“Should we have been more prepared? Absolutely.”
The DashCon organizers have released an official statement about the events that led to the fandom convention being described as a “complete disaster”. The statement cites “mismanaged communication”, contract misinformation and clerical errors for the convention’s troubles. The official statement comments on all of the major concerns raised about the convention, ranging from the emergency fundraising drive to pay for outstanding costs, the cancellation of the Welcome To Night Vale podcast appearance, missing hotel rooms for guests of the convention, and allegations that minors were being allowed into 18+ panels. The organizers take responsibility for some of the problems, provide explanations for others, and also offer apologies to their attendees, guests, and the hotel that hosted the event. Two unnamed members of DashCon’s staff have been removed from the company in the wake of the convention’s missteps.
The convention, which aspired to be “the largest gathering of Tumblr users to date”, was held at the Renaissance Schaumburg hotel in Illinois from July 11 through 13. On Friday, July 11, the event organizers scrambled to raise $17,000 to cover outstanding costs for the hotel. “Only about $7,000 was money still due on the venue itself, as $10,000+ was for ‘at event services,’ such as electricity, which wasn’t even quoted to us until a day or two prior to Thursday night’s early registration,” says Megan Eli, DashCon owner, in the official statement. According to Eli, the terms governing when payment was expected in the contract with the hotel were not correct, and the staff member who handled the contract has been removed. The official statement includes DashCon’s accounting records for payments made to the hotel, showing $21,000 paid before the convention and $22,237.45 paid between July 11 and July 14. Cash donations from attendees amounted to just over $11,770, while donations raised on PayPal were disbursed to the hotel in two payments of $3,000 each, due to daily spending limits on the PayPal Debit Card used to access the funds. Attendees who wish to have their cash or PayPal donations refunded have been instructed to contact the convention by 11:59 pm Eastern on Saturday, July 19. DashCon has provided details about how to request a refund.
DashCon also explains in detail what happened to result in the Welcome to Night Vale podcast event, including posting excerpts of emails. The Welcome to Night Vale team held a Meet & Greet with fans on July 11, and after the event Eli contacted the staff member who possessed their payment check. Unable to reach the staff member by phone, Eli states that Welcome to Night Vale team agreed to accept their payment the following day. In light of the fundraising drive, Jeffrey Cranor of the Welcome to Night Vale cast contacted the administrators with his concerns about their payment, and requested payment by cash or cashier’s check before their performance. An unidentified staff member agreed to this request, which Eli and other organizers state they were not aware of until July 15. Lack of communication between staff resulted in the request not being fulfilled, and the Welcome to Night Vale event being cancelled. The staff member who replied to the request has since been let go. Refunds for reserved seating for the Welcome to Night Vale event will not be offered. Eli gives the following explanation for this decision:
After speaking to our legal counsel, we have been advised that we are unable to provide refunds on these seats. This decision was based on several of DashCon’s Rules and Policies, which can be found here. The pertinent rules are quoted below:
- #21: DashCon will not refund badges or reserved WTNV seats for any reason.
- It has been confirmed that this rule was changed to reflect WTNV seats mid-event, but other rules render any change to #21 moot regardless.
- #25: The Schedule is subject to change at any time, even during the convention.
- Last line on the Rules and Policies page: “DashCon reserves the right to change these rules at any time, and attendees are responsible for their own individual knowledge of the convention rules.”
DashCon has been instructed that refunding the reserved seats in direct opposition with our rules would call into question all of our rules and policies. We are both saddened by and understanding of this stance. Potentially losing the enforcement of all of our rules and policies is not something we can risk now or at any time in the future. For anyone who has questions regarding this decision, we will [upon request] direct you to our legal counsel.
The statement also offers an explanation of the now-infamous tiny ball pit. “Photos on the website were not representative of products received, and the company has been contacted with photographic evidence of the quality and size of products provided to us,” says Eli. When the Welcome to Night Vale event was cancelled, attendees were offered entry into a raffle and “an extra hour with the ball pit” as compensation. According to Eli, when that offer was posted, “[T]he Con Head who posted it had never actually seen the product we received, and those of us who had were unavailable to provide input at the time.”
Issues with rooms for guests of the convention are explained as a clerical error, and reports that minors got into 18+ panels is dismissed, with Eli stating that all attendees had their identification checked before entering those panels, due to problems with the ‘Over 18’ bracelets supplied by the convention. The bracelets were not attached tightly enough, or were attached to badges, completely defeating their purpose. Eli dismisses rumors that the Renaissance Schaumburg was unhappy with the convention attendees and that they “didn’t like the ‘type of clientele'” brought in by the event, and apologizes for passing on the rumors. “When two of the Con Heads were told by the third that such a thing had been said or otherwise insinuated, it wasn’t wholly unbelievable – as it’s happened to so many other events in the past – and, in our state of panic, we believed what we were told, therein passing it along to our attendees.”
While DashCon has owned up to some of its mistakes, the convention clearly suffered from mismanagement, miscommunication, and poor planning. The next DashCon is already being planned, to be held June 19-20, 2015 at the Indianapolis Convention Centre.