This last april I decided that I wanted to try and sell at an anime convention, I liked to draw and it sounded like fun so taking the advice from a lot of people I applied for a small, kind of local, convention. I finally decided on Aki Con, and let me tell you what, this is pretty much the worst con experience I have ever had.
I went to the website, went to the badge area, and located the artist alley application. Now with pretty much every convention I have ever signed up for you go there, sign up, and wait. I have tried to sign up for a few other conventions but they fill up so fast. Basically you fill out an application, submit it, then wait. Usually in a couple of days you get a contract, fill it out, get accepted or rejected, and then if you are accepted you pay for your table and you are set. This is not the case with Aki Con as I latter learned.
I filled out what I thought was an application, and then I waited. Days passed, then weeks. I finally emailed them inquiring about weather or not I was going to get a contract, lo and behold they sent me one. I filled it out, mailed it to their po box, and eagerly awaited their reply.
Now comes the fun part: I never heard back from them. Weeks passed, then months. Not a whisper, not a peep. I emailed them a few times inquiring about the status of the applications, still nothing. Sam posted on their facebook page and they finally told her that they don't review contracts until August. I latter learned that you were supposed to email them first, request a contract, fill it out, and if you were accepted then you go to the website (when I signed up there were still five tables left). So you are supposed to fill out the contract, then wait x amount of months before you are allowed to sign up online? Yeah it sounds extremely sketchy to me too, and no where on their website or faqs was this noted.
October rolls around and I finally figured ya know what they probably didn't approve my contract (which is 100% correct to this day, it has still never been officially approved) and then about 18 days before the convention I get an email (addressed to 24 people in total) on the procedures to pick up badges and table set ups. The email also stated that they do not lock the artist alley, so if you don't want your stuff stolen you need to basically break down your table every evening and set it up every morning. I was a bit snippy but I told them “oh, does this mean that you accepted my contract? An email would have been nice.” I was then informed that my contract was 'unreadable upon arrival' which to me sounds like someone either spilled coffee on it or it got wet in the mailbox because the printing was superb on that letter. A few more emails get exchanged, I let them know that I am displeased with their blatant disregard towards their guests and the lack of professionalism.
I also found out at this time that my debit card had been charged the full amount for the table and then some. The charges were not supposed to happen until you are confirmed for a table, a process that was longer and more complicated than anything I have dealt with before. Since my contract had not been accepted and I had been ignored for months I finally just asked if I could have a refund and just let it drop, no response. So I decide ya know what, you guys are being awful why not, so I post on their facebook my experience. As if magic I get a reply within minutes. They informed me of their round about way that artists apparently have to sign up for the alley, and then said that I did it wrong but out of the goodness of their hearts they were allowing me to partake in it.
Two words: Bull Shit.
They attempted to send me a contract that I needed to fill out, the fun part is they sent me an already filled out contract for a Sammy Ng. This contract had the artists home address, email, phone number, sensitive information, etc. which I know possess in the catacombs of my email. They also stated no refunds. I inform them that they just sent me an already filled out contract for someone who is not me and I am ignored again. I root around in my emails and find my original contract and forward that to them with a bit of snark about how it is again unprofessional to send someone's contract to another person.
The reply is a simple 'thank you for your submission'
So...am I accepted yet?
Still a little bit vague on that respect. So I go to the bank, I was not supposed to be charged until I was accepted, and here I am over charged. Since it happened in April the bank says there is nothing they can do, but here is a phone number for the banks main office thing that can handle claims going back past 60 days. So I call that, 40 minutes latter, 5 people, and the worst hold music I have ever heard they tell me that since the charge was technically through paypal I have to take it up with them, so when I got home I did just that.
Paypals verdict: Aki Con can do no wrong and my claim was rejected, I honestly wasn't expecting anything to come of it to be honest, a company actually side with me? This would have been a first and a miracle.
The absolute cherry on top: I get an email from Aki Con (Nicole Pelham is being as much of an unhelpful peach as she has these last few interactions) and informs me I have breached their contract and have thus forfeited the use of a table this year. You mean the contract THAT YOU STILL HAVEN'T OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED AND WAS SIGNED UP FOR INPROPERLY IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Yes, that table. But I can get a discount next year!
The thing is I am not even all that mad about the money (I mean it is $84.00, which is a lot of money for me in my current economic standing, that is a few bills I could pay with ease right there) I am just beyond mad at the lack of professionalism in this convention. If they had just apologized and given me even a partial refund? I would have been thrilled and would have let the entire thing drop because they have been trying to pin the entire thing on me as it being my fault, when I was just following the websites instructions.
Some other fun *i.e awful* bits about this con I have recently learned: The artist alley two years ago was in a leaky parking garage that had black mold and repair guys working in it the whole weekend, also by the sounds of it there was no security and it didn't get locked. Last year they hired a known sex offended/child molester as a DJ and when warned, the lovely gem of Nicole shrugged it off. The guy went on to drug and rape a minor by the way, and nothing was done about it. So not only is this con unprofessional, but it is also extremely unsafe for it's attendees, and this con in particular has a lot of minors attending so you would assume they would have better security not less.
So TLDR; if you are in Washington state and looking for a convention to attend, save your time and money and go to one that is actually worth it, because Aki Con is on just about the same level as Dash Con (dash con was a tumblr themed convention that pretty much messed up in every way you possibly can in terms of guests, panels, and they ran a midnight fund raiser for $17,000 to keep the con from closing early).