Mitigation of the Line Cons
November 29, 2018, Midwest Furfest, 1731 hours,
I write to you, my love as I enter hour two along the snaking way. My bladder aches for release of the carbonated beverage I bought from the far overpriced convention center vending machine. The legs keeping me aloft wobble, reminding me that the days I worked in retail that had adapted me to long stretches on my feet were long in my past. Those along with me pine for acceptance into the gathering which we placed reservations for. But as those ahead go into the adjacent room I cannot tell how much further our journey shall be. The company and conversation of my colleagues keeps us going, but for the first time we may be coming to the realization that there may be some unintended consequences for the growth of our eccentric rabble.
In the meanwhile, my mind wanders. I wonder if what if anything can be done to resolve our plight. Perhaps someone, someday, will write an article providing some solutions. But until that day, here I stand.
Hope to see you when this is through,
Worry not DarkFox7912, this article goes out to you.
With the continued success of Midwest Furfest, a high influx of fuzz has made its way to Rosemont, Illinois. In 2018, a count of almost 11,000 was recorded as having attended. However, the convention didn’t need to even announce the headcount for the regular attendees to notice the relatively monolithic crowds. All it took was making your way down to the registration line Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, to know that turn out was far greater than anticipated.
In a sense of irony, when hotel boarding opened and the Hyatt had sold out in mere minutes, rumors and speculation were that people were using bots to snatch spots to price gouge them later. While not entirely untrue, one could get a sense while standing in that line that the demand of avid fans was high enough that the space selling out wasn’t as tied to conspiracy as originally believed. I had personally got into the registration line at the time the doors opened Friday morning for badges and a crowd two and a half hours long had already gathered.
The line serpentined out of the bottom floor gallery room of the convention center where the registration resided with about 6 bends, slithered about the sidewall of the hallway and stairwell that went out into the lobby, before quickly entering into the freight area, in which the line s-curved about a dozen times before heading back out into the lobby where it bent a good half dozen times. Basically it was like a diagram of a digestive system, with about the same processing time.
It was apparent that the freight section was added as an emergency addendum as I didn’t see the doors open to that segment on Thursday afternoon. At this time it seemed even the line wranglers were having trouble keeping track of the line’s end. By Thursday evening the side doors opened and the freight section could be seen from the convention walkways. A dark note in the back of my head was amused that this was the second time in MFF’s history that furries had been unintentionally crammed into the convention center’s freight bay unwittingly. On the bright side, we weren’t being evacuated from anything in this instance.
When desires for solutions came up, one of the first presented came from Twitter about the option of having the badges mailed to attendees. The thought behind this is that when a person registers for the gathering they would have the option to have a badge mailed to their home. In this way they would arrive with their badge and it would cut down on line time. The convention could probably even get away with passing the shipping fee to the purchaser as the luxury of not having to wait in line for hours may be worth it to them.
I mean if someone wanted to attend a mascot party and wait in line all day for their vacation, they’d go to Disney World, right? Or perhaps SDCC.
However, the solution may not be so simple. When you pick up your badge, you have to show your legal identification to the person assisting you. The purpose for this is so they can see that the proper individual was collecting the proper badge. This ensures two things: your badge isn’t accidentally given to another, and that they can tie the badge with an actual person who will be responsible for it. In short, it’s seen as a security measure.
It must be noted, Anime Central, a larger convention held in the same building as Furfest has moved to such system. So in some way they have managed to move to such a system while maintaining the protocol of identification needed for registration which is noted on their site at the fee of $2.00
The fear is probably that if they just mail it to an address supplied by a person there could be no evidence that the person whose legal name was used to ordered it was the actual person to order it. So if a person was banned from the convention, then they could try to pass themselves as someone else to acquire an attendance and will evade notice as they don’t have to sign in at the door. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t slip through the current system, but I’m sure there are certain names on file that volunteers are on the lookout for to show them the door, if not reject immediately upon the name coming up. For such a person trying to evade a ban, going through the long line itself only to possibly be turned away would be a deterrent to even attempting.
Punishing those who behave themselves for the actions of unscrupulous individuals should not be the goal of good policy. Instead maybe there is a way to award good and regular patrons and combine it with the idea of mailing out badges? There may very well be, and that is the concept of subscribing to a convention.
At this point there are certain conventions that have become a yearly tradition for people. Both furry and non-furry alike. It is becoming more likely that the same person will be returning over and over again. If so, then the consumer is going to be like the meme of Fry, shoving a wad of cash at the convention demanding that they partake of their fiat currency.
For that person, going through the ritual of registering becomes a bit of an annoyance. Why should someone spend time filling out a form for 5 minutes of their life every year for the remainder of their days on this planet? Or until the convention collapses? Or maybe the world ends? Okay, the last one would probably redundantly cause the two former on the list, but that’s besides the point. The point is, what if there was a way to make it so this repeat customer could continually register automatically every year?
Youngins’ may call this model a Patreon-style system, but back in my day they just called it a subscription. It’s a way that if you really like a periodical, then instead of taking your wallet out every month, week, day, or in this case year, you could instead have them take your money automatically every time under the same name. The same principal can be applied to our little furry gatherings once they have gotten off the ground.
This can also be used to close the security loophole. This service could be done in person, where identification could be provided. But instead of just checking it once for the year, it will be once for the duration of their subscription. At that point the subscribed attendee can have their badge mailed to the address presented on the identification.
Even better it can be used to enforce security by acting as a kind of deterrent of bad behavior. If an attendee runs afoul of the convention and gets their badge suspended or revoked temporarily, they could have their subscription canceled and would forever more have to register ye old-fashioned way. Back of the line for you pal!
Creating other benefits for subscribers can go even further to ensure the attendee be on their best behavior. For instance you could offer first access to con hotel bookings, or if you want to get really crazy, auto-booking if possible. Discounts on badges, perhaps including sponsor style badges, or at the very least free shipping of the badges. For the creative types maybe first access to Dealers Den or Artist Alley slots. That’d be a lot to lose for breaking the rules. Having this loyal base of subscribers would also give the convention more solid numbers of logistical challenges they will face in the coming years based on the subscriber count and cut down on some of the busy work of reprocessing every attendee every year, even before the line situation.
Of course then the rub comes from how you deal with address changes. Furries are notoriously nomadic, present roo not being an exception, having moved four times in my adult life. Do you have the subscriber pick up the badge at the con with the new identification to change the address on their subscription? Do you allow them to access a secure site to change address? It depends on what the security requirements are for the venue.
There are some other logistical issues I can think of that can come from this. If you’re the kind that likes to change your badge name every year then implementing that change would still take some time, and would need to be provided for. If something comes up for the year, a subscriber would have to have the option of cancelling for a particular year, but that can be a problem for non-subscribers as well. Keeping data on subscribers secure will be obscenely important. Oh, and if the subscriber dies or their form of payment doesn’t work, then I guess you’d have to remove them from the subscription service as well.
It’s an idea that I feel is basically inevitable at this point. I am quite surprised that nothing like this has been implemented before for conventions, even the larger nerdy ones that have nothing to do with furry. Googling “convention subscription” yielded no results of offers of this kind. I saw no evidence that even ComicCon itself has such a thing. I guess if the other nerd cons haven’t thought of it yet, well then get on the furry’s nerdy levels son. Bottom of the hierarchy my big fat roo foot.
In the meantime - Volunteer
Obviously a pie in the sky solution like a subscription service may take a bit to get off the ground, if it is even possible. In the meanwhile, the way the average attendee can assist in this process, is quite frankly, assisting in the process.
So what are you doing on Thursday evening at the con? If the answer is like most attendees the answer is probably “not much”. There typically isn’t anything on the schedule other than maybe a dance later at night. This is why many take advantage of getting their badge that evening so that they will be ready to focus on the convention by the time Friday rolls around. Given this, when someone says they are not doing much on Thursday it means that they are probably standing in line.
But if you’re going to be standing around, why not acquire your badge before showing up for your shift behind the table? The hours will probably go by much quicker than if you’re standing in the line doping about on your smartphone. Instead you can work toward helping cut down on the wait times of your fellow attendees while serving the convention.
There are obvious hitches to this logistically. You can only fit so many of these volunteers into one room and make the system still flow. Obviously everyone can’t volunteer for the position or there would be people lining up to volunteer and you’re back to square one. However the closer you get to hitting a good server per attendee ratio, the faster they can get things done.
Regardless, it’s important that if you do want to offer your services that you inform the convention sooner rather than later. When Midwest Furfest had line issues in 2017 due to cloud based solution hiccups, they had an influx of requests to volunteer for registration staff. They had to decline for security reasons. People who handle this process have access to sensitive attendee manifest information that could be utilized harmfully. So in order to accept a volunteer, doing a background check is important to ensure no individuals with sketchy pasts are handling your information.
So do it now, the worse they can say is no and then you’ll be in the same position as if you never asked at all. Actually, probably better, since that means they have all the help they can fit, which can only help with queue times.