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Preregistration line

#1 User is offline   risamori 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 05:59 PM

This was my first time at ACen, and I have to say, as a whole, I really liked the con. However, the line for preregistration badge pickup was an absolutely terrible start to the weekend--by the time I got my badge, I was swearing that I'd never come back. (I've since revised that opinion to 'I'll come back when the pickup procedure has changed'.) It was clear that the staff were doing their absolute best, and I thought they did a good job...but the setup for badge pickup was just absurd, and it really, really needs to be changed in the future.

It would have been a big help, for example, to have more than two stations for badge pickup. It was just too slow to sort the hundreds and hundreds of people picking up badges through those two lines--especially when there were so, so many more stations for registration, and the on-site registration line was clearly moving faster (you could tell by watching individual cosplayers move through each line that the on-site line was moving faster, even if it was a longer line). It felt like I was being punished time-wise for actually bothering to preregister.

Another major problem, I think, was the use of pre-printed badges. With that many attendees picking up badges, it really isn't practical or timely to use pre-printed badges and sort through them all to find each person. It would have been much faster to have a stack of blank badges and a computerized database of all preregistered attendees, and simply find each name in the database and write it on the badge. Why were the preregistration lines the only ones without computers? I can understand not having printers on-site to print out each badge in person--the con may not be able to afford the on-site printers--but I can't imagine why no one could bring a laptop and just hand-write a name on the badge like it looked like the on-site registration lines were doing.

Does anyone else have other suggestions? I'm really hoping to see this improve in the future; as it is, I'm really hesitant to come back even though the con was a lot of fun, simply because I'm not willing to spend half a day in a barely-moving line just to get a piece of paper that I already paid for.

#2 User is offline   kaboom 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 06:16 PM

I agree with you! It was rediculous!
I was preregistered and I still waited TWO HOURS. I was not happy with that fact.
I do agree with you that writing the names down is faster, which is what they did to mine, but I was still kind of pissed... I mean I was PRE-registered, and yet I had to write my own name on my badge. I mean, what the heck? I waited two hours in line to write my own badge?! Not to mention the Non-Pre-Reg line was moving faster!

Grrr. Something needs to change in that category!
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#3 User is offline   Keans 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 06:50 PM

Registration PRE or Not, is one of the biggest complains regarding ACEN. Last year they actually ran out of SAT badges so we had to wait in place for 30min-1hour while the figured out what they were gonna do.

I only been to another convention and that was Wizard World/Chicago Comic-con. They use wristbands instead of badges and the process goes much faster. They also keep online registration open which makes it faster for pick up, just print out your ticket beffor you go up to the desk and they attach your wristband.

Maybe ACEN could do something similar, and just keep the badges for cosplayers who can't get wristbands due to costume or people who really want them. Most people dont really care for the [Hi, My Name is: Bob] type of name tags anyways.

I was on the Non-Preregistration line onf saturday and I wasnt happy about the fact they had so little Credit machines. I got there early so I could be a head of the line but since I was gonna pay credit I was put on a different line that only had 2 people serving them. It was like for every 10 people paying cash that got attended 1 person in the credit line was attended. It would have serious have been faster for me to get out of the line go to the ATM machine and come back, I felt like I was being punished for using my debit card.

They should just have put up a "cash only" sign, at least then I would have know ahead of time and stoped at the ATM that is right on the lobby and gotten some money.

This post has been edited by Keans: 22 May 2011 - 06:53 PM

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#4 User is offline   Youkulm 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 07:18 PM

I think the wristband idea is very good. It also uses less paper. I wonder if it would cut down on the costs and also make the whole process much more simple?

I do love saving my IDs so I would be kinda sad to see them go, but I think if the wristband is easier and makes things go smoother I am all for it!
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#5 User is offline   opimus.rm 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 07:26 PM

View PostKeans, on 22 May 2011 - 06:50 PM, said:

Registration PRE or Not, is one of the biggest complains regarding ACEN. Last year they actually ran out of SAT badges so we had to wait in place for 30min-1hour while the figured out what they were gonna do.

I only been to another convention and that was Wizard World/Chicago Comic-con. They use wristbands instead of badges and the process goes much faster. They also keep online registration open which makes it faster for pick up, just print out your ticket beffor you go up to the desk and they attach your wristband.

Maybe ACEN could do something similar, and just keep the badges for cosplayers who can't get wristbands due to costume or people who really want them. Most people dont really care for the [Hi, My Name is: Bob] type of name tags anyways.

I was on the Non-Preregistration line onf saturday and I wasnt happy about the fact they had so little Credit machines. I got there early so I could be a head of the line but since I was gonna pay credit I was put on a different line that only had 2 people serving them. It was like for every 10 people paying cash that got attended 1 person in the credit line was attended. It would have serious have been faster for me to get out of the line go to the ATM machine and come back, I felt like I was being punished for using my debit card.

They should just have put up a "cash only" sign, at least then I would have know ahead of time and stoped at the ATM that is right on the lobby and gotten some money.

Too easy to counterfit.
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#6 User is offline   Youkulm 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 07:34 PM

View Postopimus.rm, on 22 May 2011 - 07:26 PM, said:

Too easy to counterfit.


The same could be said about any paper badge if put in the right hands unfortunately.
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#7 User is offline   NinjaJedi007 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 08:21 PM

View Postrisamori, on 22 May 2011 - 05:59 PM, said:

It felt like I was being punished time-wise for actually bothering to preregister.

This crazy long Thursday badge pickup is the only thing I hated about ACen. We got in line and waited ~2 hours only to get inside and find ourselves in yet another ridiculous line. After a while someone finally announced that people who bought badges online could go right to the badge booths. We did just that and then proceeded to wait as we watched the workers individually flip through every single badge for each and every person in the card catalog. The only thing I could think of was what the purpose was in buying my ticket weeks in advance for? I guess I saved a little money that way but that was at the expense of wasting a whole day just to stand in line for one stinking badge.
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#8 User is offline   Doggeh 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 08:50 PM

I'm really not sure what happened this year. I've been getting my badge sent to me every year since that started now (and I HIGHLY recommend it) but I usually pay attention to what the reg line looks like anyway. 3 years ago, it was line-con and the past 2 years everything went well. This year though, man guys.

Suggestions perhaps? Maybe single day badges can have a separate line from full weekend badges? Also people who never got their badges sent to them despite asking otherwise, should perhaps get a second line.

Also, back when I went to Ohayocon they had printed badges with an empty name slot where you could write your own name in with a sharpie. I assume that would take a lot less time and effort instead of individually printing names on badges.

Gotta disagree with the wristband idea though. I LOVE collecting my badges, though I do save my wristbands from Wizard World but badges are just so much more fun.
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#9 User is offline   Chiitect88 

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:42 PM

I was an IRT Op this year and all i can really say is that things do go wrong and I'm sure the Higher ups apologize. For next year try to pre-reg early and make sure you get your badges mailed so you can avoid those lines O_o

I hope you all had a blast aside from the lines and hope to see you next year!

This post has been edited by Chiitect88: 22 May 2011 - 09:55 PM

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Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:58 PM

When it comes to badges, you have to weigh the advantages as well as the disadvantages of what happened this year. Just how big of a problem is counterfeiting? If it is a small problem, then is it worth having thousands of people who pre-registered wait for hours on end just to stop a few people from counterfeiting? Logically, I'd say no. If it's a big problem, then I don't know what the answer is.

I'm just glad I got to stand in the service line and it only took 5 minutes to get my badge.

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#11 User is offline   risamori 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 12:11 AM

View PostYoukulm, on 22 May 2011 - 07:34 PM, said:

The same could be said about any paper badge if put in the right hands unfortunately.


Paper badges are harder to counterfeit in advance, due to the images on them--they're generally not advertised in advanced, which means any counterfeiters would only be able to work after the con had begun handing out badges. (At least, this is the case for other cons I've been to--with ACen mailing out badges months in advance, they kind of null this advantage for themselves.)

At other cons, I've seen fancy things like using scanners, barcodes sent out in emails, and on-site printers to get badges out quickly. Obviously, this requires a lot of money to invest, which might make it impossible for ACen. But the computerized approach is pretty clearly faster, I think--it's really shortsighted to be using paper filing for such a large crowd, now that we have alternatives.

I suppose I have a bigger gripe with the pickup line than the on-site purchase line. For the on-site one, they have no way of knowing how many people will come; they did have a lot of stations set up, at least; and it was moving along, if slowly. For the pre-registered line...they knew how many people would be picking up badges. That's part of the point of pre-registering, I thought--to let staff prepare for the number of probable attendees. Clearly, that number wasn't really considered in terms of badge pick-up; the line was barely moving, to the point where I was moving about a foot for every 10 or 15 minutes I spent in line, which is kind of absurd.

Either way, I think that whoever was doing the planning for this really, really messed up. He/she didn't consider the numbers involved, didn't think about the time it would take, and didn't look for the fastest possible option. The lack of planning was hard on both attendees--who had to wait in huge lines that barely moved for hours--and staff--who had to try and keep those attendees calm and organized and keep the situation under control and still try and prevent counterfeiters and skipping in line and all that bad stuff. There was just some fail going on in this one specific part of the con organization.

#12 User is offline   risamori 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 12:16 AM

View PostChiitect88, on 22 May 2011 - 09:42 PM, said:

For next year try to pre-reg early and make sure you get your badges mailed so you can avoid those lines O_o


The onus shouldn't be on the attendees to have things planned out months in advance. It's not always possible, and attendees shouldn't be penalized because of it. Honestly, this would be largely solvable with better planning. The systems in place here were really outdated (paper filing? Seriously?) and showed a lack of serious planning or forethought for a con of this size. Quite frankly, having an excel spreadsheet or other searchable database listing the preregistered attendees and a stack of blank badges to write their names on would have hugely sped up the process--and that doesn't take much in terms of thought or money.

#13 User is offline   JediNight 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 01:51 AM

I'm not part of Reg staff, so maybe one will come by and clarify. Certainly having more pickup spots on Thurs could have probably moved the line faster. There is always the human element of maybe some staff weren't there yet, or sometimes some equipment breaks -- it sits in the warehouse for an entire year and gets dusted off for 3 days, so sometimes there are issues with that. (Again, disclaimer I'm not reg, I dont know the real story)

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The onus shouldn't be on the attendees to have things planned out months in advance. It's not always possible, and attendees shouldn't be penalized because of it. Honestly, this would be largely solvable with better planning. The systems in place here were really outdated (paper filing? Seriously?) and showed a lack of serious planning or forethought for a con of this size. Quite frankly, having an excel spreadsheet or other searchable database listing the preregistered attendees and a stack of blank badges to write their names on would have hugely sped up the process--and that doesn't take much in terms of thought or money.


Here I have to disagree. AFAIK our system largely takes inspiration from the system used at Gencon in Indianapolis to great success for many years now. The simplest ends up being the fastest sometimes, which is what happened here. We used to have everything computerized, and it didn't work well for years, which culminated in the reg nightmare of the 10th Acen I think it was? The database server went down, which made it so NOBODY could get their data pulled up. Since implementing the current paper system it sped up Reg a great amount -- having them ready ahead of time means you know computer snafus won't cause the lines to stop, short of the badges starting on fire :) Also -- part of the problem is that everyone else has the same idea as you to pick up their badge on Thurs night.

And IMHO yes -- you are responsible for yourself. Pre-reg badge signup were available with a mailing option since at least last fall. I believe you could get them mailed up until around April 1st this year. If your circumstances are uncertain enough that you couldn't register until after that, then it's not an unreasonable expectation to wait in line for awhile. I'm reminded of the sign in the University Book Store at school: "Lack of planning on your part doesn't entail an emergency on my part." AKA: We will accommodate you as best we can, but at a certain point you have to assume responsibility for your life and the eventualities that come from that.

Again I want to say that I sympathize with waiting in long lines, and am not implying that there may not be ways to improve the system. But know that a lot of careful consideration has been put into the systems we have for reasons you may not even have realized would be problems doing it other ways.

(The year the database crashed people were waiting in line for badges for 8 hours FYI.... =\ )

#14 User is offline   Rukariou 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:46 AM

I wasn't there this year, but from what I gather there were only a few people handing out the prereg badges. That's sort of ridiculous for a con of this size.

Why not do it in some alphabetized order? And have maybe half a dozen or so people handing out badges to people with last names A-C, D-F, G-I, etc and so on. Anime Detour (while 5 times smaller) does this and I'm never in the line for more than 10 minutes, even in the morning. I don't know, just a suggestion.
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Posted 23 May 2011 - 07:47 AM

i think paying the ~$2 to have your badge mailed to you
is totally worth no waiting in line

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:17 AM

View Postrisamori, on 22 May 2011 - 05:59 PM, said:

Another major problem, I think, was the use of pre-printed badges. With that many attendees picking up badges, it really isn't practical or timely to use pre-printed badges and sort through them all to find each person. It would have been much faster to have a stack of blank badges and a computerized database of all preregistered attendees, and simply find each name in the database and write it on the badge. Why were the preregistration lines the only ones without computers? I can understand not having printers on-site to print out each badge in person--the con may not be able to afford the on-site printers--but I can't imagine why no one could bring a laptop and just hand-write a name on the badge like it looked like the on-site registration lines were doing.


I have been to Ohayocon in Columbus and they use the "Print as you go" system and it works quite well. I really think acen needs to switch to it. They should also look into finding more reliable hardware, because the computers are almost always busted for some amount of time durring registration and it always slows everything down to a crawl.

I mean, I don't know what system they currently use to keep track of pre-reg, but there has to be something more reliable. Its not like they need massive servers, even with the large amount of people that they have the reg data should be pretty small.

The only thing that helps is having them mail you your badge

#17 User is offline   Stkbayfield 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 09:44 AM

I agree with the whole: "$2 and no problems" sentiment. Mine didn't even get mailed out in time due to the system problems, but the staff were nice enough to set up an area for such attendees where there was no more than a 15 minute wait to have a new one printed out on the spot. So even if the worst should happen, that $2 covers a lot of privilege.

Also, I understand that this year had it's share of problems. The printers were down on the first day, the lettering for the sirnames was unreadable and there was an issue with people just not knowing what name they had on it. My wife and I encountered this problem as her legal name is still her birth but she uses my last name for unofficial things because she prefers to. This was easily remedied at the desk by having them search both names, but that required searching another profile, validating that the name which didn't match her ID was okay and such. Bam a 30 second encounter becomes a 3 minute one and it's our fault, I totally take responsibility for that.

Hiccups happen and I know it took a long time, but you're talking about manually sorting through 20k people, having no print unit on one night and small things like that I just described. I am astounded every year that they pull it off at all.

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:20 PM

I was wondering this myself. Last year I didn't have my badge mailed and went to pre-reg, taking my gameboy thinking it would be a long time. But I was able to walk in and get my badge in like ten minutes I was out of there. This year I got my badge mailed and pre-reg just goes to crap. Why was where only two booths to pick up badges? That is just not right for a con this size.
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#19 User is offline   Bloo09 

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Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:27 PM

Click ME Here is a topic where I've explained what I can at the moment. Waiting on some more tech savvy staff to explain exactly what went on and get more info for a full official post I will be making in the reg section. As always I will always answer your questions and concerns openly and honestly.
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Posted 23 May 2011 - 10:31 PM

My only suggestion is to go with the pre-reg mailing option for next year. Some people didn't get their this year, but when I was managing the line I saw those people getting through the service desk line pretty quickly.
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Posted 26 May 2011 - 08:43 PM

I'm going to move this over to the Registration forum area since this topic deals entirely with that.

Also, as far as wristbands go, PLEASE NO. I hated that for Wizard World because how do you shower without ruining it? I'm really lucky that I have a tiny hand and they put the band a little loose so I could slide it on & off, but for most people, that just makes showering harder. :(
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Posted 27 May 2011 - 02:10 PM

Wizard World is a good example of why wrist bands do not work. I heard many complaints between showering and the color running on clothing when wet. The last thing you want is a stained cosplay. And I witnessed many people sharing wrist bands. We will be continuing to use badges that link to your membership to our event.
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#23 User is offline   keiichi969 

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 09:51 PM

Quote

that just makes showering harder. :(


Because we REALLY don't need an incentive for people not to shower.


Maybe give a new one every day?

Oooh, maybe make them out of soap! then after the day is over, you just bop in the shower, lather up your wrist band, and wash the confunk away, knowing that tomorrow you'll have a new wristband(and more soap).

This post has been edited by keiichi969: 27 May 2011 - 09:51 PM


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Posted 27 May 2011 - 11:41 PM

A new one every day would just make people go through line a 2nd and 3rd time. Even with many stations with over 20k attendees there is going to be a line :( We wouldn't give all 3 at once as they can be handed off or sold off. Wrist bands just don't work.
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Posted 28 May 2011 - 07:54 AM

UPC tattoos! Everyone gets a tattoo on their wristband, each year when they get to the registration booths it gets scanned, and updated in the system after they pay!

...okay not really but it was worth a shot!

But yeah, I can see wristbands being a complete nightmare. Badges are a classic anime con piece. Many of us love collecting our badges over the years. It's like a badge of honor for us. Personally I have about 13 badges, and they are all like purple hearts to me. Especially the 2004 Otakon badge... waiting in line for L'Arc was like going to war against Mr. Sun ~.~ 100 degree day with tons of humidity on Baltimore's inner harbor >.>;

The best thing I can think of is to make it faster for repeat con-goers. Like reuseable QRs/UPCs on the badges or something like that. Walk up with your old badge, scan it, new one prints up, pay, go. If someone forgets their old badge you can enter their e-mail address, then confirm their personal information with an ID check(or scan their driver's license bar code thingie) and let them be on their way.

It seems to me the trick is reducing the amount of information that has to be entered by hand. For new members possibly just give them their badge, then data entry can be working behind the scenes to enter their account information into the system. When they get home they would have an e-mail waiting, asking them to activate the account and create a password to make things easier next year.

Then have an advertisement in the program guide, steering people toward ACEN's merch tables, or customer service or something to pre-reg for next year. Many people won't even think about it while they are suffering in the reg line.
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#26 User is offline   Bloo09 

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Posted 28 May 2011 - 09:30 AM

ATM we're going with pretty much no info entered at payment. Just badge name and real name. two labels will print with a QR code that will show staff it's paid, and a badge number. One label goes on the badge, one goes on the form. We keep the forms labeled for what station and time it was so if we need emergency contact info we can find it. But since it was a new system we had no accounts from previous years. Now that we've been through 1 year we have over 20k accounts so there should be little to no data entry next year. Attendees just need to know their login name or email and we can bring up their account and pay through that.

We do realize badges are collectible to attendees. It's partially why we go through so much effort to change the look every year and make them something special. We've been planning the design for the 15th anniversary for 2 years now.

Also now that we know exactly what the problem was with processing credit and fixed it at con by Saturday it should be running 100% next year. It wasn't working at first so we were stuck with using the 3 credit terminals from our merch department leaving them without credit :( but by Saturday we got all 13 stations working for credit through the system. It wasn't an actual system error, it was that the new credit readers didn't work the way the website we bought them from told us they did so it had to be reprogrammed a bit.

We will also be expanding the size of the hall and line maze so more people can come inside during the morning rush and out of the weather. It wasn't too bad this year but I'm sure April weather won't be friendly to us next year.

Pre reg is in the reg hall, and now with many signed up to our new mailing list we'll be able to advertise that along with in the program book :) It was also an option on the form everyone who regged at con filled out.
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