Simply Nerdy Mom: Steel City Con April 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Steel City Con April 2016

I'm not going to make this post all frilly like I normally do with headers highlighting celebrities and photos from our experience. This particular post, unfortunately, is not going to be like any of my previous con post. Truth is, there's nothing spectacular about what I have to say this time, unlike all the other ones.




Those of you who have followed me for quite some time, know how excited I get over conventions. I post about them for months before the event and have been known to highlight the costumes I have planned for those conventions. I have nothing but good things to say about the conventions I frequent and the convention attendees. I know I have pointed out times when situations could have been handled a little better by con staff, and have gotten a great, and respectful, response back from promoters or staff members of those cons. I've always been respectful about how I address the issues we had as well. My reason for doing this is because I believe that those who run the show, sometimes don't know of certain situations or how they were handled. It might be because they had a new staff member or because it happened when a staff member was not available to handle the situation. How will they know what they can do to make your experience a pleasant and fun one, if they don't know of the bumps in the road, right? Yeah, well, I'm starting to question what exactly convention promoters really think of their attendees.

Steel City Con calls themselves a comic book convention, but it's really more of a pop culture and nostalgia gathering. There usually is about 4 vendors selling comics exclusively, but I wouldn't classify it as a comic book convention. Basically, it's like going into Pizza Hut, seeing the menu has changed to nothing but pasta and salads and that the only pizza they actually do offer is small, plain cheese, and is hidden away in the corner of the menu somewhere.

Even so, I always loved going for the nostalgia. I'm an 80's baby, after all!

Stories circulated last year about vendor vs. promoter, which you can read more about HERE. I did touch on that a little in the last SCC post I did, however, I'm not nor have I ever been a vendor or artist at the show, so those issues, while sad, didn't effect me as an attendee so of course I was going to go to this month's con and yes, I was still pretty excited about it.

On Saturday we woke up rather early. I got my kiddos dressed for their day with their grandparents, got myself decked out in my cosplay outfit for the day, loaded our car and hit the road. I checked the con page a few times on the way there mostly looking for photos of the celebrity guests because, like I said, I was excited, but there were no updates about anything at that time. When we got there, parking was insane, but we were use to that. We saw there was a line at 11am so my husband dropped me off near the back entrance, and left to park the car in Kmart's parking lot across the street. No biggie. That's where we park for every show. We stood in line for two hours wondering why the line was barely moving an inch in that time. It was hot out and it seemed like we were never getting in, but we were still excited. Some people were getting antsy and wondering why no one was letting anyone in line know what was going on. They came down through a few times to let those in line know that if they already had their tickets, they could go ahead and go to the other booth. I personally didn't mind the wait at that time, even though as I write this, I'm suffering from sun poisoning from being out in the sun while in line. Hey, sometimes you suffer for a little bit of fun. What can I say?

Finally someone from the line decided to go find out what was going on. He came back and told us that the tickets were old out and that they weren't letting anyone else in the doors. Of course, that was disappointing, but we figured we would wait and see if anyone associated with the con would come by and let us know if this was the case. I hopped on the con's Facebook page from my phone to see if there were any updates, but there were none. Not a single one. The comments section, however, was filled with people questioning the ticket situation and other's commenting, letting attendees know what we were told was going on. Eventually, two people came through, one was a member of the 501st and the other was a man with a SCC lanyard. Both told all of us in line (and this is a direct quote) "Tickets for today are all sold out. We still have tickets for tomorrow if you would like to come back tomorrow."

At that point, a large group of around 40-50 people walked away from the front of the line, pretty irate as you can imagine. I have no idea how many left behind us, but enough left that we went from being about 8 yards from the corner of the building, to being around the front of the building. More people left as we stood there so we got pretty close to the ticket booths pretty quickly at that point. While standing there, I checked the con's Facebook page once again and there still was no announcement of any wait or of them being at capacity. So naturally, when people were asking because some were driving from out of state for the show, other's were letting them know exactly what we were told by the people the con had walking the line. I was one of those people. I didn't want others to drive all that way and then find out when they got there what exactly was happening. I felt like they deserved to know what was going on so that they could decide if Saturday was worth trying for or if they should order tickets for the next day.

While we were in line, a group of furries (I'm serious), were flagging people down coming out of the convention and offering to pay them for their used wrist bands. They pulled glue sticks out of their bags and glued them on right in front of two of the security guards they had outside and many of the con staff that were walking the line. They were in line with us the entire time, and they just walked in with wrist bands from the middle of the line. You can't honestly tell me that security and staff didn't realize what was going on. It's not like these people were hard to miss. One of the guys who was with them, didn't even glue his wrist band on! He walked right in with it just merely draped over his wrist. The female security guard waved him right through and he walked right in the door.

We did manage to get in and get the two autographs we wanted, but when we walked in, we saw that they were beyond capacity. I'm sure the convention has an estimate of how many people can safely be in the building, but I'm not entirely sure they factored in tables because moving through there was impossible. Imagine being squished shoulder to shoulder from one wall to another and everyone trying to move around all at once. No bueno. Julie Benz signed my Dexter set and she was an absolute angel which cheered us up a bit after things didn't look so good from outside in line. We hurried to Tony Todd's table but waited about 20 minutes so he could make a phone call. I got to talk to Mick Foley a few times while waiting for Tony and the woman at his table apologized for the wait, but myself, my husband, and the guy behind us let her know that it was all good. I wasn't even impatient. I was just excited to meet Tony Todd. I would have waited hours for him to get back to his table. I already did that once, at Monster Mania. I stood in line for 4 hours for one autograph from a Walking Dead cast member. When he (Tony) showed up, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest and I started shaking. That's a reaction I never expected to have and it was the first time it's ever happened in all the years of meeting people. I was *that* excited.

Once we got our quick autograph, we pretty much booked it out of there because the thought of trying to get through to look at things gave me severe anxiety. There were just way too many people. We were pretty bummed because we love buying things from the vendor and artist area! There were a couple of vendors and artists that we were hoping to buy things from that day, but we couldn't take the crowd. As many others felt the same way. Some didn't even make it in the door. They had the front doors wide open a few times and people would look in, shake their heads, and go right back to their vehicle and leave.

Much later on, while we were out shopping, I checked the con page to see if there were still any announcements or to see if the line maybe was moving quicker and was shocked to see I had been banned from interaction with the con's Facebook page. At that point, because of course, horror stories have been floating around since the last one, I started to wonder if those stories were true. There was absolutely no reason for me to be banned since I didn't say anything negative and I was just passing along the info we were given in line by the staff.

Of course, I made a Facebook post letting all my friends know I had been banned for stating what we were told in line. I also added that  another convention we went to was cheaper and have never turned away attendees. I have no affiliation with either of these conventions, but I've been to a lot of them and I generally will recommend them based on how they treat the attendees. Things got a bit heated real quickly when the promoter of the con called me a thief for getting tickets from another couple, which admittedly, we were wrong for doing. However, when I pointed out to him about what happened with his staff letting the furries in, he then called me a liar.

I'm not the only one who witnessed the security and staff let them in. My sister-in-law, Figment Costuming (as well as about 40 other people in line) watched this happen.

I admit that my anger did get the best of me and I had used some colorful language that didn't really make the situation much better.  Realistically, this would not have been blown to massive proportions (and it certainly was as the other con shared my post and promoted it, which I had absolutely nothing to do with and wasn't aware of until it happened) if the promoter maybe had addressed these issues instead of hiding them. I wasn't the only one who was banned. Screen shots tell a bigger story than I ever could:







This is only the ones I could see from searching Steel City Con on Facebook. I'm sure there are many more that are on profiles set to friends only. 

The ticket situation could have been avoided if they had not pre sold tickets online clear up to the moment the doors opened. At 9:59 an artist posted about doors opening to a sold out show. They knew they sold out before the doors even opened,  and had they sent emails or publicly posted this to their Facebook page, we would not have got up so early, got dressed in costumes, drove two hours and spent money on the gas to find out we would be standing in line for that long. Not that there was anything wrong with that if you did want to, and yes people did get in after a while, but it would have been great to know that so we could have made that choice before making the drive. Yes, we should have pre ordered, we usually do, but we had been so busy lately with other things (life, children, home, work) that it slipped my mind until we were already out the door. If you pre ordered and didn't have a physical paper (but had it on your phone with your order number), police officers escorted you to a holding area like you were a criminal or some sort of animal. I was saddened to hear of that going on, and I can only imagine how those people felt. Knowing that, it didn't seem that pre ordering would have made a difference since we wouldn't have been able to print ours either and use our phone for a lot of our tickets because we are less likely to forget our phones than we would be our tickets. 

The most irate moment of the entire thing was when they came through the line saying they were at capacity, but as soon as they would say that, we would watch more pre-sale holders walk right in the door. If you are at capacity, why are you letting more people in? They would continue saying this to us and we would continue watching people walk right in after being told this and had to wonder exactly what was going on. I will say that the food truck they provided handled the situation very well. They came through with cold drinks for sale (pretty cheap I might add) and a tablet to take orders for food to be delivered to you in line. I did find it funny that they made sure to mention that they were doing this on their own and both of these gestures had not been requested by the convention staff. That's extremely sad in it's own right, in my opinion. 

As for how the promoter handled things on my personal Facebook page, I have never witnessed any respectable "professional" conduct themselves in that manner. Generally, when faced with a displeased patron, business owners will either stay silent or say something along the lines of

"We are very sorry you were inconvenienced in this way and are striving to come up with a much better way to handle larger crowds for future cons. We would like to discuss your experience further and encourage you to contact us. Your support is very important to us. Without our fans, we wouldn't be where we are today"
Usually, when you are nice to your customers, even in times when they are rather angry with you, you can butter them up with being kind right back. After all, businesses that have good customer service and listen to customer concerns are better businesses and continue to grow by leaps and bounds.

Since my post had been shared all over the place (once again, not my intention for it to be shared by anyone other than my friends to their mutual friends), I've received a ton of support and surprisingly a ton of messages from other's, both vendors as well as attendees, about how they had been treated this weekend as well as in the past.

In the same breath, I'm also being harassed and threatened by those associated with Steel City Con.

I'm not here to tell you that you should or shouldn't attend this convention. I'm here telling you the story of many, many people, as well as myself, so that you can be informed of what exactly you may be supporting by attending this convention. I never put any thought into the negative things I had seen and heard about this convention over the years and continued to throw money their way every few months. However, after all of this, and taking a real good look at the accounts of others, I just cannot promote this convention anymore, nor will I be funding it in any way. Which is a shame, considering they announced Jeremy London for August's show and I've so badly wanted to meet him ever since I was a teenager. At this point, they could get Norman Reedus and I still wouldn't even consider going back. Not after the way I was (am still being) treated.


4 comments:

  1. After reading all this, I'm surprised that you didn't order your tickets ahead of time. You certainly seemed excited about going. I go to a number of festivals and cons. But whenever I am given the opportunity (especially if I am driving a good distance) I always get my tickets ahead of time. Also with the time I save I get to enjoy better seats at Q&As and often am in the first 10 people in line to get autographs.

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    1. I mentioned in my post why we didn't get them ahead of time. We forgot all about it as we were walking out the door. Once we got there, and saw the way they treated those who pre ordered their tickets but didn't have the physical paper (just their confirmation on their phone), we were skeptical it would have made much of a difference.

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    2. I doubt it would matter if you had tried to order ahead of time. They give priority in this order: three-day passes, then two-day passes, then day tix only. They treat day ticket holder like dirt, too, reserving a majority of seats in the celebrity forum / Q&A panels for three-day and two-day pass holders, and they get first crack at entering the room. If there are seats or standing room spaces left, then and only then do one-day tix get it. Also, FYI, the 501st will no longer be working the con as the promoter told them that they had to be exclusive to SCC and could not work ANY other events or they would be subject to same rules as other vendors (only two passes per table, only one chair and if vendor table wants more chairs, they are not allowed to bring in extras from outside, they have to pay promoter $25 per extra chair per day...) - and the 501st said "No thanks, we will accept other event appearances as we see fit," so promoter told them that they would be getting two and only two "free" passes per con from now on and if they had more than two members show up, then every extra member would have to buy their own tickets at full box-office rate. The guy is a money grubbing douchebag and deserves to have his glorified garage sale start losing customers when word begins to leak out at how he treats both customers AND vendors (and people like the 501st and Rebel Legion, all of whom worked on a volunteer basis and drummed up business for the con and kept people in line entertained while they waited to get inside).

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    3. Honestly, since all this has happened, you would not believe the amount of messages I get in my inbox about pretty much the exact same thing. I've also been to two other conventions since this one and oh boy! The things I heard from vendors who were talking to me directly (that didn't even know who I was) as well as things I overheard them telling each other about SCC was pretty eye opening. This, coupled with the current ongoing situation I am in with the promoter personally, I am going to say that I've learned a heck of a lot of things that have made myself and others give a little disapproving head shake. I'm not at all surprised to hear of the 501st situation. They were the only ones letting anyone know what was going on inside the convention that day and with the tickets. After all that and then to get treated like they were? Ugliness. The 501st is a non profit organization that works on volunteer basis. They are required to do so many shows or events a year. For him to think he owns them is appalling. However, this is not the first I've heard of this happening. I know of vendors who were told the exact same thing. Either they do that convention exclusively or they are banned from ever attending again. You ever wonder why they don't have a review section on their facebook page and other conventions do? You ever wonder why you only see good things written on their facebook page, yet so many people publicly talking about having a bad experience there? You ever wonder you only see certain vendors and artists there one time and then never again? You ever wonder why literally every other convention in Pennsylvania allows fliers for other conventions, yet you never see SCC fliers or see other convention fliers at SCC? Think about it. Take all the time you need.

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