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"We just make sure that the client is happy," says Austin Convention Center spokeswoman Terry McBride. However, the resulting expo, held last May, was so sparsely attended that EMC would start postponing, then canceling, other Texas shows.
In Fort Worth, according to Fort Worth Convention Center spokeswoman Marcia Anderson, EMC initially booked an expo at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, then canceled and rebooked at the convention center. Then they canceled. Convention center reps leased the space despite the fact that their own notes say "new company/no facility history or references."
But Anderson pointed out that, "For us to reject business, since we're a government entity, we've got to have a pretty darn good documentable reason."
It's also not clear if convention center reps in one city talk to their counterparts in others. If they did, it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone at the George R. Brown Convention Center that EMC would cancel, seeing as how the Houston expo was to take place one month after EMC scrapped Fort Worth. (George R. Brown reps did not return the Houston Press's calls).
Dumagan also canceled the Dallas Convention Center, according to center rep Michelle Skyy.
"The only response he had was 'something came up' and he wasn't going to be able to do it," she says.
"We've had to extend an olive branch either directly or indirectly through our other promoters to try to get them back in the building and to make good," Lapsley says. Out of all the convention center reps interviewed for this story, Lapsley was the only one to say he felt a convention center can do more to try to help vendors who've been burned. He says his role is more than just taking a check and turning on the lights.
"How much does it hurt me to make a phone call, how much does it hurt me to offer somebody free parking or free electric hookup for one show as a mea culpa?" he says. "I do have a bit of responsibility for the shows that are coming...into our community. To a small extent, we are the gatekeeper for the quality of shows that come into our community...We have a responsibility to research events to make sure that the people who are doing the shows have the ability to pull off a show."
Of the people who wished they had done more research on EMC, Steve Owen is probably kicking himself the hardest.
Owen is the vice president of sales for Wisconsin-based Hy Cite Corporation, which manufactures and markets household products like cookware and vacuum cleaners. Owen says he paid EMC $210,000 in exchange for exclusive sales rights at some of the Texas expos. But since EMC canceled so many shows, Hy Cite was never able to advertise its products, and wanted its money back. Owen says the EMC only refunded $1,000.
"In our business, if we don't take a show, our competitors definitely will," he says, "and this looked like an opportunity to get some shows in some areas that we really needed to have shows. Sometimes you're taking a bit of a risk when you're doing it. We certainly didn't think we were taking this big a risk."
Perhaps it was Dumagan's sweet, self-assigned nickname that helped him land such a big sponsor. According to Hy Cite rep Ken Knezek, "Anytime you expressed any concern about anything, he would say, 'No no, you're going to see this is the real deal.' And he would leave you a voice mail saying, 'Hey, this is Rolando 'Real Deal' Dumagan.'"
Today, Real Deal Dumagan is in Charlotte, North Carolina, selling high-speed Internet services for a company called Clearwire. He recently posted an ad on Craigslist, seeking reps for inbound telemarketing calls. Shortly after speaking to the Press, he deleted the ad.