Photo by Jay Boni.
Neil Greenaway (of Nerd Team 30) writes for Bleeding Cool –
It gets hot in Phoenix. On Friday, it reached all the way up to 113 degrees. So the attendees of Phoenix Comicon 2016 were understandably upset when the registration line to enter the convention was moved outside, with people having to wait in that line for hours. We had the chance to see the line (it was huge) and talk to some of the folks who were waiting. Standing in the sun for too long was not the only trouble for most people. There were panels being missed while the line went nowhere. Pre-purchased autographs and photos were going unclaimed as the celebrity booth times came and went. We spoke to more than one person who left, deciding that getting into the convention center was not worth this kind of treatment. On Saturday morning, Convention Director Matt Solberg addressed the issue on Facebook, stating:
Hi all, Convention Director Matt Solberg here.
I am sorry and offer my apologies to all those we made wait outside for as long as we did during registration today. There are no excuses for it.
There was not one single cause for our lines, and I agree with all those who say, “You should have known better.” Yes, yes we should have. For as much as I like to think we get right during our show, when an aspect of the show goes wrong, it tends to go wrong in a big way.
We had children, cosplayers, families, elderly, and those with medical or mobility issues waiting outside in what is close to record heat. That it took us to nearly four o’clock to fully resolve with no lines outside does not make it any better.
We had people miss photo ops, autograph sessions, and panels they wanted to see. We had people who chose not to attend Phoenix Comicon after arriving, despite their past enjoyment of our show and their initial excitement to come.
I have read the emails sent to me over these lines, and am working on responding to them. I’ve read the comments on Facebook and personally heard complaints during our show.
I am sorry, and I know my apology as Founder and Convention Director of Phoenix Comicon will only go so far to alleviate any physical or emotional pain suffered by us making you wait outside in the heat.
A series of decisions we made in our operations and tech infrastructure in the months prior to the convention that were logical and thought out at the time became bad decisions and probably outright mistakes today.
For the first year we implemented our own network system. As we hit and then expanded our bandwidth we realized our database was also getting hit 100% of capacity. These two issues compounded to periodically shut down our capability to scan the barcodes on pre-purchased memberships and our ability to process credit card sales for those buying on site. In past years both aspects worked and we could handle our attendance and traffic flow. This year they became a bottleneck which slowed or stopped our lines.
As we worked to correct these systems we also had to correct having everyone wait outside. We were aware our attendance would be up today though still less than attendance during a typical Saturday at Phoenix Comicon. Clearly we were not prepared with proper line systems in the pre-function area outside of Registration.
It sounds simple as I type to say “We had to switch our entrance and exiting process while clearing out the pre-function lobby, set up stanchions in a line control pattern within the space, and inform our staff, paid security, and Convention Center personnel of these changes as we’re making the changes and have all working in tandem” but there is a time lag as decisions are discussed, simply to avoid making the situation even worse.
Our network and database issues were resolved around 3pm, we had our line system changed by 3:15pm, and by 4pm we had most, if not everyone, inside who had been waiting outside.
We continued to implement improvements today to avoid a repeat tomorrow on Saturday or on Sunday. While I’d like to guarantee this will never happen again, I’m all too aware that in 2010 we made people wait outside in the heat during Registration and in 2011 we made people wait for over two hours to get through our Registration line (granted – it was inside in 2011).
I’ve always been open when things go wrong and when we make mistakes and today is no different. I know there will be suggestions on what we should have done, and I look forward to reading and hearing them all. I know this post and apology won’t answer everyone’s questions or alleviate everyone’s concerns. I remain available to those who wish to contact me directly. Email me at email@example.com.
I am proud of how our team, Convention Center personnel and service providers, the Downtown Ambassadors, the City of Phoenix Police department and the City of Phoenix Fire department all responded to assist and help. There were attendees who watched and helped each other and I appreciate the excitement from those who once they got their badge couldn’t wait to go explore our show.
I am confident we will not have similar issues the rest of this weekend and that any new issues that arise will be corrected more quickly.
I don’t have a problem with making mistakes. We are human, we make the best decisions we can, and sadly, mistakes happen. It’s what we do when a mistake happens that defines my own integrity and sense of service to others. I own up to our mistakes, I apologize, I seek to correct the mistake, and I strive to not repeat it. That we have fostered a similar culture within Phoenix Comicon is important to me as it ultimately makes us a better show.
Thank you to all those who braved the heat and the lines to attend and enjoy Phoenix Comicon. We have two great days behind us and two more ahead of us. I look forward to seeing you all throughout the weekend, and thank you for your support and taking the time to read this apology.
Admitting the problem is a grand gesture. But have they fixed it?