‘DashCon Rebrands as EmotiCon, Hopes You Won’t Notice’

2

http://www.nerdandtie.com/2014/09/03/dashcon-rebrands-as-emoticon-hopes-you-wont-notice/

Take-aways:

* Dashcon.org is gone.  The tumblr account still exists.

* All those people promised to be paid back?  Shouldn’t be holding their breath.  In their own words, quoted here because of the repeated pattern of their deleting their statements:

When the dust settled after DashCon, we were left with thousands of dollars worth of debt. Because this, among many others reasons, DashCon LLP is being dissolved and assets being liquidated. Once the assets are liquidated, each debt will be paid pro rata, meaning that there’s a possibility the debts won’t be paid in full, but each will be paid the same percentage of what’s owed. We don’t know how long this process is going to take, but it’s fair to say it could be up to 90 days. Apologies for the further delays. This has all become a bit of a legal ordeal.

 There has been a lot of speculation that DashCon LLP has changed its name to Emoti-Con or So Attacked Entertainment LLC. That, however, is inaccurate. Two of the three owners of DashCon, Cain and Megg, are now functioning as So Attacked Entertainment LLC, which will be hosting an event called Emoti-Con. Despite Cain and Megg’s involvement, neither So Attacked Entertainment LLC nor Emoti-Con is in any way affiliated with DashCon. 
 
Thank you for your patience while we try to resolve these final matters. Apologies that we are unable to give a more definite timeline on payment. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
* Making a joke out of the refrain from both attendees and con owners, “I’m feeling so attacked right now,” by calling the new company So Attacked LLC, is…quite something.  Claiming Emoti-Con has no connection to Dashcon is an outright lie, and is further proof IMNSHO that Cain and Megg still don’t get how to handle themselves in a professional manner.   (And really, if this whole thing becoming ‘a bit of a legal ordeal’ was any sort of surprise?  These two have a lot of growing up to do.)
Personally, it would impress me a helluva lot more if they were taking the money for next year’s con and fixing their screw-ups from this year.  I get it.  Legally there’s no connection between the two…although I’m curious if the money raised for Dashcon II was shuffled over to EmotiCon’s account, or if it’s being used to pay this year’s debt.  Which would be the right thing to do.  Which is why I suspect it’s not happening.
* The con owners protest too much.  Currently, the Indianapolis convention center is still listing the defunct dashcon.org website as the website for Emoti-Con.  (Way to be organized, guys.)  And hey, if this is NOT, in fact, Dashcon II, what happens to the people that bought passes for Dashcon II?  Do they get their money back? Or do they get a pass to, um, this completely-not-connected-to-Dashcon convention?
I really truly hope all of the following happens:
1.  People actually get their money back.
2. Cain and Megg take the time to figure out how to run a good, professional convention.
3. All the people that have been supporting the fiasco that is Dashcon figure out what a good, professional convention looks like…and either demand Cain and Megg step up, or they stop throwing their love and money at a bad project.
4. No guests get screwed over by Cain and Megg ever again.

 

a dashcon story that also very much needs to be heard

0

Here’s the story of what happened to one person that was friends with Dashcon main staff and became the person in charge of the vendor room.  (Dashcon has stated, “Any “official” information found on any other blog should not be considered true or accurate without first checking with the actual DashCon staff.”  Based on this, you may, in all confidence, read the following story and know it’s true as well as accurate.)

http://mjhellscream.tumblr.com/post/93196609316/our-experience-at-dashcon-2014

I know, I know.  Who the hell cares about Dashcon at this point?  Read it anyway.

Take-aways:

* Dashcon mgt paid $3K for this couple’s flight from Australia to the US.  At that point, these were just attendees, not con staff.  This money was paid in late 2013/2014…well after the Indiegogo campaign had ended and after payments were being made to the Dashcon hotel.  Looking at those numbers, it seems reasonable to assume Dashcon was not concerned about money..perhaps not until the weekend of the con.

* This woman was not aware she would be expected to be staff until July, days before the Dashcon event.  This is another example of the poor management of the staffing of Dashcon.

* Yes, Dashcon told the hotels to take hotel rooms off its bill and yes, that included staff as well as invited guests.  It’s still unclear as to whether or not volunteers and con attendees were also affected by this, or if keys just were being faulty.  What is clear is that there was zero communication with those affected by Dashcon mgt’s decision to do so.

* This woman considered one of the three main organizers of Dashcon to be “a close, personal friend.”  The following quote is from the above blog post:

“… a person who my wife considered a close, trustworthy, personal friend left her high and fucking dry when she was needed the most.”

So my previous repeated opinion that the attendees of Dashcon were mistreated by the event and that ANY event that turns to its attendees and demands a financial bailout at the event is NOT  an event one should support? I’m amending that to, “You do not treat your close, personal friends this way, either.”

* We already knew that Dashcon didn’t staff its event in a well-thought-out way.  But.  JESUS, people.  If you don’t have the common sense to NOT put children and inexperienced people in charge of shit – and no, you didn’t, because you DID – and if you don’t have the ability to keep track of what previous con management was doing- and NO YOU DIDN’T, as your own public apology stated – GET YOUR DAMN SELVES SOME EDUCATION.

Seriously. It’s out there.  You do NOT have to recreate the fucking wheel.

SMOFCON.   THIS DECEMBER.  “Smofcon is an annual conference for the planners of science fiction & fantasy (SF&F) and other genre conventions. Attendees discuss and share insights into many aspects of convention planning at the local, regional, national, and international levels.”

INTERVENTIONCON.  THIS AUGUST.  “Intervention is different from every other event you have ever been to. Our name is the combination of the words “Internet” and “Convention” but the significance is deeper than that. The entire idea of this event is to Intervene and Inspire everyone to live a more creative, geeky, and fun life within the welcoming scope of a traditional geek convention.”  These are the kinds of people you need to be talking to.  Go get inspired…and find out how to do a con the RIGHT way.

so what makes a convention great?

0

Conventions have been one of my primary ways of socializing for a long time.  I started attending them in…I believe it was this convention in 1985, as I remember making a birthday card for Peter Davison and getting the chance (thanks to a fan club membership) to meet him at some point during the weekend.

(He’s very tall.)

When I moved to the Philly area, I started helping with very small conventions, and over the past *mumble* years I’ve been a volunteer on varied levels, including con guest liason and con planning committee.

Conventions work because we who attend and love them do so with the unspoken agreement to accept everyone.  My description of that is:  Every fan has a box of shiny that s/he carries around covered up and – by and large – unshared in the mundane world.  So when s/he gets to a convention, WOOHOO!  It’s a chance to open up that box!

The problem with that is you then have a hotel filled with people all excited about their boxes of shiny and often unable to appreciate each other’s shinies.

The first time I ran into this, it hurt my feelings. I was thinking, “Yay! We get to share our interests!” and then I realized that couldn’t happen because the other person was very very focused on the joy of being able to really celebrate her shiny.

Within the world of fandom?  That’s ok.  It’s ok outside fandom, of course…my meaning here is that within fandom, within that atmosphere of accepting everyone, quirks and unconventional behaviors and all, it’s more ok.  And, given a chance to get the OMG out of her/his system?  True sharing will happen.  🙂

I get that the environment of conventions is changing, and that harassment is a huge issue.  Because I love conventions, I want to say, “No no, it can’t be that big a problem!”..but yes, I’ve been harassed at cons (NOT because of my costuming, ironically) and it’s caused me to not want to attend certain events anymore.  I think harassment policies are long overdue; I also think – as the above link illustrates – that you can’t just have a policy. You also have to have a staff that knows how to effectively deal with harassment issues.  And that’s a piece of the puzzle that’s being overlooked too often.

So when I say that we as fandom are accepting of everyone, I’m doing so while wearing a hefty pair of harassment-blinders.  That said, I still believe it’s a safe place where you can celebrate your geekery, dress up as you wish, and find like-minded people.

In some of the aftermath of Dashcon, I’ve seen people saying, “This was  great for cosplayers because they weren’t harassed!”  “This was awesome because I met other fans!”  Those *are* good things.  BUT.  You don’t have to pay a high-priced ticket or donate $17K to a con to have that experience.

This is a great, great list of 24 conventions..some pro-run, some fan-run…that is FAR from complete but is a great place to start looking for conventions that are relevant to your interests.

I’m gonna add a few more:

* Balticon – Located in Hunt Valley, MD, it’s one of my most favourite events.  Great costuming!  Great panels!  Wanna make a costume element and you’re not sure how to get started?  The costumers at Balticon put on some fantastic talks.  There’s a science track that’s well, well worthwhile.  There’s dancing, and gaming, and a video room, and a great art show…AND an auction that raises  money for the BSFS Books for Kids…**AND** there’s a writing contest for young authors!  I unabashedly love this convention.

* Interventioncon – Also located in Hunt Valley, there is something NOTHING out there like Interventioncon.  Quoth one of the co-chairs, Oni:

Intervention is different from every other event you have ever been to. Our name is the combination of the words “Internet” and “Convention” but the significance is deeper than that. The entire idea of this event is to Intervene and Inspire everyone to live a more creative, geeky, and fun life within the welcoming scope of a traditional geek convention.

 You KNOW you want in on this.  Go read more about it here, and for the love of God, find a way to get to this convention!

* Pi-Con – So you want to attend a con that isn’t all about guests, but rather is a celebration of geekery?  Get ye to Pi-Con!  I love this event.  It’s a modestly sized convention that each year features a “Guest of Awesome”…namely, someone from fandom that is surprised with a, “Hey! Wanna be our Guest of Awesome?”  (See?  Completely charming!)

There are way, way too many great conventions out there for me to even THINK about listing them all.  (Fortunately, I don’t have to…Nathan Lilly’s done that with his Convention Finder.)  The take-away here, the point I’m hoping to get across, is that fandom is AWESOME.  Conventions are AWESOME.  There are SO SO SO many GREAT events out there that show, in SO MANY WAYS, the things that happened earlier this month at Dashcon are *not* the norm and should *NOT* be what one expects – or forgives – from a convention.

That said, whichever convention you decide to attend should – hopefully – give you a taste of this:

(And with that, I return you to your regularly scheduled haunted house geekery…VERY VERY SOON!)

dashcon releases their statement…

0

..in which they:

*do NOT say the issue was unsold rooms/room blocks

* do NOT discuss the topic of people being locked out of their rooms (which seems to give more credit to the idea that this wasn’t actually happening..at least, no more than it does for any other hotel guest with a faulty key card)

*DO say the hotel did not treat the con or the attendees badly and were not to blame for how things transpired

*Welcome to Night Vale was NOT in the wrong, and provide lots of proof showing, among other things, that no, WTNV did NOT show up on Saturday randomly demanding money

* refunds for the WTNV event will NOT be made available

* most of the money paid to the hotel over the weekend was from cash donations (which contradicts reports that most of the money was tied up in PayPal..and dear LORD does that means the attendees shelled out over $11K to fix the convention’s woes?!?! holy crap, people!! and holy crap, Dashcon staff!!)

*** IMPORTANT!!!*** IF YOU DONATED CASH AND YOU WANT IT BACK, YOU ***ONLY*** HAVE UNTIL SATURDAY, JULY 19th, TO MAKE THAT REQUEST!!!

“If you donated cash and would like it returned, please also let us know by 11:59pm EST on Saturday, July 19, 2014. Please send an email to dashcondonations@gmail.com with “Cash Donation Refund” in the subject line. Within the body of the email, please include your full name, phone number, Invoice ID from your badge purchase [to verify your ability to have been in attendance], and the amount you donated. Upon advice of our legal counsel, we have been instructed to sort through claims, try and determine legitimacy [based on total amount claimed versus total amount received], and make an informed decision about potential refunds in coordination with both legal and accounting at that time.”

Personally, I think that giving y’all a TWO DAY DEADLINE is bad form. And if you did donate, Dashcon staff will decide how legitimate your request is…?  Considering the average cash donation, at this rate, would be around $1K a person, how do you then decide what’s a legitimate claim?  I think attendees should accept that their admission to the con was a whole lot more than $40-$65, because they’re not gonna get reimbursed.  But hey, big surprise, I have an opinion.  How novel.

* NO the hotel did NOT insult or denigrate the con and its attendees

They do say there were staff members to blame, and those people have been removed from the company.  They also claim incidentals such as electrical costs weren’t quoted ahead of time, which…I’ve personally not seen happen before, but I also can’t find a reference online to indicate how those types of costs generally run.

Between Dashcon’s tendency to delete information (indeed, in today’s explanations, there’s a state intent to continue to delete content) and how hard is to find statements on their website/Tumblr after some time has gone by, I am linking to both what is on the website at this time and the linkback post on their Tumblr.  Hopefully at least one will be a permalink.  Questions raised after the explanation post was made available, and the answers, appear here.   Those topics include questions about the Indiegogo (“I will attempt to reach out to DashCon’s former associates who were in charge at the time to try and get this question answered,” Megg replied – because, um, no one discussed the raising of $4K, although the perk gifts are still in the possession of Dashcon staff?  I call shenanigans.), questions about the connection with the charity Random Acts (no, money was not collected, and ” I’ve made an attempt to remove all Random Acts references from our blog. If you could point out what I missed, I’d like to remove that as well.” I get what she’s going for there; however, she’s apparently not realized that something posted on the internet never really goes away.  Better to edit that post and say, ‘No, this didn’t happen,” IMNSHO.), questions about panel descriptions (someone else wrote them, they weren’t proofed, that won’t happen again).

So.  I’m impressed con staff took a lot of responsibility.  I don’t think it answers enough questions, but it sure answers more than I thought it would.

I sincerely hope they – and other start-up con staff – are not taking this whole ‘if we’re short on money, we’ll just ask our attendees to raise it for us’ idea and making it standard policy.

I also VERY MUCH HOPE that convention attendees do not walk away thinking that this hat-in-hand sort of thing is how conventions are supposed to run.  Because it’s not.  Really.  I promise.

 

because i still have questions (big surprise)

2

* 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.

so let’s talk about conventions and hotels, shall we?

0

I was talking with Bones about this Dashcon brouhaha, an a thought occurred to me.

What if the whole money issue with the hotel came down to room blocks?  This is something no one (to my knowledge) has mentioned as a possibility.

Here’s the dealio:  When an event planner/convention hotel liason goes to a hotel to talk about holding an event there, the discussion is going to involve more than just potential event dates.  A big part of the discussion includes room blocks…meaning, how many hotel rooms will the event attendees be using.  Often, if you have a big enough room block reserved, you get your event space and catering at a discount, depending on the venue and how good you are at negotiating that contract.  Interestingly, even about.com says that this process is hard.

It’s a tricky topic.  If you don’t reserve enough rooms, and you sell out of rooms, the hotel may not be able to give you more.  If you reserve too many and you can’t fill those rooms, the hotel is out potential revenue.

This is an interesting article on the topic, and it points out that some stuff like due dates are not as flexible as they used to be.

The advantage to event attendees to stay at the event hotel is – obviously – convenience, as well as a discounted room price.  One of the best things you as an attendee can do to support your con is to stay at its hotel, reserving your room under the con name (or whatever code the con tells you to use.)  Most of us want the best deal possible, so it’s tempting to look for a cheaper room elsewhere…but it’s not good for the con.

If the convention/event has reserved too many rooms – and with Dashcon expecting thousands more attendees than it actually had, and with them offering an overflow hotel on their website, with a discounted room rate there as well as at their main hotel, this certainly seems to be the case – you need to have the foresight to release rooms before you are held financially accountable for them.

When are you held financially accountable?  Depends on your contract.  And hopefully you have some good insurance to cover your butts.

What I suspect happened at Dashcon is that they didn’t fill their room block at their main hotel – I hope they canceled the room block at the overflow hotel in a timely manner!! – and the hotel was holding them responsible for those unfilled rooms.  Keeping in mind there were apparently two weddings also booked that weekend, the hotel was losing revenue on those rooms if they were indeed unfilled.  Pushing for the amount due to be paid on Friday seems mean-spirited, but we don’t know what the contract stipulated as a deadline.  It’s not uncommon, at all , for cons to run into trouble over room blocks, so Dashcon would be in good company if this is indeed the case.

An official statement has been promised “in a few days.”  Until then, my bet is on the blocks…and my opinion is still that the staff should absolutely NOT have made this the financial problem of the attendees.  But you already knew that. 🙂

 

why the kerfluffle about dashcon matters (or, if a con asks you for $17K? say no)

6

Portrait: Ha! 󾍇

7.15.14 6:27PM: Updates added at bottom of post.

(Note:  There are a LOT of links below. This is because there’s so much stuff that went wrong with this con, and that con staff and attendees are denying happened, that I feel it’s important to properly illustrate why these things were bad.)

Several months ago, I saw that a podcast I follow, The Baker Street Babes, was going to be making an appearance at a fairly local (and brand spanking new) convention, Dashcon.  Bones and I talked about attending after looking at the site and seeing that the very fun Whovian band, Time Crash, were having a concert, and that the pretty dang awesome podcast Welcome to Night Vale was doing a live podcast. When the schedule for the weekend was posted, we also saw that there were two Hetalia panels listed, which would have been of interest to Bones’ kid.

When you visit those links, please note that these are all independent artists doing neat stuff without tons of money.  (This data point matters.)

We ended up not going to the con largely because the website said the WTNV event and the Time Crash concert was sold out.  (This data point also matters.)

I was still a little disappointed about us not going to Dashcon up until the first twitters about the con needing $17K RIGHT NOW started appearing on my twitter feed.  (One of the more succinct breakdowns of what happened at Dashcon may be found here: http://www.blastr.com/2014-7-14/17000-ball-pit-how-dashcon-went-tumblr-con-conning-tumblr#page-1  Another good one is here: http://www.dailydot.com/geek/dash-con-controversy-tumblr/ – this includes screenshots of things Dashcon has since deleted from its Tumblr, and screenshots of what the screwed-over guests had to say on Twitter as things progressed into badness.)

If you’ve ever attended a convention, you’re probably saying, ‘Wait, WHAT?’

Con staff claims that the hotel – a five star hotel, I should add, which is a surprising choice for a first year con – was demanding full payment of their contracted $20K due from Dashcon, in full, Friday night or the con was off.  Con staff gathered all of its attendees into one room and told them they had to raise $17K by 10PM.  The cry went out across Twitter and Tumblr.  Cash was reportedly being flung at hotel staff.  Money was donated to Dashcon’s PayPal account, the total was raised, and the con was allowed to continue.

(Dashcon staff claims this was a demand that came from upper management; that there was pressure from the two weddings also sharing the hotel; and that the hotel didn’t like the con attendees.  The hotel staff has said, “Wait, what?”  My inner skeptic wonders if con staff heard about this story from Chi Fi earlier this year…)

You may be wondering why a hotel would accept a payment from PayPal.  Con staff explained later, at the ‘dead dog’ panel on Sunday – so yes, that’s a video of con staff talking – that a PayPal debit card was used, and once the balance was shown, the hotel was willing to accept payments of $3K at a time until the balance was paid off.  Simple math shows that this would have meant the con would still be making payments as of today.  However, there were several reports of cash being shoved into bags and, again, thrown at hotel staff, and there’s no accounting for that money.

At the time, the con staff announced they would refund the $17K.  (Here’s that promise in print.  That promise was also made at the con, and there are reports of names being recorded – more than once – for these reimbursements.) If you watch that video link above, that promise was retracted on Sunday.

If you’ve never heard of a con extorting $17K from its attendees?  THAT’S BECAUSE IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Ever.  EVER.

NOR SHOULD IT.

Hotel issues happen.  Absolutely.  Heck, sometimes your hotel closes 4 days before your event.  But you do NOT round up your attendees and demand money.  EVER.

One might wonder if the con did any fundraising beforehand.  Yes, they did.  For one thing, they organized an Indiegogo fundraiser that raised over $4K. (Perks for that fundraiser were not sent out..proof of that is coming up.)  They also asked that committees do fundraising for the kinds of panels/guests they’d like to see at Dashcon.  One example is here. (This is another thing I’ve never heard of a con doing before.)

One might wonder where that money all went.

One wouldn’t be alone.

Other (confusing) reports state that staff/volunteers selling con badges at admissions were still selling passes to the WTNV live podcast and the Time Crash concert…or perhaps the Steam Powered Giraffe concert, which had initially been the big event Saturday night but had been replaced months ago by Time Crash.  Again, the website showed these events were sold out, but the upcharge was, I believe $10 for each event.  (I’ve personally not seen another con do this.)  So there’s money flow happening at the con.

But hey.  Panels happened on Friday.  Reports coming out, from guests and attendees, were pretty good.  So let’s move forward to Saturday.

Saturday, the WTNV podcast was delayed for an hour.  Here’s a video of what that experience was like.  Note that there’s another request for money in this video, in the form of ‘we’re going to order pizza for all y’all – give us $5 each.’)  The upshot is this:  The guys behind Welcome to Night Vale were invited guests.  Invited guests generally have their transportation and hotel costs covered by the con, and there may be a per diem or an appearance fee.  In this case, WTNV paid for their own transport and hotel, expecting to be reimbursed, as this Twitter shows.  Dashcon staff claims that they had the performance fee money – or most of it – and that WTNV was in the wrong for not wanting to wait for someone to run to a bank and get the remainder of the fee. They also claim the bank was malfunctioning..? Frankly, nothing I’ve heard makes it sound like they were planning to cover the transportation and room costs, and the treatment of other guests only serves to convince me further that this was the case.

So, the WTNV cast left the con, but not the hotel, as they then offered another guest, Noelle Stevenson, crash space after she discovered her room was also not being covered by the con.

As a personal side note, I’m rather angry on the behalf of WTNV that Dashcon has tried to make them look bad.  Take responsibility, kids.  You handled this *very* badly.  Want further proof of that?  The response to a canceled special event that had a separate fee should be, “We will reimburse you.”  Hell, it’s not like the money was being used to take care of invited con guests.  Instead?  Dashcon staff offered people that had paid for the WTNV live podcast…..an extra hour in their ball pit (which was an inflatable kiddie pool filled with plastic balls).

Totally not kidding.  http://dashcon.tumblr.com/post/91582246126/clarifications-and-back-up-plans  In addition to more time in the ball pit, attendees were offered the chance to be entered into a raffle for items such as a framed Stan Lee autograph, a framed Richard Armitage autograph, a framed Walking Dead photo with autographs, etc.  Where did all that cool stuff come from?  The Indiegogo fundraiser.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, come on.  This con was being run by kids.”

Not so much.  Meet the Dashcon admins.  One co-owner is 32 years old; the other is 20, and her bio says, “ [I] attend Kent State University for Hospitality Management. I actually attend school to plan events like conventions, weddings, concerts, etc.”

Additionally, the con owners thought ahead enough to create a LLC for this event. That means the owners have limited legal protection, so if Dashcon gets sued – which seems very likely at this point – the con owners should be ok.   Just in case you were worrying about Meg Eli or Roxanne Schwieterman.  (I mention their names because you might want to reconsider getting involved in any of their future projects.)

So, moving forward.  Time Crash reported having a great time.  There were no other negative stories spreading…until Sunday, when the Baker Street Babes went to check out and discovered that their hotel room had been taken off the con credit card and they were being expected to pay for their room.  (That link also includes an update saying the issue has yet to be resolved.)  The BSB attempted to contact con staff for a few hours.  No response.  When they went back online and started threatening legal action?  THAT was something the con staff responded to..although, apparently, Dashcon staff was lying when they said they had fixed it. As of this date, the BSB are still being charged for their room.

Very much worth nothing:  The BSB does have a written record of the con agreeing to cover those costs.

The Dashcon staff held a Q&A on Sunday (this is usually referred to as a ‘dead dog’), and I’ve not seen a lot of video from it, outside of what I posted above.  In the aftermath, there’s a lot of attendees saying this was a great con and we’re all just being mean and talking about things we know nothing about because we weren’t there.

This worries me.  Because that means there’s a bunch of teens and 20-something year olds that think what happened at Dashcon was ok.

It’s not.

You do not break agreements with your invited guests.

You do not take their hotel rooms off your accounts, ESPECIALLY without talking to them.

You do not place blame on the hotel or your guests when things start to go wrong.  You take responsibility and you conduct yourselves in a professional way.  (Posting video of con staff crying?  This is not professional.)  Conduct yourselves, at all times, in a way that makes other people take you seriously and want to work with you in the future.

You do not offer play time in lieu of  money reimbursements.

Most importantly?

You do not – EVER EVER EVER – round up your con attendees and tell them to raise money for your event.

And if you as an event attendee ever find yourself in this sort of position?  DO NOT GIVE MONEY TO PEOPLE LIKE THIS.

I’ve been attending, and working for, conventions for the better part of 20 years.  Crap happens.  This kind of crap?  DOES NOT HAPPEN.

It is not the norm, it is not what you – as either an attendee or a volunteer -should expect, and y’all deserved a whole lot better.

Many attendees are saying it was a great weekend. I have no doubt that the actual con was, indeed, fun.  Fen are fun!  Gatherings in fandom are, generally speaking, a grand good time.  Bad things happen at cons and, in general, the attendees don’t see it.  That doesn’t make it a good convention – that means someone did a good job in buffering the attendees from the bad.  But kids?  I promise you, there are better events to attend, and there are better, more worthy things for you to give your money and your passion to.

Dashcon – and all the badness that happened – is the exception rather than the rule in conventions and fandom.  Don’t let it define your expectations of either.

random:

One guest’s story: http://lyndsayfaye.tumblr.com/post/91654434754/dashcon-where-i-draw-the-line  (and I agree…this is one of the biggest reasons Dashcon staff should be smacked on the nose with a newspaper)

One attendee’s story: http://pooped.tumblr.com/post/91707384424/my-dashcon-experience-facts-and-proof-links-for-other

One vendor’s story: http://chiiathingy.tumblr.com/post/91519402264/dashcon-play-by-play-of-the-almost-cancel

Another summary (good money breakdown): http://robkneppers.tumblr.com/post/91625226542/wait-so-dashcon-crowdfunded-over-4-000-in

Updated to add:

*  The Baker Street Babes reported at 3:31 on 7.15.14 that Dashcon has now paid for their hotel rooms.  No update on whether or not all of Noelle Stevenson’s or Welcome to Night Vale’s costs have been covered.

* Dashcon is reportedly preparing a press release that will be available in a few days…at which point it will be old news.

* A person that was at the hotel has told me yes, she was locked out of her room Friday night and believes it was because the hotel was demanding money from the con.  Additionally, she says she heard one of people from one of the two weddings at the hotel raising a fuss about the con and that a hotel staff person said they would ‘take care of it.’  This contradicts all reports, including from Dashcon staff, that the issues came from upper management and was an issue between the hotel and the convention…which, in turn, is contradicted by statements from the hotel.  So if you’re not sure what to think?  You’re not alone.  (As an aside?  Gentle Readers, I’ve been at more than a few cons where we shared the less-than-five-star-hotel with weddings, or with religious conventions.  I’ve seen people in werewolf costumes – NO JOKE – chase down wedding guests.  I’ve NEVER seen a con successfully shut down while in session because of a complaint from another event.)

* There are reports that Welcome to Night Vale was not at the con until Saturday afternoon.  This is not true.  They had a panel/meet and greet on Friday night.