April 6, 2015

U.K. Comic Con: When Showmasters show their dark side

I will have no problem in admitting that I am, or to correctly put it, was quite relatively new to the movie convention scene. My first proper film convention took me to Mlton Keynes in Buckinhamshire, England back in 2013. It was a great experience meeting such celebrities as Gillian Anderson and Freddy vs Jason film star Ken Kirzinger and getting autographs from them. So, I thought that I would make it a kind of regular thing. In the same year a few months later I attended the London Film and Comic Con at Earls Court in London. An even better experience was to be had here. But it was in 2014 that things took a turn for the worst!

Most Comic Con attendees already know of the farcical turn out that occurred. Comic legend Stan Lee was the main attraction and because of this, Showmasters, who organise the Comic Con and Collectormania events gravely underestimated the demand for entry to this particular show. A member of staff on the Sunday show told a close friend of mine that 120,000 guests queued up on the Saturday of that weekend, the day I attended, resulting in a queue that lasted well over six hours!  In the end it got a point where I turned around and headed for home, as there was the hot weather temperature to also contend with which had a partial effect on the temper of some guests who got understandably irritated. In any case, Showmasters were quick to respond about this situation, stating that all tickets for future events would be sold online only as a way to control queues. Not only this but Comic Con was also to be moved to the Olympia forum, not far from Earls Court.

So, you would think that is great and all is forgiven, right? Wrong. Considering how much of a following that Comic Con and Showmasters have gained over the years their treatment of paying customers is deplorable!

This year, Showmasters have organised a Back to the Future theme for their Comic Con event  due to the 30th anniversary of the original movie. Guests such as Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Marc McClure have been confirmed to attend. “Why not”, I thought. Sure, last year was a bit of a mess but Showmasters seemed to admit their mistakes and knew how to rectify things. So, I purchased a ticket online, gobsmacked at the £18 price point, but still went ahead. A few days later an email was received asking me to pay an “activation fee” of £2.50 to activate the e-ticket. I have purchased a fair few e-tickets for other events before but had never come across anything like this. I already had an account registered with the Showmasters forum, and I just wanted to make a simply enquiry as to why we had to pay this. Bare in mind that just to get through the doors would cost over £20! So, I typed in my details in the login screen only for my password and username to not work. Perhaps I had just forgotten my password? Well, no. A notice displayed saying that my email address, which was the username, was not accepted on the forum. I had been banned!

Now, the only times I ever post on the Showmasters forums was only when an event was near to happening and sometimes soon after the events had come to their conclusion. The last time I had posted on their forums was, in fact, shortly after 2014’s London Comic Con had ended. Yes, I let my feelings be known to Showmasters, but so did hundreds of others. One woman at the time was pretty scared to say anything about the shambles that occurred, only for me to remind her that she is a paying customer and that it should be fine to voice her concerns and disappointments. Any business, which is what Showmasters are, should be able to deal with complaints of their patrons effectively and professionally. Not sweep them under the carpet and keep certain individuals quiet! The success of a business comes from patrons that return. Not people who go once or twice, only to never again go back. Banning them from making contact will only serve to drive away their audience. Which is what they have done to people like me. Their Facebook group was found and I made a post suggesting that they needed to start listening to their audience and not overreact. That post was deleted within five minutes along with suspending my posting privileges!

As a long time movie goer and former brief convention fan, it is a kick in the guts. Had I known that my account was banned from the Showmasters forum last year then I would never have bought an entry ticket to this year’s upcoming event. That ticket is now on Ebay!

Showmasters, it is time you started to get with the program. Do not be fearful of issues. Every business has them but it comes across like you want to just take your money bags and run. There are two ways to view these events. The first one is to view them as a great opportunity to meet your movie and tv show idols and have a good time mingling with other fans who share the same interests. The other, less pleasant view, is to view them as events that are nothing but opportunities for companies like Showmasters to fleece the public of their hard earned cash. And due their actions and treatment of people such as myself, I now sadly take the latter view. The good thing is that the celebrities they invite do not have as strict a business model as Showmasters! One follower, who managed to get in that awful Saturday last year, was lucky enough to be invited by one of Stan Lee’s bodyguards to Lee’s hotel room where a free picture and autograph was given by the great man himself. At a Showmasters event!

If you are planning on attending this year then proceed with caution. Especially if anything happens to not meet your expectations.

As for myself, I have only one brief statement to make. Move over, Showmasters. I am sure that I can get that autograph from my favourite actor for free some time down the road if I meet them in a place that is not Comic Con.

Oh, wait. I already did, actually.

About the Author

Lee Skavydis
Lee Skavydis
I am a die hard movie fan, owning over 500 movies on both DVD and Blu Ray. I try to go to the cinema at least once a week when time permits. My other hobbies include following fight sports such as boxing, travelling around, writing and editing, listening to heavy rock and cook the odd occasional recipe. I used to write for several prolific boxing websites, interviewing some of the most famous names associated with the sport around.



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