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The pop-up backlash that we’ve all been waiting for may have finally arrived this weekend. First, The New York Times spent 891 apoplectic words explaining why “we need to put a stop to the pop-up infestation now.” And then the organizers of Dîner en Blanc went and pissed off about 30,000 people.
Dîner en Blanc, for the uninitiated, is an annual dinner that originated in Paris in 1988. Its participants, who number in the thousands, dress up in white and converge in a public space with their own food, drink, tableware, and chairs. And then they eat, dance, and pack everything up and call it a night.
On August 25, Dîner en Blanc is coming to New York for the first time. And maybe the last, if the shitstorm that occurred this weekend has anything to do with it.
As The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports, a computer glitch allowed the event’s organizers to accidentally charge 1,800 people for 200 open slots (or 400 seats).
More than 30,000 people had registered for the chance to pay $50 for one of the 200 slots. Realizing the numbers were too big for the event’s computer server to accommodate, its organizers switched servers to handle the deluge, but neglected to program it to allow only 10,000 people to register. Within the first four minutes, 1,800 people registered and paid for the 200 available slots, which left many confused about whether or not they had tickets.
After would-be diners took to Dîner en Blanc’s Facebook page to express their outrage, the event’s organizers responded with an apology. “We are profoundly sorry to have upset and disappointed so many people,” it read. “… We’re mortified that this happened!” Those without tickets were subsequently refunded, and tickets were issued in first-come, first-served order.
The whole saga raises many questions, but chief on our list are (a) What are Dîner en Blanc’s PR people paid to do, exactly? and (b) Why would anyone fork over $50 to haul their own food, drinks, plates, and chairs to a public place to dine cheek by jowl with strangers? You can do the exact same thing at Bryant Park’s outdoor movie series or SummerStage for free, and there’s not even a dress code.
But given that we’ve reached a point where someone could organize a pop-up port-a-john and people would pay for the privilege of being first in line, maybe such questions are beside the point. Regardless, Dîner en Blanc will still take place on August 25. Its location hasn’t yet been disclosed, but when it is, expect 30,000 people to descend upon it with torches and pitchforks. Vive la France!