One vendor attending Artists Alley at Jack O’Con, at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Albuquerque, which was cancelled mid-event over the weekend tells their story.
I was an Artist in Artist Alley for Jack O’ Con 2013, and two of my close friends booked a booth there also. We’re local to Albuquerque, NM. This was our first convention being behind a booth however it’s not put a damper on our view whatsoever of conventions in general as we’ve gone as attendees for years to several others.
Jack O’ Con was scheduled for October 31st through November 3rd- promoted entirely as a Halloween event bringing over elements of Steampunk, Horror, Anime and Comic influences; each day having a theme to it. I’d also like to say that when I refer to the “staff” of Jack O’ Con I do mean in reference to the people running the convention itself and not the volunteer staff or local sponsors, because they were absolutely great but sadly mixed up in this mess as well.
Apparently a lot of distrust of the convention’s quality transpired via their Facebook page relatively recently, aside from a voice actor or two that left a string of messages claiming contracts being broken with booking him, which I do not have an account on that website, so was unable to see those warning signs.
Considering that, within the few days prior to the convention starting, my friend that booked a booth as well, saw on their facebook that there was an announcement post for a last minute meet up for Artists of Jack O’ Con to go visit a Gallery together on Wednesday Oct. 30th from 7-10PM; not disclosing that the event was a Gallery featuring THE artists of Jack O’ Con only, not just local artists as we’d assumed it would be.
While there and conversing with the people looking around in the Gallery, (which the Gallery itself was wonderful as was it’s staff), we found that everyone in there had been contacted by the Jack O’ Con staff in advance to get a select amount of their work to feature at the Gallery until November 4th. They did not contact me, or the two friends of mine that also had booked booths in the Artist Alley; both during the “Early Bird” time frame of this summer.
Soon we found the self-proclaimed Assistant Director of Jack O’ Con and had her mistake us as potential attendees, we corrected her that we were booked Artists for this convention, and she laughed it off that she forgot we were members of the Alley and therefore left out of the Gallery and the e-mail they sent Artists to send their select pieces to the Gallery and so on.
We asked her what time set up would be to confirm and she responded with “whenever” giggling around like this was a game. We asked her if Artists should come at the same time as vendors at the allotted 10AM they’d mentioned in the ONE e-mail response I’d received and she said she did not know. She gave us a business card of hers, and laughingly told us that after this weekend not to contact her via the phone number mentioned on the card because she would not be answering it after this. Which I deemed as utterly unprofessional after having had such bad contact with them already.
We then walked around and confirmed with others that they would be showing up around 10AM since that’s the only time any staff mentioned; and found out that Artists and Vendors were not to set up to sell until Friday at 10AM instead of Thursday at 10AM making this the first big scheduling change.
Thursday we showed at 10AM to pick up badges. The majority of out of town Artists, Vocal Talent and other Guests were unable to get into their hotel rooms that Jack O’ Con had booked for them, and the convention staff was calling the hotel unreasonable and playing it off as something miniscule of a mistake to cause their rooms to be off limits.
Artists that were able to get into their rooms or that were local or had traveled on their own dime who did not know about the staff pushing back the set up of the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley until Friday were waiting to be let into the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley sections, and the staff said they had not gotten a “key” to be let into those rooms and we had to wait it out until they did.
The majority of those waiting on hotel rooms mentioned did not get into their rooms until around 4PM, after a pending payment of some sort went through from Jack O’ Con to the Crowne Plaza hotel.
Artists and Vendors did not ever get let in on Thursday and they did not have badges ready for pick-up as they said they would be, we arrived Friday morning at 10AM and found the same situation of being unable to get into the room to set up yet again except this time all vendors and artists were left waiting in the hotel hall with their items in tubs and ready to be unpacked for hours.
It wasn’t until the afternoon that we got let in and the Jack O’ Con staff did not even ask for I.D. or a printed receipt of any purchases of a booth when having us filter in one by one to set up. I’d asked the main guy, Matthew Shoemaker, or “Nyte”, of Dark Cool Productions to pull up his Paypal records or where ever he was keeping a list of his registered booths if he needed to check my I.D. for validity and he did not want to do so. Luckily from what I could notice most artists I’d talked to had proof of purchase on them ready to go at least, though not needed apparently.
The staff had no floor plan, and the booths were not even unfolded, about five to ten booked booth members were without tables and the staff continued to convince artists to move themselves around the room despite being in the midst of unpacking their belongings.
Eventually things calmed down even though the staff made makeshift booths by combining hotel provided tables and putting table top covers over them to look tidy, and by moving some vendors into the hall sections even though they had been told they had Dealer’s Room spots. Not to neglect to mention that many of the booths provided were not the 8ft length (or the 20 x 20 ft vendor spots) some paid EXTRA to have, instead of the standard 6ft that was an option at a lower booking price initially.
They closed the Dealer’s Room around 8-8:30PM and there had barely been any sort of attendee traffic to go through. No booth could have possibly broke even, with this one day of being open. There was maybe around thirty people that wandered the floor that day most of which were not looking to spend any money.
Friday night there was some sort a “13 and Up Rave” as printed on their horrifically stapled together convention schedule booklet, that forgot to print the names of half the artists and vendors in it, along with being littered with misspellings, and the staff supposedly had brought in outdoor alcohol and was selling it at $2 a pop to those who wanted it.
I’d packed up my booth and was heading out of the hotel when the “Nyte” fellow urged me to go and get some drinks, in which I declined politely as I’m a month shy from twenty-one.
There was alcohol found in the room downstars where this ‘rave’ was taking place, the Jack O’ Con staff claims to have had some sort of a license to have been selling the liquor to attendees. I’m unsure whether or not any minors did get access to the alcohol directly from any staff but some artists that attended the nightly activities said they themselves were not asked for I.D. when purchasing.
Saturday morning we went to set up at 10AM again and were thinking the situation of a morning meltdown in the hall would have cooled for good, but found it to have smoked our halls again. We were unable to get ahold of any staff members to find out what the ordeal was this time. The volunteers were unaware of the situation as well it seemed.
It was several hours later that we got let in briefly, then we were told that we all had to get our stuff out of the hotel entirely and leave- not by the hotel workers but by the Jack O’ Con staff, and their reasoning as to why remained vague. Jack O’ Con also did the same to their Guests, however the hotel itself did not kick anyone out of their rooms that agreed to pay for their hotel bill, as Jack O’ Con had not followed through to do so.
For those that wanted to leave the hotel and find a cheaper place they were more than willing to accommodate them with recommendations of more affordable places seeing as the guests were not anticipating paying for their stay that Jack O’ Con allegedly was going to pay for. The hotel was not pushing any vendors or artists or guests to leave in any sort of hurry, as they understood that this was not our fault in any manner, and they ever were offering to help carry things to cars if needed; at least in my own case I can say that.
After packing up my booth and helping out whoever needed it around me, I went up and down the rows of the Dealer’s Room and Artists Alley gathering business cards and contact information for those that were booked of Jack O’ Con, to have in order to see to it that we all get refunded for this disastrous event one way or the other for those that were interested in doing so or at least seeing to it that this “Nyte” guy does not run any more conventions if we can help that.
I found it very unsettling that a lot of Artists did not think they had the right to ask for a refund, until I pointed out that by they paid for an event that did not follow through and the Jack O’ Con staff broke seemingly limitless lines of what is acceptable at a convention and how to treat not only their booth holders but their guests they requested to be there.
Myself and another vendor are planning to file disputes via Paypal to get our refund, as the convention founder “Nyte” gave artists varying answers to whether or not he would be giving back refunds, the only time he mentioned the possibility was with the addition of the phrase “…well, a percentage of it,” which is unacceptable considering many traveled from out of state now on their own penny to get here to an event that proved to bring no buck to the table.
He also would occasionally toss in the option to have alternative upcoming conventions give vendors and artists who complained a “free” booth to inaccessible conventions; two conventions he mentioned have already been completely booked for next year, I know because one of them, Albuquerque Comic Expo, I have a booth at next summer, the second openly announced booked full online, and another he mentioned had been announced as cancelled weeks ago.The others mentioned I’m unsure of their availability in booth space however I sincerely do not think that they would have the funds to offer free booths, although ONE convention has offered a slight discounted rate for next year to Jack O’ Con Artist Alley + Vendor members to those that have badges from it; but that was out of their own deciding I do believe.
I contacted Matthew who told me there would be a full explanation to come, but that he has been advised for legal reasons not to give one now. We will be receiving an official statement at some point, which we will run…