Skip to content

Convention Report: Comic Con SLC

September 9, 2013

Okay, this is the register system. It’s basically point and click. It lists everything we have for sale in the booth. It looks like it might be just you the first day, so pay attention.

Sandra Tayler, the Business Manager for Tayler Corporation, creators of Schlock Mercenary now had my complete attention. She was showing me their point-of-sale system that ran on her iPad. I’m pretty good with technology. You pretty much have to be if you want to be in the IT field, but strange as it might seem, I’ve never been in retail. Never. Not in high school, not in college. The fact that I was going to be running the cash register was . . .scary.

So, what are some of the things that could go wrong?

Well, not much. I suppose there’s the possibility that a price is wrong, or I guess I might have missed something. The iPad is currently using wifi and going through our mifi system. We call her KAREN. We’re not sure if the signal might be overwhelmed when there’s ten thousand cell phones in here. If the mifi goes offline, you can switch the iPad over to cellular, but hopefully you won’t need to do that. There’s a separate process for refunding a credit card, so hopefully you won’t have to deal with that. Oh, and whatever happens, don’t bug Howard. He’ll be busy dealing with customers.

In this case more information was just making me more worried. It was Wednesday, the setup day for Salt Lake City Comic Con. My official title was “minion.” Fortunately, I’d helped Howard and Sandra in the past (Giving Your Product Away For Free Is a Business Model?) I think part of the reason I got the job of minion was that my Suburban was big enough to haul the show materials. The Con was happening at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

We loaded up the Suburban with boxes of books, coins, display materials, hand trucks and various pieces that are needed to set up a booth.

It’s about an hour from my house in Pleasant Grove, UT to down town SLC. We timed it so that we could arrive at 10:00. That was the earliest we were allowed to start setting up. Sandra rode up with me so we got to use the carpool lanes the whole way.

I’d done shows at the Salt Palace in the past so I was very familiar with the loading dock. As we pulled up to give our name to the guard, he said, “You’re not allowed in until 10:00AM!” (My dashboard clock said 9:57.) This is an important point. I might have been tempted to complain. To tell the self-important security guard that it WAS 10:00. But, you have to decide what you want. Did I want to be right? No. Did I want to get in and setup our booth as soon as possible? Yes.

How much before 10:00 is it by your clock?

About 5 minutes.

Could we stay right here for the next 5 minutes?

Oh, hell no! Because in a few minutes there’s gonna be 30 cars right behind you wanting to do the same thing. You’ll need to pull over there across the street. They’ve got free 2 hour parking. Then in 5 minutes you come back here and we’ll let you in.

At this point he was joined by another security guard who apparently understood that the point of security was to ensure that only authorized vendors entered the loading dock.

It’s two minutes till. Let em in. Don’t make it so stressful!

We pulled to the top of one of the ramps and unloaded all of our gear onto a cart. I threw in a half case of bottled water. Sandra went to take it in as I parked my car. As I walked the half block back to the loading gate entrance, it was with satisfaction that I noted the lack of a 30 car line to enter the loading dock.

Setup went pretty smoothly. There was one small problem. We didn’t realize that vendors were allowed to drive in until we nearly got clipped by a car inside the convention center. Since they had just done the World Con in Texas, Sandra was missing many of her normal items for her “booth box.” We managed to get the booth setup and took a bunch of pictures so that Howard could review it later.

I took the train. Look for a column tomorrow on why this is a very cool option.

As I came walking into the vendor floor, I noticed that the Schlock Booth was completely rearranged. Different banners, different location for everything on the tables. But, what was most important was that Howard liked the new setup. As I was to find out, he made a significant difference between sales and the booth being slow. Most importantly, Sandra was there. My fears about screwing up the cash register were put to rest.

If you’ve never been to a Comic convention, there’s really no description that fits. I’ve been to conventions (Why I Love Conventions.) Some of them were even in the Salt Palace, but this was nothing like those. The costumes were amazing. Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Browncoats, Thor, and tons more I didn’t recognize. At one point, a storm trooper went by pulling a cage that held the “slave girl” Princess Leia. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the fact that Batman held the other side of the cage.

I figured out the point-of-sale program after about 30 minutes. There were some hiccups, like when an item was the wrong price, but nothing too complicated. We did a pretty good business. As readers of this column have probably figured out, I like to talk. And I like Schlock Mercenary. It was very easy for me to engage people in conversation, and sell them stuff.

A stylish steampunk pirate.

The biggest problem of the show happened on Thursday night. The vendor floor was scheduled to close at 8:00pm. At 7:50pm we heard an announcement:Due to the overwhelming popularity of Comic Con we are extending the vendor floor hours until 9:00pm. Thank you. The vendors were not pleased. We figured that there were still people in line who had been waiting for hours and the Comic Con organizers were more willing to endure angry vendors than a crowd of angry fans armed with light sabers, blasters, swords and really big hammers who couldn’t get in.

I took the train again. Very cool. More on this tomorrow.

The biggest difference between Thursday and Friday was the size of the crowds. They were crushing. At times we got to talk to some people simply because they were at our booth when the traffic jam happened. They couldn’t go forward, they couldn’t go back.

(Photo credit: Howard Tayler)
So, do you read Schlock Mercenary?

Standing inside the booth was like being in a boat in the middle of a raging river of humanity. . .and elves. . and superheroes. Traffic seemed brisk. I shared booth duty with Chad. Chad is much more up on comic characters than I am. Much of the day when we weren’t selling things was him explaining the various costumes to me.

Challenge Coins
I’ve written in this space before about Challenge Coins. They are commemorative coins, some of which live in the Schlock Universe, some which don’t. What Howard discovered at World Con was that the shininess of the coins attracted people and they asked a lot of questions, but would not end up buying them.

Chad and I decided the best way to handle them was to keep them under the counter. When someone came up who was already a Schlock fan, we’d say, “We also have Challenge coins. Would you like to see them?”

At that point, we’d pull out the bag of sample coins and watch fans’ eyes light up. We’d offer a few explanations, like the fact that the numbered Tagon’s Tough coins were only available at conventions. And then, we’d sit back and let the fans sell themselves.

I had a commitment Saturday morning, so it wasn’t until 3:00pm that I got the Salt Palace. I parked a couple miles away and took the light rail. Getting off the train I could see that there was easily 500-1000 people in line. It was an amazing sight.

I, of course walked around the back and ducked in the vendor entrance.

The Salt Palace vendor floor holds about 13,000 people. Comic Con was originally planning to sell 30,000 tickets. Instead, they sold nearly 50,000. The fire marshall was keeping strict crowd control on the convention floor. The lines were crazy.

As the convention wound down, I headed out to get my car. There were considerably fewer boxes to take back. As a minion, I had no idea how well the sales were for the show, and I had nothing to compare them to anyway. From my standpoint, the opportunity to help out a friend, and to people watch some of the most amazing costumes was well worth it.

Comic Con will be back next year, and given the opportunity, so will I. Plus, Howard promoted me from minion to “Trusted 1st Lieutenant.” Clearly I’m moving up!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger, IT Consultant, and Trusted 1st Lieutenant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (
LinkedIn (
or contact him at (rbliss at msn dot com)

From → Uncategorized

  1. April permalink

    Nicely done! I loved reading about the con from your perspective.

    • Thanks. It was a new experience for me. Have you attended conventions?mi really had little to compare it to.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Why I Ride The Train (And Why I Don’t) | Rodney M Bliss

Leave a Reply