TRIBE AND ISLAND PEOPLE MAKING PEOPLE MAD!
September 28, 2006
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that there’s a resistance brewing in Trinidad for Carnival 2007 . I’ve made it home to Trinidad for Carnival almost every year since I moved to the U.S. The only years that I had to stay put were the three years I spent in college – even grad school, which was 10x more difficult than college, couldn’t keep me from making the trip.
As a Trini living abroad, traveling to Trinidad for Carnival is always somewhat expensive because of the plane ticket I have to buy on top of my costume. Still, it’s never been so prohibitively expensive that I had to seriously consider snubbing Carnival for a year.
But this year, like some kind of I-didn’t-know-it-was-coming slap in the face, something very ugly emerged from TRIBE and Island People’s pre-Carnival registration process – discrimination! TRIBE and Island People are two all-inclusive Carnival bands in Trinidad. It’s a relatively new concept to Carnival. Prior to TRIBE’s launch in 2005, all-inclusive was a term only associated with the sections of a band. TRIBE saw an opportunity to cater to these ‘all-inclusive’ masqueraders and took it. By 2006, they had mastered the art of providing an all-inclusive experience to their masqueraders and had distinguished themselves as not just another Carnival band, but a Carnival band with a massive marketing muscle and a dedicated band of followers who were willing to part with any amount of cash in order to be a part of that experience.
That same year, Island People Mas entered the all-inclusive market. Notice that I use the terms all-inclusive and market to describe the environment in which TRIBE and Island People compete. I do so because I view them as corporations, business enterprises that exist with one goal in mind – PROFIT! They compete with each other because like Pepsi and Coca Cola, they’re going after the same group of consumers. However, as I type this, I realize that there’s one essential difference (besides the fact that we’re comparing carbonated beverages to mas) between Pepsi vs. Coca Cola and TRIBE vs. Island People – competition between Pepsi and Coke causes the price of their products to go down, or at least keeps it relatively low, while competition between TRIBE and Island People seems to cause the prices of their costumes to increase substantially each year. (Have you seen how expensive their 2007 costumes are?) Oh, what a pity! If only the rules of free-market competition applied here too.
As expected, price has been the predominant reason for concern among Carnival-loving Trinidadians, Trinis living abroad and tourists, especially for the tourists who have to think about air fare IN ADDITION TO costume prices. There have been a lot of bad vibes surrounding Island People lately because they’ve taken the crisis to an even higher level by requesting that masqueraders residing abroad pay for their costumes in full – no down payment, no ma’am! Obviously, the management of Island Peole is more concerned with their bottom line than with developing loyalty among their customers. Maybe somebody on their team should have taken a business or a marketing course. They would have learned that you always, always put your customer first. Treat them right and profits will come.
A woman and man in New Jersey who had had enough decided to write letters to the Island People team and the press highlighting their disgust with the entire situation. These letters have been circulating around the Internet and have caused whispers to turn to shouts. A revolution is happening – and me, well since I’m a big fan of revolutions(!) I’ve decided to
shout share those letters with you. If you have the stamina, read them and let me know what you think.
September 27, 2006
Island People Mas Camp
#11 Stone Street
To Whom It May Concern:
Dear Island People:
For the past couple of weeks there have been numerous amounts of questions and speculations about your organization and treatment towards your loyal and new masqueraders who would like to play with you Carnival 2007. It has been said that your customer service thus far has been horrible and disrespectful; and one can only imagine if we are being treated like this now, what should we expect come Carnival Monday and Tuesday?
Is your organization going to treat us to a wonderful and unforgettable on “de” road experience or are we to expect the abuse that was thrown to my friends, to their faces, lining up to register at your Mas Camp. And I quote, “Island People is not begging anybody to play with them, and you free to go elsewhere if you not happy with our service.” Secretly we know some mas makers may think this way, but it should not be blatantly thrown in our faces. And why does an overseas masquerader have to pay full price? An explanation would help as to why such a drastic measure is in place. Could you not have suggested half down? After your hiccups for Carnival 2006 could we trust IP to deliver our goods? If we can forgive you for your inaugural year why is your organization treating us like this?
We are not stray dogs looking for food. We are Trinidadians, along with every other Caribbean Islander and people across the world. Is this how you want to represent our culture, and our heritage?
To really understand the impact of how your customer service is affecting everyone, visit some of the blogs that are circulating on the web. This is an excerpt from a heavily frequently visited blog. “Every Mas maker thinks that way: “We not begging anyone to play in our band.” Let’s be REAL this morning please! They put out a band, you like what they offering, pay your money and join them. I have no problem with that mentality, its business after all. BUT!! And this is the KEY difference: It seems EVERY OTHER Mas maker except Island People has grasped the concept of treating their potential and confirmed masqueraders with some respect. i.e. you don’t have to play with us, we not begging, but you are after all the ones with the buying power so here, and we would be happy to have you, so: take an up to speed website, here’s an email with all you need to know, enjoy the airconditioned room while you wait to register, you thirsty? No, problem, help yourself to water and gatorade while you wait, and for all our overseas masqueraders, we’ve hooked y’all up with a payment system to help the process along. That! My darling is how you do business!” (Anonymous)
It’s easy for your committee to ignore and dismiss these blogs and not be concerned. But this blog has had 24,467 hits to date from all over the world, and people are reading and taking note. Through this blog and other online chat forums people are expressing their disgust, anger, and frustration with regards to your organization. And these are people who are registered with you, and or thinking about registering. Negative remarks can influence and open the minds if not all, but the majority of the people that support or are thinking about supporting Island People.
Your lack of communication to your masqueraders thus far has been cryptic.
Here’s some advice; “If you want to muzzle people like me and everyone else that are criticizing you, there’s something call damage control. Take out a press and media release, addressing the situation and assuring everyone that Island People have made changes to their organization and customer service and promise that come Carnival Monday and Tuesday 2007 THERE’S NO WHERE ELSE YOU RATHER BE, BUT WITH IP!”
I hope you do take this letter into consideration and make changes.
Angelina Haylee Roberts
CC: Alan Green
35 Independence Square
Head of TV News
35 Independence Square
The Trinidad guardian
22-24 St. Vincent Street
Peter Ray Blood
Associate Editor, Features
The Trinidad guardian
22-24 St. Vincent Street
Daily News Ltd.
23 A Chacon St
Mr. Terry Joseph
Public Relations Officer
Queens Park Savannah
Public Relations Officer
Queen’s Park Savannah
Ms. Candace Ali
Tourism Development Company
Level 1, Maritime Centre
Mr. Donald Little
143 Belmont Circular Road
Ms. Sherma Mitchell
Ministry of Tourism
125-127 Duke Street
From: Donald R.
18th September 2006
To whom this may concern: Media, Bands, etc
Hello, I am writing this in hopes that this problem surrounding our
Carnival bands in Trinidad can be solved.
First and foremost let me start off by saying that these new bands
emerging out of Trinbago need to be exposed on the basis of their:
ridiculous prices, segregation of classes, and unaccomodating nature.
Two bands in mind, the top two among young individuals, Tribe and
Islandpeople, have both been leaving a negative taste for many locals and
nonlocals. Their price of admission is ridiculous, often leaving the
working class people of Trinidad unable to participate in their band.
Who next to follow this trend? Pulse 8, Legacy, Trini Revellers? Mc
They have set a bar where elite individuals are the only participants.
Many of these bands do not care about the artform, the history and
beauty of our sacred festival, to them it is all about the money generated
out of producing a band. Once bandleaders’ main focus become fixated on the
revenue generated by bringing out a band, opposed to developing and being a
part of the culture, it takes away from the festival and the rustic charm
people love about Carnival.
Mas is becoming too expensive, a trip to Trinidad for carnival as a
whole is becoming to expensive. Many tourists come to our island to
celebrate and have the time of their life, but if bands in TNT continue to
follow this trend of over priced mas, it is going to turn people away from
coming to our island, which will hurt our tourism. The fact is, Trinidad
doesn’t rely solely on tourism to build up its economy, however, Carnival
does bring in a lot of people into the island, exposing them to a piece of
Many people abroad have opted to skip out on this year’s carnival due to
it being too expensive. Airfare to come to Trinidad for Carnival isn’t
cheap, nor is lodging for those who don’t have family to stay by in
Trinidad. Many of these bands, such as Islandpeople have a hand in the
party market for Carnival.
Fete prices doubled from 2005 to 2006, and created a major dent in
This all leaves a bad taste for individuals who have their heart set out
on coming to TnT. When people come to TnT for Carnival, they want to
experience all, and have a ball, but how can one do that if the prices
increase drastically. Yes, cost of living is going up and the value of a
dollar is not what it used to be in previous years, but increasing the
prices for mas and fetes by 40% from one year to the next is ridiculous.
We already have people from Barbados coming to Trinidad passing out
flyers, letting the public know to come to Barbados in the summer for Crop
Over, and they are also all over NY, Toronto, Miami, London doing their
CROP OVER DRIVE with proper staff and adequate flyers and teaser items to
give away and simultaneous proper ads also being aired on various
stations internationally, not the very stale, tasteless ads that T&T shows
sporadically. I am ashamed to see a T&T ad on tv here in the US as
compared to a Barbados or Jamaica ad.
If this problem of overpricing in Trinidad doesn’t cease and desist,
many of our regular visitors will opt not to come to Trinidad and go to
other places like Barbados because it’s less expensive, and you get almost
the same experience, if not better.
Also, the band Islandpeople needs some media attention. They have
lauched their band, opened registration, and left overseas masqueraders in
the cold. Many people want to play with Islandpeople and were basically
left hopeless. They have made no communication to patrons who were
inquiring about overseas registration, they don’t respond to emails, and
they have announced and opened up registration the same day, not
communicating with their overseas prospects at all.
They are not very accomodating to overseas mas players because, they
want overseas players to pay in full at registration, knowing that a lot of
people are on a fixed income, and cannot afford to pay for their costume
all at once. Many people are very upset at the way 2007 is panning out and
it is time for the NCBA, and TIDCO to intervene with some of these mas
Here are a few thoughts about how people feel regarding carnival 2007,
and the bands for 2007.