Is It OK to Charge for a Virtual Tea Party?

As this pandemic progressed, virtual meetups and tea parties became the new go-to meetup format. After the initial postponement of pretty much every lolita event, some big ones hosted online began appearing, like Purgatorio or Ursa Major. And then the Japanese brands hopped on that trend - but the way they have handled that was very different to each other.

Now, it’s easy to make a quick comparison to Angelic Pretty Paris anniversary virtual tea party costing attendees money to Moi-meme-Moitie’s virtual tea parties. It’s easy to think that if Moitie could have several time slots to accommodate people from various time zones and to keep individual meetings smaller all for free, then it’s unfair for Angelic Pretty to charge anything for the privilege of joining. But as with most things, nothing is that straightforward.

For starters, yes, the Moitie tea parties were free. Having said this, those virtual tea parties were not attended by Mana. Meanwhile, Angelic Pretty Paris tea party is due to have the designers for a Q&A session. This immediately raises a cost, as a translator will be required to help facilitate this. Moreover, with the time difference between Japan and France, the AP designers would be joining in the evening, which I assume would usually be their off-work time. Considering the many reasons why Mana might not have attended the Moitie tea parties, an imposition on one’s personal off time in the evening is a lot to ask of anyone, even designers passionate about their brands. And a sufficient enough explanation as to why there will only be one time slot as opposed to several.

Secondly, to the best of my knowledge, the Moitie tea parties were just that - a Zoom call as you might have had with your friends. As I did not attend those, I don’t know whether there was anything like Best Dressed Prize (even if only via a title) etc., but it feels safe to assume that the tea party was purely social. On the other hand, AP Paris will not only award a Best Dressed Prize, but also a Best Food Prize and they will hold a raffle as they would at any other one of their anniversary tea parties. Although the Best Dressed and Best Food prizes will be vouchers, this is still a cost that any company would do their best to get back. Whilst we can’t know for sure if the raffle will have the same assortment of prizes, ranging from stationery to dresses and bags, this is also a cost to consider, particularly as any physical prize will also involve postage to the recipient.

Based on the two points above, it is clear that whilst a charge of €15 may seem like a lot for the privilege of having a 1-hour Zoom call at your house, in the context of what is provided, it isn’t that much. At this point we don’t know yet how big the Angelic Pretty Paris tea party is expected to be and we all know that a Zoom call with more than 8 people quickly becomes hard to manage, so the numbers will likely be small, meaning that the €15/person will probably go just towards covering the expenses.

Given this, it’s also not surprising that the ticket sale were only available to those making another purchase with Angelic Pretty Paris. Virtual tea parties are so easy to do that without that the tickets could sell out within minutes to people who don’t own much lolita altogether or who are merely fishing for clout. The cheapest thing you could possibly purchase from AP Paris is a €6 clear file, making the total cost an affordable €21, which is comparable to a typical meetup cost that one’s comm might host. That purchase also had to be made after 1pm Paris-time on Monday June 22nd, so I fully expected it to be a bloodbath. Doing things this way allowed Angelic Pretty Paris to make sales during uncertain times for businesses, whilst also preventing those not that interested in supporting the brand who only wanted to join the tea party because it suddenly became much more accessible from attending. It’s not even a particularly new concept, as almost all Angelic Pretty tea parties at their smaller branches in Japan require a purchase before being able to buy the event ticket, it is different when that tea party will be held in person and you will meet other people.

Although a friend of mine who was able to get the ticket did share some interesting observations, namely that they were able to purchase a considerable while after the ticket sales have opened. This leads me to think that either there were more spaces than I assumed or that there was much less interest than I expected. And my gut instinct tells me that it is the latter. Angelic Pretty Paris tea party veterans likely attend these for the whole tea party experience, which includes not having to prepare your own food, socialising with friends you otherwise might not see very often and interacting with the designers directly, even if as fleetingly as for a photo or for the meet and greet the day before at the shop. For people who have been to those events a cost of €15+ might not be a lot, but it’s not what they want from it and would probably rather host a virtual tea party for the group of friends they normally would’ve been meeting at the event. I can also imagine that for many others the fact that they would miss out on the experience that is an Angelic Pretty tea party and have to satisfy themselves with a second best could also have been a deterrent, leaving the sales up to the people who were able to buy something else and who really wanted that lolita event experience, even if it would be virtual. This is all speculation and my thoughts, I don’t know how many tickets were available or who else got one. I tried to find out whether the tickets have sold out, but AP Paris made no such announcement at the time of writing and as I said, if they didn’t sell out within the first hour of release, then I assume this to be a slow sale.

So whilst on paper this is all reasonable and justifiable, one can’t help but be left with a somewhat bitter aftertaste in their mouth. At a time when we’re told to consider our spending carefully, when the circumstances are making us reevaluate who we’re shopping with and as we wait for a vaccine that will allow for meetups to resume, a €15+ purchase for a Zoom tea party feels at least morally ambiguous. It is understandable from a business perspective, but from the point of view of the community it feels like a double-edged sword. Angelic Pretty gives with one hand, promising to still hold its anniversary tea party and making it seem more accessible than the €100+ ones at a chateau last year, and takes away with the other, still driving lolitas to spend first before offering a chance to have some of the Angelic Pretty tea party experience. In contrast to Moitie’s tea parties: free, accessible, catering to various time zones and with a promise of manageable participant numbers, it very much feels like where they have focused on fostering a community spirit and getting Moitie fans to simply meet each other and be social, Angelic Pretty is more concerned with their sales instead.

Is all this coming from a place of personal bitterness? Not particularly. Yes, I was initially excited at the prospect of attending, but once it became clear that this was €15 plus a purchase, I lost that excitement. Even once I learnt that the cheapest thing I could buy was only €6 instead of €49 as I initially thought (I looked for what I might like, not necessarily for literally the cheapest thing), that didn’t encourage me to try anyway. Not even now, knowing that there are potentially still tickets left and there’s at least one friend going. At the end of the day, whether with Angelic Pretty designers in attendance or not, a virtual tea party is still just sitting on my own sofa, with the food that I made myself. The Best Food Prize may be a nice touch to encourage people to put effort into their food, but I worry that instead it will put unnecessary pressure on people and maybe even create a competitive spirit which will replace the joy of attending a brand tea party. I am at peace with not attending this tea party, much as I am at peace with having to miss going to Barcelona, Moscow and Brussels earlier this year.

Which brings me back to the original question: is it ok to charge for a virtual tea party? As long as the price reflects the cost of what will be provided to the attendees, then sure. But is it moral to do so at a time when others have put much more elaborate lolita events for free, in the midst of a pandemic and encouragement of not spending needlessly, and during a social movement calling for donations to those battling racism, police brutality, and systemic prejudice and injustice? That’s up to you to decide. If you feel that spending €15+ on a virtual tea party is something you can justify and something that will help you emotionally during these difficult times, then don’t be too harsh on yourself for treating yourself. I’m certainly not judging anyone who bought a ticket and I sincerely hope that the tea party is a fun and wonderful experience. Please, do tell all about it afterwards!


  1. I was excited at first as well, even thought the price was really not that high, but considering it is planned for just one hour (which I can not imagine everything will fit in one hour..), and having expected indeed something like a bloodbath for the items in the shop and AP not having told what the limit was for the tickets, I got unsure. What if you bought something for the sake of the ticket but the tickets were gone? What if I wanted one but there were no items from the shop I wanted anymore? Plus indeed the competition of making food, which I understand is more meant for fun but does touch my must-perform-buttons which then makes it more like a 'must', makes it feel less casual. I decided then that they really wanted to just hardcore AP-fans at their online party who were willing to take all this, which I understand, but I think they also might have scared of some others (I had two friends who had the same kinds of thoughts and can Imagine there are more). I hope people attending will have fun nonetheless, but I am not so sure about the goal or reasoning from AP behind it which gives it a bit of a weird taste in these times indeed.

    1. That's another thing that I forgot to mention! E15 wouldn't be so bad if this was a tea party of the same length as they would host at a hotel or a chateau. But for one hour? All that programming will take longer, at any event Q&A alone is usually an hour, so unless they only allow one question, I really don't see this happening.
      You seem to have very much the same feelings and thoughts that I did. And I'm sure there were plenty others who felt like this too. I understand that times are weird and it's nice that Angelic Pretty Paris tried to keep do an anniversary tea party regardless. But I don't think they've gone about organising that in the best way possible. I think it would've been much more successful if they did something like the mini-events they hold in store for things like Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day. They could've upped the price to, say, 30 euro and send every participant materials for a craft project that everyone will do together whilst on Zoom. And the designers or store manager could maybe join for the last hour or so for a quick Q&A and to give a voucher prize to the best craft? That sounds so much less stressful and whilst it's not the usual anniversary tea party, it would've been more reasonable in the current circumstances.


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