From the bright side of the Knoxville World's Fair to the dark side . . . .
Yesterday, we laid out chapter and verse from readers who said they'd had the time of their lives down in sunny Tennessee. Today, we detail the complaints.
Nada S. Marth of Wheaton got buzz-sawed by the fair in a bitingly regional way.
She and her husband had made reservations at a campground near Knoxville. Like many people, the Marths had to change their plans, but they discovered that they couldn't get a refund of their $60 deposit. Why? Policy during the fair, said this campground and dozens of hotels and motels.
Nada didn't give up quite so easily. She called the campground and asked to speak to the manager.
The woman who answered the phone gave her the usual runaround: in a meeting, isn't here, isn't expected for a couple of hours. Just when Nada and the woman were reaching mid-snarl, however, the manager walked in. The woman said she'd go get him.
But as she put down the phone, Nada heard the woman hiss, "Yankee!" in what Nada describes as "a most detrimental tone of voice."
Beth Pascal of Upper Marlboro didn't mince words. She calls the fair "the biggest rip-off I've ever encountered in my life.
" . . . You couldn't even find a pay phone," Beth writes. "The price of Cokes (as much as $1) was not unexpected, but the exhibits were shoddily thrown together. I would go so far as to say any high school science fair was more interesting.
" . . . There were places just to sit for about one out of every 20 people. Forget about shade! I felt like I would have had less chance of being 'taken' had I been throwing weighted softballs at a small-town carnival. At least they have to watch out for the cops there . . . . "
Too harsh an assessment? Not to Gen Latkovski of Springfield. "I would not call the event a world's fair when only 17 countries are represented," Gen writes. "I have heard more foreign languages spoken locally at Memco or K-Mart."
Mary Wilson of Laurel is still fuming over the duck-and-dart she got from the World's Fair Housing Bureau. She sent them a $335 check for a week's stay in August. She was told that her tickets and confirmation would arrive within two weeks.
The canceled check came back, but the tickets and confirmation didn't. Phone call after phone call followed, but either no one could find the record, or the guy who knew about it wasn't there, or one thing or another. Mary mailed photocopies of the canceled check, but still no soap.
"Finally," Mary writes, "I decided I didn't want to go to the fair after all this, so I asked for a refund." No problem, said the housing office. However, they said they'd have to deduct a service charge. "What service they provided I will never know," Mary notes.
End of story? Not by a long shot. Two months later, Mary still hasn't gotten her refund-minus-the-service-charge. So recently, she wrote to the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce.
"They said there was nothing they could do, but please don't let this experience ruin my opinion of the city," says Mary. At least she got a giggle out of that part of the story, if no other.
Invidious intrastate comparisons were made by several readers. Argy Shochet of Chevy Chase and June Ernest of Takoma Park said the highlight of Knoxville was taking a side trip to Nashville, country music capital of this or any other world.
Opryland was "a great place to spend your money . . . . We had a terrible time at the fair," June writes.
The other comparison made by many was to previous fairs. Knoxville didn't rate.
"Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have gone to real world's fairs (New York, for example) . . . had to be disappointed," writes Dr. Raymond C. Elton of Potomac.
"There was no information on daily events . . . . There were virtually no signs or publicity along the roads leading into Knoxville."
Worst of all, Tennesseans themselves seemed bored stiff. Dr. Elton tells of asking the hotel clerk in nearby Gatlinburg what time the fair's gates opened.
"How should I know?" the guy replied. "I don't go there."