Daytona2050 – The “Lemon” of Conventions? Part 1

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Not everything in the Cosplay world is bright and shiny, and the convention world is not an easy one to make money in, especially now that it has gone mainstream and conventions are popping up everywhere and many of them are huge failures.

Daytona2050 was a convention that was over-planned, over-promised, and poorly run, and as a result it under-performed and the owner, Heath Jones, is making everyone else pay for his mistakes.

I originally covered the failings of this convention back in December, when I found out that a few people hadn’t been paid and some that had been paid ended up with bounced checks.

Back then I had promised a follow-up article, well things have progressed dramatically, to the point of legal action for many.

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Charities

Per an October 16th article, 5% of the net receipts of the convention were to be distributed between five non-profit organizations: The Arc of Volusia, The Boys and Girls Club of Volusia/Flagler Counties, Early Learning Coalition of Flagler and Volusia Counties, Southeast Volusia Humane Society, and Junior Achievement of Central Florida.

I reached out to these charities and a few of them didn’t respond, but the ones that did confirmed that they received no compensation but instead a letter:

With respect to our promised donation and also future participation; we wish to be honorable and we’d like to discuss with you what we can do to fulfill our commitment, we assure you we’ll stay in communication if you can allow us some time to recover. You and your organization will be welcome at any event in future, I still believe there is great potential for us to help you meet your own marketing goals.

Of course they look forward to the money, and probably see potential for it, but not receiving promised monies doesn’t really hurt the charities as none of them actually count on the money until it is in the bank. Which is a VERY smart thing in this case.

The donation was also supposed to be 5% of the net profits, if the convention can’t pay their bills then obviously there was no profit to distribute to the charities.

The one nice thing that the charities did get out of 2050 was some free advertising and some of them were given booth or floor space, so that does equate to a donation of sorts.

By Erik Drost (Flickr: Cleveland Convention Center) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Erik Drost (Cleveland Convention Center)

Attendance

Basically, there was none, or at least none worth mentioning. Guests and vendors alike have told me they were told that there would be 5-20,000 attendees. According to many reports they were lucky to see 100 people on Friday.

One vendor was bored so they apparently made it a game to count people that walked by their booth on Sunday, and counted 150 people. However they couldn’t tell me if any of them were repeats or how many they might have missed.

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Gaming

A large portion of the convention was focused around gaming and that seemed to be the area that was best organized and had the best attendance. However, even that side of the convention had issues as there was insufficient internet and power access for such a large-scale event. Apparently the organizers didn’t think all angles through and ensure that the chosen facility could handle the demands that such an event would require.

Part of Heath’s poor organization and management skills came through loud and clear during the convention itself when people attending the gaming portion didn’t even know that the comic convention was across the way and that the cost of admission got you into both shows.

Advertising

Part of the guest contract was that they were to post advertisements for the convention at least three times a week on their social media platforms, however as many have pointed out Daytona2050 and Heath Jones didn’t do much promoting of the cosplayers themselves. The guests were the only ones advertising.

Even the description they provided of the event on one of the tourism sites doesn’t list anything about the cosplayers.

2050 will be innovating on the concept of a Comic Convention by inviting Artist’s Alley vendors to compete in art challenges for prizes and equipment to further their craft. We will also be showcasing the stars and creators of today’s hottest new comics, movies and books in panels and autograph sessions. Finally, 2050 will be hosting vendors for toy, game and comic related merchandise.

During the convention itself, many guests and vendors wandered over to the gaming side of the convention and spoke with attendees who knew nothing about the other side of the event; they seem to have done more advertising for the comic portion than the organizers’ themselves. No one remembers seeing any sort of display, flyers, or signs indicating that there was even a second part to the convention.

Prize Money

Both sides of the convention had competitions which offered cash prizes. On the gaming side there was a first-person shooting championship hosted by eSports .

Apparently the prize winners were three teams of four:

1st ($6,000): Daytona Rabiiid, Itz So Frosty, Aries, aPure Gangster
2nd ($3,000): Fatal Ambition Burton, Calm Mentality, Blaze, Elitest
3rd ($1,000): Night Hawks JesseUnleashed, Omega, Swipuh, Stress

There was a prize pool of over $10,000 which I believe was provided by Iron Gaming. I have heard no complains about winners not receiving their payments, so I am guessing that part went smoothly.

On the other side of the convention there were three costume contests: one for gaming fans called the Respawn Wardrobe Cosplay Competition, the Future of Cosplay Competition, and a Best of the Undead costume contest at the Zombies vs. Gypsies Street Party.

Unfortunately due to the low attendance rate and the lack of advertising and sponsorship by Daytona2050, finding the competition winners or photos is extremely difficult. Even the Facebook page by 2050events and the event pages showed nothing on any of the competitions. It was only by reading personal posts that I managed to locate a few of the winners.

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Future of Cosplay Runner-up  Photo courtesy of Papanotzzi

One winner of the The Future of Cosplay contest, Ann Marie Scarpinito, agreed to talk to me about the event.

The con was really dead, it had great potential but it was empty. I have never seen a con that dead, not even on a Sunday or late night. The contest itself was pretty disorganized, but I give all credit to the judges because they stepped up and made the best out of it. They seemed to be the only ones who had a clue and ran it themselves…The judging was fair, so I have no complaints there.

What she does have a complaint about was her prize money, or lack of. The winners were told to return to the cosplay booth at 5 o’clock to collect their prizes, then when they showed up there was no one there. It wasn’t until the hall was closing down that someone finally showed up with the excuse that the checks had to be printed. Then to add insult to everything Ann Marie’s prize check bounced a few days after it was deposited.

Apparently a few cashed their checks that evening and received money, but Ms. Scarpinito waited until the next day, which unfortunately meant that there was no money in the Daytona2050 bank account by the time she cashed it.

Compensation

Money is the biggest issue at the heart of everything, but isn’t it always?

I had previously stated that there were several people who received no compensation despite their contracts, while others received checks that proceeded to bounce. The moneys owed to various people range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars and the few attempts by 2050 to pay any of them back have been pathetic.

Guests and investors have been offered fractions of the money they are owed. One person was initially led to believe the compensation offered was a partial payment and then after the initial acceptance was told that was the only payment they were getting.

Ticket Sales

Most of the guests were provided with a personalized ticket link and several told me they were promised 10% of those sales. Several knew of tickets sold through the link and no commission was ever received. One of the guests I spoke with personally witnessed a ticket transaction through their personalized link so they know with 100% certainty that there were purchases through the link and nothing came of it.

I was given a blank copy of the contract that at least one person signed and it actually stated they were owed 15% and that they would get a report on their sales.

Payments to Members of The 2050 Partnership Program

On the first of each month 2050 Events will submit to the Member an itemized accounting of all sales 2050 Event’s products, which can be directly attributed to this Promotional Agreement. A check for the Member’s payment shall be mailed within three business days of the first of each calendar month.

No one I spoke with remembers seeing any form of report.

Accommodations

There was no rhyme or reason to how accommodations were handled as it seemed to be all over the board.

Apparently at one point the con was attempting to group almost all of the female guests into one hotel suite without consulting them. At that point many of them started screaming breach of contract and it ended up resolved to everyone’s satisfaction with some rooming together, and others separate.

Other guests were told they would have hotel rooms, but when they didn’t get any confirmation they chose to book their own. And at least one guest was finally given a hotel confirmation just days before the convention, after he had already booked and paid for a non-refundable one himself. No one that booked their own rooms ever received compensation despite contracts stating the convention would provide lodging.

Hotel Woes

When someone else agrees to book and pay for a hotel room for you, the hotel still wants to have your credit card information on file as a security measure for themselves. Usually nothing comes of it unless you have trashed the room or devoured the contents of the mini-bar.

Unfortunately in this case, something came of it many months later. The hotel was having issues getting all of their bills paid by 2050events, so after several months of non-resolution, they started billing the security cards they had on file, which meant that there were suddenly hotel room charges showing up on guests’ cards.

Contact

There have been numerous calls, emails, and Facebook messages left for the organization that ran Daytona2050 and for the owners themselves with very little response. I have tried repeatedly to make contact and been blown off. Others, who had been actually able to contact someone, were shoved off onto underlings who have nothing to do with the finances, or were rudely chopped off when they did contact someone.

No one responds to emails, instant messages are read, but not responded to and phone calls are unanswered, or they were until the number was disconnected.

This has gone further than it ever had too.

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1 Comment

  1. As someone who hasn’t been paid from this convention, I know that the owners are still working very hard to get everyone paid. The owners even cashed in their own savings to pay people that were in desperate need.

    I saw with my own eyes that the cosplayers were advertised on the 2050 social media sites, more so than the actual guests. However, cosplayers were not meeting their contractual obligation to promote the event itself, putting themselves in breech of contract. The convention still went ahead with paying for lodging, even after that.

    The biggest downfall, in my opinion, was another well-established convention that moved theirs to the same weekend as 2050 after 2050 was decided and deposits paid. The owner of the other convention apparently doesn’t like other conventions popping up around his and rumour has it, has in the past set out to sabotage other conventions. Whether this was the case here, I can’t say, but many people had warned 2050 after the fact about this guy.

    The people that organised this convention did so to the best of their abilites and did a fantastic job. It was their first convention and the first you do anything there is a lot to learn and some things you can’t plan for if you haven’t been through it first.

    Everything seemed to go well except for the attendance. If attendance had been up then the money problems wouldn’t have been an issue. As far as I’ve seen that’s where all of the problems are.

    I just heard that the owner is still working his heart out to pay everyone back.

4 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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