Monday, September 1, 2014

Kumoricon 2014: The Good (Is In Part 2), The Bad, and the Ableist

Fans were great. Lower-level staff was great. I got to spend the entire weekend rooming with one of my best friends. I took tons of pictures. I played tons of games. I had an amazing time.

Most of the higher-level staff involved in planning needs to be fired.

Don't get me wrong; I have mostly great things to say about Kcon this year and I had a great time, but some things need vented first. Behold my tale of disorganization, common sense fail, and even a little downright ableism.

1. Shuttle Service (And Contact Info)

This is the big one - the shuttle service for Kumoricon 2014 was absolutely horrible on several levels. Let me tell you me tale of woe here:

I arrived at the Quality Inn on Day 0, and no information was available about the shuttle service times for the next day. Not on the forum, the website, anything. The hotel didn't know. I called the Hilton - they didn't know either. I asked them to put me through to the con staff - they did not have a number to reach the convention staff. I repeat: Kumoricon did not give the hotels it was making agreements with any more than an email address. After some prodding, my friend get a helpful Hilton staff member willing to look for the person in charge of logistics. She is unable to find him for a while and when we finally get news, it is the dumbest and most unprofessional thing.

They are still working out the logistics. The con has all but officially started and they still don't have the shuttles that were promised to overflow hotel members finalized. To make matters worse, my friend is running 2 panels. K-Con promises shuttles to overflow, puts panel runners in overflow, and then doesn't make it clear even by the day before if said panelists will even be able to make it.

While Roomie keeps in touch with the staff to get new information ASAP, I start trying to contact K-con via social networking. My first attempt is Twitter. I never receive a reply, despite Kcon's twitter answering the questions of others and even trying to promote a local cab service that would be at the con-goer's expense. 

Finally, at around 7:30, something works: K-Con's Facebook informs me that schedules will be posted at each hotel at 7AM.

This entire process took 5 and a half hours of constant reaching out to every form of staff the two of us could think of. I arrived at QI at 2:30. We finally managed to catch a ride with someone and make it to the tail end of Day 0 at 9PM. Not only did the shuttle not handle Day 0 like it should have - it wasn't even done being finalized on day 0 of the event. While my friend gets her panelist stuff handled, I ask the staff to confirm the shuttle information I got from Facebook. Nobody can and I'm given a sort of shrug and "Well, if that's the only info so far, it's probably right."

The next morning, we go to the hotel lobby for the schedule - it is there, but there are nowhere CLOSE to specific times. The window of arrival of the shuttle is a full hour, and the first shuttle of the day doesn't reach QI until between 10 and 11, arriving at the Hilton on the hour meaning the first shuttle doesn't reach the convention until 3 hours after the first events, and after the start of my roomie's panel. The shuttle looks different on different days at different times and drops people off/picks them up at different locations. All days of the event but the last we seek alternative transportation via the public bus or hitching rides with other congoers.

To top it off, we heard some interesting stuff about the finalization from staff - apparently, EcoShuttle had offered busses that were ADA compliant, which would allow users in wheelchairs to board. Kumoricon replied that they didn't need shuttles that were accessible to people with disabilities. To top it off, the bus' stairs were super steep. My roommate had an ADA badge for the event and had trouble boarding and exiting the bus. Another comment comes that EcoShuttle is incredibly cheap and some of their shuttles should be retired. There are implications that the shuttles are starting to age into unsafe territory.

I could go on about this, but I think the story speaks for itself. This was just messed up and inconsiderate all around. Some of those "new staff positions" mentioned the last day had better include transit coordinator, because ew.

2. Lines/Con Space

The Hilton is getting too small guys. Seriously. And if we're going to keep denying it, figure out the room-limit early, keep close count on the line, and cut it off before we've been stuck standing around 30 minutes. Counting is not that hard, yo.

3. The Dance Party

Another "fun" story: At the first dance of Kumoricon (the "regular" music dance), the DJ brought some dancers. One of said dancers seemed to think K-con was some sort of strip club for people with really colorful hair. She was thrusting, rubbing things around her groin area before throwing them into the crowd, blowing kisses at male attendees with "come hither" gestures to get more people to post requests, and flipping the skirts of her fellow dancers to name a few examples. Not only was this BEFORE minors' curfew, but plenty of us 18+ folk were totally creeped out. I decided to head up to staff and comment on it, and another staff chimed in with me about how creepy it was. We go down there along with other staff to find she has stopped the behavior. It turns out she was given a talking to, but before somebody informed our group of this, the others were looking at me and the staff member like we had been lying.

Oh, and for being so adamant to get requests, they sure enjoyed completely ignoring requests to play one style of dance music.

4. WiFi

This didn't exist outside of the lobby for con-goers. It is 2014. This is a problem.

5. Viewing Rooms

Schedules for viewing rooms were not in the program and viewing rooms had moved. Raise your hand if this was your first time at K-Con and didn't even know viewing rooms existed.

6. The Elevator

Shortly after the convention started, the elevator between the game room and the lobby was down for a few hours and then a sign was plastered on that it was for disabled users and staff only. I can understand why this was - the elevator is just not meant for all that abuse - but when it's pitch black out and you gotta run all the way from the game room in the parking garage to the restroom right next to the lobby elevator....yeeeeah. As far as I saw, people respected the elevator person limits plastered on the elevators for the rest of the hotel, so why not just lower the limit a little to accommodate for everyone wearing heavy cosplay crap instead of kicking everyone out? This wasn't a problem in 2012 - it breaks one time and suddenly we can't have nice things ever. :T

7. Badges and Adult Checks

So, apparently K-con's badge ordering site glitches up like woah and used the cardholder's information on some badges, even when it wasn't the same as the attendee's name. Glitches happen, but this one wasn't handled very well. The problem was that some kids wound up with "ADULT" on their badge. K-Con seemed to try to remedy this with a black light system - all 18+ attendees who are out after curfew must wear a stamp that can only be seen with a black light, making it hard to copy as well as friendly to cosplayers.

This was actually really brilliant and there must have been some for-sight about the error to put this together, but the other half of the plan - actually checking the stamps - was not handled so well. I was checked a grand total of 3 times during the entirety of the convention, despite being out until 2AM every night. I was offering my wrist left and right and getting hand waved to go on. Now, if I am obviously over 18 to everyone, I apologize for mentioning this one, but I find that hard to believe. I have a good deal of baby fat still on my face, was wearing baggy clothes that made it hard to even discern my gender, and have a history of having my age mistaken.

8. General Disorganization

The amount of "I don't know what is going on" during the convention was astounding. I understand it's a big con. I understand there's a lot happening. There are also a lot of staff and things called mass texts or even walkie talkies and - dare i say it - actual phone numbers. This convention is too big for even staff working the information booth to need to walk all the way up to the main office if there is an issue.

K-Con, there are 6000 people running around this thing. Get your act together.