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Christmas in July – Fail


UPDATE – 31 July 2019

Thank you to Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens for acknowledging the scam perpetrated by the organisers of the Christmas in July/Enchanted Forest of Lights event. Your show of integrity and consideration for public wellbeing on this matter is appreciated. The press release is available here.

A further and similar thank you to Howler Ticketing Platform for agreeing to refund people in full for tickets purchased for both past and future events by the scammers. You too have shown your integrity, an ingredient critical to business success but sorely missing in South Africa.

Finally, thank you to everyone who took the time to voice their opinions and frustrations and demand justice. Social Media Activism is a force to be reckoned with. Every and every person has a voice and with that voice, the power to right a wrong, effect change and make a difference.


On Saturday, 29th July 2019, we attempted to attend an event, Christmas in July – Enchanted Garden of Lights at Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.

Winter in Johannesburg is generally quiet a dull affair, everything is brown and dry and we tend to hibernate indoors behind the telly so this presented something new, different and interesting to do with the kids.

WHAT A DISASTER. We we stuck for over an hour in traffic just trying to make our way to the entrance and the GPS App (Waze) reported another 30 minutes of traffic ahead!!! I decided to cut my losses, turn around and head back home. Driving back home, we passed hundreds of families who were determined to overcome the odds and make a success of the evening.

So what exactly went wrong on this fateful evening? Scanning over the Facebook page for the event, the revelations made me sick to my stomach. My family and I spent over an hour in traffic because of bad event planning, which was further down to pure greed. The feedback from the good people of Mzanzi who endured that pain of the traffic is that at the entrance to the parking and the event itself, nobody had a clue of what was happening. The event was completely oversold and in addition to sitting in traffic, people had to queue for over an hour with pre-bought tickets just to get inside. 

But, it doesn’t end there. It turns out the Enchanted Garden of Lights was nothing more than a string of Christmas Lights wrapped around a few trees. Nothing close to the enchanted images used to advertise for the event, which on closer inspection, was probably sourced from some website internationally using a Google image search. Even more insidious though was that for all the people who rightfully aired their frustrations on the Facebook Event page, the page admin was deleting their posts and comments – covering it all up!!!

I was robbed this evening and so were many many good people who lost so much more than their money. I cannot stand by and allow these crooks to get away with this. 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Howler Ticketing Platform

Event Organisers 

You have wronged people. 

If your posts were deleted, please comment on this page and hopefully there will be a more permanent record of the frustrations that you had to endue. 


  1. I purchased 4 family tickets for the event on Saturday at 18:00. The picture displayed was in NO WAY ANY…

  2. Guys, I am trying to get a list of disgruntled people together. Hopefully we can get our money back, or…

  3. We went on Saturday night and as per everyone, it was an absolute joke!! It took us 2hrs with traffic…

  4. “Horror in July” We were so excited to go just to arrive there and be disappointed!!!! Could hardly see anything…

  5. I just bought 8 tickets for the 3rd for my baby girls 11th birthday. I did check the comments and…

  6. Total waste of time a money. False advertising using pictures for other companies pages. Wish these people would sue them…

  7. Complete waste of time and money. I hope these posts fund their way to the right people to cancel the…

  8. What a rip-off! After queuing for 90 minutes in the cold, when we got in it was jam packed. The…

  9. This was a complete RIP OFF and the entire event was a DISASTER.. Don’t know how they could actualy charge…

  10. Total waste of time and money! Ridiculous queues, in adequate parking, no officiates to direct the queues or to organise…

  11. Dear team, When I saw the advertisement of “Christmas in July” my expectations were as high as the pictures which…

  12. This was a huge epic fail, and to say a scam! False advertising, R250 for fairy lights And few big…

  13. We went to the event at the PTA Botanical Gardens, what a waste of time & money!! Soo disappointed. Just…

  14. Absolute scam and criminal theft of the public’s money. All persons affected should report this to arb.org and demand refunds!

  15. After reading all the negative reviews, we decided not to attend the event, even though we pre-purchased tickets (R400). Seems…

  16. What is disappointment! After sitting in traffic for over an hour, parking over an 1km away and having to walk…

  17. My 12 year olds comment ” we waited all this time to see a half lit hors ass and a…

  18. This was a scam, civil action should be taken against the organisers. There were barely any christmas lights, no snow,…

  19. Shocking shocking…. Bought our tickets 2months ago… Sat in the traffic for an hour… Waited in a que for another…

  20. What an absolutely dissapointing event suggestion. We were a group of 10 adults with 9 kids. Some of us managed…

  21. This was not an event it was and is a scam, a money making racket. It is false advertising as…

  22. The most disorganized event I have ever tried to attend. Took over an hour in the queue to try get…

  23. This was not an event, this was a scam. False advertising as it was not at all like the pictures…

  24. Have 2 very disappointed children this evening… the traffic to the event was horrendous… would have to park over 1km…

  25. Shocking experience and complete waste of money! Do not support this event . Con! Lights nothing like imagery or expectation.…

  26. Disappointment they made a killing tonight so many people; no activities for kids one jumping castle for a packed out…

  27. We were in a traffic queue from Doreen Rd from 5.15pm until 7pm and had just passed the Life hospital…


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32 Comments

  1. What a waste of time any money! Took us almost 2 hours to get in and was completely disappointed with the “Christmas lights” and food stalls had to turn us and our hungry kids away, false advertising at its best. You market such a beautiful picture of Christmas lights and only for us to fall for it, buy good price tickets and only to come and see a board of lights and a string of lights running along the garden. WTF????? You had our kids hungry and truly disappointed, they were looking forward to this for weeks! We need to be refunded for this pathetic excuse of an “event”!!! F$$king ridiculous!!!

    Like

  2. We were in a traffic queue from Doreen Rd from 5.15pm until 7pm and had just passed the Life hospital by then. Traffic was crawling. My daughter was waiting for us at the entrance and she said the gate to the parking had already closed (Note: advertising states “plenty parking”.) We made a U-turn just after the hospital as we’d heard that the standing queues at the ticket stalls were more than an hour long. Thank goodness I didn’t bring my 84 year old mother. The roads to WSBG are SINGLE lane only … how come the traffic department were not involved in this?? An absolutely disaster of note. We must all fight for our refunds. Anyone who has bought tickets for tomorrow or next weekend … GET YOUR REFUNDS NOW. BY LAW (consumer protection act) IF YOU HAVE NOT ATTENDED AN EVENT FOR WHICH YOU HAVE PAID, YOU ARE ENTITLED TO GET A REFUND! These organizers should never have been allowed to set up an event like this! Who allowed it ?

    Like

  3. Disappointment they made a killing tonight so many people; no activities for kids one jumping castle for a packed out place another not working kids getting hurt on one no staff; no christmas entertainment; no santa; i couldnt even find a dustbin ; saw no art display some lights not working i felt so bad for dad having to fork out a
    R100 per person

    Like

  4. Shocking experience and complete waste of money! Do not support this event . Con! Lights nothing like imagery or expectation. Market non existent and organisation and tickets are a load of crap. Even though prepaid tickets for the 530pm Slot ,
    Running queues of over 90minutes ! No snow ! No big events and bad Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden South Africaorganisation ! Wasted R1000 for our family and the saddest disappointment was the kids ! expectations @ stop deleting the bad reviews we all
    Know ! @howler

    Like

    1. Complete waste of time and money. I hope these posts fund their way to the right people to cancel the CT event. Nothing like advertised. The pictures were taken from overseas sites. Feel like tracking the rightful owners of the pics to get them to sue the pants off these scamsters. They made a ton of money selling tickets and did not deliver. False advertising. Wish I knew the correct authorities as I have a pic showing extension cords lying on the ground. Not even taped down. I wonder if this event passed safety and security regulations. Only when complaining did I notice the organisers have a gmail account. Had I seen this I would not have bought tickets. Any legitimate company should not need to use a gmail account. They made a fortune for stringing fairy lights on bushes. There are more spectacular lights at any of the malls in December. They have deleted my negative comments and blocked me on their Facebook page.

      Like

  5. I have never in my life been so disgusted at an event. Took us an hour and a half to get into the parking lot, an hour in the queue with no designated lines for ticket holders, people with prams or wheelchairs.

    Hundreds of people at the gates and two people scanning tickets while still selling tickets at the door.

    We were a party of 8 with two small kids and finally got to the front, I tried to move my kids out the way only to be manhandled by security. Needless to say I didn’t shut my mouth. I dont care who you are or what your job is, what gave him the right to lay even a finger on me while I was simply moving my children out the way of the crowds.

    We finally got in and wow what a sh!t show it was inside. One single bubble machine spitting out a little bit of foam, a santa that looked like her swallowed a christmas box and a clown that made pennywise look good.

    Over crowded, risk of loosing kids, and a few string lights. Needless to say Christmas in july has been ruined for my kids and I am sure many others. Not a single visible security presence inside so not very safe for adults let alone children. Anyone could have walked out with a child. When leaving guards at the gate were more concerned about letting cars through the gates than letting cars out, guess it’s about getting money in and screw the rest. Waste of time and money.

    Cant even say that I enjoyed my time out with my kids because all they wanted to do was leave.

    Like

  6. Have 2 very disappointed children this evening… the traffic to the event was horrendous… would have to park over 1km away and walk in the dark to and from the event with 2 kids… queue was ridiculously long with people waiting over 1hr… heard comments that it was horrible inside and not worth the wait. The so called lights was nothing to brag about… Sounds like it was so disorganised. I eventually gave up after trying to get to the queue for over 1.5hours. 😤

    Like

  7. This was not an event, this was a scam. False advertising as it was not at all like the pictures indicated, nor were the “activities” what they stated – snow machine was a joke, jumping castle was deflated, lights were fairy lights strung along the hedges, some not even on, the list goes on. It was exceptionally poorly organized. Stuck in traffic queues and entrance queues, it took us an hour to get in with pre-booked tickets and they were selling tickets at the door. There was not enough parking. This was purely a money making racket. Disgusting and criminal!

    Like

  8. The most disorganized event I have ever tried to attend. Took over an hour in the queue to try get parking only to hop out while hubby looked further for parking. Only as everyone to find out the queue to get into the venue is so very very long. How do we get a refund. Wasted our money and time. The infrastructure of this venue does not allow for so many people. The organizers of this event should have taken this into account instead of selling so many tickets for the event. I am now put off of trying any further event as this venue.

    Besides all this I had my elderly father in Law with. My husband that had back surgery four months ago. So firstly sitting the line of cars to find parking for over an hour was killing his back. There is no way in hell the two of them would have survived standing in that pathetic long queue. I have never ever been so disappointed at an event.

    Like

  9. This was not an event it was and is a scam, a money making racket. It is false advertising as the “activities” were not what was stated – the snow machine was a joke, snow pit? What snow pit, jumping castle deflated, lights were fairy lights strung across the hedges and some were not even working, the list goes on. As for planning, there was nothing – long traffic queues, not enough parking and with pre booked tickets it took us an hour to get in. They were still selling tickets at the door and it seemed they were just more interested in taking more people’s hard earned cash! Disappointing, disgusting and criminal!

    Like

  10. What an absolutely dissapointing event suggestion. We were a group of 10 adults with 9 kids. Some of us managed to get to the venue at the pre booked time while everyone else was stuck in traffic.. To be told that we needed to wait another 2 to 3 hours in the queue just to get in. There were no lights in the parking and it was absolute chaos
    .. We never even made it into the gardens. Had some very upset children that had been looking forward to this for weeks. … we want a full refund!

    Like

  11. Shocking shocking…. Bought our tickets 2months ago… Sat in the traffic for an hour… Waited in a que for another hour and half with a 2 year old and did not even make it into the venue… Money waisted!!! #PAYBACKTHEMONEY

    Like

  12. This was a scam, civil action should be taken against the organisers. There were barely any christmas lights, no snow, no rides, no instant photos….. Not to mention dangerous and overbooked for them to make money from all the suckers that bought tickets.

    Like

  13. My 12 year olds comment ” we waited all this time to see a half lit hors ass and a swamp?”
    I had to agree, what a waste of time and money.
    Pay back the Money!!!

    Like

  14. What is disappointment! After sitting in traffic for over an hour, parking over an 1km away and having to walk to the venue with 2 little toddlers, we actually did the disgusting thing of cutting in line to get to the front. After we managed to get through the entrance, we were met by utter chaos. The snow pit was nonexistent with the snow machine spitting out just about nothing. Santa was standing around very awkwardly waiting for people to have their pictures taken with him..
    Then we proceeded to go find this enchanted garden of lights. What a joke. Fairy lights strung along the hedges and only 3 light sculptures. There were absolutely no kids activities other than one jumping castle in the dark, were no one could see anything on the jumping castle. The food stalls were a joke as well, with very long queues and the vendors eventually running out of food.
    Our 2 toddlers eventually begged us to take them home, and we were more than happy to oblige.
    Anyone still thinking of going – Don’t! You will be wasting your time and money!!
    I want a refund!! As this was criminally organized!! 🤬

    Like

  15. After reading all the negative reviews, we decided not to attend the event, even though we pre-purchased tickets (R400). Seems like we dodged a bullet. What a waste and what a shame!

    Like

  16. Absolute scam and criminal theft of the public’s money. All persons affected should report this to arb.org and demand refunds!

    Like

  17. We went to the event at the PTA Botanical Gardens, what a waste of time & money!! Soo disappointed. Just normal fairy lights and almost no lights along the path, you just stumble along the uneven path.
    Don’t waste your time and money. Money is beter spend somewhere else!!!

    Like

  18. This was a huge epic fail, and to say a scam! False advertising, R250 for fairy lights And few big lights and some not even working! It is a steal, I could have used that money for bread and milk this week! But nooooo we want to support this type of people whom take and not deliver! I am regretting every hardworking cent I GAVE them! All our reviews has been deleted, only the organizer post there! Very very very dissapointing!

    Like

  19. Dear team,

    When I saw the advertisement of “Christmas in July” my expectations were as high as the pictures which were advertised, what I experienced this evening was beyond terrible. The fact that I invited my friends to join with their family and it turned out to be this bad just makes it even worse…because I went out there telling everyone about this event and how excited I am to attend.

    We got to Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, the parking area was completed full. Which was okay… these kind of things happen when any event happens. ..but there was No one to direct us to alternative parking which was opposite the road.

    We got to the main gate and there was no entrance for “walk ins” the cars were treated more like a priority than humans. The gate went open and closed… like literally as were were approaching the gate a lady monitoring the gate closed it.

    As we got inside of the parking lot, there was a VERY long queue… which we stood in for more than 30 minutes…a Completely unorganized queue..why unorganized? Well after 30 minutes of standing in a queue when we finally got closer to the entrance a man shouted that there were two queues one for cash and one for those who already had tickets. Are you kidding me ???

    As we entered the enchanted forest of “DARKNESS” people were already leaving……..with a frown on their face….which to me was already Very Very dodgy ….but… because I’m someone who Is always hopeful and prefer to experience for myself before judging.. i shook the thoughts running in my mind.

    The moment we stepped into the entrance it was already OVERCROWDED and DARK…there were about 5 stalls selling food… RIGHT AT THE ENTRANCE…. barely space to walk in… we walked the whole 500m… its was dark…. you could barely see where you were going… just one string of lights along the path 😐

    The walk happened so quick all I saw was a big wall filled with lights (not too bad, it looked okay) again OVERCROWDED…. with one Father Christmas 😥…. to take pictures with over 5000 people….no queue or someone to monitor anyways…on the other side there was a big reindeer… close to the restaurant…

    There after we walked toward the “Snowflakes” (one foam machine) which was just as OVERCROWDED…as mr Santa claus.😨 we walked further down the forest and ended up to another spot which l had a reindeer and a slay. 🥺… and that was it. 30 minute queue… 20 minute walk to walk the whole 500m. By the time we got outside  there was no queue……. a few people stood at the entrance complaining and demanding a refund.

    How does the same event in two provinces fail? I drove…all the way from Centurion to Pretoria central for a Badly organized event, false advertisement and most importantly a Waste of my money.

    I will not recommend this event to anyone not even my Cape town family, this is a complete scam and RIP off.

    I want a refund.

    Like

  20. Total waste of time and money! Ridiculous queues, in adequate parking, no officiates to direct the queues or to organise and inform people. Food stalls sold out of food and drinks by 19:30. And to top it all off, the entire event was a huge disappointment. A couple of mutli-coloured lights strung up in the trees. Please, think carefully before going

    Like

  21. This was a complete RIP OFF and the entire event was a DISASTER..
    Don’t know how they could actualy charge people money for what we had to go through…
    This event was poorly organized!!! We never even made it in..
    Almost 90min in traffic, no proper parking, qeues were so long.. we ended up going elsewhere. MONEY WASTED!! All posts and comments being deleted on social media instead of taking ownership of a pathetic event and planning!!!

    Like

  22. What a rip-off! After queuing for 90 minutes in the cold, when we got in it was jam packed. The few light displays were average and the rest was just a rope light strung along the path. Added to that, my post on the FB page was deleted, along with many others.

    Like

  23. Total waste of time a money. False advertising using pictures for other companies pages. Wish these people would sue them for using their images. Safety issues as I have photos of extension cords lying on the grass not even taped down. Wonder if this event was signed off and met the safety parameters. Wish I knew the correct people to contact. Need to warn everyone in CT not to waste their time and money on these thieves. They have deleted my negative comments and blocked me from making comments on their Facebook site.

    Like

  24. I just bought 8 tickets for the 3rd for my baby girls 11th birthday. I did check the comments and nothing bad, now I know why, they were deleting them. About an hour later I went back to go find a link in the comments area and I saw a negative comment. Going through them all I can see how big the problem is. I requested a refund but being within 7 days only 25% will be refunded. NOT ACCEPTABLE.
    I have sent an email to them requesting a full refund. Explaining that these tickets were sold under false pretenses and fraudulently.
    If we are not refunded I will lodge a dispute with the bank as a fraudulent transaction as that’s what this is.
    I think everyone should and they should be aware that fraud is still a crime.

    Like

  25. 12 of us attended the event on the 27/07/2019. 7 of us made it through the que in 30minutes, whilst the other 4 were stuck in the que for 60 minutes. Not too mention the hour long trip to get there!

    Not one single person to direct you in which que to stand in, food stalls ran out of food. Litter bin free, so no where to throw your rubbish away, very dark pathways, thankfully i brought a torch for my elderly mom to see where she was walking! I counted 4 light displays, dismal foam machine (snow), no kids entertainment or rides, overpriced food & drink, cardless facilities, no security..which is shocking as so many young children were there.

    Really dismal event & total waste of petrol, time, money & my sanity. Event organiser keeps deleting negative comments on his fb page. Sorry for him, he picked the wrong crowd to annoy. Thank you for creating this blog. Lets hope we are able to get some kind of refund

    Like

  26. “Horror in July”
    We were so excited to go just to arrive there and be disappointed!!!!
    Could hardly see anything as there were only a few fairy lights !!
    You have false advertised to the extreme you should pay everyone’s money back !!!
    Poorly organized and worst event ever !!!!!

    Like

  27. We went on Saturday night and as per everyone, it was an absolute joke!! It took us 2hrs with traffic to even get to the entrance. Our ticket time slot was booked for 18:00 and we got in at 20:00 with 2 very irritated and disappointed kids. They were soo excited to see the snow or the falsely advertised snow and lights! We should have rather gone to a foam party at the Northgate ice-rick, the light display there is out of this world in comparison and they don’t only provide 5 sprinkles of snow/foam! I will never be wasting money or time on any of their events again!!! Really makes me mad when event companies are quick to take peoples hard earned money and then produce such a pathetic excuse of an event.

    Like

  28. This event was a disgrace! My son and I went on the first day and we had been very much looking forward to the magic of Christmas in July that was promised by the advertising… we needed that wonderful promised evening, but instead we were left totally disappointed and I even felt hurt! We are left feeling that our money has been stolen unfairly. The horrible evening triggered stuff from my past and I’ve struggled to sleep ever since. The paths were so dark that I was actually scared and grateful to have my son to hold onto so that I wouldn’t trip on any unseen objects on the path. The (snow) machine was nothing more than a cruel joke that we didn’t think was at all funny! The public were made a fool of by some money hungry thief without integrity! I believe in Karma.

    Like

  29. I purchased 4 family tickets for the event on Saturday at 18:00.
    The picture displayed was in NO WAY ANY INDICATION of what could be expected. Instead a string of lights hanging in the bushes. This is unacceptable.
    In addition, we booked a 18:00 slot which we arrived for ahead of time. We had to park 500 meters from the gate (no, not ample parking as stated) with 2 kids, 3 & 6. We then had to join a joke of a queue which took an hour.
    Then the snow that everyone was looking forward to, was 1 machine spewing out foam for the lucky few children that could get under it. Really?????
    The organization was poor and unacceptable, the event NOTHING as advertised.
    Please advise who will be processing my refund?

    Like

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