Convention goers spent their Halloween looking forward to the weekend because the weekend meant they would be going to Providence, Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Convention Center for Rhode Island Comic Con. Tickets were sold in increments. Con goers could purchase a VIP ticket, a weekend ticket or simply purchase a day ticket for either Saturday or Sunday. Once said tickets were purchased the con goers would attend the convention and spend the day browsing the various vendor booths, chatting it up with their favorite actors and of course trading secrets with fellow fans and cosplayers. It is common knowledge that people who attend these events often spend the entire day walking around, going out for lunch or to change, and coming back for more. It was never anticipated that fans would come in for a few hours and leave, despite the quoted “turn over rate” the comic con runners discussed.
On Saturday, this writer and her friends drove three-hours from New York to Rhode Island for this event holding in our hands Saturday only tickets. This meant that we were only going to be able to browse the event for one day, which in reality was a lot of pressure considering there was so much to see and do at the event. Still, we looked forward to meeting some of our favorite actors and seeing what the vendors had to offer.
The day started out nice enough, despite the 6:00 a.m. wake up, the drive was easy, straightforward and lacking traffic. We arrived in Providence at 10:00 a.m. but despite our pleasant trip it should have been a sign when it took this writer nearly an hour to reach the convention center parking garage only to find that the garage was full. In retrospect this ended up working out to our benefit since we found $8.00 parking across the street from the Providence Mall. We reached the line that stretched around the corner and down the block from the convention center approximately 45 minutes after arriving in Rhode Island. From there we were shuffled onto a long line in the Dunkin Donuts Convention Center across the street to retrieve wrist bands in exchange for our tickets and then shuffled back into another line at the Rhode Island Convention Center where we were finally able to enter the event.
Once inside it became clear that the venue was not big enough for the amount of people who bought tickets for it. A majority of the showroom floor was filled with vendors selling everything from comic books, paintings to celebrity merchandise and of course the classic horror items and even a man wielding snakes and tarantulas. This would have been fine had the celebrities been placed elsewhere in the convention center however, they were located toward the back of the show floor which put them in the midst of the growing crowd. It seemed unusual that there were hoards of people inside the venue but also hundreds others still waiting online to get inside. None-the-less we pushed through the crowds and made our way over to where Supernatural actors, Jim Beaver and Mark Sheppard were located. Along the way we passed by Scott Wilson, aka Hershel from The Walking Dead. Unfortunately he was smack in the middle of the main flow of celebrities, which meant his line kept being closed off by security due to people causing a fire hazard by blocking the aisles. What should have happened in order to best accommodate everyone was to put Scott Wilson toward the back where the lines could be controlled a little easier, this would have eliminated any chance for a fire hazard.
As the day progressed it became clear that something was completely wrong since the line in the hallway and outside didn’t dissipate at all. As it turned out the company running the convention oversold the event by well over 1,000 tickets and hadn’t planned in advance for the fact that congoers would spend full days at the convention. This left hundreds of paying customers, who pre-paid for their tickets, out in the literal cold. Hundreds remained outside in the rain, wind and cold weather unable to enter the convention they spent their hard earned money on. Furthermore vendors who purchased a exhibitor table for over $200 were not allowed to come back into the event if they left for even a second. The truth of the matter is that when people attending these types of events they linger, they don’t buy single day tickets and then spend less than a full day at the actual event. The convention runners should have known this in advance and planned their tickets accordingly. They called the incident a “hiccup,” but with hundreds of fans left out in the cold this was certainly more than a hiccup.
Fans immediately took to social media to express their distain for the company and the disorganization at the event saying, “How can an organization screw up so thoroughly and badly, especially for fans who paid a significant amount of money and did everything by the book?” A fan who pre-purchased a VIP ticket had this to say of the incident, “I paid $360 for two silver VIP passes and couldn’t get in the door.” Another angry customer said, “Hiccup? My daughter and her friends got stuck outside in your lobby all afternoon! They all paid for a weekend pass, but we not allowed back in after leaving for lunch. They got trampled in a stampede. Hiccup? I think not! How about refunds?”
Many blamed the organizers for being greedy and over selling tickets so they could make more money with no thought as to the repercussions to their customers. Refunds were not immediately issued and the only solution the convention folks offered were that they would honor Saturday ticket holders who were unable to get into the event on Sunday. Of course, once again Sunday was oversold and the doors were shut due to the venue being over capacity. Fool me once…
What is so disappointing about this turn of events is that this event should have and could have been one of the most incredible events of the year. Their guest line up was spectacular ranging from everyone from William Shatner, Tommy Flanagan, Mick Foley, Scott Wilson, Rick Worthy and Anthony Michael Hall. This is a line up that fans salivated over and should have shot Rhode Island Comic Con into convention superstardom had they been smart and not over sold their event. Many were so put off by the disruptive greed of the company they swore they’d never return.