Disappointed. Time wasted. Cheated. Pissed off. Frustrated. Heated. Annoyed. Devastated. I could definitely use these phrases to describe the misadventure I had at Wizard World Chicago and for a hot minute, I definitely did (those who follow me on Twitter know what I'm talking about). But thankfully, due to a naturally optimistic personality and the witty rapport I share with my Mom (who was my roll-dawg on this roadtrip), I can say that we turned a lemon of a weekend into a "lemonal" menu of laughs and good times. But our ability to keep this potential debacle from turning such doesn't dismiss the egregious level of unprofessionalism and the apparent lack of ANY customer service skills maintained by Wizard and its staff, nor the cadre of lessons I've gleaned from the occasion.
What was SUPPOSED to happen: After three years, I was making my way BACK into the fold of the Wizard World show. I hadn't been since the summer of 2008, the year before the Great Publisher Exodus, and was generally in a fan-only capacity, despite having a presence at the Chicago show since 2004. But not only was I returning, I was going in solo - as an industry semi-pro - under my publishing imprint, Vantage:Inhouse Productions (whose existence came about when Wizard's rebranding of the "Wizard World" moniker unintentionally, but without question, forced me to abandon my long-held WizWorld Inc. line). Even more so, the U Cre-8 Comics line was to participate in their Kid's Day Event, which to my knowledge is a new feature emulated from the ReedPop shows, where it has successfully kept Sunday attendance numbers soaring. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men...let me tell you what ACTUALLY happened...
THE SETUP: After getting recruited to present the U Cre-8 line at Derby City Con, I saw the program as a PERFECT feature to pitch to other shows, particularly those with events specified for younger attendees. I had successfully pitched to Origins Gaming Convention, Champion City Comic Con and my first corporate show with New York Comic Con (one of ReedPop's two shows, the other being C2E2). With ReedPop and Wizard being rivals, I was reluctant to try my hand with Wizard, not wanting it to upset my chances at NYCC -- but, after some thought and some Twitter consulting, I decided its better to not let ANY opportunity go to waste and sent the email proposal belown on July 7th to Wizard employee "K"*:
I"m writing to offer my U Cre-8 Comics line to be a feature of your kid's activities at your Comic Cons. Designed as an innovative system to bridge creative expression and classroom fundamentals, the U Cre-8 line uses the sequential form of comics as a backdrop to promote reading comprehension with critical analysis, vocabulary building, creative writing, and an appreciation for the visual arts.
I'd particularly like to showcase the "Character Crafter," an 8 page workbook that walks participants through the process of creating their own super-human character. This piece has garnered a lot of attention and publicity as a feature of the Columbus Metropolitan Library's (Ranked #2 in the nation) Summer Reading program, as well as significant interest from the Boys&Girls Club and the YMCA. This coming July, it will be a part of the Kid's Activities Showcase at the Derby City Con (Louisville, KY) and was just setup as a scheduled presentation for the Art Show/College at the 2012 Origins Gaming Fair (GAMA).
With your permission, I'd like to host a 1 hour presentation, which I will furnish supplies to accommodate up to 200 participants (supplies include Character Crafter workbook, pencils and erasers). Normally, there is a charge of approximately $5-8 per participant, but I'm quite willing to wave that fee for some other accommodations. I eagerly look forward to hearing from you and do hope that I'm able to be a part of your celebration of comics and pop culture. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.
*To maintain MY standards of professionalism, I'll keep whom I spoke with anonymous, only referring to them by one of their initials.
On July 14th, I received this response from Wizard employee "C", who had been forwarded my initial proposal from "K":
I'm happy to discuss with you, and we can determine if this is a fit for our Family Day programming. When might you be available tomorrow?
Of course I was ECSTATIC and immediately replied with this:
Thank you for getting back to me! I'm open pretty much all day tomorrow, so I can give you a call about 10am (EST) if that's alright. Just let me know if you need a better time, or you can contact me at (614) 419-****. I'll be in my studio for the next hour, but have a presentation at a library and won't be available until 4pm. Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from you!
I heard no response for the contrary, so at 10am the very next morning I called to see what could be setup...and I got no answer :(. I waited about 10-15mins before calling again, THIS TIME "C" answers...but has to postpone our convo because they have a scheduled phone conference at that time.
CLUE #1: Looking back, there were a few tell-tell signs that things were going to go awry and here's the first one -- in MY response back to "C", I asked them to let me know if they needed a better time -- having another phone conference planned is DEFINITELY reason to need a different time, especially when they're in California so my 10am call is 7am to them!
This is kind of shaping up to be an EPIC tale, so I'll break things up for your convenience, but come back soon because the misadventure only gets even stranger from here!