because i still have questions (big surprise)

* http://thegeekiary.com/dashcon-follow-up-random-acts-partnership-didnt-exist-but-was-it-really-a-scam/14786

One of the data points that’s floated around a little about Dashcon was that the event had a partnership with charity group Random Acts.  The stated intent of Dashcon was to collect money to donate back to Random Acts.  It’s a cute idea, though I personally think it sounds a little confusing, but the fate of these donations is one of the things we’ve actually not heard about in the kerfluffle updates.  It does speak to the good intentions of Dashcon, and I hope the final news shows that some money did make it back to Random Acts.

* http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/07/14/dashcon-a-perfect-storm-of-incompetence/

This article is by yet another person with a lot of convention experience and it breaks down the money numbers as well as ‘here’s how hotel contracts work.’  One quote I found very useful:

‘Now say only 500 people were there. That’s the low number I’ve seen tossed about for Friday, and someone correct me if I’m wrong. Well, $50 time 500 attendees is $25,000. If the higher figure of 1000 attendees were there, that’s $50,000. This does not include the higher rates paid by Vendors and Artists.

My point is, really, how were they not able to pay their bills? I’ve run conventions larger than that with a lot less money than $50,000.’

There’s no info there about the room block question I personally  have, however.  After some more thought, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that the reason invited con guests found themselves paying for their own rooms was that the con staff might have assumed those rooms were included in the debt owed for the room blocks – in short, they might have thought they’d already paid for those rooms when the hotel said, “You didn’t fulfill the terms of the contract – pay up.”  This seems the most likely reason, rather than my initial thought which was that the con staff panicked and pulled those rooms off their credit card so they could pay off the hotel.  This is of course assuming that they used the same PayPal card used to pay the hotel and that this card isn’t a debit card.

Why would it matter if they used a debit card?
Because it’s standard policy for hotels to put a hold/deposit on such cards.  Here’s one article explaining whyHere’s another, that explains luxury hotels may put a charge on the debit card that is more than the room cost would be because they include incidentals as well as the room. And yet another article talks about the very real possibility of accidental overdrafts.  We already know from con staff that the hotel had agreed to let the staff use the PayPal card and take payments in $3K increments, because of the limit on the card…which, personally, makes me wonder:  If the hotel already knew it wasn’t going to get $17K Friday night, did all this chaos really have to happen in the first place?  Agreeing to wait shows they were willing to negotiate…and they’d have to wait anyway for funds to clear, which (as those of us that use PayPal know) needs a few days to happen.

Anyway.  It’s probably a moot point, because no charges appear to have been put on the con PayPal card, because the guests were being expected to pay.  Which leads me back to the hopeful thought that maybe the con assumed these debts had been included in the $17K/$20K/whatever they actually owed the hotel.

* http://lielabell.tumblr.com/post/91674359898/the-deal-with-dashcon

This is one con attendee’s review.  Unlike what Twitter reports, not all attendees were kids – “Lielabell” is in her 30s.  She also headed up one of the panels.  This is a pretty balanced bit of writing, IMO.  She also talks about people being locked out of their rooms, which is not new information.  Nor is it unique to Dashcon.  In general, I’m surprised when my key card works, no matter what hotel I’m in or for what reason.  Turns out there’s a few different reasons why that can happen, and some of them are news to me.

Mentalfloss.com reports:

Any arriving guest should receive what are referred to as initial keys, which are programmed to reset the door lock when they are first inserted, deactivating all previous keys. Not until the keys expire or a new initial key enters the lock will the keys fail to work. With a “key bomb,” I cut one single initial key and then start over and cut a second initial key. Either one of them will work when you get to the room, and as long as you keep using the very first key you slipped in, all will be well.

But chances are you’ll pop in the second key at some point, and then the first key you used will be considered invalid.

Tripadvisor.com says:

I found out on my cruise last year – because my card kept having to be reprogrammed – that the culprit is often a woman’s purse that has a magnetic clasp. You pull the card out, pass it over the magnetic clasp, and voile!, non-working key card.

The Toronto Sun suggests you take a look at the colour of your key card (?!?):

A key card with a brown stripe on the back — the kind used by most hotels — is the one most likely to give guests trouble, and prompt a return to the lobby to have it re-encoded, Portuguese says. These are the cheapest cards to make, and easily become de-activated if they’re placed too close to anything magnetic.

ask.metafilter.com goes into a fairly lengthy discussion about all the things that can turn off a hotel key card, including celphones, and talks about how common the issue is, but this quote is maybe the most telling:

I have worked in the hotel business and have made, at a guess, eleventeen million key cards for guests.

You must keep in mind that these cards are pretty flimsy pieces of plastic with a single, not-especially-robust magnetic strip, and they have been used by dozens or hundreds of guests before you. They do not hold a charge particularly well: imagine a video or audio cassette that has been taped over for the 245th time — how good is the signal? They cease working for any of a dozen reasons, simple wear and tear being the most common. From the point of view of the designers of the keycards and the hotels, this is a feature, not a bug….

in a perfect set-up, your card runs out at noon (or whatever the hotel sets it so) on your date of checkout, not every day. You check in Monday, you leave Thursday. If you come back Friday with the same card, it will be inert. There is no value for anyone in making your card stop working on Tuesday or Wednesday. (Note, of course, that the hotel can cancel a keycard at any time for emergencies — say you neglected to sign your credit card slip when you arrived or something — having to return to the front desk to get a new card means they can also get you to sign the slip).
In light of that and the money issues around Dashcon..is it possible the hotel turned off the key cards to staff rooms because they wanted to make sure the rooms were being paid for?  Yes, it’s possible. It’s not the most LIKELY reason, but it’s possible.  I had to really search for that quote above, leading me to believe key cards being turned off by the hotel over money issues is pretty uncommon. I think it far more likely that the lack of information and the issues around the con combined with faulty key cards to convince people the hotel was being shady, despite an overwhelming amount of stories circulating around the internet that hotel staff and security was both nice and bewildered by what was happening.

(Along this line:  Did you know the hotel had (a) listed Dashcon on its website under ‘Events’ months in advance – meaning that other events would in theory know there was a convention that weekend – and (b) there was a non-refundable one night room charge for all reservations?  Link here.)

So, as far as people saying that the hotel did those kids wrong?  I remain unconvinced.

* a statement from the owners of Dashcon is coming

If that statement does anything other than take responsibility for what happened….WITHOUT trying to blame the hotel, the guests, the bank, the deflating ball pit, whatever….and offer some sort of accounting for the money…….they shouldn’t bother.  Of course, in my far from humble opinion, this statement is already too late.

* random twitter stuff that has been bugging me for days

As the Dashcon kefluffle went down, I was watching Twitter.  There was some really stupid, nasty, unnecessary stuff flying around out there bashing the attendees – completely unnecessary – and poking fun at  all these ‘white kids’ being taken for $17K.  I still fail to understand why things got racial.  I’ve heard that the crowd was fairly mixed, which I would believe..just as it’s obvious the con was not just attended by teenagers.

A lot of crap was said, of course, like the claim that underage attendees were being let into 18-and-over panels.  (The very presence of such panels should negate the claims that it was just a kiddie con, but that may be too much logical thinking to expect from trolls.)  The bit I didn’t get at all was the repeated, “I am suffering second hand embarrassment from Dashcon.”  I gather that this is now a thing.  A ridiculous thing that makes me want to slap people.

Dashcon staff suggested, at their Sunday Q&A panel, that attendees not read any of these tweets and such.  Considering the troll activity going on?  I can understand that bit of advice.  I can certainly understand attendees being very emotional about their experience.  There was, and is, a lot to react to.  Frankly, seeing the tweets from the con from kids cheering themselves on for saving their convention…again/yet/still, something that should NEVER have happened.  But mocking attendees for loving an event?  Low blow, trolls.

It really does infuriate me that the attendees of this con – the attendees of ANY con – are mocked for being at an event celebrating something they love and meeting like-minded people.  I have zero ability to understand such mean-spiritedness.  What I’m seeing is that a lot of the attendees don’t seem to have the lifeskills to be able to handle dealing with that nastiness, and part of the reason I’m still writing about this trainwreck of a convention is that I worry about those younger members of fandom.

I keep saying this…no convention should ever ask its attendees to pay for the con’s financial woes.

Hand in hand with that?  Just because you had a great time at a convention doesn’t mean the convention treated you well.  A weekend-long chance to meet other fen is a good time.  No doubt.  It doesn’t mean that you give money to these con organizers again.  They haven’t proved worthy of your trust OR your money.

Don’t let the trolls get you down.

Do find an event that deserves your support.

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2 thoughts on “because i still have questions (big surprise)

  1. (I wrote the Nerd & Tie piece — I ended up here because of the WordPress pingback)

    You know, the room block never occurred to me because back when the cons I’ve run weren’t guaranteed to fill their host hotel, we just made sure we weren’t responsible for unsold rooms in our contract (where X number of days before the event they were released to the general public). If you’re unsure what your attendance is going to be, that’s what you do.

    If its true that this is the case, I wonder why they just wouldn’t have said so? I mean it would have definitely garnered more sympathy for the organizers than just “The hotel demanded money”

    What my biggest take away from this has been is that the convention organizers were exceptionally inexperienced, and dollars to doughnuts didn’t bother reaching out to anyone who *was* experienced for advice.

    • O hai! 🙂

      I wonder that, too. A friend that’s run a lot of cons thinks maybe the con staff thought it was too complicated a thing to explain, so they just said ‘oh the hotel wants money.’ I think best case scenario is that it’s a room block issue…and that they didn’t have a similar contract with their overflow hotel.

      And yes, it’s a shame the con organizers didn’t seek out some mentors, or look into events like Smofcon. Hotel negotiation alone is not something a newbie should attempt, even if a staff member *is* going to school for hospitality management.

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