One of my first posts on this site was about FanExpo Canada. It’s the Canadian answer to the San Diego Comicon and it takes place a few short subway stops away from me. For a long time it has lived in the shadow of bigger American cons, but it’s starting to take baby steps towards the big time. For proof of this, you just need to look at the comic book announcements that were made this year. In the past, the biggest news you could hope to hear would be that there’s a new Alpha Flight book in the works. This year, some of the big news was the launch of a new JLA book by two of the top creators out there – Geoff Johns and David Finch; Ed Brubaker stepping down from writing at Marvel; and a new Before Watchmen mini-series.
This is all well and good. I’m glad that an event in my hometown, something I can actually go to, is garnering more respect in the industry. Hopefully that leads to more cool announcements, and even more guests. The downside is that with more and more people coming, the organization of the event is looking worse and worse. It’s something that people with press passes, or guest passes don’t really notice. A couple of years ago if you left to get a snack or something you couldn’t necessarily get back in. This includes people with exhibitor passes, or deluxe passes – people who have paid a lot of money expressly so that they can go anywhere unrestricted. (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/854623–phasers-on-stunned-as-fan-expo-disappoints-sci-fi-devotees)
(Here are some other sites that do a great job of depicting some of their past problems. This is more evidence of their desperate need for PR lessons http://neoengel.com/openletter_scifiexpo_harassment.html . This is a thread about how stores have been bullied http://boards.collectors-society.com/ubbthreads.php/ubb/showflat/Number/1312120/site_id/1#import . In doing research it seems like some pages complaining about Fan Expo have been suspiciously taken down. Keep looking though, they’re still out there.)
This year, they had the brilliant idea of putting the ticket booth in the basement loading dock. So, if you needed to get a ticket, you had to join a huge mass of people and walk down a long, concrete ramp. This is something that draws a lot of tourists. A subterranean hellhole is what you want people’s first impression to be? On top of that, the line for Saturday (the busiest day) was extremely long and they had to wait quite a while, only to be told that the show had sold out hours earlier.
My story on Sunday isn’t quite as bad. When I got there, there was a nice orderly line. It was about three people wide, but everyone was polite and patient. Then people started just walking straight down on both sides of us. Apparently they had been told just to get to the bottom and cram into a huge mass. So, that’s what happened. We all pushed our way into a writhing mob. There was no order. There was no thought put into this. It was a matter of getting as many people into that tunnel as possible. My wait time ended up being about 40 minutes. Which isn’t too bad considering what other people went through. But, none of it engendered any good will.
When asked about complaints by the Toronto Star, Aman Gupta the president of FanExpo’s parent company Hobbystar Marketing had this to say, “It’s not our business to piss people off. We want to make sure everybody is happy … but there are some people you just can’t please. We worked really hard over the last two years to get to where we’re at, and I don’t need a couple people to take us down.”
That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Are you so busy counting the money that you lifted off of us suckers that you can’t apologize to the people you left stranded in an underground shipping tunnel? You can’t explain why it gets more expensive every year for fans and exhibitors, and yet the experience stays mediocre or gets worse?
The sad thing is that I’ll probably be back next year. I’d be less bitter about it, though, if the assholes in charge took a little time to appreciate the people who pay for the convention.
Graham Becksted will tell you all about his foolish purchases next week. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 70th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.