When it started, San Diego Comic-Con was about the fans, but now it may be about the merchandise and just how people can circumvent the system. Dealers, disabled attendees and dishonest volunteers all seem to be taking the fun out of cruising the exhibition floor for collectibles. The difficulty in acquiring exclusives has created a kind of frenzy has taken the fun out of fandom.
Not only did Ian and I attend preview night, we also were there when the door opened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, yet that doesn't mean we got our hands on exclusives.
Ian wanted to sign up for artwork. By Wednesday night, one of his preferred artists was full. The other was taking a list every morning. I only had two items I wanted: the Nether Faerie Dragon Plush (2,000 pieces) and the free soft kitty Monopoly game piece for the soon-to-be released Big Bang Theory Monopoly set.
First, let's describe the method of crowd control. You can light up early, but you are let into the second floor of the Convention Center where you line up again to go down the escalators. We could see people who were dressed in costumes below us--people who didn't look like they were disabled or presenters, easily strolling into the exhibition hall. What gives? We began to ask around.
When we got in, we made a beeline to the one vendor of our choice only to be given different kinds of treatment. Some vendors didn't have their lines under control. One made two lines which meant you had a choice. Many capped the line, but the line monitors varied from helpful to objective to surly.
Warner Bros. (booth #4545) was one we visited more than once. First, we were after the soft kitty pewter Monopoly limited edition game piece for the soon-to-be released Big Bang Theory version of Monopoly. We heard they were only giving out 100 per day. Wednesday night the pieces were already gone, but you didn't know that until you had waited in line. In other words, Warner Bros. didn't post a sign telling convention attendees if the piece was still available on a certain day. You might wait in line only to be disappointed.
Wednesday night, Ian waited in line only to get to the front to learn that the daily supply of soft kitty was gone.
At least on Sunday, the line monitor was surly. The line got capped off with just three people ahead of me. I was told to leave. I did, but came back only to see that an unofficial line had been forming. Still people were told to leave. On my second time back, the line monitor told a person at the front of the unofficial line that the line wouldn't open again until she left. The line monitor waited until that person was gone and then gladly allowed a family of Pikachu (mother, father and three kids) into the official line and then the unofficial line pressed forward. The line moved quickly. Still, we didn't get the soft kitty piece that was free at the WB but already on eBay. I didn't know what I received in the WB swag bag until I opened it. Another person told us that the swag bag was the same one that they were giving out at Hall H the day before.
Again at the WB, some favored people were allowed by the line monitor for the front of the line, to get the swag, just by asking. After taking two or three people in this no-wait line, a line began to form and these people were told to get back in the real line. I also saw this happen at another large studio vending site.
Check on eBay and see how much people are selling soft kitty for. They obviously didn't really want the item and probably aren't fans of either 'The Big Bang Theory" or Monopoly. Sure winners can do what they want with their swag, but one wonders are they playing fair? The answer is definitely, "No."
Ian knows of a certain dealer who is willing to pay half the price of admission for his employees who get into SDCC as long as they will take orders for the exclusives. Vendors who get in are allowed to walk the floor about an hour before it opens to regular attendees and they can buy things and quickly turn around and sell their new merchandise. This was confirmed by other people we met during SDCC.
Waiting in line, we met one woman who told us she was offered a temporary set up crew pass as long as she was willing to pick up exclusives. She turned it down, but we began to wonder about those who didn't.
Then there was the journalist who had a disability, but it wasn't a walking disability. She didn't need a cane or a walker or a wheelchair to get around, but because she had that kind of health clearance, she was able to get on the floor in advance. While we waited in line on Saturday morning for the Gotham zipline, she told us how she took orders from the members of her group for Friday morning and went in to pick up all the items on her list. Although we had her contact info, we didn't want to go over to the dark side.
Oh, I may never get a soft kitty for my Monopoly game, but some of the fun and competitive goodwill of SDCC has been stolen by the people who are taking orders for stores or for themselves on eBay. Soft kitty, warm kitty, little bundle of money kitty. Unhappy fan looks for sleepy kitty, grrr, grrr, grrr.