The Eurofurence Forum

Eurofurence Community => Special Interests => Dealers Forum => Topic started by: o'wolf on 27.01.2015, 00:19:38

Title: Dealer's Room tables and requirement of registration for EF
Post by: o'wolf on 27.01.2015, 00:19:38
I hope Alpha_Ki doesn't mind if I'm bringing this up here without asking her for input first. But the topic explodes on Twitter (and in my face as one of the keepers of the @eurofurence accounts), and I have have the feeling that some clarification is necessary. This is basically the gist of what I've gathered by talking to the Eurofurence board about this topic.

We've been receiving massive complaints on Twitter, basically started by someone who paid attendance for Eurofurence last year and couldn't get a table. In their opinion, not being able to sell their wares at EF made it financially impossible to attend, which further means they had to waive their Eurofurence ticket. Others chimed in that our handling isn't fair.

Here are some aspects that are a bit hard to communicate in 140 characters — and if you're splitting it into multiple posts, you'll get at least 10 responses on the previous ones while you're typing the next one. Anyway:

Eurofurence dealer tables are a limited resource as space is a limited (and expensive) resource. We try to fit in as many applicants as possible, but please understand that we may not fit in everyone. While we do not charge for tables, we need to make sure that those who register for a table actually show up.

The current scheme (you need to be registered for EF to apply for a table) was introduced when we had an attendee cap: we received massive justified complaints back then from people who couldn't get a table, and by the time they went off the waiting list all convention tickets were sold. We ended up with empty tables, even though we initially had more requests than we could fill. The solution was to only give tables to people who have paid for their attendance. This is the current status and it seemed to be reasonable at the time. Eurofurence is a community event that also provides some means to its attendees to sell their wares. We are not a trade fair.

Dealers of course are an important part of the community, there is absolutely no doubt about it. However, some rather loud voices in the Twitter gave the impression, that they'd only attend Eurofurence to sell things. But to cater for those interests we'd need to become said trade fair. While I believe nobody of us has anything against such an event, it's not the kind of event we as staff want Eurofurence to be and pour all of our spare time, work and money into.

We understand that the current mode of operation leaves some of our attendees in a catch-22 situation. We'll discuss internally if it can be changed and what needs to be done. Please have some patience, we won't be able to implement it for Eurofurence 21. We don't need to cap the amount of attendees any more, and for most European attendees the ticket (no more including the hotel room fees) isn't high enough to avoid no-shows anyway.

I hope that answers most of the questions. Your thoughts?
Title: Re: Dealer's Room tables and requirement of registration for EF
Post by: Cheetah on 27.01.2015, 13:49:06
Hi everyone!

What o'wolf says above is absolutely correct. I'd like to add though that we're taking all criticism very seriously, and we're discussing possible solutions for the dilemma. I'm honestly surprised that something that hasn't been an issue for 20 years suddenly blows up like it did yesterday - and I took the liberty to check out our support ticket database, and except for one, I found no tickets from people who complained on twitter about having had issues last year. Folks, if you don't talk to us when you have a problem, but instead to wait for things to escalate on twitter one year later, we don't have much of a chance to improve things for you.

Please, take specific issues to the teams involved (The contact addresses are all on our homepage), or at least this forum, where members from all teams actually can give you a meaningful reply.  The poor guys running our twitter account are not experts on everything, and we're not a fully staffed and trained PR department, this is normal guys like you and me, who might only have a chance to answer you during their coffee break at work. So, yeah, sometimes someone loses their cool. I'm sorry for that, but those are generally rare occurences, and there's nothing we can realistically do to prevent that from happening in those very rare cases. At least not without massively reducing the responsiveness of our twitter account.

We're not considering ourselves a "business", I don't want to run this con as a "business", and the emotional investment into this con that makes staffers take things a little too personal every now and then, is the very same enthusiasm that makes EF the extraordinary thing it is. That may not be a very professional attitude, but then, we're all not here to be professional. We're the "fans" in "fandom" :)

Why every solution is a compromise.

So, at EF, you have to register for the con first, in order to be eligible for a dealers table.  Since we always get more applicants than we have space, we manually puzzle the layout together like a game of tetris to fill the space we have as well as we can. Additionally, we keep a waiting list, so we can fill vacant spaces whenever they become available. That guarantees that we're making the most efficient use of the space we have, which benefits everyone. The downside however is, that this is an iterative process. That means, unless you're one of the lucky few who got their feet in the door during the initial rush for spaces, you end up on the waiting list, not knowing If you will ever get a space, and if yes, WHEN.  

This apparently poses a problem for artists who depend on a dealer space in order to finance their trip. It's arguable whether that's a very wise business model, but it's factually something that a lot of people do. The feasability of this model however hinges on the ability to make your booking depending on the availability of a dealers spot. Which doesn't work for EF, because you have to register and pay first in order to even get on the list. So far so good. Or bad.

People are always very quick to point out seemingly obvious solutions, wondering why the heck we're being such idiots about it. The answer is of course, that the solution looks only simple from one very narrow point of view, and often would make other things much, much worse.

- Why not make tickets refundable? Well, because the convention tickets are our only income and we are a non-profit organisation. Our entire financial model depends on the principle, that we make (essentially) all our income in Q1 and spend it all in Q3. This way, we can put 100% of our proceeds into the convention, and remain almost completely income tax neutral because our account balance is (approximately) zero by the end of the year. Allowing refunds will add a huge financial risk factor, and we would have to build up an internal safety fund. So we'd have less money to run the con with from the start. And whatever we save up would be subject to income tax. The effect for the organisation would basically be the same like taking a huge five-figure-amount and setting it on fire. So we'd either have to offset this amount by raising the con fee, or the quality of the convention would suffer. We decided it's just not worth it.

- Why not make ordering a dealers table part of the registration process? Well, technically we could do that. But that would mean, nonavailability of dealers space would put your entire registration on hold. This would be perfect for those whose attendance depends on a dealers space, of course. Don't get a table - don't have to pay your reg. Table becomes available - you can choose if you want it or not. But, it would be a disaster for everyone who wants to take part in the convention either way - without a dealers table actually being available, your reg wouldn't go through. So we'd have to come up with an extra process that would allow attendees not registered as dealers to get on the waiting list for a dealers table, and a process for non-dealers who are already registered to become dealers, and vice versa.

- Why isn't that a problem at, for example, Anthrocon? Because, at Anthrocon, booking a hotel room does not require a valid registration, so even if your dealer reg doesn't go through, you could as well just book a room and register on site. And on the other hand, space is not nearly as tight, so the window of opportunity to get a table is much larger. Our space is capped much tighter, both exhibition space, and hotel rooms, so we have to make sure that we only reserve spaces (on both den and hotel) for people who are guaranteed (or at least very likely) to attend.

- Why do we shuffle people around for weeks, instead of having one standardized table unit? Sure, that would make things a lot easier. It would also mean that we wil be able to fit a lot less dealers into the room. So keep in mind, when suggesting this: One of those lost spaces could be yours.

So, as you can see, we've already chosen a compromise based on a number of really complicated decisions, and believe me when I say: No matter how simple and obvious your solution may seem - it is not. You can't have your cake and eat it too. For every winner in a scenario, there is a loser, who will complain just as violently when anything changes :)

That being said - we'll be discussing some changes internally with the dealer's den team. The result will be another compromise. It will not be one of the "obvious" solutions cited above - probably something inbetween. I can't promise we will be able to implement anything this year, because eveyone's already regged, and preparations for the den are already underway. But it's very important to me that everyone knows that we are not ignoring your complaints, and that we are carefully evaluating our options at all times.

Title: Re: Dealer's Room tables and requirement of registration for EF
Post by: Cheetah on 27.01.2015, 14:14:43
(Oh, and just as a note: The reason why I'm answering here, and not Alpha Ki, is that she's currently recovering from a tragic incident in her family, and I did not want to drop this issue on her in this situation.)