REWindCon: Good, Bad or Otherwise…You Decide

Back in July, we wrote about Rewind Con in Chicago. The convention was originally scheduled for September 23-25 and was moved to November 11-13. Since then I have been closely watching this convention. I have also spoken with a slew of people…hotel staff, former volunteers for the con, celebrity reps, ticket holders etc…there is a real mix of people when it comes to this con: those that are delighted and those that are angry.

Date Change

They told us that the date changes were due to the fact that they had to change venues. The original claim was that they needed a larger venue; their post led people to believe that their original hotel had misled them on capabilities.

The change in date for our upcoming convention in September was due to multiple factors with the original venue. We sent our staff to walk the property and we were ensured our guests as well as attendees would be accommodated for the size we planned.

Recently we were informed that it was not the case which was a huge blow to us and we tried to find solutions to fix the issue. This was not a decision that was made lightly or in haste, as we know the impact it would sustain to everyone involved. We have and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that everyone in attendance will get what was promised, the way it was promised. We only want what is best for out attendees and guests.

After their first announcement, I reached out to the con organizers who firmly placed the blame on the hotel:

…From their previous experience working with Cons they gaged [sic] the amount of fans that would attend based on the other Cons they’ve worked with, but due to staff changes at the original venue they were misled on what they could allow on capacity from the beginning. To avoid the change, they initially tried to work out a way with the original venue to accommodate all the fans confirmed to attend. They would much rather move the location, and unfortunately the new location did not have open availability for the September 23rd-25th dates, so the dates needed to be moved to November.

After talking with the original venue and hearing confirmation from several other people, this isn’t exactly true.

During my initial conversations with hotel staff, I was merely informed that the organizers of REWindCon were not happy with the facilities. During a follow-up conversation I found out the root of the issue was money. Then someone else got a slightly different answer and were sent this message by the hotel:

hotelSo, according to the hotel, the venue change was not because of size, but because of the deposit requirements and not just people capacity.

I haven’t been to either hotel, but according to many people who have been at both, the newer hotel is a bit smaller. It doesn’t seem that way, perhaps it just happens to be that they were in one of the smaller rooms?

Why would you move to a smaller hotel if you were worried about having enough capacity?

The original hotel has 19,500 square feet of flexible meeting space with the largest ballroom available at 11,200 square feet and space for as many as 1,200 Guests.

According to the current hotel website:

Our combined 50,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 28 breakout rooms, accommodates from 12-1,200 attendees comfortably. ……With our extensive 2,100 sq. ft. pre-function space, our hotel provides your attendee’s plenty of space before and after conference and event sessions.

There are 310 guest rooms and the largest conference room is listed as 15,015 Sq. Ft which can hold 1,600 people.

Sounds like a lot of space to me at the new hotel anyhow. If they were truly concerned about size, they made a definite improvement, but that still begs the question about the deposit.

Guests

IF this con carried through as per the original plans with the all of the guests they had originally scheduled then they would have needed to book a much larger facility.

Before the cancellation notice there were at least 35 celebrity guest announcements, which is a lot of guests for any convention, let alone a first time convention. And not all of these are “has been” actors that have moved on to other things in their lives. I’m sure several of these guests cost a pretty penny.

These are JUST the announcements I pulled out of REWindCon’s Facebook page earlier this week that were dated before the date change. I don’t know if or how many have been deleted since the original change notice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Math

I asked REWindCon for their expected numbers, but I didn’t get a real response

4. What is your expected attendance?

 Answer: We anticipate a great turnout and are excited to bring the convention to Chicago!

So I ran my own numbers. When it comes to capacity, there are 35 guests. You have to figure that during the event each guest is going to have at least one ticket taker/handler, so you are already up to 70 people. On top of that you need your volunteer staff which would easily bring the number up to 100. Then if each guest star only receives 10 fans, that is another 350 people bringing the total to 450 people. You also need to figure that not all of those fans are coming alone, so I’m going to guess that 100 of them bring a friend. Our total is now 550 people. Plus there will be vendors, sponsors, press and of course management which will be at least 50 people.

Just with my extreme under-estimation, they would be at 50% capacity of the largest ballroom in the original hotel, so in that way it makes sense to get a bigger venue. In reality, I am certain they are hoping for MUCH bigger numbers, otherwise they will be losing an awful lot of money.

The question here is…if you are planning that many guests, why couldn’t you run these type of numbers earlier before you even booked a hotel? My capacity numbers are pulled off their websites and it doesn’t look to me like the pages have been changed for a quite a while.

EMCEE?

One guest announcement I did find amusing was made on January 28, 2016 for Chase Coleman, announcing him as the guest emcee.

jan 28 2016-1 (600x415)Announcing someone as your emcee usually means that you have them firmly locked in…yet Chase posted this on Twitter on June 19th.
Chase thinkingDoesn’t sound like it was a lock-in to me.

Scheduling Conflicts

Even for those who were relatively local there were problems. The new date coincides with two other conventions in Chicago: Eyecon which features the cast of One Tree Hill, and Ramencon which is a very popular anime convention. There is a very direct conflict between Eyecon and Rewind, as they attract a similar crowd, but many who attend these also attend Ramencon.

When this initially occurred, and the conflict was pointed out to them, REWindCon told us and the public that they were working with Eyecon, at which point I reached out to Eyecon who responded

No, we are not working with rewind. We tried to work something out but we were the only ones coming up with ideas and it just didn’t work out.

I recently asked REWind con again if they are doing anything to help resolve the conflict for those who have tickets to Eyecon and they responded,

We’ve spoken with Eyecon regarding this and when any details are set in stone, they will be announced accordingly.

I have not had an opportunity to reach out to Eyecon this time for their feedback, but it does sound like REWind is making an effort.

Refunds

A lot of people purchased tickets before the schedule change. Many of them booked hotels and several even scheduled planes tickets. Unfortunately for many of those people, they were burned.

Per their original announcement “all prior ticket purchases will be honored,” and so far there have been no problems with that part. In fact, they even promise the original ticket holders a goody bag.

However when it came to refund for those that now couldn’t attend, it was a different matter. Ticket holders were originally directed to their “terms and conditions on purchases for the refund policy.” The problem was that those terms and conditions stated there would be no refunds. That’s when people started screaming. Did they really think people wouldn’t be upset by a date change of two months?

Within hours of the notice, REWindCon stated they would be issuing refunds. Even the email response I received stated,

They will be offering refunds to all of those that cannot attend, all within the cancellation terms, which is within 90 days from notice of the attendees’ cancellation, not purchase

This was going to be a long slow process, as the ticket money was probably already invested in guest and hotel deposits, but slowly money did trickle out.

But not fast enough. In fact, there are several that have not yet been paid. I emailed REWindCon yesterday.

1. Are you still issuing refunds, or is that done? I am seeing people complain about not receiving refunds(?)

Answer: Those are being done on a first come first served basis and are almost completed. Some may take longer than others depending on the method of payment, but rest assured they are being processed.

2. Is/was any accommodations being done in regards to flights that people had booked for the original convention dates?

Answer: They have and those who contacted us about them as instructed have received them.

They are being processed“: This means that they agree not all refunds have been issued yet, however that goes against what Jaymie Lashaway, the local organizer, has stated repeatedly.

jayme payments done aThis post was almost two months ago, and if you look at the screen capture below you will see how she responded when people questioned her on the statements.

jayme payments done bI know of people who are still waiting for their refunds. I also know a few who took matters into their own hands and are using conflict resolutions through their credit cards or Paypal to get their money back.

Social Media Backlash

According to Jaymie, “Communication is always going – a simple look at Facebook & Twitter show that clearly.” Apparently not that clearly, at least for those that have been banned from FB. The reasons for banning people are pretty transparent… they just don’t want bad press.

Since the announcement by REWindCon, there has been a social media backlash and the organizers have responded by banning people from Facebook; perhaps not the best way to deal with detractors as it is more reactionary than anything else.

The best way to face your accusers is to actually provide information that supports your point instead of resorting to name calling, banning, and expulsion. You want to sway people to your side rather than antagonize them.

Even issuing apologies is better than what they were doing. The best way to handle this would have been to send out a weekly email or FB post stating something to the effect of ” ‘X’ amount of people requested refunds due to the schedule change, we are currently working with #Y on this list, we have Z number of people left. We are addressing concerns in the order they appeared.” As long as the number continually changed and showed some progress, then they would have had less disgruntled people.

Sometimes fighting fire with fire is NOT the way to go. But then again, that is me looking from the outside in…AND I am not one of the people waiting for a refund.

Management

When I emailed REWind Con, I received responses from Katz Public Relations. So whether they are running the show, or were just hired as the PR for it, I am not sure. I do know they are not a new addition to the show staff, as they are the same people I had received a response from earlier.

In fact, in seems to me that a large portion of any of the issues in Chicago are a result of the poor communication and management skills of Jaymie, at least when it comes to dealing with the public.

Celebrities

I have spoken to several agents who have been dealing with REWindCon and, at least on their end, communication has been great. The celebrities and their agents have been kept appraised of everything. So far it seems there is no defaults on deposits and everyone knows exactly what is going on. As the date gets closer, we will see how they handle providing flight and hotel information for the Celebrities.

The Con Must Go On

Despite everything, the con will still go on. They have a huge guest list that includes 57 guests and it seems like more are announced weekly. That is a HUGE guest list which makes me a little skeptical whether they can afford them all or if there will be enough ticket sales to continue.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If, however, this convention manages to go through, I think it has the potential to be a HUGE success. There are a lot of guests on this list I am not familiar with, but there are a lot that I know as well. If I could afford a ticket, I would probably be there. It doesn’t feel right to be asking for a press pass.

I think the initial date/hotel fiasco was a huge setback that was handled poorly and is still causing a lot of hangups, but it looks okay from here.

Everyone at Rewind Con is working tirelessly everyday to ensure we have a fantastic event and we look forward to a very memorable event in November.

I don’t doubt that. Of course they want a great event, they have more scheduled for next year and this is their first.

I wish them the best of luck.

And just for reference, here is the email response from their PR firm…

Hello April,
Thank you for reaching out. Apologies for the delayed response as our office is based on the West Coast and we are getting settled into the office for the day. Please see the answers to your questions below on behalf of our client Rewind Con.
1. Are you still issuing refunds, or is that done? I am seeing people complain about not receiving refunds?

Answer: Those are being done on a first come first served basis and are almost completed. Some may take longer than others depending on the method of payment, but rest assured they are being processed.

2. Is/ was any accommodations being done in regards to flights that people had booked for the original convention dates?

Answer: They have and those who contacted us about them as instructed have received them.

3.  How many guests do you currently have coming?

Answer: All information on attending guests can be found at the Rewind Con website: www.rewindconvention.com

4. What is your expected attendance?

  Answer: We anticipate a great turnout and are excited to bring the convention to Chicago!

5. In Chicago it is hard not to have conflicting dates. Your date conflicts with both EyeCon and RamenCon. Are you working with either convention to make it easier for those who had already planned to attend them prior to your date change?

Answer: We’ve spoken with Eyecon regarding this and when any details are set in stone, they will be announced accordingly.

6. Do you have an official response or statement you would like me use in my article?

Answer: Everyone at Rewind Con is working tirelessly everyday to ensure we have a fantastic event and we look forward to a very memorable event in November.

Advertisement

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Want to Attend a Convention? Here is the Complete 2016 Con List! – PopCultHQ: Pop Culture HQ
  2. Rewind Con – Did It Rewind? – PopCultHQ: Pop Culture HQ

Comments are closed.