MediaWest*Con 40 -- May 22-25, 2020
The True History of the MediaWest*Con Early Hotel Reservation Request Procedure
Due to experiences in having to share hotel space with a high school prom and a softball league early on, we learned to book all hotel function space and to block all* sleeping rooms with preference for MW*C members; the best way to avoid conflicts with non-members is not to have them around. This policy has been in effect since 1982. (*With membership at current levels, however, we do not fill all guest rooms.)
After the failure of the old hotel to fulfill these contractual obligations during MediaWest*Con 11 (1991), we agreed to hold MediaWest*Con 12 at the Holiday Inn South (where they had been actively seeking our business for years). The new hotel was more than happy to have the volume of business MW*C represented. Shortly before MW*C 13, the hotel decided that they wanted to take room reservation requests during MW*C 13 for the following year, so we agreed on a system which was then noted in the Program Book. The hotel did not get the forms to us in time to include them in the membership packets; while the forms were eventually available at both con registration and the hotel reservation desk, many members remained unaware that advanced registration requests were possible. Even so, the number of people taking advantage of this opportunity were far greater than was anticipated, resulting in long lines Monday morning (complicating the check-out process). The hotel staff was overwhelmed, receiving reservation requestsfor the following year in excess of the available rooms before the end of the con (the hotel now considers their taking room reservation requests during the con to be a BAD IDEA).
Understandably, those who were shutout also brought the matter to our attention, pointing out that this system favored those already staying in the hosthotel (by general proximity and access to the forms) and discriminated against those staying in other hotels (proximity and access to forms), full members who were unable to attend (due to lack of advance notice), Supporting members (same), and any others who might later become members. As always, we listened to member input and took steps to address these concerns.
Unfortunately, before we had actually determined a policy, much less been able to announce it, the rumor mill was already at work on nacent online forums like GEnie, where bizarre versions of the supposed policy were bandied about based on rumor, or just fabricated.
Of course, some had already made up their minds to oppose the hotel procedure, despite not knowing what the actual procedure would be.
From a troll who was never even a MW*C member, to a fellow troll:
Category 23, Topic 27 Message 249 Sat Apr 30, 1994 [Randy] at 23:45 EDT :
MaryB: Waiting for it to appear in writing won't lessen our reaction any, will it? :)
From the fellow troll:
Category 23, Topic 27 Message 253 Sun May 01, 1994 [MaryB] at 11:49 EDT:
I'm really sorry but the details of how the [hotel procedure] will be run are completely irrelevant. The only thing that any of us (the paying members) are concerned about it is how the _end results_ will affect us.
Category: Conventions: Central Topic: MediaWest*Con 14 Msg No: 176 [MaryB] Posted: 06/07/94, 08:45PM:
I'm supposed to care about whether other people get a hotel room? Why, pray tell?
The main objection from these trolls seemed to be based in a selfish disregard for fairness, and the belief that they were somehow entitled to preferential treatment at the expense of all others. One in particular simply had an axe to grind, as we had already found he had been making false accusations against a staff member of as well as making other misrepresentations.
Of course, not everyone on GEnie was a troll. Some were reasonable, or at least willing to wait to see what the actual procedure would be, and some even defended us.
When we became aware of the nonsence on GEnie, we agreed to do a Real Time Chat to dispell the false rumors. Moderators were obviously aware of the tenor of the previous "discussions" and issued this warning:
Category 23, Topic 27 Message 266 Mon May 02, 1994 at 16:22 EDT:
I have suggested an RTC with the folks who run MW*C here on GEnie. Do you think this is a good idea for you folks? I know I'd like to hear about plans for the coming convention. If it's going to turn into an attack session, however, I'm not going to allow it.
Unfotunately, while the live chat undermined the false "straw man" the trolls had been attacking, it didn't deter them from continuing to attack and defame us personally.
It got so bad that they were warned by moderators to stop the defamation:
Category: Conventions: Central Topic: MediaWest*Con 14 Msg No: 266 Posted: 06/20/94, 03:58PM:
The slander HAS happened, and it NEEDS to stop. Now. Pretending it didn't happen, looking the other way, or trying to provide a different interpretation of the facts will not change anything.
Of course, there was nothing unusual or sinister about the Early Hotel Reservation Request Procedure. Hotels taking group reservations is not sinister or even unusual; in fact, it is a standard industry practice.
We addressed the concern of those who questioned the randomness of the process by fine-tuning the procedure in adding the random selection (by Attending members' own hands) of numbered ticket stubs, which only determined the order in which reservation requests were processed (again, all with the knowledge and consent of hotel management).
Of course, this only further frustrated the trolls, who, finding themselves unable to game the system, then coined the derogatory term "room lottery" to further misrepresent the Early Hotel Reservation Request Procedure and disrespect us.
Apparently signalling his intention to continue his smear campaign against us, this troll said:
Category 23, Topic 27 Message 418 Wed Aug 03, 1994 [Randy] at 00:11 EDT:
On the other hand, there is the bad word of mouth principle.... I mean, we're all aware of how the negative comments regarding [another con] (rightly or wrongly doesn't matter) badly tarnished that convention's reputation.
His statement "rightly or wrongly doesn't matter" is particularly telling. Eventually he "quit" GEnie before he could be kicked off.
We recounted the misrepresentations and misinformation on GEnie in Progress Reports, and ran the reasons for the Early Hotel Reservation Request Procedure along side the procedure itself for many years in MW*C Program Books, and on the MW*C website once one was established in 1995. We even ran a Q & A in MW*C 15 Progress Report 1 (August 1994) addressing "issues" raised on GEnie and elsewhere.
The trolls mostly kept to vague claims of untrustworthyness or favoritism (none of which they ever provided a shred of evidence to support), since on the rare ocassions the trolls made a specific charge it was easilly disproved.
Over the years, we made many adjustments and refinements, such as taking reservation requests online, appointing a MW*C Hotel Liaison in 2012 to handle the reservation requests, and going paperless in 2017 at MW*C 37 for MW*C 38.
You'd think after over 20 years these people would've noticed the system was working, and that with current membership numbers and hotel location anyone who wants a room can get a room, but that would be expecting rational behavior from trolls. Instead, they continue to try to politicize a very benign policy that only treats everyone as fairly as possible, blaming things on the system that have nothing to do with the system, or for things that no system can solve (like the fact that when you have more people wanting rooms than they are rooms, someone is going on a waiting list). Unfortunately, there is no lack of irrational people on the internet, so new trolls join with the old ones that are still around. Despite our best efforts, rumors and misinformation continue to be circulated (if not originated) by a few people that seem to have their own axes to grind., and are now trying to rewrite history online and elsewhere.
For those who are more rational, we offer the summary below (adapted from MW*C 15 PR1, Aug 1994) .
MW*C Early Hotel Reservation Request Policy Q & A
2. Why try to fix what ain't broke? Just because the problems didn't affect you (or you benefitted from them) doesn't mean they aren't problems for others.
3. My hotel reservation is none of your business. Wrong -- the convention hotel room rates and the method of taking reservations are, and have always been, part of a contractual agreement between MW*C and the host hotel. This includes making sure that MW*C members get first dibs on rooms in the host hotel.
4. Why not just let the hotel do its job and handle the reservations directly? Part of their job is to handle reservations in a way that is mutually beneficial. Verifying membership numbers has previously caused delays in confirming reservations; we have to build a database, print it out, get it to the hotel, etc.. As memberships can change on a daily basis (cancellations, changes to/from Supporting/Attending/GoFer, etc.), any such list is inherently out of date. We also had to hope that the hotel would catch any discrepancies; if they did, then there was a timelag as they call us, we look up the info, get back to them, etc.. By verifying membership numbers before the forms go to the hotel, we eliminate a lot of these problems. We still do not handle deposits or other payments to the hotel. The random drawing only determines the order in which the reservation requests are processed; the hotel still makes the actual room assignments.
5. Other cons don't do this. Actually, some other cons (some WorldCons, for example) do handle the hotel reservations (they may also get a monetary kickback for doing so; MW*C does not). However, most cons don't have the problem of the hotel being booked up during the con for the following year (most hotels aren't even set up to take reservations that far in advance). One hotel did tell us, however, that the committee of a similar-sized event they deal with does, indeed, make specific room assignments themselves, and decides who goes in the overflow hotels. We have chosen not to do this.
6. Why not go back to the hotel postcards? We went to a larger form to include additional information that will not fit in the postcard format. Elements of the old postcard system(s) did not address the current problems.
7. What's wrong with "first come, first served?" The way the hotel was effectively booked up during MW*C 13 for the following year shut out Attending members who weren't already staying in the hotel, non-attending members, and any new members who might sign up later; basically, the same people would always get rooms under that system. "First come, first served" by mail discriminates against members from overseas, Canada, and distant states, as well as those postal "black holes" that cause delays or outright disappearance of mail regardless of postmark date. (Now that the number of members wanting rooms does not exceed the number of room available, this is no longer an issue.)
8. People can always do overnight delivery, can't they? Not everyone can afford to pay an additional 1/3 of membership cost for postage. No-one should have to.
9. Why don't you move the con to a bigger hotel? The options are limited (finding the optimum combination of rooms, function space, location, etc.), and it would not be practical to commute to some other city (or state). While you only need to come to the host hotel once a year, we have meetings with hotel management throughout the year. During the con, we can zip home if we need to (as we often do), because we live here.
10. Why not move programming/dealers' room/dealers' hall to other hotels? Simple logistics (available manpower, communications, etc.) make such expansion impractical. The choice of a hotel/convention center as the con site has always been intended to make the con as self-contained as possible, in part to minimize conflicts with non-members by shutting them out. Not to mention the burden that would place on many handicapped members.
11. Why should I care about anyone/everyone else? Apparently, your value system doesn't require you to (although it would be the fannish thing to do). However, we do -- we have a responsibility to all the membership, not just to you or your clique.
12. You can't please everybody. No, but we can try to treat everyone as fairly as possible; That includes new members as well as long-time attendees. Anyone who doesn't think they've been treated fairly should address us directly, instead of grumbling (or worse) behind our backs.
We hope this serves to dispel the myths that have been circulated on this topic.
This official MediaWest*Con page was updated December 4, 2019