I don’t know what to say. I really don’t. I’ve never had an experience like the one I had yesterday at Anime Expo 2017. It wasn’t the best experience in the world and it’s something that has me seriously reconsidering coming back to Anime Expo next year. And even thinking about not coming back to AX is hurting me because I never thought I would not want to ever go to AX. I’ve been coming to AX since 1996 and have only missed the event five times since then. But if the experience I had today is any indication of how bad the badge process at AX is getting, with little to no indication that the people at the SPJA (the organization the runs and operates AX) are going to do anything to rectify this situation, then I have no interest to return to this event if they insist on treating the fans with so little regard or respect.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m used to long lines and waits to get into conventions and expos. Having been at AX so many times as well as E3, SDCC, D23, WonderCon and others, waiting in line is just part of the process – it is what it is. But what has separated those events from AX is that I am constantly seeing those events and others do their best to try to make the situation as easy and as fast as possible for their fans waiting to pick up their attendance badges. But with AX, for the past several years, instead of trying to alleviate the situation each year I just keep seeing it get worse and worse. When I see all these other events try their best to ease the long process in any way and the people at AX just letting it fall to the wayside… it just makes me wonder if they care about changing it in any way.
When my wife and I arrived at AX this morning at 8 AM, the line was already a visible mess. But getting out of our Uber ride and trying to find the start of the badge pick up line was, in all honesty, a bloody mess. After finding an AX volunteer and being told to stand in one line, after about 30 minutes we were told that we were in the wrong line and needed to go stand in another line. Then, after being in that line for another 30 minutes, we were told that we were at the wrong side of the LA Convention Center and needed to go to the other side and wait in that line instead. So as we made our way to that line we, and others who were told the same thing in the previous line, noticed that where we were headed to an area where two or three different lines were converging and there was no discernable start to any of the lines there. And asking any of the AX staffers that we saw, all three of them, each have conflicting answers to what we asked. There was even a line forming on the southbound side of Figueroa on the street… because, you know, that clearly wasn’t a risky and dangerous place for a line to be forming.
So after about two hours of frustration at not being able to get a straight answer as to where we needed to go to get our badges, we decided to go cool off for a bit and check out a movie, to see if when we came back, the line situation would be under control and we could then get in the right line and get our badges. Okay, that was perhaps not the best idea, but that still does not explain why when we came back from the movies, the line situation wasn’t in any better situation than when we had left. Yeah, the lines were finally separated into they’re proper order, but the wait time to get our badges was still in the vicinity of 6 to 8 hours. So we got back in line and waited… and waited… and waited.
We walked from the southwest corner of Figueroa and Pico to the corner of Figueroa and Venice before curving around the LACC and followed the line to the corner of Venice and Oak before turning north on Oak and heading down to the corner of Oak and 14th before again turning on 14th and Valencia to start heading back to the direction of the LACC. That’s a nearly two mile long line just to get back to the twisting line just outside of the convention center doors and who knows what other kind of line that awaited on the inside. So we waited in line for an additional four hours. But after those four hours, when we noticed that we were still on Venice and Oak heading back to the convention center and we were still another four hours away from getting in the door, my wife and I decided to cut our losses for the day and just head home. As it was, that was eight hours wasted for nothing. If for nothing but frustration and disappointment. Eight hours away from our kids. Eight hours of getting nowhere fast, getting misinformation from almost every AX volunteer we saw, and all in some of the hottest weather of the year.
I can’t wait to go back to my job next week at the LAPD and see what kind of reports and complaints are filed in that area for this day. As it was I saw a friend of mine who works for the LAPD’s Central Division there, trying to get some AX attendees to get out of the street and back onto the sidewalk. Not to mention that I’ve seen post on Facebook and Twitter about people fainting from dehydration and heat stroke as well as someone in the street being hit by a car while waiting in the AX line that had formed on Figueroa.
And I know someone out there is saying, “Well, that’s why they have early badge pick up the two days before AX starts.” Yeah, I get that; and that’s great for those of you who can get to those days to get them. But for those of us with full time lives and full time jobs and full time responsibilities, that’s not such an easy thing to do. I work full time at the LAPD and getting days off is a premium luxury. My wife works full time for the Walt Disney Resort and can’t get from Anaheim to Downtown LA in time to get the badges those early days, especially when we have three kids in grade school and one of them is a special needs child. So, good for those that can get to those days to get their badges early… if they can take advantage of that privilege, more power to them. But for those of us who just cannot make it, as it was apparent from the thousands who were still in line yesterday, not everyone can. And it seems like the people who run AX, the SPJA, don’t really care about rectifying it or even assuaging the situation.
There are things that can be done to help change this, to not put the majority of attendees through this again. Early badge mail out, the way WonderCon and SDCC do being the easiest and most obvious. Or even the process that Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con and Comikaze Expo, who also have held their shows at the LACC for the past five years, employs. But for the past several years the SPJA has continued to ignore these examples and other suggestions that have been put before them that would help their fans and make the process easier and less stressful for everyone. Even the simple solution of putting more AX volunteers, with the right training and information, outside of the convention center just to keep things from getting as chaotic as they have been, this year being the worst, send beyond what they want to do.
That’s why it pains me to think about not going to AX next year. But, to be honest, I don’t have the time or the patience any more to deal with this kind of unprofessional nonsense. There are other shows and conventions that are doing what AX is doing, and with smaller crowds yet equally impressive formats and guests as AX. Anime Expo isn’t the only show in town any more, and if they continue to refuse to change and adapt for the benefit of their attendees, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only AX fan who’s thinking this very thing tonight.