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.

LETTER #1

September 27, 2006

Island People Mas Camp
#11 Stone Street
Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

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.

Respect!

Thank you,

AHRoberts
Angelina Haylee Roberts
New Jersey

CC: Alan Green
Editor
Trinidad Express
35 Independence Square
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Natalie Williams
Head of TV News
Trinidad Express
35 Independence Square
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Dominic Kalipersad
Editor-in-Chief
The Trinidad guardian
22-24 St. Vincent Street
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Peter Ray Blood
Associate Editor, Features
The Trinidad guardian
22-24 St. Vincent Street
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Daily News Ltd.
23 A Chacon St
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Mr. Terry Joseph
Public Relations Officer
NCC
Queens Park Savannah
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

David Cameron
Public Relations Officer
Queen’s Park Savannah
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Ms. Candace Ali
Communications Coordinator
Tourism Development Company
Level 1, Maritime Centre
Barataria
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Mr. Donald Little
Chairman
NCDF
143 Belmont Circular Road
Belmont,
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

Ms. Sherma Mitchell
Communications Specialist
Ministry of Tourism
Clarence House
125-127 Duke Street
POS, Trinidad
W.I.

LETTER #2

From: Donald R.
New Jersey
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
Farlane?
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
Trini culture.
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
people’s pockets.
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
bands.
Here are a few thoughts about how people feel regarding carnival 2007,
and the bands for 2007.

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30 Responses to “TRIBE AND ISLAND PEOPLE MAKING PEOPLE MAD!”

  1. Ms. Johnson Says:

    I don’t have a lot to say on this subject, but just a question.

    All those emails and lambashing at IP, have any of you considered that perhaps the people who were incharged of IP’s site management are to fault?

    I’m sure IP knows and understands the ramifications of what’s taken place over the last little while.
    I’m amazed at how much of what’s been going on has been because of a bunch of ‘HEAR SAY’ from people.

    I’m an IP masquerader, and I had no problems with my regristration and I live abroad as well.
    Some of you who have such comments to make regarding the band or bands and who complain about the price of costumes etc should know better. Every year the cost of living goes up, these bands are running a business, I don’t understand where the shock at the cost of costumes comes from? We all know that whatever you paid the previous year, be prepared to add an extra $100 – possibly $150 USD to that. Unless you’re going to be a Section Leader then you really should not complain about the cost of the costume when you hear the price is in upwards of $2000. USD etc. You have a year or almost a year to get your money together…what’s with all the bs with some of you?

    These bands have security, goodies for masqueraders, photographers, food, drinks, portable bathrooms, air conditioned buses etc, not to mention making costumes by hand for 2000 – 4000 masqueraders, as well as other things to consider.

    When people were talking about all the crime in Trinidad, what great effect did that have on Carnival? NONE! Everything costs money…airlines, hotels, rentals, food, costumes, fetes, my goodness people PLEASE GET A DAMN GRIP OF YOURSELVES OR JUST MAKE UP YOUR OWN SUPER MAS BANDS AND GIVE TRIBE AND IP A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY….I HOPE YOU WOULD GIVE THE PEOPLE THE QUALITY AND BEAUTIFUL COSTUMES THAT WE GET FROM TRIBE & IP AND NOT MAJOR TATA!!!!!

  2. DIVA Says:

    All yuh going on as though IP and TRIBE begging all yuh to jump up with them? Steups….All yuh gorgeous costumes and ALL deh good things that goes along with an ALL-INCLUSIVE MAS BAND, but all yuh doh wanna pay for it!

    And all this chat about IP treating peeps like this, because they didn’t launch their site when they said and blah blah blah….alll yuh going on as though sh!ti doh happen? Steups….if all yuh complaining so damn much, why all yuh doh just go and jump up in ah fugly costume and shut all yuh blasted mouths!!!!

    I fed up ah all this bull right about now.

    Say whatever all yuh want…I STILL JUMPING WITH THEM!!!!

  3. Nikkia Says:

    Pa-pa-yo!!
    I had no idea that this post would stir up such intense emotions! If you read all of my previous entries, you’ll see that I’m also playing in Island People in 2007 and that I played with them in 2006 as well. I understand that 1.) cost of living in T&T has gone up so prices have to reflect that and 2.) we’re not just paying for a costume, we’re also paying for all the add-ons that come with being in an all-inclusive band, however, don’t mistake the above entry as an IP bash. It’s just my opinion on the situation and a report of what some other people have been feeling lately. But I suppose that even though it was meant to be somewhat impartial, it’ll stil get some people angry. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to my Island People 2007 on-de-road experience. I’m sure that I’ll have a blast no matter what – I can’t go wrong with my wild and crazy friends jumping with me and my awesomely bodacious Jewel of the Nile costume. My hope for IP is that they listen to the people who love them (myself included) and make some needed changes. (I feel the same way about any company/brand when their service starts to waiver for some reason or the other – I won’t abandon them just for that, but I’d hope that my dissatisfaction, along with the complaints of other customers won’t fall on deaf ears.)

    One more thing…I encourage everyone who has something to say on the topic of Carnival, TRIBE, IP, or any Carnival Band, or Carnival-related issue for that matter to start talking about it or start venting on the TrinidadJunction.com forums. You can applaude or critique anything you want there. Go to http://www.trinidadjunction.com/forum then scroll down to section called CARNIVAL JUNCTION .

    always,
    nikkia

  4. TriniRocker Says:

    I think we’d all agree that IP and Tribe, as businesses have the right to capitalize off of their popularity and certainly have a lot of costs to cover considering all that goes into putting out an all inclusive band. My concern comes when the line is crossed from covering costs and making a profit to pricing out many loyal customers. My concern is when an all-inclusive band becomes too exclusive. Just like people pay extra to sit in first class to have more leg room and better food, they are also paying to not sit next to me. The difference in this analogy and the story of Tribe and IP is that people like me have helped make them what they are. Its our loyalty that has helped build the brand that is now too expensive for us to enjoy. Another analogy might be a hip bohemian community who has settled down in an otherwise undesired part of town only to be priced out once they have established it and built it up as a good place to be. I realize its part of capitalism and accept that, but I think people have the right to be perturbed about it. As Nikkia said, she’s still playing in IP this year and thinks they do a great job but I think we can all recognize that the way things are going it won’t be long before that simply won’t be an option for many of us, regardless of how good we are at saving up during the year.

  5. Non-carnivalgroupie Says:

    Very nice job putting these band leaders on blast. The IP and Tribal kiss arse groupies/wannabees can be in denial all they want. Someone need to hold these folks accountable for their actions. They are making some cheap hot glue $50 USD costumes that they are overpricing and trying to brain wash some chupid folks into believing it’s worth $500USD. LMFAO how chupid some people really are. WHO VEX LOSS!!!

  6. SaharaMember Says:

    Its hard for me to understand why people who don’t feel that the product is worth the cost are the most vocifous on the whole matter. If someone creates a new design potty, retails it at $1000 USD and markets the idea that this new potty is ultra chic, I’d simply say, “yea right, I wish I would pay for that potty”. I wouldn’t be interested in putting the manufacturers on blast and if ppl are happy with their high priced potties then good for them. You see where I’m going? The majority of ppl talking all this mess won’t be in Trinidad for 2K7 anyway; they wouldn’t buy the costume even if the price came down a couple $100.

    All these non masqueraders that want to talk simply because they have mouth are doing nothing but killing the carnival vybe.

  7. Non-carnivalgroupie Says:

    Saharamember the carnival vybe got killed when some folks became aware of how greedy Tribe, IP and Pulse 8 band leaders have become. How do you explain get the same and very simlar costumes for a lot less at other carnivals around the world Toronto and Barbadoes even NY. It’s not about promoting our culture but they are excluding. These band leaders are now also claiming that they are pre-ordering costume/size restritions when carnival is 6 months away. I have every intentions of attending and participating in Trinidad carnival. However, I’m not a groupie and will not be supporting or promoting IP, Tribe or Pulse 8 to any of my flity rich clients who can more than afford to buy half of Trinidad if they wanted too. All the other big promoters in the US will join forces if we have to bring an end to this madness. All the folks that pay by credit card have 90 days to dispute their charges if these bands are not able to deliver. If folks pay in full and cash for their costumes for IP then Island People should be held accountable for delivering everyone costumes within two weeks of purchase. They want to act like carnival is a buisness then we will hold them to American standards.

  8. Nikkia Says:

    I like your attitude Non-carnivalgroupie. You make an excellent point re: getting similar costumes for cheaper at other int’l carnivals. However, you have to remember that TRIBE and IP are all-inclusive and those other bands aren’t – that’s where I’m guessing the dramatic difference in price comes from. Another reason why TRIBE and IP are pricing costumes so high might simply be that they’re trying to nuture a premium product image. It’s like Gap and Old Navy – they sell the same clothes, and are owned by the same company, but Gap is way more expensive because of positioning. They want consumers to believe that they’re selling something really spiffy so they price their clothes expensively.

  9. Non-carnivalgroupie Says:

    Nikkia you did a very good job and excellent comparison with brand marketing Pepsi and Coke. I work with Pepsi world headquarter and we won’t dare say the C word at the office.lol However, these carnival bands have a very long way to go before they could ever measure up to the pros levels. The history of carnival and the slaves who participated to make fun of their masters. It very difficult to sit back and watch what they are turning carnival into is very similar to what we fought years to prevent from happening.

    I know for a fact no big name sponsor will ever risk having any involvement with any of these carnival bands that clearly discrimnate and segragate with false claims of them pre-ordering costumes hence why they ran out of ex-large when they have an entire 6 months to make costumes. All the bands in Barbados are all-inclusive with runners. NY uses the words like refreshment will be serve in their language.

    This is just a huge class action law-suit just waiting to happen. The sponsors like Digicel for Tribe also is at risk for their band name being affected by the negative publicity. These mass bands had a hundreds of costumes in their warehouse this year that they were stuck with. So how do they now think it’s okay to justify a 40% increase.

  10. braincoral Says:

    I sorry, but when I add up all I have spent in canival so far, it is more than 25,000$ TT in the ten years I have played. Unfortunately I can afford no more, and I enjoyed it so much. Is there any way we can go back to the old days when you did not have to save the whole year for carnival? Trinis have real issues yes, Imagine we does pay to separate ourselves from each other. The culture really dying, I am disgusted by all these all inclusive sections and fetes, I am done! They got enough money from me. I say we repopulate FIRE, WASA, BRASS AND BURROKEETS!

  11. KYM Says:

    okay seriously, all the groupies out there I just have one thing to say yes I played mas yes Played because this year was just amazing. So yeah the cost of living has risen but I did not think that I had to actually Save & Scrimp for an entire year!!!!!!!!!!! just to play mas for two days. And get this you don’t even wear the entire costume on Monday! Look all the wannabes out there something is definately wrong with this. The costumes are not as beautiful creative or unique as they once were, and this actually goes across to other bands as well. For heaven’s sake wake up! you are paying more that the average person’s monthly salary on a bikini with feathers and or in some cases beads. Carnival was our release, that time when Trinis could just rock back and shake off the stress of the year. It is becoming just as commercialize as Christmas and the pains that evolve from the experience, physically, emotionally and yes financially stay with you through-out the year. so no I won’t be playing mas this year.

  12. kimbers Says:

    Hey ip i honestly think ur costume is the bomb, i would love to come to trini to play with u guys next year pleasing good okay ,but thell me this ,, do u all cater for the fullfigure ladies? plesae let me no soon okay..Thanks a million bye

  13. TriniQueen Says:

    WOW!!! I must say this isn’t making my choices any easier. This year would be the first time I’m playing mas, and I have spent the last month or so just looking around for costumes. I am a Trini living abroad, and the tickets alone cost a mini-fortune. I would LOVE to play with Island People, but spending my hard-earned money to support discrimination doesn’t seem like a good idea. I know I shouldn’t expect some sort of fairy-tale experience, but DAMN!! At the end of the day, it’s really all about the experience. I guess that’s the only way I can determine whether or not the cost is worth it…

  14. Spicegirl Says:

    Let me first say I am neither a groupie, a wananbe or any be 🙂 I respect the views posted and decided to share my own experience. I am a Jamaican living in Jamaica who love to party with Trinis when it comes to carnival. I have played mas with both Poison and Tribe and must confess Tribe is an experience not to be missed. Their organization and on the road security is most impressive. I like the all inclusive concept which is also done in Jamaica albeit at much lower prices, but our carnival is smaller, and heavily sponsored, so we get the benefit of the all inclusive, lots of food and drinks and we come off the road to a party, again all inclusive. Many of us journey to Trinidad every year for carnival and we have been getting an increase in Trinis coming to our carnival every year, which kicks off Easter Sunday and lasts for a week.

    Importantly, what I wish to share is my own frustration in up fronting deposits for my good friends living in the USA and UK in order to hold costumes for them, only to find they have last minute cancellations and cannot make it, or decide to come but not play mas. I have reached a point where I have told them frankly to book their costumes themselves, once we have decided on a section. If this is my experience can you imagine the agony a mas band endures? Can you imagine posting a ‘sold out’ sticker on a batch of costumes only to find out a couple of days before carnival that you have a substantial amount of ‘no shows’ and have to turn around and flog them for what you can get? Sure you have a deposit but this cannot cover all your costs should that costume remains unsold.

    I am therefore in agreement that persons residing outside of Trinidad & Tobago pay for their costumes in full.

    Big up Tribe! Yu large!!!!

  15. noel Says:

    i think the carnival bands should take a deposit of half downpayment and the ballance wnen they collect their costumes’

  16. Lisa Says:

    Yes, our culture is getting lost, so sad! So very sad! I know about Mas camps and what it takes and costs to produce a costume and there is money to be made but definitely not at those highway robbery prices. Much of the materials are imported from abroad with a good price because of bulk! So a bikini with some braid and beads glued/sewn on along with a head piece collar piece and maybe cuffs does not cost $2000.00TT. But our Carnival culture is being lost to the other islands and Carnival will be their tourist attraction. Trinis go about it as “we don’t need tourism, we have oil for our economy” We need tourism as part of socialization of culture to all parts of the world. Many people do not know where Trinidad is located on a world map, but you bet they know where Jamaica and Barbados and even smaller islands are located all because of tourism.


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