Bamboozled: Grandma feels taken for a ride

A seemingly well-planned kid birthday party has turned Patty Chavez into one unhappy grandma.

Chavez’s daughter and two grandsons are visiting from North Carolina for the summer, during which time Chavez’s grandson Parker Wilson would celebrate his third birthday.

In classic Jersey grandma style, Chavez invited 30 children to celebrate Parker’s special day, and she pulled out all the stops.

Parker’s obsession is trains, and his grandma wanted to make him happy.

She booked the Ocean County community center, which has a large piece of land, to accommodate a very special guest: a trackless train that would take Parker and his friends for two hours of rides during the June 17 party. She found train-themed party accessories to complete the package.

On March 15, Chavez sent a $125 deposit check to Magical Productions, a company she found online at, to reserve the train and conductor for the party. Per the contract, she’d pay the remaining balance of $450 on the day of the party.

“Thereafter, I confirmed the reservation with their company on three separate occasions: June 5, June 12 and Friday June 15,” Chavez said. “On each of these occasions I was assured that my reservation was complete and that the train would arrive as scheduled.”

Chavez said that when the party day came, Parker and his friends were excited and the train was the talk of the pint-sized crowd.

Chavez said she called the company 30 minutes before the train’s scheduled arrival for an additional confirmation, but no one at Magical Productions answered the phone.

“Despite the assurances in our contract … I proceeded to call the company 47 times over the next two hours before I ever received a return call informing me that the train would not be arriving,” she said, noting that she checked her cell records to see how many times she called. “At no time was I ever provided with an explanation. I was merely told that this matter would be resolved in the next few days.”

The day after the party, Chavez said, she spoke to Dave, a manager at the company.

She said Dave said the breach of contract was because of a “clerical error” with the trackless train subcontractor.

Chavez wanted to contact the subcontractor, but she said Dave would not provide her with a name or contact information.

Chavez said she tried another approach, asking Dave if he could provide the trackless train for any day in the summer so Parker and his friends could ride the train for one hour free of charge, but she said he refused.

“He then stated he would send down a magician with balloons and cotton candy,” Chavez said. “Of course I refused this offer since I had already entertained the children with a train theme.”

The conversation concluded, Chavez said, with a promise that Magical Productions would return the $125 deposit.

That was June 18.

By June 28, Chavez still didn’t have a check, so she called again. The woman who answered the phone said it was in the mail, Chavez said.

But that same woman called again an hour later, saying there was a bookkeeping error, but Magical Productions would send the check that day, Chavez said.

Weeks later, Chavez still didn’t have the check, so she asked Bamboozled for help.


We reviewed the contract and Chavez’s extensive log of calls to the company, and then we gave Magical Productions a call.

Manager Dave — who declined to share his last name — said he sent the refund check to Chavez on June 18, which was the day after the birthday party.

“We sent her the deposit back registered mail and we had called her a few times afterward. We called to see if she got it, but she’s not returning calls,” Dave said. “A few days ago (the check) wound up coming back here.”

Dave said the mail carrier would have placed a sticker on Chavez’s front door in Long Branch with notification for her to go to her post office to pick up the registered piece. He said he’d resend the check via regular mail that day.

We said we’d check with Chavez about the registered letter, but first, we wondered what happened to the train that day.

“We’re very sorry about what happened. I did offer her a free party with another entertainer to do some stuff with the kids but she said no,” Dave said.

But what happened to the train?

“That was the subcontractor. Yes, there was a screw-up,” he said.

He said his company is no longer working with that subcontractor, but that Magical Productions still offers trackless trains through another provider. And no, he would not offer Chavez a replacement train.

We called Chavez to tell her about the registered letter, but she said she never received one. She also said she never received additional calls or messages from the company.

“Never. I have my phone records of how many times I called them the day of the party. Why would I not call them back after all that?” she said.

Funny enough, Chavez’s mail carrier came to the door while we were on the phone.

She asked if he remembered trying to deliver a registered letter. He said no.

“He said I would get a second notice, third notice and a final notice,” she said, adding she’d head to the post office next to see what it had in its records.

The post office said it didn’t remember a registered letter either, and it confirmed she would have received additional notices about the letter.

We went back to Magical Productions to see if it had proof the letter was mailed, and it produced the proof.

Confused, Chavez returned to the post office with a copy of the registered envelope to ask what could have happened. Maybe it went to the wrong home, the post office guessed, unable to say for certain.

That part of the case will remain a mystery.

Chavez said she’s glad to hear the check is on its way — again — but she’s still not satisfied.

“Everything was geared around the train and this guy wants to send me a clown? Not only was I embarrassed but the party also cost a lot of money,” she said. “I had 18 moms at this party. If they had seen Magical Productions do the right thing, I bet we all might have used them again.”

We’ll let you know when the refund check arrives.