FanX 2018 – Day Two and Beyond

FanX logo

**Note: Language ahead.

English, with some French, and by French, I mean cursing.**

A little late, but here’s some notes on Day Two of FanX 2018 [Yes, I will get to both the positive and negative… relax, already] along with some overall impressions (Day Three and fallout):

FanX logo
FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention

Well, Day Two of FanX 2018 has come and gone, and while I lasted quite a bit longer than I did on Day One, it was still one of the most uncomfortable days I’ve ever spent in a convention center.

Let’s begin.

Ran into quite a few folks from either out-of-town or who were first time con-goers. Specifically, they were mostly of the opinion that they were having a great time, though a few folks were on the negative side. Nothing explosive, but perhaps they weren’t quite prepared for the crush of humanity or the line-waiting experience in all its glory.

Additionally, a lot of (read: most) folks didn’t know there was any sort of pre-show controversy going on. And on that note…

Friday, I came across Dan Farr being stopped by several groups of fans, some of whom were actually in tears thanking him for the event, as if he had somehow put it on just for them. That’s how touched they were by the experience.

That’s how an event like this is supposed to make people feel, I think. Perhaps, all else aside, a lot of us forget that in the rush to make it to see “our” celebrities and get “our” photos and “our” autographs to complete “our” collections or whatever. I find I must often include myself in this group.

In a strange way, the more I expect to “get” at a con, the less I feel I actually “got,” and more often I come away feeling like I missed something, or something was lacking.

Gratitude, is the word I’m looking for, I think; gratitude for what I–we–have here, or at any event, really.

And don’t worry, doomsayers; I’m getting to the negative bits, so cool your jets a minute.

Some run-of-the-mill issues that cropped up (patience, people; patience):

The ZipQ fiasco: aside from the kiosks not working on Thursday, the fact a lot of people were showing up as having ZERO ZipQ available is insane. Having to find a volunteer to reset their wristbands and arguing about how many they were supposed to have is equally insane. The ZipQ has run well for several events in a row, so what happened? The wristbands have proven themselves over many events, as well, so why, suddenly, did this system up and (pardon my French) shit the bed all of a sudden?

For the record, I used no ZipQs because I got to see ZERO panels, because of things (to be addressed later, perhaps).

I heard tales of woe from VIPs who couldn’t get into the ballroom panels because they were full, despite their waiting in line and being near the front, to boot!

Finally, it seems FanX will have to deal with the panel issue in a way that doesn’t include further stratification of fans. [I have previously addressed FanX’s panel issues HERE.]

There is going to come a time when FanX is forced to clear the ballroom between panels. It’s just going to have to happen. Between the now-exposed vulnerabilities of ZipQ, not to mention the campers, ballroom access is becoming a thing, and things are going to have to change, somehow, before they get completely out of hand.

Moving into celebrity row, let’s talk autographs. Two guests this time (that I know of) were pre-selling spots in their lines: Chuck Norris and David Tennant. While I have no problem with this, as it is an exceptionally effective way to control the crowds, it would have been nice to know going into the event. They didn’t have to actually pre-sell before the event, mind you, but letting people know that they were going to be pre-selling at the event, instead of having to find out through word-of-mouth would have been nice.

Communication. I know I’ve said that before.

Now… the big one.

Friday’s (and to a lesser extent, Saturday’s) photo-op debacle. [Please note that everything I’m about to write is based on what I saw and what I gathered from multiple sources. If anyone at FanX has a clarification, email me. Dan and Bryan, I’m talking to you.]

Well, apparently, Epic Photo Ops (whom I believe is the best in the con business, having seen some of the alternatives at other events) had a monumental meltdown of printers on Friday (as I understand it). This lead to 8 million people not being able to get their physical photos.

And that was after several scheduled photo ops were delayed due to the celebrities other activities and whatnot.

The early solution was to take all the delayed photos up to the balcony above the photo-op area so people could retrieve them there, unclogging the photo-op area. But…

… a lack of volunteers, or Epic folks, or even the photos themselves, along with several hundred people being crammed into an area not meant to hold that many… for hours…? Well, let’s just say that calamity ensued.

Please note, I was somewhat affected by this, as one of my (delayed) photo ops wasn’t printing, so after 15-20 minutes of waiting, I ran out to do another photo-op that was scheduled for RIGHTNOW. I wound up being able to pick that one up almost immediately, but received zero assistance in getting my previous one for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, I literally said, “fuck this. I’ll get it in the morning,” and went home, victim of too many hours and too much pain (see Day One) to mess with it. I was also completely unaware of the true scope of the issue at this time, and figured I’d just run to Epic customer service in the morning.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I got home for the night and checked Facebook. Wow.

Thankfully, I got my photo rather quickly on Saturday morning (as my celebrity’s pile was perhaps 20 deep), though I know others did not, as there were hundreds of photos for some celebrities.

Look, I don’t have the time or the patience to read every single horror-story/life-ending/event-ruining tale of woe that came out of Friday.

I get it.

We all get it.

It was massive.

It sucked.

It sucked hard.

It still sucked on Saturday, when an unrelated malfunction struck again, resulting in another round of delays and reprints.

I get it.

Remember a page up? I was in it.

So here’s what I’m going to say about it, based on what I KNOW, what I’ve EXPERIENCED at events around the county, and what I MIGHT HAVE DONE, based on my background:

  • Once the situation had been identified as likely (not confirmed, but likely) to be unfixable on Friday, FanX should have immediately said something along the lines of “photos for celebrity X, Y, and Z will not be printed today,” freeing up attendees to continue enjoying the rest of the event, instead of compounding the issue with unnecessary (and useless) waiting for photos which were not going to come. Gasoline-on-a-fire/insult-to-injury/insert-your-idiom-of-choice-here.
  • Photo pickups for X, Y, and Z should have begun prior to the floor opening the next morning to minimize the impact on attendees’ Day Three activities.
  • Immediately initiated a re-calculation of photo-op scheduling, to include whether over-booking is occurring (FYI: it is, industry-wide), and how to renegotiate with guests to accommodate possible changes, to include fewer photos being sold for one block, leading to shorter stints in the photo booth (to minimize over-crowding for “hot-ticket” celebs), but more scheduled times for photos (Two sessions per day instead of one, for example).

[You can read my breakdown of the insanity of photo-op scheduling HERE, using the Dick Van Dyke model.]

  • The addition of the digital copies was a welcome response, because what else could FanX, in fact, do to mitigate the situation? Nothing. Despite what the pitchfork and torch crowd are screaming. I supposed they could have stopped all photo-ops until the issue was resolved, but that would have just brought out a different mob. Scylla and Charybdis, my friends.

Saturday’s breakdown, though different in nature, should have resulted in similar actions. Epic would have been responsible for ensuring attendees received their photos in a timely manner, as it was their equipment malfunctions which precipitated the event.

I know Epic’s refund policy became pretty liberal once the feces hit the fan, but the impact of a problem like this isn’t just felt in the wallet, but in the heart. We all want perfect experiences from these events, and the bigger the disappointment, the longer the sting to the soul.

Communication. For easily the hundredth time in my coverage of five years of events here in Salt Lake: Communication.

But now, I’m tired of re-hashing the topic, as the conversation still rages on social media. Could this have gone better? Hells, yes. Epic should have been ready for a failure, but maybe this is one they didn’t see coming in any form. I don’t know; I don’t work for them.

Could FanX have done things better? Sure. Once the scope of the issue is known, it’s up to them to formulate a plan of action. Their earliest plan was a bust, and they seem to have taken too long to formulate another. But they did, finally.

People are tying to throw around the word “fault” in regards to this situation, but it’s not about fault, it’s about response. Honestly, a situation of this real/perceived magnitude has no response which will satisfy everyone (or anyone), but one is expected, nonetheless.

And it’s incredibly easy to armchair quarterback a response to a situation like this after the fact. Don’t pretend it isn’t, or that we don’t all do it.

[At this point, it might be easier for Epic to simply post every photo from Friday and Saturday online, searchable by celebrity and day, and let people find themselves, download it, and order a free 8×10.]

Now, I have no doubt there is a certain segment of the local population that is positively giddy that FanX had such a calamitous problem, but those people– you know what? I’m not going to say it. I will say that it’s the epitome of petty to be that way if you’re a pop-culture fan. To be happy when something affects so many people uninvolved in your bullshit?

Petty.

But overall, despite the photo-op debacle and my own physical issues, I had a decent time. I’m more disappointed in myself and my choices that kept me from seeing a single panel (except Jeff Goldblum, who was piped into the photo-op waiting area) because the guest list was so phenomenal.

First world problems. I’ll still take them over no con at all.

See you in April.

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