A blog in desperate need of a new title
- Wednesday, July 27, 2016Whining About San Diego Comic-ConI originally planned to write a post about this year's Comic-Con and how amazing the event was. I still might, but I feel the need to respond to some complaints and whining about what Comic-Con has become. It started with an email the day before Comic-Con began from Chuck, owner of Mile High Comics.
Still waiting for our freight to be delivered to our booth at the San Diego Comic-Con at 6:30 PM. Our 53' tractor-trailer checked in at the convention freight yard just after 8 AM this morning. You would think that our paying them $16,200 to rent our booth would have elicited some measure of competency and concern from the convention staff. Apparently not.
I completely understand how frustrating it is to feel ignored. I think everyone can relate to the feeling of helplessness, knowing you've paid for a product or service and getting little or no acknowledgment from the provider. But I try to live my life remembering that I don't live in a vacuum... maybe there's a valid reason I'm being ignored. The convention floor is over 1/2 mile across, and there were over 740 vendors this year! And while $16,200 is no small fee, Chuck is competing for attention with the likes of Marvel, DC, Mattel, and Hasbro, just to name a few.
Chuck continued to complain two days after the convention was in full swing.
There is no longer any reason to not still attend SDCC even if you fail to win a ticket in the online lottery. Much like going to Downtown Disney can be quite a fun experience without paying the exorbitant cost of going into the park itself, just hanging out in the neighborhood near the SDCC can now keep you quite entertained for all five days of the show. In and of itself this externalization of the convention experience creates some problems, however, as those of us who are paying top dollar to rent our booths inside the main hall (ours cost $16,200) are now finding it much harder to generate enough revenue to cover our costs.
(Chuck just loves to remind people how much his booth cost him.)
For the past eight years, SDCC has had to cap admission to 130,000 attendees because of the limitations of the convention space. So while there are more people hanging around outside the convention center and being entertained by the free activities, attendance to the convention itself has not shrunk. In fact, demand for tickets to the convention has grown each year. If the convention center could hold 300,000 attendees, there's no doubt that SDCC would sell all 300,000 tickets. Chuck's problem isn't that there aren't enough people, his problem is that there aren't enough people at the convention wanting to buy his comic books.
For comics dealers, the effect of this diminishment in foot traffic is magnified by the fact that the online lottery system does not distinguish between fans. This causes enormous difficulties for those of us selling products (as opposed to promoting an upcoming media property) as the percentage of fans winning tickets who are actual buyers/collectors/readers diminishes each year.
I think "distinguish between fans" might be the most worrisome statement I've heard someone in the comics industry say in a long time. Should we only allow true comic fans into comic book stores? The beauty of a convention like Comic-Con is that it opens up the comic universe to all people, not just the nerdy comic book buyers from 40 years ago. Does Chuck really want to go back to the convention of 40 years ago when attendance was in the hundreds?
Comic book sales last month was the highest it has ever been. Several things contribute to this, like the amazing run of Marvel movies or shows like AMC's Walking Dead... and the fact these things are promoted heavily at SDCC. But, much to Chuck's dismay, the convention didn't prevent an eight year old little girl from coming to the show because she's only into Power Puff Girls and not overpriced variant covers. But with any luck, when she's 17, she'll be a regular comic buyer because of it.
Chuck is far from done though.
On a related note, the rapaciousness of the local hotel and restaurant establishments has become increasingly vulgar. As they have come to realize that they have a captive audience during SDCC these people have taken to jacking up prices to ridiculous rates. An omelette that I purchased at a cafe in the Gaslamp for a pricy $11.95 on Monday was jacked up to $18.95 on their "special" Comic-Con menu on Tuesday.
I don't like paying $20 for an omelette either, but keep in mind that Mile High Comics makes variant covers of $3 comic books and sells them for $20.
In a fourth, and hopefully final, complaint email today, Chuck continues his whining about the convention (emphasis his)...
Simply put, greatly increasing the size of the show also provided justification for these managers to also increase their own compensation well into six figures. Comic-Con International may be set up as a "Not For Profit" charity, but as the San Diego Union Tribune discovered during their search of public records a few years back, nothing prevents the Board of a non-profit from paying themselves salaries "in line with industry standards for organizations of a similar size." The bigger they make the show, the more that they can justify paying themselves. It is just that simple.
I've never understood why a person who works for a living, non-profit or not, shouldn't expect to be paid "in line with industry standards". How else would the non-profit attract the best talent? But aside from that, Chuck started selling comics as a teen and now has the largest comic store in the world. I think it's safe to say that as his store grew in size, so did the amount he put in his pocket. At least I sure hope he isn't making the same amount of money as he was 40 years ago.
Comic-Con has grown and evolved; it's no longer a small comic swap meet. If that's what you're looking for, there are plenty of those conventions all over. But the inclusiveness and popularity of SDCC has been good for everyone in the industry, including Chuck. But most importantly it's been good for the fans... and that's what should matter.
- Tuesday, September 01, 2015Shut Up Notch!Markus Persson (“Notch”) sold Mojang, the company that made Minecraft, to Microsoft for $2.5 billion last year. Now he's been tweeting about how hard life is as a billionaire. I say, shut the $%#& up, and I suspect I'm not alone. Markus, I have about 25 projects and ideas I would like to develop, but I can't. Do you know why? Because I'm spending every waking minute trying to simply provide for my family, and maybe splurge on a vacation or something once in a while. I don't want a billion dollars, but I sure would like enough to hire a couple developers who can do the stuff my brain isn't capable of. I don't even need a million dollars, but I'd like enough money to be able to cover my bills for a year so I could spend that year building one or two of the projects I think could be awesome. Just thinking about this has gotten me depressed. Thanks a lot.
- Wednesday, April 01, 2015Tim Cook's Big RiskThere’s been a lot said lately about what incredible risk Tim Cook has taken over the past year, and how bold he is by coming out as gay; and now, speaking out against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana. Cook is neither brave nor bold in any of this. First, Cook is soap-boxing from a position of strength. As the saying goes, he’s on the right side of history. It’s obvious that gay rights is a winning issue, so to come out in support of gay rights now is not risky, bold, or even controversial. Coming out on the losing side of an argument is risky. Supporting the winner is not. Second, Cook opted not to make bold, public statements until he was solidly in the CEO seat at Apple. Notice he remained silent for a very long period of time after Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO. Even after Steve Jobs died, Cook remained silent until the board could see he was fully capable of increasing profits year over year. Only once he knew there was no way the Apple board would fire him, did Tim Cook stand up for what he feels is right.
- Friday, February 27, 2015This is Why I Hate Hot WheelsMattel emailed me today and suggested I keep en eye out for the new model being released in early March. Criminy. The Volt is an electric car with a generator for crying out loud. What is this crap?
- Friday, January 30, 2015Starting the Day Off RightYou know how the start of your day usually determines how the rest of it is going to end up? Well, as much as I think Einstein’s bagels are way better than Panera or Bruegger’s, if you’re looking for a smooth morning, I’d steer clear of that place. The entire experience at Einstein is frustrating. Let me tell you how a typical visit goes down. First, you wait in a line so you can tell a clerk which bagel or fancy coffee drink you’d like. If you’re lucky you won’t have to wait while he or she helps the guy in front of you pick out a baker’s dozen of bagels for his co-workers. (Obviously he’s a nice guy, buying bagels for the whole office, but how long does it take to make a selection?) Next you wait to pay a second clerk for your breakfast... in a line behind all the same people you were already behind. Nine out of 10 times you have to repeat back your order to him. That’s actually helpful because it reminds you how bad you wanted the darn thing. Once you’ve paid, you have to mill about in whatever space you can find that isn’t the two lines you were previously in. The trick is to stay away from the doors, so you’re not in the way, but you also have to stay away from the counters where the napkins and creamers are. Just about the time you find a good out-of-the-way spot to stand, a third clerk from the back calls your name and tosses your breakfast on the display case... which is conveniently located on the other side of the second line you were in earlier. If you’re really lucky, the bag has cream cheese smeared on the outside so you can share your breakfast with your car’s interior. So now you have the delicious bagel you were craving and your day should be great... except now your mood is rotten. I’ve been to several Einstein Brother’s and every one has worked the exact same way. Maybe I’m the stupid one, because I keep going back there. I just feel sorry for people around me every time I get a craving for soft doughy bread and cream cheese.
- Saturday, October 11, 2014Some Bunk About Income EqualityA 30-year-old employee of Wells Fargo, Tyrel Oates, decided he wasn’t happy with his lot in life so he emailed John Stumpf, Wells Fargo’s CEO, to let Stumpf know what he thinks. Oh, and he also copied the letter to 200,000 other employees of the company. Now he’s being hailed as the “quiet hero of income equality”. Excuse me for a moment while I go throw up. Sure, the company provides while not great, some pretty good benefits, as well as discretionary profit sharing for those who partake in our 401k program. While the benefits are nice, the profit sharing through the 401k only goes to make the company itself and its shareholders more profitable, and not really boost the income of the thousands of us here every day making this company the prestigious power house that it is. The first reason I would fire Oates: Emailing the entire company is completely unprofessional. I’m reminded of Jerry Maguire’s “mission statement” in which he broadcasts his feelings about unfairness with the sports management business at which he is employed. And the day everyone gets his diatribe, he is fired without reservation. When Oates was hired he was given a specific offer, presumably commensurate with his skill set. If the salary or benefits offered were not up to the level he felt he deserved, then it was his job to negotiate a better offer... or seek employment at a company that pays better. (Side note: I spent 10 of the last 11 years with no benefits, so I confess that I get rather annoyed at people who complain that their benefits are “not great”.) There’s a story in the Bible that Jesus tells us; to paraphrase, a guy gets a job harvesting a field all day for a set amount of money. Later in the day another person is hired to do the same job for the same wage, but the second worker only has to work a portion of the day because he showed up after lunch. The first worker is angry because he feels he should have received more pay than the second worker. On the surface we might think the first worker has a valid point. But the story points out that the first worker agreed to work all day for a specific wage. His lot in life has not changed because someone else got a better deal. By agreeing to work for $15 per hour plus benefits, you lost the right to complain to the CEO when you decide you should be making $20 per hour instead. Last year, you had pulled in over $19 million, more than most of the employees will see in our lifetimes. The second reason Oates would be fired: It’s none of his business, as an employee of Wells Fargo, how much the CEO makes... anymore than it’s my business how much my boss makes. Additionally, what Stumpf makes has no influence on the salaries of each employee in the company, except that by making Wells Fargo profitable means people like Oates have a job to complain about. My third reason for firing him: Oates financial argument is hardly solid. That, and his inability to correctly word an email, shows why he makes $15 per hour instead of being in upper management. This year Wells Fargo in its second quarter alone had a net income of $5.7 billion, and total revenue of $21.1 billion. [...] My proposal is take $3 billion dollars, just a small fraction of what Wells Fargo pulls in annually, and raise every employees annual salary by $10,000 dollars. The numbers Oates puts forth here are irrelevant. The only number that matters to his ridiculous argument would be the full year of profit that Wells Fargo made, which was $21.88 billion. He is asking for the CEO to give away 1/7th of the company’s annual profits... every year for the unforeseeable future. That is not “just a small fraction”, and is such poor logic, financially, I’m not sure Oates belongs in the banking industry at all. I wonder, if Oates had 21 dollar bills in his pocket and you asked for $3, would he give it to you? Oates is missing an important lesson in financial responsibility: Store grain during the surplus so you have grain during the lean times. The problem is, we aren’t taught that anymore. We’re taught to spend all we make and more, then attempt to bring our income up to our spending levels, instead of keeping our spending levels below our income. So perhaps it’s understandable why Oates doesn’t understand that Wells Fargo should make considerable profit without spending all of it. There are many of us out there who come to work every day and give it our all, yet, we struggle to make ends meet while our peers in upper management and company executives reap the majority of the rewards. I don’t know Oates, obviously, so perhaps he has bills not in his control that add up to more than he makes at Wells Fargo. All I can do is draw on my own personal experiences when I made $15 per hour and I didn’t think twice about using credit cards to buy TVs, game consoles, nice furniture, and other “stuff” I felt I deserved to have. I didn’t hesitate to eat at pricey restaurants frequently. I didn’t think twice about having a six year car loan on a car that was out of my price range. And there are a lot of people who live in this country who make a similar wage and spend like there’s no tomorrow, and then complain because they can’t “live comfortably on their own”. Is it fair that the CEO makes millions of dollars each year and the janitor makes only tens of thousands? Is it fair that Tyrel Oates makes $15 per hour and there are homeless people outside his office begging for change? Because if it’s not fair that Stumpf makes the salary and bonuses that he negotiated and earned by operating a company to the point that it turns $5 billion in profit, then it’s also not fair that Oates makes the salary he negotiated and earned when there are people outside his workplace with no car, no place to call a home, and no money for a decent dinner. This isn’t England, where some people are born into royalty with no reason for their success other than their birth. This is America, and in America if you want to be the CEO of Wells Fargo you are free to pursue it. Sure, not everyone is going to make it big, but if you look at history, there is literally nothing stopping anyone in this country from becoming whatever they want to be... with the exception of their own selves. Bill Gates was a college drop out and became the richest man in the world. John Stumpf grew up poor with “limited family finances”, managed to pay his own way through college, then started working at the bank in 1982 in the loan department. He moved up and eventually became the CEO of Wells Fargo. This was not luck. This was not a poorly crafted email to the entire organization about how he deserves more money. This was hard work and determination. I’m no millionaire, but I never took a single college class, and I live... comfortably. (Sometimes I feel I live better than I deserve). Why is that? It’s because I worked my ass off and lived below my means, not because I whined to my boss and stirred up a shit storm with my 300,000 co-workers. So Tyrel, consider this to be my letter to you. You are not the CEO, you do not get to make millions in your current position, you do not get to tell the CEO how to manage the profits his company makes. Shut your mouth and get back to work and be thankful you have a job.