While BrunchCon was put on as advertised with all its vendors, the event was oversold and poorly organized, disappointing many brunch fans. Credit: Brandon Hardin
While BrunchCon was put on as advertised with all its vendors, the event was oversold and poorly organized, disappointing many brunch fans. Credit: Brandon Hardin

Living in the age of fake news means always having your guard up to check that what you’re reading isn’t The Onion or Fox News. But what about knowing when an event will be good?

New York saw its second high-profile event of the year go bust last weekend. The New York City Pizza Festival promised to be a grand day of tastings, music and games, but amounted to little more than standing in a Bushwick parking lot drinking warm wine and eating slivers of pizza served up by three or so vendors.

In the spring, another new event, BrunchCon, did go on as advertised but fell victim to crowding and organizational problems that spoiled it for most attendees. Not to mention the infamous Ja Rule-Kendall Jenner music fiasco that was Fyre Festival, which left people stranded on an island in the Bahamas.  

 

There’s of course the trend of gleefully fake (Linkin Park performing at the Lincoln Park Zoo, anyone?) Facebook events that flared up last summer. But the New York City Pizza Festival wasn’t a joke — though whether or not it ultimately rises to the level of a “scam” as some are claiming is now up to the State Attorney’s Office.

With tickets to popular events getting snapped up almost immediately, like the ever-popular Dessert Goals festival, you don’t want to miss out, but you also don’t want to pay for an event that’s going to be a disappointment.

Save your cash and stress with these tips on how to spot a legitimate event on Facebook and Eventbrite:

 

1. You’re on your own

When it comes to online event listings, it’s more or less the Wild West out there.

Anyone can create an Eventbrite listing or Facebook Event, which costs them nothing. Facebook used to have a team of editors who vetted its Events to highlight legitimate happenings, but they’ve long been disbanded.

Ticket vendors like Eventbrite also allow anyone to list an event, since they make a profit on the sale of each ticket. The company is reviewing the Pizza Festival, according to spokeswoman Amanda Livingood. “This may include issuing refunds to attendees on behalf of organizers, removing events, or in the most extreme cases: closing accounts and prohibiting access,” she says.

Not exactly "satisfaction guaranteed." So, to amend an old saying, get excited but verify.

2. TBA is never good enough

The most telling sign that the Pizza Festival would be a bust was the lack of a vendor list. Legitimate food events should be touting their participating restaurants — after all, they’re doing it for the exposure. This also lets you cross-check the participants’ social media accounts to see if they’re promoting the event, which they should be.

3. Call the venue

Yes, we all hate making phone calls, but this is a super easy and quick way to verify that an event is taking place. Not everyone updates their websites as often as they should, and venues don’t post every event they hold on social media, so picking up the phone is the quickest and best way to make sure you’re not wasting your time.

4. Know your organizer

Check out the person or group hosting the event and make sure they have a legitimate website that’s been updated recently. Ideally they've held events before, but even if it's their first time, a good way to tell whether they know what they're doing is by checking their social channels. They should be engaging with possible attendees by answering questions, linking to news stories or interviews about it, creating their own content to promote the event, etc.   

5. Is it in the news?

None of the major entertainment publications in New York City included the Pizza Festival in our listings precisely because we went through all of the steps above. And while it’s not a perfect system, we try to help you not waste time by doing some of the legwork.

6. Wait to buy your ticket

Really jazzed about an event but aren’t sure if it’s fake? If you’re willing to eat the cost of the subway fare and some lost time, hold out on buying your tickets until you arrive. It’s easy to see whether things are going well even from outside, and many events specifically reserve tickets to be sold at the door.