100 LLC wrote the check in March for half, but neither company had paid the balance to the city as of Tuesday evening.

“We go into it with the assumption that we can’t do anything about the weather or natural disasters, but we don’t go into it with the assumption that they don’t have their act together,” Beard said.

Beth Ryan, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, said the office has been “inundated with calls” about the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Ryan also said the office has received several complaints via its online form, social media and email. Ryan wouldn’t say Wednesday if Attorney General Patrick Morrisey would launch an investigation into the matter.

“Our Office cannot confirm or deny the existence of any investigation. Generally speaking, however, consumers who believe a business has not lived up to its end of a deal or engaged in misleading tactics should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office and file a complaint,” Ryan wrote in a statement.

Registrants can call the office at 1-800-368-8808 or file a complaint online.

Dirty Girl Mud Run has a D+ rating with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. Many of the 34 complaints filed against the company show registrants were upset that their races were advertised as taking place in one city — notably Raleigh, North Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio — but were then moved to locations two or more hours away several months after participants signed up.

Tia Mattson, a spokeswoman for Dirty Girl Mud Run, said the company is working on allowing those registered for Charleston’s events to transfer to other runs if they wish. It’s not clear at this point if that is a viable option.

“We have an error in the registration system that does not yet allow women to transfer to another event. We are working right now to correct this and can let you know when that is addressed so when and if option is available to women in Charleston, WV, you can alert them,” Mattson wrote. “Please note we have not issued refunds for any participants registered for the Charleston, WV event.”

Registrants said they’re not interested in transferring to other Dirty Girl Mud Run events. Robinson questioned how much the company donates to cancer prevention and research and said she wants to stick with local races.

“I don’t think I will do another Dirty Girl run now,” Robinson said.

Beard said she is “so upset with them. I just wanted my money back.”

Haskins registered for the Charleston event because it was in Charleston.

“I registered here in Charleston, not somewhere five hours away,” she said. “And probably, if they come back next year, would not be interested in doing that at all. It’s just wrong on so many levels.”

Haskins said she and her co-workers tried to register for Charleston’s race Wednesday morning, to see if it would work. They got all the way through the process, until the billing page, when they learned it would cost $103 for an event that wasn’t going to happen.

“They technically can go to any city and register a bunch of people, cancel it and say, ‘We’re not going to give you your money back,’ ” Haskins said.

The Charleston run was no longer listed on the Dirty Girl Mud Run website, as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The problem is greater than money for some women, though. They say they are upset because what they believed was a good event for a good cause has become negative.

Sabrina Grace, of York, Pennsylvania, was not registered for Charleston’s event, but ran in a Dirty Girl event in Eastern Pennsylvania. Grace called it a “milestone,” one just after she turned 30 years old.

“These women may have come over life obstacles to do this event, worked courage up for this. These women should be mad,” Grace said.

Beard said one friend organized a team to race in honor of a woman who recently had a mastectomy. The group had T-shirts and hats made for Saturday’s run.

“My friend has been working herself to death for this,” Beard said. “It’s a lot of work and time that’s put into this, and you don’t get that back.”

The breast cancer survivor Beard was referencing was supposed to run in Saturday’s event, she said.

“It’s more than money. You’re doing it in honor of someone who’s close to you.”

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5102 or follow @rachelmolenda on Twitter.


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