Events: HasCon 2017 Full Disclosure & Ticket Issues
As part of HasCon's Press Pass policy, it is required that you disclose that you were provided a pass in your coverage. However, my situation was a bit more complex, and this side-story can be considered an addendum to my main report explaining my Press Pass status and the situation that followed the issuing of the pass to BWTF.
Most larger scale conventions nowadays offer the option for press to apply for a courtesy admission into their events. Traditionally this was mostly limited to venues such as newspapers, magazines and television stations. However in the past decade or so there has been a recognition that bloggers, fan sites and Youtube content creators can be "influencers" so they too are afforded this opportunity. BWTF has used this process for events such as Star Trek: Mission New York as well as New York Comic-Con. So, in late July 2017 I applied for Press credentials and much to my delight, I was approved in early August for a pass.
However, there was a catch.
The press pass did not permit me to go on the Hasbro headquarters tour (which was part of the VIP package only) and it did not allow me to add on the Transformers Hall of Fame dinner event. If you had purchased a general or VIP pass, you could add on the dinner, but no such option existed for the Press Pass (this was confirmed over the phone). To be clear, I was willing to purchase the dinner package ($200) but I was not allowed to do so with the press pass. I reached out to customer support to ask if I could be allowed to attend the Hasbro HQ tour and the dinner so that I may cover the event in more detail. Over the course of five days I went back and forth with different people, but was eventually told that nothing could be done. The Press Badge was general admissions only with no add-ons allowed.
This presented me with a conundrum. I technically could get into the convention and report on the show floor and panels. However I would not be able to report on the Hasbro HQ tour, nor would I be able to report on the dinner events. While Ben's World of Transformers may not be the largest Transformers site around, I take pride in the quality of reporting I provide to my visitors, and so I took a deep breath and purchased the $600 VIP package. Fortunately at this point the $200 dinner had been folded into the $600 package so I did not have to pay any more than that.
Fast forward to late August, and Space Ape, the folks behind the "Earth Wars" mobile game offered a special code "BACKFLIP" which discounted VIP admissions by $250. I was dismayed. Not only had the Press Pass limitation forced my hand to purchase a $600 package, but had I waited two weeks or so I could have saved over 1/3 of the price. I wrote to HasCon customer service once again to ask if there could be some consideration given to me. Now, to be perfectly clear and fair to HasCon, their purchase policy states no refunds, so I knew up front that getting money back was highly unlikely. However, I had hoped given the circumstances leading to this purchase I would be given some type of consideration as both a fan and influencer.
I was not.
Through a back and forth exchange where I even asked for store credit instead of any type of refund, I was consistently denied. It was a very frustrating few days going back and forth with customer service and finally I gave up.
Fast forward to HasCon itself and this topic was a hot one. Many fans who had purchased the $600 package told similar stories to mine where they attempted to have the BACKFLIP code retroactively applied to no avail. However, our results were uneven. A majority of fans and friends I discussed this with met with the same resistance that I did. However, I met one fan who called customer service and somehow convinced them to apply the code retroactively (I will not identify anyone by name here, but he is someone I trust in such matters). To call this frustrating would be an understatement.
In the interests of full disclosure, yes, I had a press pass for this event. However, I never had opportunity to use it since the VIP pass was the "superior" pass that allowed me into more events and provided me priority seating and access to panels. It is also important for readers to understand this story because it framed my mindset going into the convention in a particularly negative space. However, I will not judge the entire convention purely on these events.