So earlier this week we were pointed towards a supposed scam warning on Facebook about Angry Goat Productions‘s “Sailor Moon and Pop Up Cafe Exhibit.” The Pop Up cafe is supposed to be a part of an event called Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles (CULA), but for many this is raising red flags.
The more I’ve dug into this and organizer Ray Jelley though, the more confusing the maze has gotten. Are people getting scammed by Angry Goat Productions, or is this simply a case of Angry Goat Productions being really bad at this.
I’m really starting to think that the latter’s the case.
Honestly, there’s a lot to unpack here. First and foremost, we need to clarify some items from the initial “scam warning.” In that post, “Sailor Moon: The Mooniverse” page admins say Angry Goat Productions “are attempting to sell $20-40 tickets for an event claiming to be a pop-up cafe and fan exhibit.” As far as we can tell, this is technically not true. Clicking on the “Buy Tickets” link on the official page for the cafe takes you to the Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles ticket page. One can only assume that the cafe would be a part of this event, and that the $20-$40 would be for the event as a whole.
I mean, we could hope.
I know quite a few people who would boycott an event just for that.
The warning also links to a Who Scammed You? page, which claims that organizer Ray Jelley isn’t a real person. Now, I’ve had some experience dealing with people pretending to be other people online, and while Mr. Jelley does occasionally use an Errol Flynn photo on social media, I can honestly say that he appears to be a real human being.
A real human being with an interesting history.
Besides confirming the man’s existence through public record searches, I immediately found a video of a “Ray Jelley” who matches the appearance of the photo currently on Angry Goat Production’s about page. It was posted to the account of one “gentrystanley” (who the ‘Who Scammed You’ post claims is actually Jelley), but looking through Gentry Stanley’s Facebook page it’s very clear that they are different people who either currently or at one point worked together.
According to Mr. Jelley’s Linkedin page, Angry Goat Productions has been in business since 2012. And while I have found press releases, blog coverage, and social media posts promoting events going back several years, I’ve yet to find any evidence that any of these events actually occurred.
One of the earlier promoted events was a Tolkein themed cruise which was scheduled for December of 2014 under the name “Trilo3y Voyages.” While the official pages for the event never say a word about its cancellation, digging through what I could, I was able to find one of the scheduled guests confirming it didn’t happen.
And while we have found plenty of articles and press releases mentioning Angry Goat’s events beforehand, we cannot find a single photo or post on the entirety of Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook from these things. Even though there are no official announcements cancelling the events anywhere on social media, it’s hard to come to any conclusion other than “they never happened.”
This really should make anyone wary about registering for Cosplay Unplugged Los Angeles. Motives of the organizers aside, registering for something run by a company with a reputation for cancelling events seems like a bad idea.
I mean it’s an event without a venue right now, so cancellation seems pretty likely.
You see, the site listed on the website right now is a place called The Reef. As the original “scam post” alleges, CULA doesn’t actually seem to be booked for the advertised May 11-14, 2017. Regardless of the reasons why, a con not having a rock solid contract with its venue just four months ahead of time is a sign of poor event management.
Of course, the folks at Angry Goat Productions have not been silent during this PR fiasco. On the 17th they posted the following official response to their Facebook page:
Angry Goat Productions also took to a Reddit thread about them earlier this week and reiterated much of the same information, claiming they had placed a deposit with the venue, and that the booking cancellation had to do with the venue getting harassed. To back this up, they also posted what they referred to as a “receipt.”
Now, this actually appears to be a cost estimate, though that wouldn’t be surprising if the document is genuine. Actual “receipts” wouldn’t be issued until after the event, as final costs can fluctuate for a convention until the end of it. What this isn’t though is any sort of confirmation that there was a contract or payment made. There is nothing denoting money changing hands, period.
The only thing that could really prove Angry Goat Productions’s reservation would be a copy of the venue contract. With only a few months until the scheduled event, it would be highly unprofessional to not have that on hand. It should also be pointed out that while they very carefully mention in their statements that the Sailor Moon related events have not had their tickets go on sale, their Outlander Live event (which is also a part of CULA) is currently selling tickets online at press time.
While it’s easy to decry “scam” and run away, this is where I start leaning towards incompetence over maliciousness. I honest to god just think these guys were looking to make a quick buck and have no idea what they’re doing.
In researching this article I actually talked to someone who had worked for Ray Jelley several years ago, and he apparently refused to listen to any advice regarding talking to guests directly or through agents. Jelley apparently thought he knew better, living in LA, and that he’d just go find the people socially. That attitude of “knowing better” paints a picture of a man who thinks he knows what he’s doing, and would never listen to experienced voices from the community.
If we had all day, I could keep picking this thing apart. I could point out that he’s advertising the appearance of Sailor Moon cast members even though he doesn’t have any of them listed as booked. I could point out he clearly knows very little about Sailor Moon based off the copy. I could even point out how he’s using the name “Sailor Moon” and official artwork in his promotions without paying the licensing to the rights holders.
My god, I could keep going for days.
I don’t think I need to though. I’m not ready to come to a verdict on whether or not Angry Goat Productions and Ray Jelley are running a scam, but I also think it doesn’t matter. The reasoning is simple – Mr. Jelley and his company appear to be doing such a piss poor job at putting this event together, that even if they’re being completely on the up and up, I would never recommend anyone pay to attend it.
The best case scenario here is that it’ll be a pretty awfully run con, and why would you want to go to that anyway?
Update (2/15): Well, it looks like Angry Goat Productions has cancelled their Sailor Moon themed events.
Update (3/31): Aaaaand the Sailor Moon event has been reworked, renamed, and uncancelled. And holy crap is it overpriced.