For those of you not completely in the loop about the situation in Chicago, here’s the abridged version of it: Chi-Fi, a convention planned to be held at the Westin Chicago River North hotel, but according to the former, the staff of the latter referred to everyone involved as “freaks”, harping on the old addage that people who have a geeky hobby need not be proud of it, and should be routinely shunned and disparaged on general principle. Also: they disparaged the con’s committee for their anti-harassment policy.
Now, honestly, I, for the longest time, only knew about these transgressions from that one-paragraph summary and a few reactionary accounts from others. And, quite frankly, my initial response was just as reactionary: a typical “Fuck those guys!” or “Well I guess I know where I’m not staying next time I’m in Chicago!”
There’s a little more to it than that.
For one, this is supposed to be the first year of the con; this is being pushed back to 2015, giving any potential guests of this con a small party to compensate for their plans with the hotel falling apart. (Really? a first year con having trouble behind the scenes? Perish the thought.) it works be easy enough to blast the hotel for being unprofessional; after all, there are plenty of hotels in Chicago that would love to make money hosting a con, even a rookie con liked this. It usually takes a few years to set up a con at a hotel like this, something I didn’t know because a) my main experience with smaller cons has been ones run by a college’s anime club; and b) I tend to go to bigger, more established cons as it is. So this is pretty eye opening stuff.
But from what I’ve heard from other sources, the people in charge of Chi Fi haven’t been all that professional or timely in working all the kinks out of their logistical problems. If an issue comes up with the venue, you fix it as soon as it comes up, not wait almost a year after signing the contract to establish the date and time of your con. So why report that the staff said you and your attendees are a bunch of freaks? Didn’t it occur to them that some hotel staff might also be anime fans and would love to attend the con instead of having to work during it? You don’t necessarily speak the folks making the beds and cooking the meals.
So why make up a story about them calling you freaks and objecting to the anti-harassing policy? You’re just digging yourselves deeper, and by the time next year rolls around, you won’t have anyone to attend your con. If I was planning to attend a con that got cancelled, I would find it much more professional (and respectful) if they just said, “Hey, we gotta cancel, guys. Not enough people signed up ahead of time. Sorry.” But no, they tried to put up a smokescreen by lying about the hotel staff and using a hot-button issue in the cosplay community to divert people’s frustration. Good looking out, everyone.