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Hotel Arrangements for Convergence
Titanic
gmcdavid

I have been attending science fiction conventions ("Cons") since 1969. mia_mcdavid has been attending them with me since we got married in 1978. These events usually are based around a hotel. Typically the Convention Committee ("ConCom") negotiates a group rate with a hotel. Convention members join the event and contact the hotel directly to arrange accomodations, mentioning that they are part of the con to get a group rate. Back in Chicagoland, when we heard about a con that we wanted to attend, the first thing we would do was get our hotel reservation in. Hotels do fill up and if you cannot stay at the con hotel or another place withing easy walking distance, the con is not worth attending. Registering for the con itself can be delayed somewhat, depending on registration costs and deadlines.

Here in Minnesota the biggest con, Convergence, does things differently. You register for the convention. To get a hotel room at the con rate you go through the Concom. Their Hotel Subcommittee (hereafter referred to as the Hotel Committee), then allocates the hotel rooms. This happens after you register for the convention. When you register for the convention there is no way to be sure you will get a hotel room. In past years, to maximize our chances we put our names on the hotel list as soon we registered, on the last day of the preceding year's convergence.

We put up with this for several years and managed to get our rooms, but at the end of Convergence 2009 the rules were changed. The ConCom did not take names for the 2010 hotel list. They announced that they were going to use an on-line reservation system. However, this was not ready at that time. They would announce it and publicize the web link when it became available. However, the publicizing of the web link was .... somewhat selective, as noted by Mia here. By the time we found out about it all the rooms at the con hotel were gone, taken by the Concom and friends who had been tipped off privately. However, it worked out OK for us. We stayed next door at the Sofitel.

I had hoped to repeat this success for Convergence 2011, but the Hotel Committee stole a march on me and blocked the Sofitel as well, forcing all hotel registration there to go through them. By the time I though to check on this the only way we could get a room was through the Concom. So I fretted and carefully watched my e-mail and the Convergence web site for the announcement. When it came I quickly jumped through the hoops and got our room.

Sunday, July 3, was the last day of Convergence this year. I walked up the desk of the Sofitel and asked about a room for 2012. They told me they did not have a convention rate that far ahead, since they did not yet have a contract with the con. No argument with this. However, they were perfectly willing to offer me a room at the public rate. So I asked them what the public rate for three nights would be, figuring that a year in advance it might not be too bad. It was not much more than the current con rate so I took it, figuring the con rate would be about the same the following year. We had our room for Convergence 2012 before Convergence 2011 was over.

On October 22, 2011, the Hotel Committee announced that they were taking reservations at the Doubletree, the main con hotel. Three days later they announced that the Doubletree was full, adding:

As our primary obligation is to the Double Tree, and we had worked with last year's fill rate of a week, and have not as yet secured all agreements with the Sofitel to be able to take room requests for that venue. Hopefully needless to say, we are working on securing that agreement, as well as an agreement with other hotels as rapidly as possible. We ask everyone's patience.

I saw this announcement on the morning of November 17. About 9 PM I got an email from the Hotel committee saying that they were taking reservations for the Sofitel. The web page was updated accordingly. I was mildly curious. If the con rate was much cheaper I thought I could make a reservation through the concom and cancel our private reservation. However, I did not want to bother at the time.

I checked back the next morning: The Sofitel was full. The room block had apparently filled up in 12 hours. No problem, we had our private reservation. Out of curiousity I checked the rates for the three night stay: We were going to pay $11 more than it we had been able to get a room through the Hotel Committee. A small price to pay for certainty.

A few days later I saw this post, dated November 4, on Google plus:

Sofitel registration has gone live, but they haven't announced it on the website yet. Get in while you still can.

Yet on the 17th I had read on the Convergence web site (see above) that they had "not as yet secured all agreements with the Sofitel to be able to take room requests for that venue. So from 11/4 until 9 PM on 11/17 (nearly two weeks) the Convergence Hotel Committee was lying to us. I will not accept the suggestion that they were delayed in updating the web page. They were fast enough to announce that the Sofitel was full on the morning of the 18th.

Hence I feel completely justified in making our private reservation. Concom apologists claims that they control the hotel process to ensure that rooms are distributed fairly and equitably, and that by doing what I did, a perfectly legal and publicly available process, I am somehow cheating. This is contradicted by the ConCom's own announcement on October 25, where you can read

Also, please be advised that any reservations made at the Sofitel before we have reached an agreement may not receive a convention rate, and may not be adjustable to that rate after the fact.

By saying that the only negative consequence of making your own reservations is that you will not get the con rate implicitly acknowledges the legitimacy of such arrangements. In fact, the record shows that the Hotel Committee controls the room process simply for cronyism and favoritism. I have heard the suggestion that if everybody did what I did, it would completely destroy the Concom's hotel system. To which I respond "And your point is....?"

See also Dear CONvergence 2012 (An open letter)

So why do I bother with Convergence at all, especially since I also dislike its party arrangements.

  1. We do have friends there, even on the Concom (though not the Hotel Committee)
  2. There is some good programming.
  3. This is a family event for us. One of the GOH's in 2012 is a favorite of my wife and son.
  4. The Sofitel is really cool.

I may think differently about Convergence 2013. The Chicagoland cons look better every time we go there.


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What I would like to know is how many of the Sofitel rooms booked up during the stealth registration period.

If Concom really intends to serve all the fans, they should announce IN ADVANCE that they are going to release all those rooms and announce IN ADVANCE when fandom-at-large can pick them up. Anything less is tacit acknowledgement of cronyism.

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