Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Universal Fancon, the Con That Isn't

So, I had tickets to Universal FanCon for this upcoming weekend.  I was excited to see an intentionally inclusive con show up in my general vicinity, I had been thrilled at the guest list and the delightful accessibility of the schedule.  (Seriously folks, I love a good user friendly schedule in ways that are a little unbecoming.) And while I was checking in on Twitter at the WRW retreat (no I am not addicted to Twitter) I saw a post about postponement.  Now, tracking back, many things have been deleted or updated such that it is a bit hard.  But there had been a kickstarter to get the con going, and apparently a note had gone out to the backers (which I was not one) after one of the hotels had notified congoers that the con was not happening next week.  That was Friday.  It took until Saturday for me, a non-backer, but paid pass holder, to get a passive note that said as I was aware the con had been postponed and they were working on next steps.  
Now, I am going to point you to this post, which details some threads I did see on Twitter (some of which are now deleted) and some I did not.  It is abundantly clear mistakes were made, cancelling a con you've been selling tickets to with only a week's notice barring some catastrophic event is clearly only going to be a result of mismanagement.  
Sidenote: There is a pop-up con, Wicomicon and some other events now happening this weekend in Baltimore.  Many folks had non-refundable travel plans, and/or merchandise already en route to Baltimore so kudos to the folks who have worked to provide that.  Also, for other local peeps, my friends have gone to Blerdcon and enjoyed it, it's in July.  
I want to talk about crappy communication.  I heard about Universal FanCon on Twitter, so perhaps learning about it's demise on Twitter is apropos.  I don't know how others heard about it, but the assumption that I had heard already about a cancellation they had done nothing to communicate to me previously was maddening.  They had no way of knowing I had heard it was "postponed".  Also, to me postponed means we have this alternate date in mind and as soon as the contracts are signed we'll give it to you.  What is clear, from the deletions and the now updated and expanded message on the FanCon site, they planned something they didn't know how to support.  So, basically, this isn't a date problem, this is a bad plan problem, and they don't have any way to hold the same thing on a different date, they can't hold the thing they promised. They just can't.  
I get that this happens.  Sometimes the people with the big dreams are the people who keep assuming someone else is tallying costs.  I can't even imagine what the costs are needed to support such a thing, but I also know, there was a way to know sooner than last Friday that there was a problem.  There was a way to communicate to people better, and more effectively than sending a passive aggressive email on Saturday that says, we guess you heard, we'll work on better communication, that was then followed by radio silence.  The updated message on the website now promises further information by April 25th.  That is a ridiculous amount of silence.  I know their email must be overwhelmed.  But you must be kidding me.  They haven't even addressed some of the most basic questions. 
The lessons to be learned here are about communicating better and I don't think the excuse that the hotel forced them to reveal too soon is sufficient.  I get that people have family and other jobs, I get that tough messages suck to give out, but to be this many days and to mostly have only a nebulous something will happen and maybe we'll give your money back this many days later is absolutely unacceptable.  
I am lucky, I am just out tickets since I am close enough that I can train up, and I tend to be loosey goosey with pre-booking train tickets.  I also paid by credit card, so I have some options as far as recouping my costs.  I'm a little bummed that I decided not to attend AwesomeCon this year, since I was trying to not do all the things, but I'm going to still have a great weekend.