November 30, 2022

(Update: I shared this article in the Elysium Club NFT discord server and asked for a response. The moderators there said that other members had suffered similar situations. I was respectful, said that I wasn’t trying to burn the project down and wasn’t even selling. The owner of the project, Arno, came in – called me a bully, deleted every comment I had made and then banned me from the server. If that doesn’t tell you everything about this project and how it is being run, I don’t know what to say. Definitely stay away from it. By the way, I’m still not selling because I don’t believe in sticking others with bad faith NFTs – I will file this right next to my other famous rugs and ripoffs including Beanies Monkey Bets, Looks Labs, Pirate Treasure Booty Club, and a few others) 

I know that the recent downturn in crypto and NFTs has been a bummer for every project – but the one I was really hoping to be successful has been a real let down in a very real world way. That’s a triple bummer.

I spent roughly $2500 on a dream called Elysium Club NFT. It sounded too good to be true and I knew that but I bought two of them for approximately $1250 each when they minted. The pitch said they would provide free apartment rentals, free airport lounges, free flights, and much more to holders. As a traveler – I saw the extreme potential in NFTs as travel tools – passports, room keys, access tickets, and so much more.

To their credit – Elysium delivered on the airport lounges with Priority Pass. Each Elysium Club NFT is entitled to 1 year of Priority Pass lounge access. They also – to a limited extent – delivered on the apartments – though limited to a handful of cities and with a booking process that isn’t ideal. Once a month the booking window is suppossed to open for the following month on a first come first served basis until full. I wasn’t anywhere near any of the apartments but knew I’d be in New York City in July and so I patiently waited for the window to open so I could book the two days with each of my NFTs – I was already traveling around the world, so the timing wasn’t ideal – and then they delayed it without announcement. The crypto downturn is turning lots of hopeful projects into rugs as their ETH or altcoin investments plummet towards the ground – and of course, founders take their pound of flesh from the kitty, if not every pound of flesh. I was actually expecting Elysium to rug – again, to their credit, they didn’t.

I got my bookings in – four nights in NYC for free – well, not exactly free – actually, I paid $2500 for those four nights – but with the hope that I would use the benefit every six months as promised because honeslty $625 per night would buy some pretty sweet rooms. Even with the priority pass membership subtracted and rounded up to $500, that would still leave 4 nights at $500 which gets you pretty far even in NYC.  The problem was that they wouldn’t tell me where or even what neighborhood or borough my accommodation was in. I’m traveling with my 10-year-old daughter, so I wanted to be able to plan activities. They kept telling me I would find out 48 hours before due to not wanting to give away access information too early. Okay, I could deal with that.

48 hours came and went. I got on the Discord, thinking, okay, they’ve rugged. To their credit, they said they were just behind as they were working on making the project better and they got me the access information 24 hours before – but it only said for 2 nights – I repeatedly let them know I was traveling with a child and we had four nights booked with two NFTs – “No problem” they said “We’ll update it.” And since everything else had happened as they said – I let it go.

We checked in, a cool place in the Brooklyn. Not expensive – had rates of about $150 per night but had just opened and was offering discounted rates. Okay, cool. That’s still $600 + the $500 for priority pass – and I still own the NFTs which are pretty far down below their mint price but are supposed to provide benefits for as long as I hold them. Oh, by the way, the flights got postponed indefinitely after the market turned. We settled in – thinking we had four days to chill and enjoy Brooklyn and Manhattan. I got in touch with friends – we made plans. We spent the day out and came back exhausted on our second night – and I had an email “We had a booking issue and you will have to move to a new hotel tomorrow” – Now – that’s not cool at all. We had plans, things I’d paid for and in New York – checkout runs at 11am and checkin in sometime between 2 and 4 pm. We had bags, we had clothes scattered around. The new hotel wasn’t in Brooklyn but uptown Manhattan. I checked the reviews – the previous five reviews of the hotel were all 1 star. One of them showed black mold in pictures, another mentioned drugs and prostitutes.

I wrote to Elysium – ‘Unacceptable. Fix this.’

In short, they said ‘We’re sorry for the inconvenience but we’re going to send you $50 of ETH to pay for the Uber to your new hotel.’

Again, I said ‘Unacceptable. Fix this. I’m traveling with a child. I don’t want to write negatively about one of the only true utility NFTs out there.’ I gave them a list of nearby hotels. They refused. They told me I should change my tone and stop using threatening language. Then they stopped communicating for a while. They didn’t send the $50 in ETH until I had followed up several more times and even then it wasn’t until 10 days after they had offered. In Vagobond Magazine #5, I made the proof on the day before that had arrived – so it says I was still waiting. (Correction to Vagobond Magazine #5: They sent the $50 for the Uber (but didn’t reimburse me for the $96 I was charged by the shady hotel they sent me and my daughter to) 

We moved to the new hotel. There was a guy in the lobby on a loud speakerphone call “I don’t use drugs, why would you think that?” he yelled into the phone as we tried to understand the nice woman at the counter who was trying to help us.

“You’re booked into a room with a double bed” she told me when I asked if there were two beds. “That’s what was requested on Booking.com (by Elysium)” I explained that I don’t sleep in the same bed with my 10 year old daughter. She did her best to help us. Moved us to a pair of adjoining rooms for one night and we would have to check out and move to a new room the next day (with that big gap and no room during the day) and then we could move into a room with two beds for our last night. Rooms here  cost around $160 per night – which tells you everything you need to know about a hotel just a few blocks from the Empire State Building and Times Square – those are hooker rates.

When we returned after the first day to pick up our bags (which had been stored next to the desk, next to the unlocked front door, in clear view from the window and not in secure storage of any kind), the hotel (living up to their one star reviews) tried to tell me that we would need to pay for the difference in the price of the rooms – something I had explicitly asked about the night before. I became annoyed and gently but firmly let the clerk know that this was totally unacceptable. The bag thing is especially troubling as I had also asked about that in advance ‘Do you have secure bag storage?’ because we planned on visiting the statue of liberty on our last day – which would keep us out past the checkout time. Having to move rooms daily, not having secure bag storage, and not having a place to take a break between 11 and 3pm each day is a bummer. Staying in a semi-skeezy hotel room in a semi-skeezy neighborhood is a bummer. Granted this room is far far above the room I got from Booking.com in Austin, Texas, but given that I’m traveling with my kid and on the tail end of a trip around the world – Elysium booking has added the most negative hotel experience on the entire trip to it. Frankly, I would have been better served not using it and just spending around $600 to get a good, clean room for a solid block of four days. Live and learn. Future experiments in NFT travel will be conducted while I travel solo.

Look, it’s cool that I booked four nights in NYC with an NFT. The problem is that the entire booking portion is being done by one guy (the main founder)  who is spending the money I’m sure he thinks of as his to deliver the promise he made to those like me who bought the NFTs from him. Looking at the Discord, I see that the next month’s rooms have not yet opened (update: opened briefly and with a lot of issues and seem not to have been made available as of 6/29/22) – frankly, I don’t think they will fix this. I think he will probably fulfill the bookings this month as cheaply as possible and then claim that due to market conditions they can no longer fulfill the roadmap until things turn – and then, like all rugs, it will slowly fade away as the people in the Discord complain and get no answer and eventually stop using the NFTs at all.

The problem is that this isn’t an on-chain Web3 thing – it’s a club with benefits that don’t exist on chain but that exist when Arno chooses to deliver them. So in effect {Elysium Club -> Arno <- Benefits} – the complete opposite of Web3 – nothing but  middle-man situation where club members have to rely on Arno to be the middle man who has taken their money and will use it to deliver benefits…..but the problem is that it’s a ponzi. It can’t work unless at least one of the following is true:

1) More people are buying/minting all the time

2) Secondary sales are generating huge revenue

3) Arno is a rich philanthropist who has decided to give his wealth to Elysium Club NFT

4) Elysium Club is somehow generating revenue in other ways – which I haven’t heard anything about

Essentially, it has to fail unless the team are super geniuses who invested the revenue generated in exactly the right way to counter the downturn and then are so committed to the project that they haven’t raped the kitty – which – is far more rare than a unicorn in the NFT space.

As a rule, I try not to shit on my own bags. As another rule, I don’t blow smoke up people’s asses. The hardest part is that I really really really wanted Elysium NFTs to succeed – to be the real world utility NFT demo that would explode and disrupt the travel industry. If this stay in New York had gone off without a hitch or even if they had effectively addressed my concerns and fixed these situations when they arose – I would be singing a very different tune right now – I would be posting pictures of me and my kid using 1st class Airport Lounges, posting social posts about how this NFT allowed me to book four nights in NYC, and telling everyone I know or who I reach with blogging, writing, or social posts to watch this project, consider investing in it, and how great it is. You can buy an Elysium Club NFT for about $225 dollars right now – and that would be an amazing bargain if I didn’t think that the whole project is about to roll out a slow rug and do a team disappearing act. The signs are already there and the way they handled my NYC booking makes me see them much more clearly.

So, breaking down the cost versus value of these NFTs:

Cost: $2500 + $96 charge from shady hotel they sent me to + change fees for other activities etc.

Value: $500 (Priority Pass) + $620 (hotels) + $550 current floor on OpenSea

This makes Elysium Club NFTs about a $996 loss on these for me – not counting the activities and hassle that booking with them ended up costing. It’s possible I’ll harvest that value in the future – because I’m not selling despite all of this – but I’m not going to count on that. I’m going to simply call these a big loss and hope that the future of Web3 Travel and NFT Travel will be much better than the present moment has painted for me.

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