Thursday, September 4, 2014

Con-Man: Salt Lake and the City of Lines

It's going to be an interesting month for me as trips to Seattle, Salt Lake City, Des Moines and Columbus for work and play have me hopping out of state 4 out of 5 weekends.  Today, we were off to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend a new show and see the city.  Unfortunately, today was a bit of a shit show.  Arriving in Salt Lake, the area seems big, open and well kept as the downtown is a harmonious mix of old brick buildings, houses and new age hotels and sky scrapers.  Beneath that up and coming veneer is a surprisingly quiet city with little foot traffic, homeless on every corner and some of the poorest organization skills I've ever seen.  We can start with the cabbie who didn't know where our hotel was and had to look at my phone instead of having his own GPS.  Then there was the generic Red Rock Brewery and restaurant that looked clean and modern enough but their rotisserie chicken was drier than one from Costco and the fries definitely not fresh from the fryer.  On the way in, there was a line outside the convention center and some fellow attendees at our hotel tiredly told us of having to wait in line for over an hour to get their tickets then another hour to get into the exhibition hall.  I'm well aware that SLCC had a huge first year attendance showing complete with fire marshal intervention but their FanX convention a few months later seemed to streamline their efforts for a smoother running show.

That was not the case today.  You see, SLCC is the best and worst of new age conventions.  Having more conventions is great.  But the rise of the dozens of Wizard Worlds and shows like Salt Lake raises major concerns for this con-goer as these shows are not about quality control, they're about bringing in crowds.  Then gouging them with different levels of pricing and paying for the opportunity to interact with their favorite actors and pop culture personalities.  There was a line for General Admission then a separate, shorter line for those who coughed up extra cash for Gold and VIP packages.  After an hour in line, the Gold/VIP crowd stopped dead in it's tracks.  Volunteers and Security had no idea what was happening and were getting increasingly defensive and sensitive.  It's not their fault, they're not in charge, so me being the Doer I am, set off to find some answers.  A Security guard had nothing for me, she suggested I look for a Team Lead, said leader couldn't quell my concerns so she went to find her manager.  Of course, being an asshole won't get you any further up the line so I simply said I knew he was busy but asked what was going on with the line because we weren't going to get into the exhibition floor with how many people were in front of us and I also didn't want the last 90 minutes to go to waste if they closed down the registration lines.  Said Manager was in the process of opening up 2 more lanes as there were only 4-5 people taking care of the Gold/VIP lines.

I don't know how SLCC didn't anticipate the crowd.  The inaugural show drew in 72,000 goers which was a record for a first year show and put them on the map.  A cease and desist letter from San Diego Comic Con only increased their awareness.  Their FanX show brought in over 100,000 attendees so I figured they would be prepared for this year but they totally weren't.  This is where SDCC shines, yes, there's long lines, but once they get moving, they fucking move.  I've never waited this long to get into the exhibition hall or to pick up tickets in San Diego.  There's dozens of employees to check you in compared to the 5 SLCC had on deck.  So if you're gonna talk shit against the big show and compare yourselves to them, try doing as they do to not piss off your core audience.  A guy behind us went into the General Admission line that wrapped around the building twice and ended up getting his tickets before we did in the shorter line that we paid extra to be in.  Their Twitter feed was full of complaints and while they apologized and are looking to make amends, I still can't understand how they didn't expect crowds and lines on the first day.  Whereas SDCC is a non-profit that caps attendance to give X amount of attendees the best show possible, SLCC is a for-profit company that wants as many people in the door as possible yet doesn't staff up to meet demand.  In the end it took over 2 hours to pick up our badges and we didn't even get into the show.  On the plus side, we met some cool people in line, two of whom were huge Optimus Prime fans but total opposites in regards to football to which I made the observation that sports drives people apart while popular culture brings them together.  So once again, F-you, sports!  Plus, the Gold ticket included a plethora of items like Bruce Campbell branded Con Cash, a discount on a photo op which I otherwise wouldn't even contemplate, a T-shirt, etc.

Afterwards, we walked to Wendy's where it was more lines as there must be something in the air here that no one is prepared as there was one cashier frantically and frustratingly trying to take then send orders off.  At one point she exclaimed she was still waiting for 8 sandwiches.  Are there no managers in the great Salt Lake?  Does no one want their day to run smoother?  I understand things run a little slower here than in Los Angeles but I doubt the locals like waiting in line at Wendy's either.  Although my Double, fries, Frosty and chicken nuggets came out in excellent time and of course, were delicious.

Let's hope Friday and early entry pans out or there's going to be fucking madness.

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