TFWe Issue 02 Editorial - BotCon 2011 What Went Wrong

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by Kickback, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. Kickback

    Kickback Proud father Administrator Super Mod News Staff

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    BC11 - What Went Wrong
    written by Kickback


    Someone had to be the negative-nancy, right?

    I attended this year's BotCon in Pasadena, California, and expected there to be a few headaches. No convention ever runs 100% smoothly and any organizer who tells you that their convention did is flat-out lying to you. There are always hiccups, there are always unforeseen circumstances that pop-up, and there's always one or two people who find a way to circumvent every safeguard you put in to place.

    It's called life, and it happens.

    That being said, with Fun Publications now having done BotCon for 6 years, there are a few things that I wish they could finally figure out. When the DMV moves faster than they do, you know there's a problem.

    Pre-Registration Toy Pick-Up
    I can hear, yes, HEAR Pete Sinclair rolling his eyes right now.

    I understand that when you have a couple thousand attendees all rushing the tables at once to get their pre-registration toys it's going to cause lines to form. But this year it just seemed to get worse as the fact that Fun Publications uses volunteers to get you through the line. Volunteers lack the one thing that paid employees have - accountability.

    Maybe the guy in charge of my line wouldn't have excused himself from helping a paid customer and club member to answer his cell phone if he was on the clock versus volunteering.

    Employers also usually issue out material and common-sense rules about physical contact, fire-code, line formation, etc.

    Maybe a paid employee wouldn't have been pushing and pulling people (literally) in to or out of lines.

    The overall organization of the toy pick-up was great six years ago, but after three huge box-office movies and record-breaking attendance numbers, maybe it's time to re-visit exactly how it is organized and what can be done to expediate the process (or modernize it) so those sweet and lovely older ladies don't have to squint at a xerox'd three-ring binder of names.

    I won't even bother getting to the point of forcing those who waited in line for hours TWICE, once to get their toys and the second time to get the attending exclusives, to wear a wristband overnight and to come back in the morning because "the staff didn't want to be there all night".

    Here's my suggestion -

    1) Volunteers help set up tables and tear down tables. They are not line control, they are not toy pick-up individuals. At most, they guard doors that are not entrances in to the dealer rooms and/or show rooms.

    2) If you're insistant on keeping things run the way they have been run for years with toy pick-up, add another volunteer to each line who can assist in grabbing the items for that individual instead of having one guy floating (and usually crushing empty boxes) and letting the table clerk do all the work.

    3) Paid employees - whether it's hourly or by toys (lame I know) - will always get you better results. If they know that their performance is judged by something they want (ie: toys), remind them of such a thing so that they work hard.

    Moving on.

    The Hall of Fame was pretty bland. It was more of a Hasbro shareholder meeting, and we were all shareholders. We had a lot of "Hasbro rocks! Hasbro rules! We're awesome! Yeah!" type of rally-cries, a lot of self-pat-on-the-backs, the Michael Bay stuff (which was probably the second best thing) ... and the most amazing Erector video ever. They told us never to do that again ... but how can you not? Now everyone wants their favorite "joke" character to get some Hasbro love at the Hall of Fame.

    Maybe it's something you should consider, Hasbro. You're out of movies to preview for a couple of years...

    The panels are always hit and miss, and you can check that out in the main TFWe Issue 02 thread. Overall, not as great as years past, but not nearly as bad as some I can remember from long ago.

    The one thing that sticks out most in my memory from BotCon that I felt was just horrible and even disgusting...

    A man passed out from the heat because we were forced to stand outside, in a line, in direct sunlight, with no water, no shade, no explanation (except for FIRE CODE ... even though there was no lines forming inside for anything). An ambulance eventually came and took him to the hospital ... he was, for the most part, unresponsive. It looked bad ...

    Guess how many people from Fun Publications bothered to walk outside and check on the man or his friends and/or family? Guess how many Hasbro associates made it a point to walk outside and check it out, to talk to the ambulance, to get a NAME, to get SOMETHING ANYTHING ...

    If you guessed zero, you're correct.

    (NOTE: The word around the show was that someone informed Brian Savage after-the-fact, who was surprised that the incident happened, leading us to believe that he, and others, never knew what happened. We do not know if they eventually reached out to him or not, and whether they did or not we may never know due to POSSIBLE legal reasons behind it, such as liability, etc.)

    I don't know who that man was. I don't know what happened to him. If he, or anyone who knows him is reading this, please let us know that he's okay. The group of us from TFW2005 that were standing in that line (myself, Deefuzz, some regular members) were really unhappy about how that entire situation was handled. And I really hope that someone from BotCon or Hasbro sent him some sort of care-package or at least covered the cost of SOMETHING related to the accident.

    I hope.

    Every BotCon has things that go wrong. Every BotCon has problems that seem bigger than they really are. 99% of this article is exactly that - pointing out things that are simply convenience annoyances. At the same time, improving those annoyances could also improve the overall feel and satisifaction for those attending the show. I'd love to be able to spend Thursday night with my friends instead of standing in line for three hours to get toys I purchased months ago.

    How was your BotCon experience? Share your good, and bad, stories!

    - Kickback
    TFWe Editor-in-Chief
    TFW2005.COM Administrator
    Follow me @rankal on Twitter, and always follow @tfw2005 for all the Transformers news!
     
  2. Greyley

    Greyley Well-Known Member

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    I like the idea about paid employees. Some anime conventions have it set up so that volunteers get paid with freebies depending on how many hours they work. For example, working eight hours gets free registration, twelve hours gets free meals or free crash space in the hotel, etc. I would probably consider volunteering at Botcon if I could get a decent chunk of money knocked off the registration cost...

    They definitely need more people working the tables. Each line should have at least two people; one to check the attendee's ID and get the badge, and another to get the toys/shirts/etc together. It's too much for one person to do quickly, especially when each attendee has a different selection of stuff.

    They should also implement a rule about no checking box sets at the table. Apparently some people would open the box and check the toys on the spot, and I saw others coming back to deal with a problem after they had already left the line. They should have a seperate area off to the side for checking, and a staffer or two there to handle any complaints or exchanges. The people working the tables should only be handing out the toys, not holding up the line dealing with problems that could be handled by someone else.
     
  3. Kickback

    Kickback Proud father Administrator Super Mod News Staff

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    I'd like to note that the individual I discuss passing out in line was at the show the next day and seemed to be fine. Whether or not he was compensated for anything I do not know, but if I ever find out, will pass word along. Thank you to those who messaged me with the details.
     
  4. Aaron

    Aaron Master of Crystalocution Moderator Content Contributor

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    I would double up on the line handling via volunteers notion. This year I had a volunteer open hand push me towards a wall to keep an aisle clear for "fire code" reasons. No asking me to move back or anything, just moving me. So beyond what should be done.
     
  5. jorod74

    jorod74 Psycholagnist (Ret.)

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    why can't they send pre-registered attendees a small packet (a la a confirmation of registering) that they take to the 'Con, and it has a barcode that can be scanned to verify, then give the attendee the figures they are supposed to get?
    in a way, it could be used to reduce the number of lines- scan the code, it says, "Bubba: attendee fig/exclusive/etc." and the table clerk grabs everything in one trip.

    as for the line running outside, some of those volunteers (armed with walkie talkies and sunblock) should have roamed up and down the line checking on folks, telling the people if they need help, they can get it.
    then call for water, a chair, something.

    nice commentary, Kickback. constructive, not demeaning. pretty fair assessment.
     
  6. Matty

    Matty @StayingInTheBox Moderator News Staff

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    Very nice words Kickback. BotCon was still enjoyable this year, but a lot about it was wrong and it did seem this was the most annoying convention to date. Are we nitpicking with certain things? Of course. Fixing those nitpicks can make a BIG difference though.
     
  7. megamus

    megamus Overworked and Underpaid Veteran

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    I believe it was in Rhode Island where the problem with the same side launchers, they had a separate table that was put up where you could go if you had something wrong with your box set. They picked up your box and exited the line. If you had a problem, you would go to this table. Worked pretty good and the line was moving. Also, while I understand the attendance has gone up (supposedly) I remember a lot more people helping out at the pickup lines. The person who handled the paperwork never had to get up. Someone brought everything to them. I believe it worked a lot better. This year was horrible in terms of the line wait.
     
  8. optimusfan

    optimusfan Kill your heroes Administrator TFW2005 Supporter

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    I'd even go a step farther and "pay" your "volunteers" based on performance metrics. Volunteers who crank 60 people through per hour receive more "pay" than those who muddle through 20.

    Going to a single queue with all tables servicing that queue would help smooth things out as well. As much as I love the fact that there never seems to be anyone else in the "T-Z" line (hi Silas!), they don't do a good job evenly distributing the names to keep the lines approximately the same length. On top of that you run into the previously mentioned issues if one of the lines is running much more slowly than the others. A single line helps solve those issues by slowing everyone down a little, as opposed to slowing a larger group of folks down a ton.

    Finally, it would be nice if they'd get volunteers with a bit more backbone to man the autograph lines. Time after time I've seen various Botcon organizers set up rules ("2 autographs", "no posed photos", etc) that are then completely ignored by the volunteers. Get your volunteers countdown timers on their smart phones and instruct them that as soon as that timer goes off, you get whoever is up there to wrap it up and move on. It might be a bit of a crappy job for the volunteer, but someone needs to be the "bad guy" to keep those lines moving.
     
  9. Chaos Muffin

    Chaos Muffin Misadventure Veteran

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    'Unprepared' is the only thing that comes to mind, but don't really have anyone to blame.

    Hopefully things were learned from all the mistakes.
     

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