Author: Jay-Rey (@jay_rey)
I have mentioned it before: Geek culture is no longer on the fringes of the mainstream conscience. While it was once weird for Joey Fatone to have Superman shirts all the time, now it is standard practice for everyone to love comic books. Sure, we hear reports about superhero movies breaking box office numbers. But never has been more prevalent than the recent sale of New York Comic Con passes.
On June 18, 4 Day passes became available for purchase at noon. Within 40 minutes, they were sold out. To put that in context, last year 4 day passes took 8 weeks to sell out. 3 Day passes took a little over an hour to sell out this year. While this is a really cool thing to see, it has irked many convention lovers.
First, here is the story of the 3 day passes. While the 4 day pass sales were extraordinarily short, the 3 day pass sale was an event. At noon, like many others, I entered NYCC’s queue to purchase tickets. Like on the 4 day pass day, you would have been greeted with the following page:
But on June 18, there was an issue that cause this page to show and error message instead.
If you have ever tried to purchase tickets for a band like Brand New, you know how these quick moving tickets go. You enter the digital queue, you have only a few minutes to enter your information in, and if you’re lucky, you have acquired tickets to your favorite band’s show. More often than not, no matter how on point you may be, the demand would be too high, and you would be out of luck.
With the knowledge that 4 day passes were sold out so quickly, you can only image that those who missed out were planning on getting a 3 day pass, as well as a single pass for Thursday. One could assume that 4 day passes are for the hardcore con goers (with VIP passes being for the extremely hardcore and more financially prepared con goers). That being said, it would be an easy and accurate guess to assume those who missed out on 4 day passes would take advantage of the 3 day sale.
The sale went disastrously, from a consumer perspective. Those who found the error page had little to go on, other than the sporadic messages from the NYCC facepook page. Those lucky enough to make it into the queue found themselves unaware of their positions, and the estimated wait time. I found myself waiting almost 40 minutes before finally getting to see the ticket page. And once it did load up, 3 day passes were sold out. Or so it seemed.
After purchasing just a Thursday pass (I figured I would try to get in on the 3 day passes once comic book stores start to sell them), a message on Facebook appeared.
“Well damn!” I said to myself. If only they had said something sooner. I reentered the queue. This time, for over an hour, and 3 day passes were officially sold out before my ticket page loaded up.
CR had even worse luck, waiting since noon, and not getting into the ticket page for almost 2 hours. By the time he got in, they were all gone, as well. The Facebook page was littered with negative comments. Within minutes, tickets were available on eBay and Stubhub for much more than their original prices.
According to Reedpop (the company who throws New York Comic Con, as well as other large conventions) stated that “showed about 700 tickets being sold, or about .05% of the total tickets that were sold on Thursday. Still too many, but not a conspiracy or epidemic either.”
So if it isn’t scalpers (you were allowed to purchase 6 passes at a time, cut down from last years 10, and the unlimited amount 3 years ago), it just must be a very popular event, right?
I inquired with Reedpop about the quantity breakdown of each type of pass (4 day, 3 day, VIP, Thursday, Friday, etc). This information, however, was not available to me. On paper, here is what makes sense:
• A 4 Day pass was $95
• A 3 Day pass and a Thursday pass was $65 and $35 ($100)
• Thursday ($35), Friday ($45), Saturday ($50) and Sunday ($45) will equal a whopping $175.
Clearly, the way to make money is from the single day passes. To explain the possible quick selling mutli-day passes, one only has to look at how Reedpop can make the most from this convention. I am not sure how the money gets broken down. You can buy any number of NYCC special edition shirts, lanyards, posters, and collectables. Some of that money must go to Reedpop. The various exhibitors also must pay a fee: Rent the space, rent the table and seats, plus every day you want to be there. They are also paid by their sponsors, whose names will be plastered all over marketing materials, promotional items, and their website.
We know that New York Comic Con isn’t just the East coast sanctuary for geek and nerd culture. It is also one of the largest money making opportunities for Reedpop and their sponsors. Like everything else, we are consumers being drawn to the flame. I get it.
But as a consumer, and comic book lover, I have to say the experience has left me feeling sour. We all know what we will see when we get there. Panels that are filled up before we can get in line, the unfortunately accurate stereotype of smell nerds pressings against you in the crowded aisles of the Javits, and the over priced commodities of the various vendors selling their geeky wares.
We don’t want to go to a comic book show. Asbury Park throws a great one every year where local comic book creators and vendors can sell you cool stuff. We want the spectacle. We want the chance to sit in on the Walking Dead Panel, followed by the Avenger’s Panel (both of which, Naz and Donna were stuck in the lovingly nicknamed “cattle room” and unable to get into the packed room for hours). We want to see the awesome costumes of dedicated fans. We want to see the showy exhibits or Marvel, DC, Ubisoft, and the like. We want cheap swag that we wait hours for. The off chance of running into your favorite writer or author on the showroom floor to grab a picture. We love to hate that chaos. Reedpop is just doing us a favor by giving it to us 100 days out.
Rumor on the net is that midtown comics will have a makeshift campsite outside of its establishment prior to their own NYCC pass sales. We are already scouring the site and FB page, hoping to find a list of other retailers that will be selling the sold out passes in their stores. At the end of the day, NYCC will be mostly sold out, save for Thursday or Sunday, the slower and quitter days of the show.
SEE THE FULL E-MAIL RESPONSE FROM REEDPOP IN REGARDS TO THEIR TICKET SALES THIS YEAR:
Apologies for a less than personalized response, but as I’m sure you can imagine, we are getting a lot of emails about the New York Comic Con ticket roll out on Thursday. I want to get you a timely response so this note serves to address the majority of questions and concerns that we are hearing from our fans…
First off, our goal is for you to be happy. Our fans being unhappy brings us no joy whatsoever. Happy fans make everyone at ReedPOP happy. I know, however, that you, and many others are not happy fans today and no matter what to reason is for that unhappiness, please know it bums us out as well – to say the very least.
Second point to share is that we always strive to listen and improve. We’ve gotten a ton of feedback and we are hear it and will do anything we can to improve the experience for all of our fans. That is a promise. We’ve never promised to be mistake free, but we do promise to always work hard to fix our mistakes and get better. So bottom line – please know that your concerns and frustrations are heard.
OK – a few of the major issues point by point as best as I can clarify/explain them:
At noon, the New York Comic Con website crashed. The actual ticketing site did not crash. In an effort to be helpful, we posted a link direct to our ticketing platform on our social media channels.
Our ticketing site was mobbed and moved extremely slowly. We know this was frustrating and a problem – but it was a simple issue of volume and demand.
At one point, 3 day tickets still remained so we posted that fact on social. When it quickly became clear that those 3 days tickets evaporated we removed that post to not to cause confusion. We did not remove it to cancel out negative feedback; we don’t ever do that, we can take the feedback we simply did not want to have a post out there saying 3 days were available if they were not.
We put a post on social reminding people to refresh their shopping cart, to assure it was current, not to refresh the queue. Refreshing the queue will not move you ahead in line in any way. There was confusion on this and many people appeared to refresh the queue, not the shopping cart as we advised.
A technical point to remember is that someone may be holding 3 days ticket in their cart, therefore the inventory of 3 days will still show them remaining UNTIL that person actually clears the payment and checkout page. This is why availability showed, and then rapidly declined as 3 day tickets went from being held, to being purchased.
The queue moved slowly, we know this and have made it abundantly clear to our ticketing vendor that this is unacceptable, but it did move.
This is also not a new system. This is the identical ticket system we used last year. The fact is that the demand for tickets was on a greater scale than even we did not imagine. For an example, last year 4 day tickets took over 8 weeks to sell out, this year they took 40 minutes. The simple fact is that there is an extremely high demand for a limited supply of tickets.
We know scalping is an issue and one that we hate nearly as much as you do. I’ve gotten a few emails asserting that we are somehow in favor of our tickets being on the secondary market and nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing. 3 years ago there was no limit on the number of tickets an individual could buy. Last year the limit was 10. This year the limit was 6. This is a reflection of our effort to limit the number of tickets one person can purchase for the sole purpose of putting them on the secondary market to line their own pockets. We have contacted eBay and they will not do anything to help us ban these sellers and in almost every instance, the sellers contact info is blocked. We will continue to pursue these one by one but when demand outstrips supply, capitalism dictates that someone is going to find a way to meet that demand. And as of typing this email, our count across eBay, StubHub and Craigslist showed about 700 tickets being sold, or about .05% of the total tickets that were sold on Thursday. Still too many, but not a conspiracy or epidemic either.
Lost in a lot of this is that retailers will be selling tickets starting in mid-July and that Thursday, Friday & Sunday tickets are still available online. As I look at the content we have in the works for this year, we don’t have a “weak” lineup any day of the show. Our goal is to make every day of the show a day jammed with killer experiences. Also, don’t forget that New York Super Week will bring great nerdy programing to dozens of venues all over the city for an entire week. Throw in Special Edition: NYC (which took place in mid-June) and we hope it shows that we realize more people want to go to NYCC than we can accommodate and we are trying to create more opportunities for more people to have more fun.
In closing, I know if you did not get the ticket you wanted or experienced difficulty with the entire process, this email is not going to fix that. It’s not going to get you that 3 day ticket you so wanted. And I and the entire team are really, really sorry for that. What I do hope is that note clarifies some of what happened, clears up some misconceptions and most of all conveys that we are listening, we are sorry for your experience not being all that you deserve and that we are committed to making it better.
Yours in nerd,
Senior Vice President
ReedPOP – A Quirky Offshoot of Reed Exhibitions