Media contact: Janet C. Hart, APR, CFEE (704) 927-8617 office
ST. LOUIS -- Wendell Southerland, a St. Louis area ticket broker accused of tricking a Rhode Island man out of $5,200 during February’s Super Bowl, again is facing scrutiny – this time for reneging on hotel room payments for the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
This is at least the fourth time in recent months that Southerland, of Vinita Park, Mo., has left hotels in the lurch after booking rooms for major events.
The BBB warns that the nonpayment raises concerns that Southerland may try to use hotel-supplied room confirmation numbers to re-sell the rooms to visitors. The BBB suggests caution when dealing with Southerland or his business, Ex Sport Group.
Michelle Corey, St. Louis BBB president and CEO, said that visitors looking to buy rooms and tickets on the secondary market have good reason to be suspicious of Southerland, who advertises ticket and hotel room packages on Craigslist. “Mr. Southerland’s past actions have demonstrated that this is a man who is willing to take your money and run,” she said.
The most recent case involves the booking of 10 rooms at the Charlotte City Center Marriott Hotel in advance of next week’s Democratic National Convention in that city. When the rooms were booked, the hotel gave Southerland confirmation numbers. But when Marriott attempted to run Southerland’s credit card for deposits on the rooms, the card was rejected. A sales manager for the hotel contacted the BBB after learning of Southerland’s past troubles.
In May, a representative of a Holiday Inn Express outside New Orleans told the BBB that Southerland had reneged on nearly $8,000 in payments for nine hotel rooms he had reserved for the 2013 Super Bowl in that city. The representative said when Southerland was contacted about the problem, he said that his secretary had inadvertently given the hotel the wrong card and he would make good on the payment. He never did, even after the hotel sent a certified letter to his Vinita Park address, hotel officials said.
An official with InterContinental Hotels Group, which manages the Holiday Inn Express, said that Southerland failed to pay on more than 30 rooms booked at three hotels for the Super Bowl in New Orleans. The official also said he was concerned that Southerland could try to use the confirmation information to re-sell the rooms.
Recent Craigslist ads that list a phone number traced to Southerland advertise “Democratic National Convention/Hotel Helpline.” Southerland has not returned phone calls from the BBB.
In February, the BBB issued an alert after a New England Patriots fan reported that Southerland had taken $5,200, but never supplied him with promised tickets to the Super Bowl.
“Words cannot describe the anger and frustration,” said the retired businessman, who said he had to spend thousands more for replacement tickets to the game.
Vinita Park Police Detective Steven Jones contacted Southerland after the alert, asking that Southerland pay the money back or face possible prosecution. Jones said that Southerland’s mother, who was retired and on a fixed income, paid the debt for her son.
The BBB offers the following tips to persons considering buying event tickets or hotel packages on the secondary market:
- Only buy from businesses or individuals you can trust. Look for businesses with a strong history of customer satisfaction.
- Ask for references and contact them about their experiences with any broker.
- Beware of counterfeit tickets.
- Before paying for a room package, contact the hotel or motel to make sure the rooms are actually held by the seller.
- Pay by credit card in the event you need to challenge the charge. If you purchase tickets online, deal only with secure sites.
- Be cautious of anyone who wants upfront payments with the promise that he will deliver your ticket or tickets later.