SAN ANTONIO — The King William Fair is Melissa Hernandez's must-do Fiesta event. She says she goes every year to support the art vendors.
However, to enjoy food or drinks, guests this year needed a cashless wristband called a BlastPass. Hernandez purchased hers when she arrived at the fair and loaded $25 at a BlastPass booth.
"You go through it fast.. $25," she said.
To avoid a long line, she used her phone to access an online portal advertised by the fair to add money to the wristband, then went to get more food and drink.
That's when the problems started.
"I went to the first vendor and said, 'I just loaded it and I want to get this,' and they said, 'You only have one credit,'" she said.
Others told her they had similar problems, suggesting she wait for her account to refresh. But before she knew it, Hernandez said, an hour had passed by.
"Still one credit," she said
Hernandez says the credit finally appeared in her account on Sunday, a day after the King William Fair had ended. She is now out $18, and the fair's website initially said the money will not be refunded.
"I was just mad that it took 24 hours," she said.
Others went to social media to express their complaints. One user said, "loaded money and literally waiting to use it because either the system is down or over loaded," one said.
Another called it a "party root canal."
A third complained about how the pass created long lines.
"We were there for 5 hours and out of those 5 hours we were in lines for 2.5 hours," the user wrote.
On Sunday, the executive director of the Fiesta Commission told us that he will need to get more information, and that each Fiesta event is coordinated by a separate non-profit organization that sets its own ticket operations.
Hernandez says this won't keep her from attending the fair next year, but hopes for an improved 'blast pass' if it returns.
"It obviously needs some work or it needs some in-practice work," she said.
She also wondered how the association would go about distributing funds. Hernandez hopes they consider giving the money to vendors who missed out on sales.
The King William Association released a lengthy statement on Monday, apologizing and placing some of the blame on a storm.
"There was extensive damage to power cables going to various booths scattered throughout the Fair Zone, and several booths were without electricity because of the storm. One of the booths affected was the main Wi-Fi hub to provide internet for the Fair Zone and all devices. Once we addressed the power issues, it was then determined that there were internet dead zones throughout the Fair Zone. This lack of Wi-Fi connection delayed the uploading of credits on BlastPass wristbands. If vendors were in a dead zone, their devices would not reflect real-time updates of available credits," organizers said.
They said they worked with BlastPass supplier Saffire to try and help resolve the problem, using mobile Wi-Fi hotspots as a backup.
"We sincerely apologize for the frustration and inconvenience this has caused to our fairgoers affected by this situation. We are grateful to everyone who make it possible to put on a Fair of this magnitude, but it’s the attendees who are integral to our success," the statement reads, going on to say they prioritize a positive experience and are working on "improvements" for future events.
"We are working to rectify those accounts who were unable to access funds during the Fair," the statement finishes by saying. "We ask for patience as we work toward this resolution."