In recent months, the Association for Christian Retail (CBA) has undergone significant changes that have left many retailers and publishers wondering about the future direction of the organization.
One issue that is troubling retailers in the question of reimbursement for attending this year's trade show. Ahead of CBA's annual show, UNITE, which took place in Nashville, Tenn. in July, the CBA announced a reimbursement offer to retailers who attended the show. It guaranteed money back for food and hotel costs incurred during the event and was made possible through the CBA’s new partnership with investor Ed Roush, whose investment was revealed at the show.
Though many wish to remain anonymous, several sources told PW that efforts to submit the prescribed documents for the CBA Hotel & Food Rebate Offer were rejected due to various errors, and after weeks of waiting, the retailers received detailed instructions on how to resubmit the receipts. These included providing hand-written names, signatures, and dates on original receipts, deducting sales taxes from the total, and supplying itemized receipts instead of summary receipts.
“We resubmitted our corrected claim on August 23, and on August 29 we received an email from CBA indicating that our corrected claim was accepted and asked us to confirm the amount,” said Andrew Casebier and Michele Casebier, owners of the Talking Donkey Christian Shop in Frankfort, Ky. The pair had planned on using the rebate to attend the Christian Product Expo from Sept. 9-11, but they have still not received the rebate as of October 10. “On September 4 CBA indicated ‘Ok,’ and that they would ‘complete processing our rebate,’” said the Casebiers. “We thought that meant that our reimbursement would be received shortly.”
Despite another bookseller’s efforts to resubmit her receipts, she received confirmation on Sept. 20 of a claim $150 less than what she submitted, and was told to wait six to eight weeks to receive the payment. She, like the Casebiers, has still not received the reimbursement, three months after UNITE.
Additionally, TNT Convention Services, CBA’s longtime security company for its trade show, has only received one-third of what it is owed for their services in July. After hearing about a new investor and rumblings of financial problems, TNT agreed to provide security at UNITE 2018, but only after signing a contract to receive the money in three installments before the show. TNT received one payment in late June, but fulfilled its role at UNITE anyway.
“We believed in the relationship, we knew Curtis [Riskey] personally and were told we were valued and appreciated,” said Tony Vergara, president and CEO of TNT. “The nature of that show and the purpose of it—it has personal meaning to us.”
TNT has since hired an attorney and a collection agency. “We have to fight back,” said Vergara.
PW has also received reports of tumultuous staff changes at the CBA, including the previously reported departure of its president, Curtis Riskey, but current and former employees were unreachable.
Although industry members agree that UNITE provides a valuable place for publishers, authors, agents, retailers, and distributors to meet, the recent developments have left many publishers and retailers as skeptical about another trade show taking place next year as they are about attending it.
Despite several attempts to reach the CBA via Deborah Mash, president of CBA Service Corporation’s subsidiary, CBA Media, no one returned PW's request for comment on the new developments. Previously, Mash said the reorganization of CBA was necessary because it was "a poorly managed debt machine." She also indicated that UNITE 2019 is scheduled to take place from June 25-28 in Nashville, Tenn.