Sold-out Diner en Blanc leaves thousands of Vancouverites seeing red

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Diner en Blanc

Despite expanding capacity since launching in Vancouver, the popular pop-up Diner en Blanc event has left thousands of would-be participants unhappy with the ticket-selling process to the sold-out gathering.

Now in its third year in Vancouver, the Paris-born dinner party is one of the most exclusive picnics around the globe with a goal of bringing community together. Guests register ahead and pay admission for the dinner, held in a surprise location, and to which they must wear all white, bring their own food, and tables and chairs. While the average Vancouver resident is content to simply head to the park or their own backyard and fire up the grill (while wearing sensibly-coloured clothing), the event has thousands of people hungry to take part, and only so many tickets to sell.

Diner en Blanc’s Vancouver event has increased capacity gradually, starting with 1,200 seats in 2012, then 2,500 in 2013 and now 3,200 this year, according to the Vancouver Courier. Last year, over 12,000 names were on the waiting list, this year over 35,000 people aren’t getting in.

The event’s FAQ section addresses the capacity concern: “Le Dîner en Blanc is not trying to beat participation records. We wish to maintain the spirit and quality of the event. For this reason, we have no choice but to favour quality over quantity and to expand without taking shortcuts.”

Registration to the dinner is a complicated process, involving phases, invitation codes, alphabetized name groupings, timed online sessions, and membership. Having attending the event in past years puts you on a permanent invitation list, unless you happened to have violated the rules–which include not showing up, not wearing white, or a host of other gross transgressions–and in that case you get black listed.

The process has would-be participants who didn’t get in fuming, and many have filed complaints on the Diner en Blanc’s Facebook page, complete with all caps exclamations of “VERY DISAPPOINTED” and sadface emoticons.

“This process is ridiculous,” says one person who didn’t get in. “Pretty disapointed that for the 2nd year in a row, I was able to get in….get to the LAST part, after picking my team leader and transportation….to then get told when I went to PAY that it was gone!!!! Why let us know we have 10 mins to complete then? More like you have 30 seconds to put only the barest of information in here, then pay. Soooooo upset,” vents another person who missed out.

Diner en Blanc’s organizers have been trying to address the grumbles on their Facebook page:

Your frustration is completely justified we do apologize for the issues you experienced.

As The Social Concierge, our team looks forward to producing this event on behalf of Diner en Blanc International each year. The registration website is run by Diner en Blanc International and our team is required to direct all traffic through their platform. To ensure this doesn’t continue to occur, we are compiling feedback like yours and sharing it with Diner en Blanc International with strong recommendation that the platform be reviewed.

Again, sincere apologies for your poor experience. We are working diligently on behalf of enthused Diner en Blanc fans to get this glitch fixed.

In the meantime, those lucky 3,200 people who were able to log on and click through and pay their $35 fee have until August 21 to find an elegant all-white get-up, white table cloth, and a “picnic basket comprised of quality menu items and china service.” Everyone else has until next year to see if the organizers expand capacity yet again and make the ticket-buying process less frustrating.

Due to high demand, a separate Diner en Blanc event is also scheduled for Whistler the week after on August 28.

Featured Image: Diner en Blanc Vancouver 2013 by The Glass Eye

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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