It’s Not Personal, It’s Business: My Dealings with Dayna Martin

I thought long and hard about posting this.  That’s the first thing you need to know.  I dislike confrontation, I stay away from drama, and I derive zero pleasure from “rocking the boat.”  I questioned whether it was the right thing to do.  I didn’t want to do anything that was unkind or unfair, and I knew that to share it meant to share emails that were sent back and forth between myself and Dayna … something I have never, ever done.  But then a friend said something to me that brought it into the proper perspective.

“Jen, if you had a bad experience with Target, wouldn’t you share it?”  And I would.  I would share it widely.

My husband echoed a similar sentiment when he said, “It’s not the same things as sharing personal correspondence.  It was business.  It was communication between the two of you as business and customer.”

He was right.  And in fact it was something that I myself had said to Dayna more than once.  “It’s not personal, it’s business.”  I wasn’t interested in the drama or any of her personal back stories.  I just wanted the money that I was owed.  Nothing else.

I am not writing this to be vindictive, or to start more problems. I am writing this for one reason, and one reason only:  This has gone on long enough.  If I can prevent even one person from getting hurt – financially or otherwise – by Dayna Martin, it will be worth it.

With that in mind, I’ll do my best to keep all personal commentary out of this, and just stick to the facts at hand.   These are the facts:

1.  In July of 2013, I, along with lots of other people, was registered to go to the Rethinking Everything Conference in Dallas, TX held from August 22nd through 26th, and hosted by Joe and Dayna Martin.  Jen Green, a fellow unschooler, and former friend of Dayna, wrote a series of blog posts chronicling her own dealings with Dayna, and exposing some very poor business practices (to be kind about it) on Dayna’s part.  Several other people started coming forward with similar stories, dating back many years, to the extent that this information started being gathered and compiled in order to warn others.

2.  I, along with lots of other people, decided I was no longer comfortable going to, and supporting, their conference.  We were prepared to eat the cost of our registration ($545 for our family of 6)

3.  Dayna posted on the Rethinking Everything page, offering refunds for those who’d decided not to go:

Due to the recent situation with someone slandering me, I wanted to reach out and let any of you know that if you have decided to not attend due to what you read, please let me know and we will refund 100% of your registration. Dayna

4.  I emailed her to ask for a refund, and she promptly responded that she’d be “happy” to refund our money. (I’ll share those emails later)

5.  A few days later, she changed her mind and stated that she’d no longer be offering refunds.

6.  I emailed her again, seeking clarification about whether or not I’d still receive one, since she’d already told me I would.  “Oh yes, you’re all set Jennifer.  You’ll receive your refund within 45 days after the conference is over.”  I think this is as good a time as any to point out that 45 days also happens to be the time limit in which Paypal allows you to dispute a charge.

7.  After 45 days came and went, I politely sent another follow-up email asking about our refund, again giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’d decide to do the right thing.   She didn’t respond.  Or rather, she responded by unfriending me and blocking me on Facebook.

And this is where the story really begins.

Next, I tried appealing to Joe:

Hi Joe,

I am writing to you because Dayna isn’t returning my emails. Back in July, we requested a refund for the RE conference, and she said that she’d be happy to give it to us, within 45 days after the conference was over. I followed up with her in August after she’d announced that you’d no longer be issuing refunds, just to clarify, and again she told me that we were all set, and that we’d receive a refund.

It’s now been more than a week past that 45 day timeframe. I sent a follow-up to Dayna to check on the status of our refund, and she responded by unfriending and blocking me on Facebook.

I don’t want to start any drama or problems. I stayed out of the whole mess that took place over the summer, as I don’t know either of you personally. We’d just like the refund that was promised to us by Dayna. I’m sure you can understand that $530 is a lot of money for a single-income family of six.

I’d really appreciate a quick resolution, as we were told that we would in fact be issued a refund.

Thanks in advance for your attention to this matter.

He very quickly responded (although due to writing style I believe it was Dayna who replied under his account):

Jennifer, We made a decision to go with the original payment information and have registrations be non-refundable – as stated on the website. We are offering people registration to the Life Rocks! Conference and we encourage you to connect with the new organizer of RE to see if they will extend your reg to RE 2014. The 2013 RE Conference was a success and we are sorry you missed it.

That was when I took to my own Facebook wall for some venting, without (at first) naming any names.  A little immature to deal with it in that passive-aggressive way, especially knowing full well that it was going to get back to them?  Sure.  I’ll own that.  But I hadn’t done anything wrong, and was being given nothing but a big run-around (again, to put it kindly)

My husband then decided to message Joe:

Hello Joe,

Jen received your response to the request for a refund of the RE Conference registration fees and I thought that I would contact you directly. I am quite disappointed that as a business person you have decided not to honor your 2 promises to refund our money. After reading all the drama about your personal and business issues this summer, I would have thought that you would have tried to conduct your business more on the up and up.

Unfortunately, you tell us that “you have decided to go with the original payment information as stated on the website”. It really doesn’t matter what the website stated when we were given a personalized assurance that we WILL receive a refund. What was the purpose of offering refunds in the first place? Was it to try and keep people quiet and then hope we go away? Joe, we’re not going away on this, just on principle alone. Unfriending people and blocking them on Facebook doesn’t right your wrongs.

We have copies of Dayna’s two emails assuring us that we will get a refund. As a business person you should honor EVERYTHING that you say to a customer, even if it has to come out of pocket and you lose on the transaction.

I am hoping that as a business person you will reconsider your decision not to refund our money. We are prepared to take a stand on this matter and make it known that you are not running an honest and reputable business, if you do not make this right. Jen has been nothing but respectful, professional and polite regarding this whole thing.

If you haven’t visited her The Path Less Taken Facebook page, you should take note she has nearly 6,000 unschooling followers who may not take kindly to your slight of the few whom you offered refunds. Not a good stand to take on so few people.

I look forward to seeing your refund in our account within the next 5 days, or we will be forced to escalate our collections.

All the best,

Mike McGrail

Joe never responded, and instead I almost immediately heard the ding of a message to myself, from Dayna (who’d unblocked me so that she could message me.)

Here’s what I want to know:  How does an interaction that all began like this:


We are happy to issue you a refund. You will receive the refund for registration within 45 days after the Rethinking Everything event. If you have any questions, please let us know.

We hope you can attend in the future.

~Kind Regards, Dayna

Turn into this:

Anyway, there were no “promises”. It was an email I sent to you, thinking you were involved/personally affect by the drama somehow. You were not. Hence the refund didn’t apply to you. To have your husband write and threaten me is just beyond cruel, especially after all that our family has been through. Please do not hurt us.

and this:

I’m sorry, Jennifer, but you contacted me initially knowing what the refund was about and who it was for.

and I feel like you were taking advantage of it at a time in my life when I was in crisis. It just isn’t right.

and this:

It doesn’t matter what I emailed to you. I *thought* you were being honest with me about being personally involved simply by your contacting me for a refund. Once I learned you weren’t I felt hurt and taken advantage of. For you to claim that it doesn’t matter that I found this out after I emailed you about refunding you is manipulative and wrong. I consider this matter closed.

and this:

I want to point out that you were attempting to sell your tickets before any of this online drama occurred. You had no intention of coming to RE to begin with. I have proof of that. For you to attempt to say that you were affected by what happened to me and then decided not to come is manipulative and dishonest and wrong. What happened was not business. It was and is personal. I did nothing to create all that happened and someone tried to hurt my family. It was devastating and for YOU to attempt to capitalize on that and then actually THREATEN me wit further action is wrong Jennifer. You know you are in the wrong here. Stop threatening me with further action to something that you attempted to be dishonest about. You didn’t decide not to come because of all that happened. YOU decided not to come because you couldn’t afford it. That is the Truth. Please stop sending me threats and attempting to fear me into refunding money that was clearly non-refundable.

Also, for you to say you want someone to “fight” me is hurtful and scary to me. Are you really going to take violent action against me?

* A couple of side-notes here:  That entire last message was mostly lies.  We didn’t try to sell our tickets before any of it happened, so she has no proof of that.  Dayna and I would later go on to discuss that.  As to the:  “You decided not to come because you couldn’t afford it”:  I mentioned in an earlier message that we had the money earmarked to give away to someone else at Christmas, since it was already money we’d spent and wanted to do something good with it, which she took to read:  “We can’t afford to have a Christmas.”  We discussed that later too.  And as utterly ridiculous it is to even dignify it with a response:  When I first vented about how angry I was on Facebook, a friend commented and joked, “Do you want me to fight someone for you?”  I joked back and answered simply, “Yes, yes I do.”  Then she posted a little meme with some Muppets – MUPPETS – that said, “I’ll fight anyone, anytime, anywhere.”  I had a chuckle and we all moved on.  And finally, this is just a small sampling of Dayna’s emails.  I didn’t post my responses, or the rest of hers, mainly because this was long enough and they were all pretty redundant.  She told me how manipulative and hurtful I was being, and I told her all I wanted was the refund she owed me.*

This is just her M.O.  If you read even just a few of the stories I linked to up above, you see it again and again and again.  In fact, when I mentioned this to a friend who’s had her own up close and personal dealings with Dayna, the first thing she said was, “Everything is now turned around to be your fault, right?”   Dayna’s the victim.  She did nothing wrong.  I wanted the refund I was entitled to, period, and I was the bad guy.

In the interest of telling the entire story, I should also add that after that last message, Dayna (very abruptly) changed her tune:

I want to honor and respect where you are at. I understand your perspective and want to be a good business person about how it all went down. I truly want to work together so you can come away from this happy somehow. Your feelings and needs are important to me.


It wasn’t my intention to be “cruel,” nor was it yours, I am sure.

I apologize if I called you that or made you feel bad.  It wasn’t my intention.


I want to help make it right. I truly do. You feelings are important to me as a fellow mother and woman.

Here’s the problem.  Even if she was being sincere about wanting to make things right (which if she really was, she would have simply refunded the money, instead of telling me she “didn’t have it” and suggesting I take it up with my credit card company) that doesn’t help all the other people who were wronged here.   It doesn’t help the people who saved up all year to go to this conference and then, like me, were denied a refund.  It doesn’t help the many people who’ve messaged me the past few days to thank me for talking publicly about this, or the people who told me that if we started a class action lawsuit, they wanted to be the first to sign up.

It’s for those people that I’m writing.

Too many people have been hurt, and not all of them have the forum or the wherewithal to make it public.

It stopped being about the money a long time ago.  I don’t even care about the money anymore.  I do however, greatly care about my fellow unschoolers, and to see this happen again, and again and again and again, just isn’t right.

So my open comment to Dayna –  to everyone really –  is this:  What could make this right?  Make apologies to those you’ve wronged.  Give refunds to the people who are due them.  Be honest.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Be true to your word, your work, and your friend.”

Do the right thing.


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18 Responses to It’s Not Personal, It’s Business: My Dealings with Dayna Martin

  1. Erika

    Whoa. All of that gives me knots in my stomach. Something isn’t right with her…

  2. Robert Gottlieb

    Thank you! I’m going to post a link to this on my wall! I’m still working with my bank to try to get the money back. But yeah this should serve as a warning to anyone who is even thinking about doing business with Dayna: Don’t! I’m thankful I’m no longer sucked into that crowd. And thanks for sticking up for those that can’t for whatever reason!

  3. Hope CB

    Their behavior is absolutely shameful and I applaud you for writing this.

  4. June Park

    Whew…talk about stressful. :/ Is it wrong to be thankful I am too broke to attend conferences right now?

  5. mamabear

    I don’t know any of you, but read this on FB. Honestly? Both of you could benefit greatly by studying non-violent communication. Since this is apparently a unschooling community, surely you could work it into your children’s communication skills as well, and not perpetuate the anger. No judgement here…just sayin’

    • nvcer

      Yet you didn’t use NVC to tell someone that *they* could benefit by studying it? Hmmm…

    • Hope CB

      “mamabear” If you were practicing NVC you wouldn’t start communicating by asking “Seriously?” or by telling others what to do with their children. The blog and comments here are not perpetuating anger, they are expressing dissatisfaction over how they have been treated or what they have witnessed. It is important to share these things so that others will not be hurt in the future. I’m sorry if you don’t understand what is happening here.

  6. Uggghhh!

    Let’s say you publicly sell tickets to a music festival and your own personal scandal causes the entire line up of performers to cancel their appearances. What should be done? The only “stand up” option is to cancel the festival, apologize to the fans, and issue full refunds.

    Likewise, RE should have been cancelled in 2013 and/or registrants fees should have been credited toward a subsequent year. Anything less constitutes intentional misrepresentation in most states.

  7. Lisa from Iroquois

    “The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.”


  8. Dana Briscoe

    Thanks for sharing your experience and for your integrity.

  9. JJ

    Why doesn’t everyone submit a complaint to thd Better Biz Bureau. That way all of the refunds will be taken care of. Also people will be protected in the future.