Having a Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts Themed Party

H turned seven in August, which we spent at Disneyland Paris. She wanted to have a party, so we decided to keep costs low that we’d have it at home. I thought that a Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party would be a good idea.
Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party birthday cake

A Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party was a good idea with the ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ film opening soon. Once we knew the theme of the party we had to work out how to make it fun.

H and Milo the Giant African Millipede from Wild Fangs

We booked Wild Fangs who were brilliant! Wild Fangs have a great website with all the information you could need and I highly recommend them.

H and Derek the Bearded Dragon from Wild Fangs

Wild Fangs were fantastic. Faik was brilliant when it came to keeping the kids attention. This was quite a job, there being seventeen of them. He brought along five creatures from his selection. The kids all got to meet each one, and H got special attention as she was the birthday girl. Even the shy children were stroking the creatures at the end which was good to see.

H and Tiny the African Bullfrog from Wild fangs

The creatures were only a small part of the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party. As it was at home it meant we could do bits to make it feel a bit more like Hogwarts. Poundland, Tiger Stores, Hema and Wilko all have a great range of Halloween products in-store at the moment. I stocked up on cobwebs, bunting, spiders, rats and halloween themed sweets at a low cost.

Tiger Stores cobweb bowl

Besides this, I had to create as much Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party ideas as I could. There were some easy ones – Golden Snitches made from Ferrero Rocher. Just stick some greaseproof paper wings on them.

Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed Golden Snitch Ferrero Rocher

Train shaped cheese biscuits which H said could be Hogwarts Express cheese biscuits.

Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed Hogwarts Express cheese biscuits

Shaun was the creative one – he found some great things. Get a sheet and a bathroom cleaner sponge, and print bricks onto it.

Making Platform nine and three quarters for a party Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed

Stick it around your doorway and you’re going through platform nine and three quarters. I may have seen a few Potter-mad kids doing it several times as they thought it was so cool.

Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed Platform Nine and three Quarters

How about floating candles? Get the inside of kitchen roll tubes, use a glue gun to make some drips down the side like candle wax. Paint it white, and then make a ledge inside for a battery-operated flickering candle. Hang them from the ceiling using cotton and some good strong sticky tape. It looks fantastic too.

Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party floating candles

Of course, no party is a decent one without party games. Our Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party games included Judge the Odd Socks competition. All kids had to come with odd socks on in honour of Dobby. Sleeping Lions became Sleeping Fluffy, in honour of Hagrid. Musical Bumps was Musical Expelliarmus, and Musical Statues would have been Musical Petrificus Totalus. We had Pin the Scar on Harry – just a simple printed out picture of Mr Potter, and a post it note cut into the shape of the scar. We ran out of time for that one too.

There was an epic Pass the Parcel game too. Inside was a Smiggle glittery ball (£2 in their current sale) which you might find in a Divination lesson at Hogwarts… maybe?

Making chocolate frogs for the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party

My favourite thing were the frog moulds I bought. We made several chocolate frogs, complete with a cola bottle middle (which tasted SO good). After all, everyone loves a chocolate frog, right? You can get the moulds on ebay for about £8. H enjoyed making them, and initially we tried them with ground up Swizzels sweets which was good too.

All in all, H’s Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts themed party was a success. I’m pleased we managed to pull it off at short notice, and the kids enjoyed themselves.

Reptoparty – What Would You Do?

Reptoparty (now known as Radical Reptiles UK) have a bad reputation building online. They double and triple book parties, and often you find out on the day that your party is cancelled. Here’s our Reptoparty story.

Reptoparty (now known as Radical Reptiles UK) are based in East Grinstead and do reptile parties around the region. But there’s a problem. This is our experience. We were eventually refunded three months later.

I was chatting with a workmate about both our daughters upcoming birthday celebrations. She mentioned she had booked Reptoparty who were offering a 50% off deal for parties on Facebook. I saved the page for later and checked with them for availability.

A few messages back and forth and we booked H’s party for the 16th October. To get my 50% discount I had to pay in full up front. As we were about to go on holiday I thought it was best to do this. I wouldn’t have to think about paying out too much more later on. So I did it by bank transfer.

A few weeks later a local mums Facebook group posted warning others about Reptoparty. They said their child’s party got cancelled on the morning. I found the thread after a few people had replied. This hadn’t happened once or twice – it had happened a few times to different people. He used the same excuses on different days. When people compared notes people started to feel like they had been scammed. Lots of last minute cancellations. Then I found these Mumsnet threads. Then this Netmums one. Then the 1970s Diet blog.

It’s fair to say, these last few months have been stressful for me. I’ve had panic attacks and have been quite anxious about things on a daily basis. The first thing I did was to message Reptoparty on Facebook to check our party would be okay. Maybe it was just an oversight. Dan Barnes who owns Reptoparty replied saying “Indeed we are Jo. All in diary and confirmed. See you in a few weeks”. I felt reassured by this, my friend who has her party two weeks after mine received confirmation too.

I mentioned Reptoparty to a friend who was looking for someone like this to come to her work. She messaged Dan, asking what was available on the day of our party. After all, if he’s in the area then why not?

He offered our party time. The exact same time he had confirmed to me was “in diary and confirmed” (sic).

I cancelled our ReptoParty. I lost all confidence in them being able to deliver what we had paid for and I couldn’t face the stress I would get wondering if he would show up. Knowing that our timeslot had been offered to someone else.

As it stands, I still do not have my refund of £112. Dan has stopped replying to my messages on Facebook. He reads them. I’ve been polite and reasonable and kept any anger about what has happened away from it all. I want to know when I’ll get my money. After all, if you pay for a service, and it doesn’t happen, any reputable business can pay you back. They haven’t spent your money.

The problem is, I’m not the only person in this position. All the people who have paid for parties up front have had their money spent. There are many. We’re talking about anything up to 20-30 people.

The brilliant Wild Fangs were able to do H’s party at short notice. There are many companies who are stepping in for cancelled Reptoparty parties. That’s an extra cost, and not everyone can afford to do it. We were able to pay for H’s party as I had sold some of her toys to cover it. Not ideal, but the Harry Potter Fantastic Beasts party happened, with us out of pocket.

So what happens next? We have no easy way of getting a refund.

Some payments for ReptoParty go through PayPal as Friends & Family. You can’t get a refund on a Friends & Family payment – so don’t do it if you’re entering a business transaction! A direct bank transfer is similar, there is no way of getting a chargeback – the person who has your funds needs to have money in their account for you to get your money back.

There is only so long you can message someone before you know you’re not going to get a reply. I know my messages have been seen and I’ve been polite and reasonable.

So I’m going to take a legal route, as many other people who didn’t get their parties have. It’s a great shame. I wanted to believe that Dan could turn his parties around. Those who have been to one have said they’re brilliant. At H’s school alone there are four parents he has let down in the last year.

It’s disappointing.

H and Derek the Bearded Dragon from Wild Fangs

Have you been let down by Reptoparty? What did you do?

There will be a follow-up post to this. Firstly, for the brilliant Wild Fangs who were able to step in. Secondly to post about the kind of things you need to think about and look out for when booking a reptile party. I’ve learnt a lot these last few weeks.

There is a Facebook Group for anyone who has had their party cancelled (the Group has been removed from Facebook due to someone complaining about it, how frustrating – there are still at least ten people waiting for refunds who are now getting no support and are blocked by Dan on the Reptoparty page). You will need to send a message to the admin before approval.

UPDATE – Dan has now responded to my messages saying they were archived. I’m curious. If something is archived in Facebook, then how would it show a datestamp of someone viewing it? Anyway, I have been advised I am next in line for a refund.

UPDATE 2 – I’m a bit hacked off. I mean, if you pay a business then cancel, you’re entitled to your money back if the services haven’t been provided, right? So when you find out that the person you’ve paid has sent a screengrab of his bank balance to you, he has spent your money, despite seeing him having sold one of his horses on a Facebook selling group (for £3500). Something doesn’t add up. I feel like a complete mug, and like I have been taken for a ride here. Then I read this.

UPDATE 3 – Dan Barnes of Reptoparty UK has blocked me from his Facebook Page. I’m not sure if this is akin to sticking your fingers in your ears. He may as well be saying “la la la I can’t hear you so I’m not going to send you any money that I owe you”. This is unprofessional behaviour and I don’t have all the time in the world. It’s going to be easier to report him to the police and catch up with everything else when I get a chance.

UPDATE 4 – Of course he hasn’t refunded me. Of course I’ve found out several people have been refunded since the last update. Shaun messaged him, which was read immediately but no response. We now have no other option than to take out a County Court Judgement to get our money back. I have the paperwork, and I have Dan’s address. Other things which have come up over time. Dan Barnes has had four businesses with reptiles. Reptile Party (the reviews say he cancelled as there was snow), Barnseys Reptiles, Reptopartyuk, and now Reptoparty. There are companies who have been picking up his last minute cancelled parties for three years now. I now have mums at school coming to me and telling me he’s advertising again, which I can’t see as I’m blocked.

FINAL UPDATE – I got Dan’s email address and contacted him and received a reply. His email address is on the business FB page but somehow I missed it. Yesterday he refunded many people, including me. So this is now over for me and it never went to court. I slept well for the first time in weeks last night.

EPILOGUE – A lot of people got refunded when I did, but a lot of people still haven’t been. Customers are still having their Reptoparty parties cancelled at the last minute. Some as recent as last weekend (December 2017). Is it right it’s still happening? If you are reading this and have had this happen to you I would recommend joining the FB group (if it is ever able to come back, if not then there are plenty of other places people are sharing information).

There are a lot of people in a similar position. The group has been dubbed a witch hunt. In actual fact it’s lots of desperate parents wanting their money back. Most of them have been blocked from Dan Barnes’ personal and business accounts. All people want are answers.

Those of us who have been able to get our money back are offering them help. There are new people appearing on a daily basis.

Reptoparty are registered at Companies House as of the 2nd November 2016 and are still trading.

Reptoparty have ceased trading in December 2017, as has Radical Reptiles. However, word is getting out there that Dan has set up a new reptile party company…