About two weeks before event, DragonCon suddenly started posting on social media that everyone over age 2 would have to wear a mask, have proof of vaccine (except under 16 can’t get it?), or have a specific test 3 days before (and that last is ridiculous, when an attendee might stop at 12 truck stops on the way there).
Now, my political position on masks aside, I can’t wear one. That’s literally why I was retired from the military. Covering my face drops my blood oxygenation to COPD levels. My wife hits every exemption there is, but good luck getting documentation that anyone considers “Acceptable.”
I inquired with both vendor relations and guest relations, and got told, “Ignore social media, we haven’t heard this and we don’t actually have a policy yet, that will be Thursday.”
Thursday rolls around and the email is, “The policy remains…”
Wait, I thought you didn’t have one yet? “Remains” means that was your policy, but you tried to pretend it wasn’t.
I told them I’d need a rollover by preference or a refund.
“Unfortunately, per policy, it’s too late for a refund or rollover.”
Yet, they were able to change their COVID policy.
So my choice was find someone to cover the show, or forfeit several thousand dollars to the poor, starving, corporate owners of DragonCon.
I withdrew as a guest, and made a public announcement to that effect. I was the 100th. That seemed notable. In fact, by the end they lost 203 of 641 guests and professionals, or over 30%.
Now, I’m sure a case could be made in court for this being classic bait and switch, and refusing refunds or rollovers to be fraud. But I can’t state that as a fact without a court case. It certainly smells that way, though.
Note that Salt Like City FanX instituted masks (no proof of vaccine or other idiocy) shortly before the event. They were polite and apologetic to all, rolled us over for next year, and publicly offered refunds to anyone who couldn’t comply. That’s called being professional.
I’ll note that dozens of other events—Colorado Springs, Grand Rapids, Cincinnati, Tampa, Pittsburgh, etc, went on just fine with zero tinfoil hattery, and no “superspreader events.”
After a couple of days, I was able to arrange for my eldest daughter to cover the booth. Morrigan was a store general manager at age 20, has been around my merchandise her entire life, and actually knows how to use swords, as well as being very versed in anime and Japanese culture.
At the show, my daughter unloaded, set up, checked in, got paperwork…which did not include renewal paperwork for next year. I emailed and got told we’d “talk about it after the show.” Which meant they planned to screw me over.
After the show I was told they were so very unhappy that I publicly boasted of being the 100th cancellation. Well, sorry about your feelings, but what about the feelings of 203 guests and families you screwed over by waiting for the last moment? What about the public threats to harass “plague rats” (perfectly healthy people not wearing masks) on your social media, that remained for days before being taken down? We’re supposed to worship you, but you don’t need to respect the professionals in the field?
Then they unleashed this whopper, claiming the statement was made about me:
" there was a vendor this year who is making an incredibly racist remarks trying to sell his wares. Including things like “buy a knife from someone who speaks American” and “this is made with real metal, not ‘Chineseium’.” Worse than all of that however, was singling out another person in the vendors hall who is also selling knives. It was an Indian couple, and apparently that was why he wanted to specify that he does speak “American”, letting anyone who passed by know another vendor had people who spoke English as a second language at their table "
I’m going to explain why this is complete, unmitigated bullshit.
My booth was run by my eldest daughter, who is not a “guy.”
She was assisted by our friend Wendi, whom I’ve known almost as long. Also not a “guy.”
I AM THE IMPORT AGENT FOR A PAKISTANI CUTLERY COMPANY and have literally thousands of their knives in my warehouse, with more arriving about twice a week by truck. The owner speaks better English than most American college students.
I am a distributor for two Chinese importers. I can wholesale stuff to you. I’ve been dealing with them since 1991.
I am on a first name basis with a Filipino importer now approaching retirement, who produces some amazing historical repros.
The sword rack contained swords from China, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines, all of which I endorse to various levels depending on whether they’re accurate reproductions or fantasy pieces.
The sword stand next to it contained swords all made in China, from costume quality to good enough for iaido, depending on your needs and price range.
The one next to that contained polypropylene training swords made in Taiwan.
The display cases had fantasy knives, throwing knives, and folding knives, all made in China or Pakistan, except for FOUR, count them FOUR US made bali-songs because legalities make domestic ones a better option, and I believe four of my custom pieces at the low end, easy to make.
We had SEVERAL THOUSAND knives and swords there, all imported except for eight.
There is literally no reason anyone in my booth would be bleating “Buy American,” or dissing our own product.
I’d certainly sell more American made stuff, if it both fit the market, and the budget of the buyers. I do sell more American made product at gun shows. Different market, different needs. But the majority of any cutlery retailer’s product these days is from China, Pakistan, possibly the PI, and occasionally Taiwan. Japan, Germany, and the US make amazing stuff, but you have to pay for it.
Note: This alleged comment was not brought to either Morrigan’s attention or mine, by email, phone, or in person during the show.
So I’m going to be honest where they apparently cannot: DragonCon Head of Vendor Relations Tracy Bell is a filthy liar. And apparently too stupid to craft a credible lie.
She never responded to a request for a name, photo, description, source, or otherwise.
ADDENDUM: One of my vendor friends checked the hall and counted TWENTY missing booths, either empty or removed. Another said it started with 33, but several were filled in by local vendors called in at the last minute, trying to spread their stuff out enough to fill larger space than they were stocked for. (So those booths were sold twice.) Another vendor, apparently new, suffers from COPD. He couldn't get in for even worse health reasons than me, so he forfeited his funds, too. The total is probably over $50,000. But at least it went for a good cause--the payroll and finances of the management./sarc
As to the racism, that’s been a problem at DragonCon for a long time, but this year was almost Pythonesque.
A few years back, a friend and I even proposed a panel on race relations in science fiction. We got to the panel, and every participant was a white male. Awkward. We did our best. We’d wanted a spectrum of viewpoints. Nope.
So this year, reduced attendance. They got rid of a lot of what they call “tourists,” who come in on a day pass, usually local, frequently black. Nerd-dom has had a growing minority presence for years, and it’s amazing.
So who was far less present this year, with demands for vaccines or a recent test or pay at the door for one? Yup, the Atlanta black community.
DragonCon is pissed off that I won’t endorse their over-reaction, racism, and borderline fraud.
I guess we’re both disappointed. I’d hoped for better from them.
UPDATE: In previous years, my wife was normally running the booth while I did panels. She reports that the same behavior took place two years ago, with the guy calling our stuff "Chinesium" and tossing it onto the table with contempt. She knows which competitor it was. She reported it. NOTHING WAS DONE. So Tracy Bell doesn't actually care about the harassment and racism. It's just a convenient tool to use against people she disagrees with.
This is a level of intellectual bankruptcy I've not encountered before.