This past weekend (Sat. 4/22/17), I decided to check out the Chiller Theater Expo at the Hilton Hotel in Parsippany, NJ.
Chiller Theater Expo claims to be the number one convention event of the season. While I had a blast there were many things wrong with the way the con was set up. I blame the Hilton Hotel for about 80% of this, and the con itself for the remaining 20%.
Please do not take my opinion of this convention as derogatory, it is anything but and has no reflection on the people that run it.
The ticket booth was a complete shit show as they were not accepting cards for payment. The con did not bother to post this information anywhere on their site, social media pages, nada. (When a con accepts CASH ONLY for passes; then you need to COMMUNICATE that information to people.) I depleted almost all my cash I had for autographs and the vendor room to pay for 4 attendees. In the entire hotel there was one, yes only one ATM machine. Props to the hotel for preparing in advance for almost 500+ people coming in and out of their establishment all weekend long. I waited in line for over 15 minutes to get cash out. What a cluster!
I am assuming that the Hilton has zero experience in handling a convention of this size, or a convention at all for that matter.
How the Hotel had everything set and executed was sub par. It appears as they do not have enough meeting space to accommodate this convention, and just shoved everything that could not fit in their main space anywhere they could find room.
They had some of the celebrity tables set up in their lobby, the lobby.
Personally, I would have limited some of the vendors or put more of them in the public areas of the hotel. For Christ sake there are only so many vendors you can have that sell the same shit! While I love meandering through the vendor’s rooms, you can only look at so many tables that have DVDs and Pop Vinyl figures. To boot some of the vendors are down right assholes to you. Some of their collectible items were bullshit items anyway. They wouldn’t know about having a real collection if it crawled up their ass to their brain! Some douche canoe wanted $100 for a paper Star Trek table cloth. Were you dropped on your head as a child? I looked it up on eBay and you can find plenty for under $30. When I showed this to the vendor his eyes pierced me like a laser through lead. But I digress.
The Hotel had concessions and a bar in the middle of the main walkway between the main meeting space and the lobby/bar area where the majority of the autograph tables were located. How cute, they wanted to generate some ancillary revenue with nasty frozen pizza under a heat lamp and a variety of other shitty foods that a starving Ethiopian would probably turn down.
Oh and it blocked their one and only elevator area for hotel guests to use. Wicked smart of them! Can you say fire hazard?
The Hotel staff had the Dante Hicks mental of the “I’m not even supposed to be here today,” type of attitude, and all that I encounter had the shittiest attitudes I have ever experienced. The 7-Eleven near my house provides better friendliness and customer service. Obviously the hotel staff knows nothing of the Hilton brand service standards. I can’t wait to amuse myself by reading the hotel reviews from this past weekend.
Most of the convention staff left a lot to be desired. Some of them having a sense of entitlement that they are staffing a con. Oh God I am so impressed, I wish I was one of them, NOT! Some acted like they were the Convention Gestapo.
I actually witnessed one of them being slightly curt to a woman in a wheelchair. Really? What kind of low life would begrudge someone in a wheelchair?
There was a narrow hallway you had to venture down to get to smaller vendors and autograph rooms. This staff member was giving the person aiding the woman in the wheelchair lip because the hallway is a “tight squeeze”. Well it is ADA accessible as far as I could tell, and you should have trust that attendees would make room for her to get down the corridor. Just because the person is in a wheelchair does not mean they do not have the right to attend and enjoy a con. If this person was a good con staffer, he would have given some assistance in leading her down the hall. But no he would rather stand there and be a prick to someone instead of doing his job in aiding someone.
Don’t even get me started on the brainless shlubs that were checking for wristbands, taking their anger out on con attendees with their snarkiness all because they got stuck with one of the shittier con staffer responsibilities.
Overall I had a pretty decent time there; despite everything being organized chaos. My professional suggestion for the Chiller Theater Expo is to find a bigger hotel that provides exceptional customer service to not only you as the organizer, but to your staffers and attendees. A Hotel should embrace a con, and do things that cater specifically to the needs of an organizer and the fandom. For example offer con themed drinks or special themed menu items. A hotel should also ensure that they have more than one ATM on property for convenience. The overall cost of renting additional ATMs versus the overall value of the piece of business being provided should be no contest, when looking at it from a revenue management standpoint. These are some of the things that let you know a hotel cares about and values your business. Training con staff on how to be friendly and accommodating, especially to those that truly require assistance should be considered as well.
The opinions stated in this blog are of my own, and are strictly based on my experience attending the Chiller Theater Expo on Saturday, 4/22/17.