Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fanboys, Fire Permits And Frightening Mismanagement: The New York Comic Con Goes Horribly Awry

Since Mrhood75 was gracious enough to give the Prep Time Posse and it's readers a taste of San Francisco's Wondercon, I figured it would be a nice way of making my official PTP debut by doing the same for the con here in New York.

I packed up my digital camera and a notebook(along with my prepaid and preregistered tickets, to avoid the line), hoping to bring back Kevin Smith ramblings, some cool comic swag, the latest news and a picture of Milla Jovovich eating something (just to prove she does).

After several hours of travel while lugging all of my junior reporter gear and a stack of books just begging for creator signatures, I finally arrived exhausted at the Javits Center.


Only to be denied entrance.

The staff was claiming that the venue had had a visit from the fire marshall and they were not selling any more tickets. When I explained that I had already purchased tickets and registrations, I was directed to wait in a very long line of other confused patrons. Wasn't this what we were all supposed to have avoided? All we needed to do was pick up our badges.

After a significant wait, another less than courteous staff member confirmed that we were not getting into the event, and refused to issue any refunds for the fans in the line (prepaid or not). Some of them got directed to the New York comic con website, some of them were promised entrance tomorrow, some of the more argumentative types (myself included) got a preprinted rejection letter.

I don't have a scanner to get a clear shot of the document, however I'll type out the choice bits:

Dear attendee:
The New York Comic Con refund policy requires all refund requests must be made in writing and postmarked by March 3rd, 2006. Refunds postmarked after this date will not be accepted or considered. No email phone or fax cancellations will be considered. Refunds are not guaranteed.


If you registered with a credit card, please allow two full billing cycles for refund processing.

If you have an issue on site at the event, your letter must be postmarked by Friday March 3rd and you must have this letter signed by a Reed employee.



I won't bore all of you with the full version, but after hours of traveling and a few more hours of waiting, I was a bit less than pleased to be denied an immediate refund, let alone having to mail off a pile of paperwork the size of my college application for the privilege of waiting two months to potentially get my money back. I had been awake since 5am and has spent considerable time and money ( about $200) to get to the con by noon and the closest I had come to anything comics related was a few costumed fans and a Batman made out of Legos.

During this entire process I was treated to a staff that was a combination of rude and incompetent not seen since the heyday of my local McDonald's drive through clerk. Herds of attendees milled about aimlessly, getting directed to hours long lines and being given a different flimsy explanation from every staff member they asked.

I was not the only one who got royally screwed, as even preregistered ticket holders who had waited for hours in the cold before the con even opened ended up being denied entrance, as there was no organization to who was allowed in or any special consideration given to the pre paid attendees to guarantee them entrance or not having to wait on as long a line. Even exhibitors were turned away if they even so much as stepped out for a cigarette( some vendors never gaining entrance at all, even if they had just arrived), with staff making no guarantees if their passes would be honored for tomorrow. From press to exhibitors to fans, it was complete and total chaos.

To add insult to injury, I overheard a chief of event security snarkily remarking to another staff member " Ugh. They're all getting upset because it says refunds aren't guaranteed." What was she expecting these poor people to do? Pass her a gold star and a cookie?

I find it quite suspect that despite a supposed impromptu visit from the fire marshall and the building being over capacity being blamed for the fiasco, that an otherwise completely inept event staff just happened to have rejection/ refund forms all printed and ready on official New York Comic Con stationary. Factor in that many poor souls were directed to the website (which as of the time of this writing has no relevant information whatsoever) and the few that did get the letters were not informed to get a required signature from a staff member, it almost seems a deliberate money grab on the part of Reed Exhibitions ( the event staff).

It would be very easy to suspect that they intentionally oversold the prepaid tickets ( their worthlessness was blamed on a website error), packed the venue with fans coming in off the street very early on, then will most likely pocket the fees collected from both vendors and fans who were given incorrect or incomplete refund information. They could potentially even fleece those of us who did get the letter signed and mail in all of the required paperwork. The letter clearly states that refunds would not even begin to be processed until April and that two billing period wiggle room would place the transaction out of the 90 day limit for better business bureau complaints.

For what was supposed to be a major event for a multi million dollar industry, the blatant disrespect for the fans has put a bad taste in my mouth for any future New York based conventions. I'm sure the hundreds other fans who were treated in similar fashion will feel the same when they realize that their potential "refunds" are worthless due to either accidental or deliberate staff error.


I wonder if Mrhood75 would mind if I flew out to Wonder Con next year.

9 comments:

JRennoldz said...

Damn, I'm sorry to hear you had such a terrible day and spent all that cash for nothing. Fuck those convention people; I hope some over-zealous fanboys were able to take a few staff members out in "altercations".

Smack! You punk muffucka.

I hope this experience doesn't leave a sour taste for the industry in your mouth; we need more ladies caught up in this artform.

Stay up, report those crummy bastards to an investigative news outlet (for shady business practices) and send in your refund garbage.

Fight the man, don't let "him" rob you blind. That punk muffucka!

Peace!

PS. Great piece and I'm glad to see you up on the blog. Write more...

Melanism said...

I went on Friday and Saturday and you didn't miss much.

Kevin Smith was great as usual.

Queseda and Didio took their usual potshots at one other.

Geeks dressed up in a variety of Star Wars, X-Men and anime characters.

And the saddest spectacle of all was Peter Scolari (the other guy from Bosom Buddies) at the VERY back of the con signing autographs.

I walked by him at least 10 times both days and I never saw a single person at his table.

He needs a new agent.

bshelly said...

Shoulda dumped some snakes into a heating vent to clear that mothafocker out.

GerkMax said...

Like I always tell people who go, "Saturday will be the crazy day. Go early."

This time though, the crazy hit all new levels. They sold WAAAAY too many tickets. Around 1pm, there were about 800 ppl waiting on-line to go into the convention area!

And, I too felt bad for Peter Scolari. First his little booth looked SO sad before he got there, just one empty seat... And then, even sadder when he finally did get there. Someone should have hugged him.... AND punched his agent.

buckshot said...

That truly sucks. Best of luck in getting your refund.

P.S. Any chance you got a picture of that Lego Batman?

Sherri said...

I spent my weekend at MegaCon, a comics con in Orlando (my husband is trying to launch a comic book). It went reasonably well, as far as I could tell, but suffered from a lack of big publishers and names (for me, the wife in the booth, it was boring).

However, there's an evil part of me that hopes some of the vendors/exibitors who got pissed on up there will not apply next year and will decide to spend a weekend where it's warm. I've been to some lousy cons, but that beats anything I've suffered.

MrHood75 said...

This proves what I've alwayus believed: The Bay Area is vastly superior to NY.

Seriously, that is majorly wack. I'm really sorry you had to go through that.

Jeez, it was so much easier to get into Wondercon. Shoot, you probably could have gotten in free as a member of preptimepossee.com.

And, yeah, feel free to fly out to Wondercon next year. You'll have a place to crash if ya need it. ;)

JRennoldz said...

MrHood:

Nasty Nas > E-40
^True story!

Honestly? I'd rather be goin' back to Cali. There are great whites in the bay; I like sharks.

Anonymous said...

Reed Exhibitions are a bunch of incompetent morons.

Apparently each staff member had differing refund procedures. I was also one of the many prepaid ticket holders to be turned away after waiting in line for hours. I had a staff member who took down (just) our names and told us that we should receive our refunds within a month. After 2 months, I still had not received our refunds so I emailed them and was told that my check had been sent out. When I did receive the check it had a recent date on it.

I recently called them about the "free tickets" we were entitled to (I wanted to give them to someone else). I was told that my name was not on the list. I doubt the validity of this "list."

I think I'll stick to San Diego Comic-Con.