Alright H47ites, ready for a r4n7? To make up for it I will try my best to throw up memeorables and so forth up until 3rd 4 t3h nrrd next month (unless of course the Rapture comes Saturday, then we have bigger issues).
Alright! I work at a store in the bay area that sells blades. Specifically swords & knives. That's kinda what we're known for. We also sell airsoft guns, what I call "gothic kitch" which is mostly dragon, pixie & Egypt statues & fake skulls. A little bit of chess, some cool "high end alternative fashion" such as Lip Service, and neat jewelry from Alchemy Gothic. The thing we like to tell ourselves is that what sets us apart from everything is not only our eclectic & eccentric merchandise is our staff and expertise. If you're here you're either a friend of mine being nice and/or you find me witty/entertaining or are a mental masochist and find my ramblings painful, in a good way.
Yeah, the store is called Armor-Geddon.
We have been a vendor for about 3+ years at WonderCon slinging steel left and right. Although I don't pay too close attention to the numbers, our most constant sellers are fake weapons, like foam swords, plastic swords and wooden practice swords. As well as novelty butterfly items including trainers (dull, can not be sharpened), bottle openers, pens (Bali-Yo's, word up Spyderco!), and seatbelt cutter multi-tools. And third best sellers I'd say are goofy fake fantasy knives and knock off anime swords (as much as I love to promote copyright protection and licensed merchandise, they dont exist for these swords. We have licensed replicas of any sword we think will sell, but they often cost WAY too much for what they are and are even more difficult to track down, and this is from a guy who honestly believes $300 for a sword is a good price to pay). For a few years we've been doing this and never heard of any issue what so ever. sometimes we sell the occasional benchmade on the side since we bring a small display, but that is mostly because we know some customers from The City who love it when we come to Wondercon, we give them a little deal and they get a new blade from two companies they trust (Us & Benchmade) no harm. We card, we have procedures on how to handle items and we have 2 people in the booth (or 3) at all times watching the merch.
This year (Wondercon 2011) we roll into the Moscone center with all our display and merchandise for the weekend and get started with setup. Our store has PAID for two booths, checked in for the show, sold THE SAME ITEMS for AT LEAST two years previously with no complaints. We spend about SIX HOURS in the center, our booth is built, we are just putting the bulk of the blades up, and a gentleman in a suit comes up and asks to talk to our manager.
We are still investigating what exactly is going on, but the information I received from our manager was effectively, There is now a cap on the number of Blade Vendors at Wondercon, we are not on the list of allowed vendors, we were allowed to go about or business THIS YEAR, but it did NOT sound like we would be allowed to sell swords next year. Also, come Sunday morning of the show, we were asked to no longer sell PRACTICE butterfly items. From what my manager could tell me (I have not pressed on this particular subject, but some of you may know English is not her first language so sometimes it takes time to fully communicate ideas and concepts) there was no reason given to us as to why we could no longer sell these items.
Now, I hope in the future, definitely before next Wondercon, to have some more elaborate answers, but that is the tale of our Wondercon Conundrum so far.
To anyone who really cares to stalk me, its fairly easy to deduce I currently live in Santa Clara county in California. I work in Cupertino, I attended San Jose State University, I do theatre all over the silicon Valley, and "MY" local Con is FANIME!
Because Wondercon had been going so well (in 2010) our store decided to try to branch out to other conventions. Fanime only made the most sense. Fanime 2010 I had done some scouting in the Exhibitors hall and saw about three vendors who had full blade displays and a few other exhibitors with a bunch of blades as part of a larger inventory. From my observations I felt we had a solid chance to make some money as well as, the most important thing in my opinion, to represent at "our(local)" con and let more of our local nerds know we exist.
As our main sellers are the practice weapons (foam, wood "plastic"), something I saw in short supply at the other vendors, I felt we would not encroach too much on the other booths market. As well as, from what I could tell, our store brings a larger supply of higher end weapons to shows than the other vendors had displayed. This would allow locals who wanted a high end item to know where they could acquire one if they wanted to spend all their cash at the con and then come by after their next paycheck/allowance date.
Additionally, perhaps they ARE biased, but I have yet to hear anything to the contrary, countless customers, a few mentions online, and informed opinions of people WHO WORK FANIME, our store has more approachable and knowledgeable staff, and as I said, we bring higher quality merchandise for our booth spread.
Anyway. November rolls around, the Fanime website has still not updated (as I understand is Fanime is all run by volunteers, so everyone gets some slack, just telling the story) but the dealer email is still the same so I shoot off an email. within the end of the month I receive an email telling us that there are too many weapons vendors already and that no more will be allowed. In November of 2010, and the website has not even updated for 2011. Okay, fine, perhaps the vendors are more on the ball than the IT department, perhaps there is a seniority to the vendors, fine. Perhaps we can work something out?
Besides, we are working on a collaborative effort with The Twilight Knights, a local martial Arts group who teach weapons classes every year at Fanime, to make special training weapons packages for their classes this year (see store for more details). We figure we might have an in (at that time).
Shortly after this rebuff, I rally the store and shoot off another email, the bulk of the email i sent read:
"That sounds fantastic, we will feel right at home then. We don't actually sell all that much steel at conventions and trade shows, the majority of our inventory and sales are comprised of collectible items (such as lightsabres and pop culture paraphernalia), Martial arts clothing . . ."
" . . . we hope to move a large amount of training items. Also, many of your own staff in the vendor hall in previous years, not to mention many con-goers in the area, have expressed joy over the last year (since Fanime 2010) at the idea that they will be attending Fanime and looking forward to some of deals we intend to offer as one of the newest vendors.
Although We do carry, and had hoped to bring along a few edged items of high quality and unique origin compared to the products other booths normally carry, we had not intended in bringing anywhere near 30% of our inventory as live weapons or "anime blades."
At this time we had only hoped to acquire a single booth space, our goal being dominantly to have representation at (in a local sense) "Our Con" and let the attendees at Fanime know they have a shop that is local that serves several needs that link into the fandom that the convention was based upon.
We can't wait to receive the vendor info for registration as it has not yet been placed on the website, but we have been studying the 2010 contract in hopes it will resemble this years."Our store gets busy with Holiday season, I get busy with a show, Wondercon goes by (yes, this last one) I start getting nervous about Fanime because I STILL had not heard a reply one way or the other. So I shoot off another email, last week actually, this is the whole email, minus names & such:
"This is Armor-Geddon again with great concern as to our ability to procure a booth in the Exhibitors hall at this year's Fanime. We realize we are mere weeks away but still have hope to purchase a booth from which we may advertise ourselves as a local company to potential customers and revel in your festival of fandom.
Due to your last correspondence we received we are under the impression that you may have reservations allowing us to have a booth in the hall due to our most commonly perceived merchandise.
We also presumed our reply email might ease those conceptions and allow us begin the registration process but received no reply in the affirmative or the negative.
If it is the intent of the Fanime Exhibitor to have a certain cap on "weapons vendors," then we will respect that. However, does that exclude our shop if we dominantly carry; apparel, jewelry, fantasy statuettes, collectables, sample catalogs of items we carry in shop, or even provide a photo opportunity setup as not only has our store been described as a destination, we are proud to have award winning cosplayers working with us, at the booth? Of course we would like to be able to display some of our higher profile items (at the expense of the inability to sell them on-site), but, if necessary, we are willing to work on an item-by-item basis in order to ensure we are able to attend and that your hall reflects the type of exhibitors you wish to showcase.
Thanks to the convenience of our mutual locations, should the conversation be more complex than email correspondence allows, I would love to meet in person to discuss specifics and limitations, either at our storefront in Cupertino or at any convenient place for any relevant parties, within Santa Clara County.
Thank you again for your time, patience and understanding in this situation and I hope we can all come to terms that will benefit not only our respective organizations but for the most important parties, the fans."
I receive an email shortly thereafter, explaining that other sword vendors have complained in the past about the amount of OTHER SWORD VENDORS and that the Exhibitor hall will have a cap set, and that we are not the only weapons exhibitor to be rebuked.
At this point I am exhausted, and, because I was on the clock at work at the time, fighting an emotion I had not identified yet. I was simply keeping it suppressed to stay focused for our customers. I thought it was anger, but upon closer inspection of my feelings and opinions, I was actually depressed. Sad and disappointed that my favorite convention would reject a shop that loved it so.
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On a similar tangent, I have come to love Fanime, the same way I loved SJSU. The people, the events, the classes(programming) are all awesome, so much fun, you have a BLAST while you're there. However, the bureaucracy, the red tape, the rules and the management, are . . . . .
I don't want to use words like "suck," "bullshit," "Assholes," even though I know people who would readily scream these things. I think the words tedious and beleaguered would be the best. Before you start ragging on the Fanime heads, realize that no one is paying them (so that I know of) and they are doing the best they can on a show that has the capability to rival AX of old. Some of them we're just teens or undergrads in college when they took up their positions and have been dealing wiht the same crap, or new and terrible crap, each and every year to put on the biggest anime con in norcal (from what I know.) I don't personally know anyone higher up than "pass volunteers" so I can't say anything about anyone's character, but I DO KNOW that when an institution is run by "friends/fans" many people get jobs they may not be best suited for because someone either wanted a particular job or was given a title just to keep them occupied.
(NO! I AM NOT SAYING THIS ABOUT THE VENDOR HEAD SPECIFICALLY. This sort of thing could get out of hand, I am not accusing anyone in particular, I am making a broad assumption based on interactions I've had over half a decade of attendance at the Con and this is from interactions with ALL of the departments.)
These people become bored or tired of their job. Drama occurs and relationships are strained. Outside influences put pressure on your infrastructure and you have to deal with them and stay all cheery even though you wish to tell them to take a hike.
So, now that you have ridden that ride with me, check this out, that makes no sense.
We have been, basically told "we don't care" by two of the biggest Norcal Con, but then, out of the universe, Wizard World calls US and asks us to come be vendors at Anaheim Comic Con. Like, a call a week to see if we're in or out. We went (see THIS post by T1nk for a vicarious recap) and it was a learning experience, I think we will attend next year, good juju.
And of course, we wanted to try Anime Expo. As soon as our manager called them they we're fairly enthusiastic to have us as vendors. We have got continual updates and been given great service so far. We have not yet decided if we will be vending at AX or the fledgling AM2, but in typical overenthusiastic fashion, I suggest our store can do both, at the same time.
So perhaps I should just let the bridges be and go with cons that actually want us? Is it wrong that I am so crushed to be rejected by cons that have nurtured and welcomed me in a professional and personal capacity? What is the proper response for an adult who wishes to be mature and professional? I am thankful to have a manager to make my decisions for me and also to have the great support of my fiance who ALWAYS brings a totally different perspective to these things from how I would want to proceed.
If anyone has ANY information or insight as to what is going on at Fanime or Wondercon, Off or On the record, I would love to hear from you @ " T3h . H4773r @ Gmail . com " (just take out the spaces). If you feel moved to help do something about it, perhaps we could get a petition or initiative together to present to Wondercon or Fanime and let them know what the fans, the attendees, the Perceived REASON these events are held, think and want from their event.
And for those of you who read this ENTIRE STUPID THING, thank you.
If you want to waste another hour of your life, possibly laughing your ass off if you play table top RPG's, here, perhaps these will soften the blow.