Over the weekend Oz Comic-Con gained plenty of negative coverage as a result of poor organisation, complaining customers, and massive, uncontrolled queues that spanned through the entire Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. We spoke to the company behind the event, and other people involved in the convention industry and asked — what went wrong?
"My experience was 10 hours, seven queues, two of which were the wrong queues," reads one comment. "Line up for wrist band, line up to get in the door, line up to get tokens...
"We paid a lot of money to be treated like cattle."
"I am extremely disappointed in the treatment me and my little sister received on Sunday," began another. "The fire hazard style in which the event was ran made her feel very claustrophobic and nauseous. There was no signs pointing to a sick bay, frustrated and angry volunteers sent us in all directions, security simply sat her on a chair outside the entrance, with those in line staring at her. She needed a sick bay to lie down for 10 minutes."
So many comments, hundreds upon hundreds, on Oz Comic-Con's Facebook page. One by one they lined up to complain about their poor treatment at the Oz Comic-Con event in Melbourne this weekend. Just like they lined up, endlessly, on the day itself.
"Didn't get in," said one commenter. "Had pre-purchased tickets. Will be seeking a refund, and yes, I'm a lawyer."
According to most accounts, Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne did not go well. According to the organisers, 40,000 people attending the event, most visitors left extremely frustrated at the incredible queues, uninformed staff, and overwhelming confusion and lack of organisation at the event. Immediately the Oz Comic-Con Facebook was flooded with complaints, some of which were deleted from the page.
"As this was our first major con in Melbourne," read an official post on the Facebook page, "we were in awe by the response from the fans, and we thank everyone for their patience and feedback; which will be inculcated into future events."
And that was as close to an apology thousands of fans received on the Saturday.
Earlier this year Hub Productions — the company behind Oz Comic-Con — courted controversy by using the Comic-Con name, despite having no affiliation with Comic-Con International. At that point, given the tight deadline Hub Productions had given themselves, some industry insiders wondered if Hub had the time to pull off the Melbourne show in time. Despite the fact Hub played up its lack of experience in planning such events as the reason for poor organisation this weekend, Carissa Avenhouse of Hub Productions seemed 100% sure of herself back in January.
"I’ve organised events within three weeks," claimed Carissa, back then. "I’ve been doing this for a very long time."
Bill Geradts is the organiser of Armageddon, and has previously worked with Carissa Avenhouse. According to him the event was simply poorly organised.
"In 17 years of running public events," he said, "I’ve never seen this level of spite directed towards an event organisation ever.
"They monumentally screwed the pooch. Even I knew that pre-sales were huge before the show; there was no reason for what happened to have happened."
Bill's immediate concern was for the reputation of the local convention scene as a whole. With Supanova and Armageddon running across Australia and New Zealand, he's worried that the poor treatment of fans at Oz Comic-Con will drive people away from future shows.
"As an event organiser it concerns me greatly to have a show so incompetently run, it might adversely affect the entire industry," said Bill. "We set ourselves to a significantly higher standard than this. Packing a crowd in when you have neither the staff, the skill or the competency to handle them, is abysmal treatment."
***** To their credit, the organisers of Oz Comic-Con did provide an apology when we asked them for comment on the issues fans had at the event, but denied accusations they had oversold the event.
"[W]e were completely in awe of the sheer number of people who turned up, with nearly 40,000 attendees coming through the event over the weekend," claimed Hub's organiser, in a statement sent to Kotaku. "Contrary to the rumour mill, the event was not oversold, with less than half the attendees on pre-purchased tickets. What we didn’t count on was the sheer volume of fans who turned up all at once, hoping to buy tickets at the door.
"This is something we will learn from – and again, we thank the fans for the patience that was shown at the time and apologise for any disappointment for those who were unable to purchase a ticket."
But the statement doesn't address the issues of multiple consumers who weren't able to enter despite having pre-purchased tickets, or the blanket deletion of comments on Oz Comic-Con's Facebook page.
It doesn't account for the lack of organisation, it doesn't account for the volunteers being left uninformed to deal with incredible queues Hub Productions clearly wasn't prepared for.
Ian Houlihan, the ex-Director of Gen-Con believes that Hub should take more responsibility for the poor treatment of fans.
"One thing that Hub needs to learn to do, is not only listen to feedback, but accept that feedback, and then respond to it positively," said Ian. "Clearly, with what I and many others have seen over the past 48 hours is an attempt by Oz Comic-Con, or their PR staff, to engineer an all-positive feedback approach to their event. Rather than fess up to making some mistakes, they are just deleting negative feedback wherever possible.
"But in all fairness, everyone in this industry makes mistakes. I think this is more a case of the old adage of 'a failure to plan, is a plan to fail.'"