First, I want to say that I’m as confused and disappointed as many of you out there about the postponement of Universal FanCon. And less than a week before the event no less. I am not posting this in defense of anyone. I am merely trying to shed some light on an insanely difficult situation. And also trying to provide some solutions to people who are trying to get out of their travel arrangements.
As an affiliate, my role was to help get the word out and also I volunteered to help with graphics and ads early on. I received no money or salary from FanCon, nor I was not privy to anyone’s contracts or information. I do not know what was promised in terms of airfare and specifics for guests. However, it appears that low ticket sales, plus a lack of sponsorship (there is a rumor that a major sponsor pulled out at the last minute but I don’t know who) left the FanCon board scrambling to make final payments on items that always need to be settled close to conventions. If this was a local Baltimore event, I’m sure it could still have happened on 4/27 as planned (And there are some people out there that are still trying to make it happen). But I guess they came to the realization that there was no way could open the doors and that’s why they called it.
But they did so too late.
Because if the funds were that dire, the plug should have been pulled months ago.
What Happened to the $55K in Kickstarter money?
What I’ve been told is that it was spent on the venue mostly. The Baltimore Convention Center I believe cost $40K and several contracts ate through the rest. (I do not have exact numbers on any of this because I wasn’t privy to any financial documents). The balance was supposed to come through ticket sales, contributions and sponsorships. I also know that several Fancon team members sunk a lot of their own money into the event. (over $300K)
Was any money stolen?
No. As far as I know, no money was stolen and no funds were misappropriated. But it’s pretty clear at this point that either the scope of the venue/guests outpaced the budget or a major sponsorship that was promised fell through.
Why did most people find out about the postponement on social media?
Apparently, in the process of writing the statement and FAQ page to release to the public, one of the partner hotels decided to release the rooms so they could sell them. So the Fancon team stopped working on that document and had to do damage control because they hadn’t finished alerting kickstarter supporters, guests, us affiliates and other “stakeholders”.
Why did the FanCon Team release a statement so late?
(see above paragraph) Late last night Fancon did post an explanation of what happened and a FAQ page in an effort to answer many people’s questions, but understandably, many felt it was too little too late. I think in an effort to craft the right statement as well as put out fires, again, they took too long.
Why aren’t they refunding convention tickets?
I think because it’s been postponed and not canceled. I also don’t know of a single convention (From SXSW to Afropunk) that refunds tickets if a date is being moved. So it didn’t surprise me when we were told that there are no ticket refunds available.
I never saw the table contracts as compared to the FAQ page, so I can’t comment on that.
What’s Happening now?
The organizers are trying to secure a new date, and salvage the situation for folks who can’t can’t plane tickets. What that means I don’t know but there are local affiliates and organizers that are trying to put together something for the folks that are still coming in that are closer. And there there are clearly hotel rooms available, but I don’t know what the rates are.
I can’t tell you exactly who to direct your anger towards, because although there are 2 or 3 people on twitter that everyone knows are part of the Fancon Board I know for a fact it’s many more people than that. (Do I have all of their names? No.) Think about it. It took more than 3 people to make this happen. The influencers on the executive board of this convention aren’t lawyers, accountants or marketing directors by trade, they are fans like you and me BUT there were people with expertise in those areas involved with the board. So I’m waiting to hear from them.
Because I have questions.
At the end of the day, it looks like Fancon simply ran out of money and took too long to announce it. More fundraising clearly should have happened last year as a failsafe for low ticket sales and/or the loss of sponsorships. Which is exactly what’s going to have to happen to make the next date if/when it’s announced.
What Should I do Now?
Nothing I’ve said here is going to mitigate the hundreds of hours, dollars and time people put into creating cosplay, planning panels for this event. I know people have worked incredibly hard to get vacation time, afford transportation, food and lodging to this event. I’ve been on social media reading some heart wrenching stories of folks who turned down other work and other cons to support this one. Not to mention the embarrassment of people like myself who were trying so hard to get people to come, because like you, I believed in Fancon’s ideals. The rug was pulled out from under many people.
It’s not much, but below are some ways that you try to get your travel money back or changed if you have no interest in going down to Baltimore next week.
Other Events Honoring FanCon Tickets
PhillyCon Is Honoring Fancon Tickets Next Weekend
(updated 12:31pmEST 4/21/18) If you are in the Philadelphia area and want to attend PhillyCon next weekend. They are offering free Friday tickets to Fancon ticket holders, OR 50% off Sunday tickets ONLY to anyone who can provide proof of purchase of FanCon tickets. If you’re interested in doing this change your transportation as soon as possible to take advantage of this opportunity.
Nerds of Color/BHM PopUp Con in Baltimore
Today Keith Chow of Nerds of Color and Uraeus of Black Heroes Matter (who are local to the event) are putting together an event for the folks that simply can’t get out of their travel reservations. Click here for more info on that.
Travel Refund Ideas
Trying to get a refund on your plane ticket
There are loopholes for getting around canceled flights and fees. Below are a few of them:
Aggregators – If you bought your ticket through an aggregator, (Orbitz, Travlelocity, kayak, etc.) Try contacting them directly to see if you can get out of it. (This is a long shot) Try to NOT speak with the person at the call center, but ask for a customer service manager, or someone higher up that can make decisions. Once you get them ask them to contact the airlines for you in order to get a refund.
Contact the airlines directly – If you purchased a flexible ticket, the you can change it without penalty or simply get a full refund. If not try to negotiate travel to a different destination that is cheaper on a date that you can fly, so that you can get some of that money back. Also, consider changing your flight to a destination not that far from you (especially if you’re flying from overseas), so that the rebooking fee is covered and you might get some of your money back.
Illness – If you have a physical disability or can get a doctors’ note stating that you were too sick/distressed to fly, most airlines will honor this and give you a full refund. (I did this once when I had to be hospitalized right before a trip). You have to ask for a refund because you were “Unable to Fly Due to Medical Reasons” customer service at ALL airlines have a protocol for this.
Trying to get a refund on your bus or train ticket
Amtrak – As long as you cancel BEFORE 24 hours before the train is set to depart you can get a full refund. click here for info.
Bus Trips– Megabus and BOLT Bus won’t refund but they do allow you to change your destination free of charge within 3 hours of scheduled departure. So check those calendars for the next con you want to go to, and move your bus ticket to then. Greyhound Flexible Fare allows you a full refund but if you don’t have that type of ticket, then the rules are the same as Megabus and BOLT.
I hope some of this info helps someone. 😓