7 APRIL 2016
Today was a painful day on many levels. But let's be clear - it wasn't anything as simple as bad luck as in, "Well, there's too many attendees and not enough rooms, what can you do!" Here are the ways this sale failed us, and what could be improved.
Anyone could participate in the sale.
This is so, so unfair. If someone gets a badge and possibly invests in plane fare, they should be prioritized for a room over someone who just wants to come network or hit up the outside events. And the current system allows you to sway the odds in your favor by submitting a ton of fake names on different browsers. A real lottery where everyone had an equal shot would be restricted to Member IDs with registration records.
We were misinformed on the process - and it handicapped some of us.
"All users will be given access to the hotel reservations form from the waiting room in RANDOM ORDER and requests will be processed based upon this order." It's pretty obvious by now that didn't happen; that the double randomization was more in play. People who got in twenty minutes into the sale were landing at the Marriott Marquis and people who were in after thirty seconds got nothing.
Why this matters: because many people after a certain point figured that all of the rooms were gone at that point (like in previous years, when a 9:17 PST timestamp meant you got nothing) and so they shut down their browsers and moved on. My friend's wife got in pretty quick and he didn't so after ten minutes, they decided there wasn't any point in waiting. Wrong! They both would have had an equal shot.
The miscommunications and conflicting messages just increased our frenzy.
Some On Peak members told us that it was totally randomized; others said no, it was about the moment you entered the room; others said no, it was about submission time. Various official tweets and email statements underscored all of these contradictions. It gave some people false hope, unsettled others and stirred up unnecessary debates and research.
The ratio of "totally rejected" to "got something" was higher than ever.
Okay, I don't have authentic stats to back this up. But by mid-afternoon, only a third of people reported receiving an email in Leonard's Twitter poll. Out of a group of 17 people I monitored, only 4 of us had gotten an email. We all got something. Then there was a lull and an onslaught of rejection emails hit and it seemed that almost everyone who'd gotten something had already been notified. That is a horrifying imbalance. I hope the number of people who got totally shut out is smaller than it seems - but regardless of what that ratio is, it's clear something has got to change.
So what could be improved?
Restricting the badge sale. Obviously. It's amazing to me that it's gotten so much harder for even pros to get into SDCC in recent years - and yet they let total randos into this sale. They can restrict it (by volunteer, guest, pro, exhibitor staff, attendee, whatever) and they should.
Communicating accurately and clearly. I'm not blaming CCI for this one - I'm guessing they got the same mixed messages from On Peak that we did. But On Peak should have trained its customer-facing staff better, distributed talking points and made the process clear. This is not difficult. It just isn't. There's either a lack of good management, a lack of respect for attendees, or both.
Some kind of finely honed Machiavellian arm-twisting and blackmailing. Only partially kidding. Despite that much-lauded agreement we heard about between CCI and local hotels, it's obvious that downtown hotels are withholding more rooms to sell at market rates. It used to be much, much easier to get into a downtown room. The Unofficial SDCC Blog did a good post on this, but even so, you can look at those room numbers and compare them to the tiny number of attendees who get into them and get very depressed.
As far as what to do - there are fewer rooms to trade this year, unfortunately. People like me who were ready to offer up our safety rooms are now clinging to them for dear life. (I already have a line of people waiting to take Hotel Z off my hands.) However, people will be letting go of rooms over the next few days, so be astute and ask around; and be ready for when hotel reservations open back up.
And while this might not be your dream, consider looking for roommates. Yeah, I know, sharing a room with a stranger, how uncomfortable. But it's an option and people do need roommates. Also consider trimming a night off your stay, on either end. If you got Thursday, Friday, Sunday, cut off Sunday, do the outside events Saturday, and go home happy.
And finally - I have 4 nights at Town and Country that I won't be using. I know that's not your dream either but it's an option. No one's asked me for it yet.
Hopefully tomorrow we'll have a clearer idea of who needs rooms and how we can help them.
ETA: It looks like dupes may have been a problem as well - if a phone number or address matched another entry, it was discarded. This is a theory based on what a few people have been told; I don't think it's official yet. If it's true, it's completely ridiculous - people who live together at home, like parent and a college student or adult child, may want separate rooms at the Con. Two housemates may want separate rooms. And then there are the many attendees who know they're about to move - maybe they're graduating, maybe they're job-hunting, maybe they hate their apartment - and so they put down a friend's place as a more permanent address.
It's clear we need an explanation from On Peak of how the sale was handled, and they need to listen to our grievances and address them.