Old 08-08-2017, 11:39 PM
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Default Convention Gripes

Hello all,

So as we are nearing the end of the peak convention season and most, if not all of us have been to a convention at some point in time, let's hear your gripes. After all, there is no perfect convention. They all have something they could improve on. So please name the particular convention or conventions, the issue or issues you've had there, and IF you have come up with a solution, tell us what/how you think they should either add, remove, change, improve etc... to solve that particular problem/problems. Maybe they might even hear you and make the necessary changes. We can only hope ^_^.

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Old 08-09-2017, 10:47 PM
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J-kun J-kun is offline
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The only problem I ran into may not have been the fault of the Convention or hotel, but my 2nd & last (just too far and I can't travel on my own now) trip to Anime Central, in 2008, there was confusion about the hotel room.

First, the friend I was meeting was relying on others for our room, and we arrived the night before the room was available (I know there was miscommunication between my friend and her friends about when to book the room for). Luckily, someone put us up for the night, but I didnt know anyone other than my friend, so I'm not sure if my friend knew them or they were just a nice stranger.

The next day was more of a mess. The room number we got was interpreted 2 ways. My friend, whom I was obliged to follow, knowing noone else, heard it wrong and noone heeded my questioning if the room number was heard correctly. We wound up putting our stuff in a room that matched what was heard and happened to be open, and no one listened when I suggested testing the key card that turned out not to match. After either getting our Badges or wondering the Con for a few hours (can't remember which), we came back and couldn't get in. I think we got someone from the hotel to let us in and get our stuff, and I think someone else had claimed the room. Luckily, my stuff was fine, but my friend and her boyfriend complained about missing stuff.

I don't remember the name of the hotel. I may not have been told it and just met my friend at the convention center.

I guess a change the hotel could make was to make sure unoccupied rooms' doors are always closed & locked, not left cracked. I can't fault the hotel for the miscommunication of the room number, because some of the group did hear it correctly (and they went to the correct room), as did I. I don't know if my friend ever found her missing stuff.

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Last edited by J-kun; 08-09-2017 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:50 AM
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LadyLibrarian LadyLibrarian is offline
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So - You're about to get an earful about something I'm very passionate about - traditional formal dances and what makes them formal (The Emily Post Standard). There are remarkably few dances these days that meet said standard and fewer still that I can either afford to attend or can attend in formal cosplay. I will probably be disgruntled and upset about this for ... well, years. I hold a grudge like nobody's business when someone is rude and lies to me. So if the below offends, please do not read - I realize my emotions are probably not as logical on this as they should be.
I do feel like I can speak somewhat authoritatively on the subject of formal balls and event planning for a number of reasons. I am cotillion trained. I have attended more formal dances in my life to date than most people will in their entire lives. I regularly am required to do event planning for work for both events of the size of the ball and larger. I do in fact work with the AWA hotel and convention center as my paid daily job. I know what their prices and menu options are.

So behold, The Saga of the Fall of the AWA Formal Ball from my Previously High Regard

The main gripe I've had with a convention (semi-recently) was with AWA over the past several years.
Specifically, their formal ball, their un-announce changes to the existence of the dinner at their formal ball, and their reaction to the attendee fallout from said un-announced changes.
I attended my first Anime Weekend Atlanta in 2005. I've not missed an AWA since then. So when I tell you that, up until AWA 2013, the formal ball at AWA was my absolute favorite part of the entire convention, know that I'm not just talking out of my bum without experience or care.
The formal ball and the dinner served at the formal ball, was something that I literally dreamed about and looked forward to all year long.
My friends and I all recommended it with the strongest possible praise to other attendees.
I personally purchased several ball tickets for friends who were otherwise on the fence about attending - I was absolutely willing to put my money where my mouth was.
So when we showed up to the 2013 Formal Ball and the hot meal which had been served at the ball for the past 8 years was nowhere to be found, I was, quite simple very deeply upset.
Given that it had been served for the past 9 years and that there was no change in the verbiage on their website, my friend group and I had skipped lunch in anticipation of the delights regularly found and enjoyed previously.
In short, when you suggest "dinning and dancing until midnight" without even the traditional punch bowls, and serve only bread (most of which was stale), cheese, fruit, and cookies (which were so cheaply made that you could taste the chemical preservatives through the chocolate and dough) where is the formality and where is the dining?
Changing from the traditional Beef Wellingtons, Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Skewers, Blue Cheese and Walnut Endive Boast, and a whole desert buffet - all of which were made of a much higher quality ingredients in general than what was served at the ball in 2013 - to what was served was informal and ungentlemanly.
Beyond merely the change in menu, the fact that there was no mention of the change anywhere on AWA's website or program, was rude and improper.

The previous dinner fair was what made the formal ball meet the Emily Post standards for a formal ball - getting rid of it means you simply have an informal dance - It could have been a middle school sock hop for all the formality AWA decided to grace it with that year.
Now, I could quote you chapter and line of Emily Post's Guide to Manners, both the 1922 version and the 1975 version, regarding what defines a formal ball vs. any other type of dance event - Emily Post is mostly regarded as the gold standard for such things.
I could also quote you forum and post pre-2013 (no longer existent on the internet) of Mr. Jason Merrill of various titles of the years, regarding why their ball absolutely is a formal ball and why they will turn away under-dressed cosplayers at the door. Unfortunately, shortly after this debacle, the AWA website forums disappeared into the ether.
But this isn't a formal academic paper, and I doubt anyone from the AWA staff is ever actually going to read this to care about the above, so let's go into the continuing saga of the fall of the AWA Formal Ball.
There are many sides to the fallout of this, I intend to mention all of the ones that I am aware of.
While my cosplay group and I were at the ball in 2013 - we tracked down Mr. Merrill, who at that point in time, I believe, was "in charge" of the ball. We laid out complaints at his feet and asked if, perhaps, the kitchens at the hotel were non-functional? Was this a last minute emergency or a deliberate insult? He insisted that it was merely a bagatelle, a small error on the part of the con that would be corrected in earnest the next year. He apologized and specifically said it would be fixed. He said everything that it was appropriate to say - he is indeed a gracious gentleman in person with a real flair for PR and knowing what to say to defuse tempers in person.
We specifically made the point that if cost was a problem, we considered the previous years ball easily worth two to three time the ticket price and would have paid it gladly.
He appeared to be truly apologetic and understanding of our frustration and disappointment.
When various members of my extended friend group ran into him at other conventions in late 2013 and early to mid 2014, he reiterated that the ball would be restored to it's former glory, formality, and menu.
He was blatantly lying to all of our faces.
Given all of the above, several people attended closing ceremonies to express their deep dissatisfaction with the changes to the ball and the conventions lack of notification to attendees
These complaints were officially recorded as "Ball food was not as lavish as previous year" - this is not accurate to the complaints given and is nearly an insult in and of itself.
A more accurate reordering would have been "Ball food was poor quality, stale, and unbefitting of any formal event."
In late 2014, the AWA website announced the official theme of the ball and posted a "menu" for the event, fancy descriptions of what was served last year - satisfying the minor portion of our complaint (no notification)
In that website update, they raised the price of the ticket by 80%.
Someone also made a post on the official AWA website in response to the ball complaints - it was the most picture perfect example of being both pissy and patronizing at the same time - they said that the hotel had significantly raised their food prices and AWA had to both lower their quality and raise their ticket price in regards to the hotels actions. They accused the complainers of being trolls and non-attendees who simply wanted to stir the pot and start drama and said that no one who didn't volunteer with the con should be allowed to complain about the changes.
In response to those actions and that post, a lot of cosplayers I know were very understandably ANGRY.
Several of us, as young professionals with PR and event planning experience got together and we drafted a letter.
I did most of the writing on that letter and it's probably the best piece of writing that I have done in my entire life.
It was nearly a formal academic paper - with quotes from Emily Post, Pricing information from the Hotel/Convention Center, Publicly available pricing data from previous years of AWA, and an awful lot of other information.
Those of us with event planning experience also got together to draft up all of the necessary information, tools, names/contact information, and several possible drafts if AWA wanted to run a sponsorship campaign to fund the ball.
Given that three of us had experience running sponsorship campaigns for similar events raising multiple thousands of dollars, we did an awful lot of work for free to at least attempt to provide a possible option. While we didn't know the specifics of AWA's contract with their host hotel and convention center, we knew what such agreements generally said for other such events - it would take a very unusual contract to forbid any and all sponsorship and most clauses which would do such would also no allow for a dealers room.
We did, however, want to get more information to see if it truly was just the few of us who were disappointed and angry, or if a good percentage of the ball attendees agreed with us. Our lying eyes told us that we had seen people abandoning the ball in droves last year, but we didn't have any hard numbers on it.
Someone suggested making an informal petition/poll to gather this data.
That's… probably what created the giant shitstorm of those next few days.
The petition went live, was shared to many people's facebook pages and several unofficial AWA pages, and within minutes, it felt like something exploded.
We were accused of trying to convince people to boycott the ball when were not remotely talking about doing anything to stratified as a formal boycott.
Someone claiming to be related to Jason Merrill, showed up on my friend's facebook page to … basically call everyone involved with it bitches and whores in nasty and explicit language. Other people claiming to be staff members piled on to call us all whiny teenagers living in our parents basements without any idea how much work was involved in this sort of thing and to try to argue that Jane Austen was far more knowledgeable than Emily Post and Jane would have approved of the ball so we should just all go jump in a mudpit. Other people thought that everyone involved ought to be blacklisted from the ball and possibly the con as a whole.
The attitude of the staff involved turned on a time from "We're sorry you feel that way" which while polite did nothing to "You bitches don't know what you're talking about, shut the #$&*( up."
We still sent the (slightly amended) letter via snail mail to Jason Merrill, but never received a response. In the letter, we did sincerely apologize if what we thought of as a logical attempt to generate more data was regarded as offensive.
We have not been back to the ball since then.
While they have made some changes, the staff reaction is still disturbing to me and has let to AWA feeling less and less like my home convention.
Now, perhaps the people being vulgar who claimed to be "on staff" were lying about being on staff, but they communicated a very clear message of "We don't actually care about the people who attend this function".
Now that I have experience working with the AWA hotel and convention center and have seen their policies for price increases among other things - I can see that likely the problem was far more that someone higher up with AWA significantly reduced the balls budget, rather than it simply being a super increase in price. I can still purchase the options from the hotel that were available with the original balls. In fact, those menu options are now a favorite with many members of my company.
Missing the old ball is still an occasional pain in my heart to this very day, and they've made a number of changes to it and to it's formal since 2013, but I doubt I will ever be able to trust them enough to purchase tickets and attend again. Given the aftermath, it's just not worth it to me. So my formal cosplays will remain on hangers in the back of my closet for things like the irregular Momocon formal dances and the Silver Millenium Masquerade Ball. But maybe, someday, I'll be more inclined to look back on this with nostalgia and wistfulness instead of bile and distrust.
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Old 08-17-2017, 09:01 PM
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Augos Augos is offline
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Posts: 90

The lines are too damn long and stupid.

If you get in line early, you're going to wait hours. If you get in line late, you're going to wait even more hours and might even miss whatever you were in line for. Many lines are so long the staff just tells you to get out of line because you're not gonna get whatever you lined up for, it will be over by the time you get there. These hours could have been spent doing other things.

At Anime Expo the entrance line was outside in the L.A. sun. I should have prepared a parasol or something but because it was my first time I didn't think about it. That line alone was 2 hours (even with pre-registration I think), and their computer system was down so we had to sign papers by hand. There were dozens of empty fancy computer stations sitting there being useless. Wonder how much money was wasted on that. And I saw people cut in line. I might've told some people they cut me but I don't remember. Security had enough time to tell me not to go in certain doors in a mean way (a job which a printed-out sign could do) but they don't have time to police the lines? BS! Good thing my brother was with me because how else are you going to save your spot when you need to go to the bathroom or something?

At the S.F. Japantown J-Pop festival the English voice actresses for K-On! were signing autographs. This guy in front of me wanted them to sign literally 30 to 40 pieces of merchandise. I felt like yelling at him and pushing him onto the street (it was a street fair) but I quietly waited my turn. I just wanted 1 autograph (which I did get). The signed poster hangs on my door since.

At one Anime Expo panel I took matters into my own hands. There was a line to see huke, the man who created Black Rock Shooter. The Expo security staff (who are a third party security company) told me and my brother to get out of line because there was no way we would get a seat. I got out of line with the intent of getting back in somehow. I scoped out the convention room. I calculated the room's seats with the amount of people in line. I guessed there was more than enough seats. When the line started moving, my brother and I got back in line (without cutting) and hid from that mean security person's point of view as they were distracted talking to someone (maybe another person she was taking out of line). I got into the room and half of the room's seats were empty, so that bitch lied to us. I think she was just getting off on a power trip denying people access to things they cherished. Happy ending: we got to see huke draw live and heard him answer questions.

There needs to be some way to streamline the process so that more people get autographs and stuff like that. Authority resources need to be redistributed. Also something has to be done about these assholish security employees. I'm still dying inside from autographs and panels I missed because the lines were too long (by my own measurements, not by some mean security people).

Because of the long lines I practiced analyzing every piece of merchandise in the dealers' hall in a few hours. Lucky for me I don't care about the theaters or the artists' hall that much, otherwise I'd have no time to see everything I want.

Last edited by Augos; 08-19-2017 at 01:35 AM.
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:24 AM
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Default Gratz LadyLibrarian

Gratz LadyLibrarian,

You've won the Convention Gripes contest. Augos was a really strong candidate for the win (I agree, some of the third party hired security at these cons need to go). In fact just last month at Otakon, one security guard was acting like such an a-hole and condescending to me, I told him he was a f-ing moron who didn't know what the f he was doing, straight to his face.

Let me make it clear though, it WASN'T the volunteer staff security that actually work directly for Otakon (those guys are great, and are fellow Otaku who know how to treat people nicely), but it was those third party security companies that wear the blazers that Otakon pays to watch the doors (some of them are nice and really cool, but some of them are douchebags on a power trip).

Anyway, what put you over the top, LadyLibrarian, was the way you were lied to, then treated online by the AWA staff (if they were in fact staff, although seems like they were), and even possibly threatened with a ban from the Formal Ball and Convention, all for just voicing your opinion about something you were dissatisfied with (isn't that how things improve? Find out what the people don't like and fix/change it to make it better). And the fact that in the very beginning they didn't even have to courtesy to mention they were going to change the menu on their website before they did it (seems like they were hoping previous attendees would keep quiet, and new attendees wouldn't know the difference).

All they had to do was say in the very beginning ,on the website, "We are sorry, but because of hotel price increases, we won't be able to provide the same level of food we supplied at previous formal balls, we are currently trying to determine the best course of action for future formal balls, either a ticket price increase, to offset the increased costs of food, or keep the ticket price the same but offer a less expensive fare of consumables. We'd love to hear what YOU the PEOPLE would prefer. After all, we do this for you and want you to enjoy yourselves as much as we enjoy holding the formal ball. So drop us a line, and let your voices be heard, your opinion matters".

That's it, just be honest with your customers/patrons, it goes a long way. Deception on the other hand WILL eventually bite you on the butt. Something seems really fishy with that 80% price increase in 2014. In 2012 everything was fine, same price same food. Then in 2013 because of the hotel food price increase, they had to switch to cheaper food, so as not to increase your ticket price. Then in 2014, they increased the ticket price but still served the same cheap food? A few possible explanations I can come up with...

The hotel increased the food price in 2013 and then AGAIN in 2014 (seems unlikely there would be 2 consecutive years of the hotel increasing the food price)

AWA lost money in 2013 for the food, i.e. they didn't increase your ticket price, but they should have, because the 80% price increase was necessary just to offset the cost of the cheaper food because the cost of the more expensive food had increased by a HUGE amount (possible, but seems unlikely they would do the math incorrectly so they would lose money)

The hotel increased food prices tremendously in 2013, AWA switched to cheaper food just to break even (where previously, they were probably making a profit), then increased ticket prices in 2014 80% to be back at their previous profit margin (possible, but then the food price increase would have to be EXTREMELY LARGE like 160% increase in food costs, seems like a rather unlikely jump from 2012 to 2013).

The hotel increased food prices in 2013, AWA switched to cheaper food to remain at the same profit margin as in 2012, then raised ticket prices 80% in 2014 while still serving the cheaper food to be at an even bigger profit margin than in 2012 (this seems like the most likely scenario to me).

Either way, seems like with an 80% increase in ticket prices you should be back to eating beef wellington and not stale bread and STANKY ass cheese lol :P

Anyway, gratz again LadyLibrarian on your win this month.

P.S. I didn't know they serve food at formal balls. I've never been to one, just not my thing (lol, I'm a T-shirt and jeans type of guy). But wow, Beef Wellington? I wonder if they serve really fancy food at other convention's formal balls. I thought it was just people getting dressed up in formal attire and formal dancing (which I unfortunately don't know how to do either). Might just be worth putting on a penquin suit and learning ballroom dancing...then again...maybe not, lol, I'm such a lame Otaku.

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Old 09-11-2017, 04:29 PM
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LadyLibrarian LadyLibrarian is offline
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Yes. Per the 1922 Emily Post manners manual:
"A Ball is the only social function in America to which such qualifying words as splendor and magnificence can with proper modesty of expression be applied... provide[ing] dancing space for several hundred and sit-down supper space for a greater number still"
"The menu for a supper at a ball is entirely a matter of the hostess' selection, but whether it is served at one time or continuously, the supper menu at an important ball includes:
1. Bouillon or green turle (clear) in cups.
2. Lobster a la Newburg (or terrapin or oyster pate or another hot dish of shell-fish or fowl)
3. A second choice hot dish or some sort, squab, chicken and peas (if supper is served at a special hour) or croquettes and peas if continuous.
4. Salad, which includes every variety know, with or without an aspic.
5. Individual ices, fancy cakes.
6. Black coffee in little cups.
There is always an enormous glass bowl of punch or orangeade--sometimes two or three bowls each containing a different iced drink--in a room adjoining the ballroom. And in very cold climates it is the thoughtful custom of some hostesses to have a cup of hot chocolate or bouillon offered each departing guest."

Per the 1975 Emily Post:
"Although great private balls have become almost unheard of in recent years... the attraction of a ball is that it is very special and very elegant... a sit-down supper may be served by the caterer at a very elaborate ball, but a buffet super that begins... and continues for an hour or more is pleasanter and easier to manage... hot dishes are still served... [and] a variety of sandwiches, platters or cold meats and accompanying dishes... hot drinks such as coffee, chocolate, or bouillon, or bowls of iced fruit punch."

Dinner is a necessary and important part of any formal ball.
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