Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How NOT to Handle a Crowd of Fans at SDCC or The Matt Smith Photo Op

I am not one to do a rant piece.  It's just not MY personal style.  I try to find the silver lining in everything and now as I look back, this experience wasn't as bad as I thought it was, but in the moment, it was a bit hard to deal with.

{sorry for the lack of pictures!}

On preview night I happened to walk by the Lightspeed Fine Art Booth and see that Matt Smith was going to be doing a photo op!  I about lost it!  I stopped and just pointed and the guy was like can I help you?  YES!  He pointed me towards the back and I got all the info I needed.

The Hunny took The Gamer Geek's money and went back to the booth first thing on Thursday morning.  It was $100 for two of us to be in a picture at 1:30pm on Saturday and get one print.  Since it was SDCC and when will we ever see Matt Smith again, we decided to do it!

Come Saturday at 1pm we arrive at the booth to PURE CHAOS!  The line up against the wall near the booth is capped and the walk way around the booth is packed with people trying to figure out what is going on.  I find out that they are handing out raffle tickets.  But have NO idea what that means.  Neither did the volunteers.  We soon find out that Friday's photo op didn't happen and both Friday and Saturday ticket holders are trying to get queued up.
FINALLY when the volunteers figured out what they were doing, we were told to come back at 2:15pm, that is when they would start calling the numbers in sequential order.

While waiting around to learn all this information, they were STILL selling tickets to the photo op! 

Now that is what really made me mad and wanted to write this piece.  I only heard this from someone standing around, but why on Earth would they do this to one, the fans, two to Matt and three they already had chaos surrounding their booth.

I had to walk away.  2:15pm rolls around, we try our best to stay in the vicinity of the booth to see when our number is called, they are doing 50 at a time.  If you have ever been on the SDCC exhibition floor you know milling around is against fire code.  So we had that to contend with too.
Around 3pm we were finally let into the line.  When we were up to the front, five people at a time were taken across the busy aisle, told to quickly hand over your bags to an unknown booth attendant and the pushed through the curtain to see Matt. 
This was the glorious part and wrote about it on my Saturday SDCC wrap up.  Matt was perfect, a joy and such a trooper.

Five seconds later we were out in another aisle where you could NOT move.  EVERYONE was clamoring for their printed photos, SDCC attendees were just trying to walk by, and the Summit booth was just about to have the cast of Insurgent walk out.  Basically you couldn't move.
I headed back to get our bags, one of which they almost didn't find, and waited at a booth around the corner for The Gamer Geek while he got our photo.  We were both very happy with our photo, but the experience {besides Matt himself} left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I'm not sure who was actually in charge of the booth, but everyone that I encountered was flustered, angry and snappy.  I know it was chaos, but it wasn't the fan's who paid $100 fault!  Maybe sell less tickets.  Maybe don't do this HUGE thing on the con floor and maybe take a page from Nerd HQ's book and have volunteers who are HAPPY to be there.  One even yelled to the crowd to be nice to the because they were "not getting paid for this."

I really LOVE SDCC as you all know, but this one event just had to be talked about.  Now that I got it off my chest, if you were involved in any way, I would LOVE to hear about it in the comments!  And the next few SDCC posts I have lined up will be WAY more happy!

Hope everyone is traveling home safe!  I'm about to head back to LA now!

24 comments:

  1. "THIS IS NOT A LINE!!!" As one volunteer kept yelling at us! Its already cray cray on the floor..but ya they should of known it was gonna be hectic...Matt Smith was PERFECT!!! Worth the chaos..id do it again,my photo is the best souvenir from SDCC and I saw you and your magnificent dress in all the madness!!!

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    1. Sorry we had to meet under those circumstances! LOL Hope your photo is great! Would love to see it!! xo

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  2. Well at least the picture came out great and Matt Smith was amazing! Don't think a lot of people (certain volunteers included) understand just how much planning needs to go into these types of events so that everything goes smoothly.

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  3. EEeesh. What a mess :(
    Sorry you had to go through all of that, but I'm super happy you got a great shot with Matt.

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    1. Meli, it was NOTHING like meeting EW. That was perfect. This was crazy! But at least the picture is nice :) Thank you! xo

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  4. Ugh! What a crappy experience!! I hated how some of the events like that were run this year. Very sloppy and difficult to understand what was happening!

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    1. YES thank you Mia! Hope you got home quickly :) xo

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  5. I couldn't agree with you more. When I ran into you at the booth, I was about at my wits end too! My understanding is that they had to change their line plan because the fire marshal wouldn't let people line up in those big entry ways like they had in previous years. That's why Funko was such a mess too.

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    1. AWW Ashley, it was so hard, but I'm so glad Matt was happy and accommodating! I wanna see YOUR picture!! xo

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  6. Oh man that sounds terrible and makes me appreciate how organized NerdHQ's photo ops were even more! Glad Matt was as delightful as expected and that your photo turned out great regardless though. <3

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    1. Anika, thank you! He was amazing, wish it could have been a bit longer interaction time but you know how it goes!! xo

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  7. Ugh, this sounded like the line of doom! Hopefully, the company will learn from this year mistakes & work towards something better! I'm glad it worked out for you both in the end. The picture looks amazing!!

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    1. Usagi, he was great and so happy it happened, just wish they can learn from mistakes! xo

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  8. This is how it is every year at Seattle's Emerald City Comicon-and being that it's smaller, they should be better....but they aren't.

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    1. WOW this is extremely enlightening! Thank you for the comment and I will never give them my money again!

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  9. I did LSFA during my first SDCC for "Spike" from Buffy and it was just as crazy then! It's a shame they can't get it together!

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    1. B, wow are they really this clueless!! xo

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  10. I had a horrible experience with Lightspeed last year... They changed a time for a photo op I had paid for and I told them I couldn't make the new time (I had Nerd HQ tix) so I said no biggie just do a refund and I'll try again another time. They were total jerks. Said they couldn't do a refund "because it wasn't their money to refund" as if they don't profit from these photo/signing ops.
    Everyone claimed they didn't know what was going on and I had to talk to someone else... I think I they finally gave in and did the refund because I was being a very loud pain in the butt ;)
    Just very obvious they are only there to make money... Not to provide a fan experience.

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    1. Good for you Lisa! They deff are in it for the money not the fans, I will now give all my money to Nerd HQ who are there for the fans!! xo

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  11. I wonder if this was the same company that was doing photo ops for Wizard World. I volunteered at Philadelphia CC this year and some of the WW employees were telling me that on Saturday they way oversold the photo ops/autograph passes for Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Norman Reedus and that the lines were ridiculous and had no order. Someone said that while Matt was signing autographs he was being very gracious but then someone behind him said "Ok, time to star power signing." I also heard from a few people that even though the floor closed at 7PM Saturday, people were there until after 9PM trying to get their printed photos and that Norman Reedus was there until 11PM signing autographs. I don't know how much is actually true since I was hearing this after the fact but based on the chaos it could be the same company.

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  12. AnonymousJuly 30, 2014

    I was told to come at 1 also but talked to other people who were told by the Lightspeed people to come at other, earlier times, so I went a bit early to check it out. Many people had come "early" (some of whom had been told to do so by various Lightspeed people) and were told there was "no line yet". Since they weren't supposed to mill around they quietly formed an orderly line against the wall. It was pretty long when I got there, but orderly and and calm, and nice.

    There was one guy trying to do as his bosses told him, and then I guess one of the bosses at Lightspeed in particular who went ballistic and basically started screaming at everyone. He yelled, "you are NOT IN LINE" and decided to go ahead and make his own line out of the people who were then crowding around him trying to figure out what was going on. Which was, like, hundreds of people it seemed to me. He randomly pointed at people and made us get up against the wall, shoulder to the wall, nose up against the person in front of us. If you didn't take off your backpack, or tried to step out a tiny bit, you would be thrown out. All of this was to people who had "followed the rules" and by the way, paid $100 EACH for a photo op or an autograph. The line was doubled around so that those of us squished against the wall were hemmed in. It did not take long before I began to feel unwell.

    I was with my cousin and my 9 year old daughter. They screamed indiscriminately at us for about an hour while we stood so close, the guy behind me was right up in my business. It was worse than any drill sergeant in any movie I've seen. Seriously. At a 9 year old who was holding up well and trying hard to do what they said, although she was quite shocked to be treated like that and pretty scared at some points. I was very close to leaving.

    Then they decided that line was for photo ops, which was lucky for us as we had that particular ticket, and the poor folks who had stood there patiently enduring all this who had autograph tix had to come back later. There were other things too, I won't go into it all here. Suffice to say, it was a MESS MESS MESS MESS MESS and was sort of heartbreaking. Matt was super sweet and I think we were with him about 3-5 seconds? Maybe? If it weren't for him and the one nice lady at the booth, well it's hard to imagine going back to them no matter how much reason they had to be stressed out. I did hear they were selling tickets right up to the end too. Yeesh.

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    1. WOW! I am so sorry that your daughter had to go through that! So sad. Thank goodness Matt was on his A game, but $20 a second is too much for me to handle. Thank you so much for the comment!! xo

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  13. Lightspeed Fine Arts has been going to SDCC since at least 1998 (probably earlier under some other name) so it's not like they can claim "Well it was our first time..." SDCC 2013 they sold tickets for a photo op with Matt Smith and then claimed he was "ill" and canceled. The photo op was to be on Saturday 2013. I don't believe they ever had any kind of agreement with him then and I'm not sure they had an agreement with him for Friday 2014. I almost feel like they just took money on the off chance they might be able to work something out with Matt Smith at the 11th hour. I'm sure this is Lightspeed's opportunity to make money. I mean, who is shelling out money for fan art from Babylon 5 in 2014? I would hope they would change their policy but by next year, fans will have long forgotten this situation and it will happen all over again. Maybe not with Matt Smith, but with some popular celebrity and hearts will be broken all over again.

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    1. Thank you so much for this awesome comment. I know that next year I will still remember and hopefully I can warn people then of the situation. It is completely unprofessional and for $100 not an experience I will let them ruin again.

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