On Charging for Kaffeeklatches

It seems that this year’s World Fantasy Convention has come upon the idea of charging for Kaffeeklatches, the small “round table” discussions between authors and fans. They are charging five pounds a head (about $8 US).

This is new. Kaffeeklatches, in my experience as an author, have been run as conventions as part of regular programming (not as premium events) and have not charged for them — or at the very least, in the several years I have done kaffeeklatches, I have never once done one where people were charged over and above the cost of a convention membership/ticket for them.

Some thoughts on this:

1. WFC says the charge is to “cover the cost of coffee and biscuits (and to help prevent people from dropping out at the last minute, thereby taking away a place that somebody else could have had).” Inasmuch as kaffeklatches already have waiting lists at no charge, this seems a dubious charge to me. Likewise, kaffeeklatches I have attended either don’t usually have snacks or had them covered under the cost of the general membership.

If WFC didn’t budget responsibly at an early stage, it seems poor form now to pass an additional charge on to the people attending; I’d just cut the cookies. In any event, the maximum number of attendees for a kaffeeklatch at WFC is 20; is WFC indeed planning to lay out a spread of nibbles worth 100 pounds ($160) per table. Because that’s some impressive spread for a kaffeeklatch.

The only “reasonable” explanation of this cost is that the hotel will not allow WFC to bring biscuits from Tesco and has enjoined the convention to use its own catering for cookies and coffee. Speaking from experience, hotels will be delighted to charge a ridiculous amount for this stuff. If this is the case, however, once again, they should have already dealt with this as part of the overall cost of running the convention. The solution is not pass on the cost to attendees who are already paying a considerable sum to be there.

2. Unless WFC is splitting the take with the author, or otherwise compensating the author for his or her time, the author is now being commercially exploited without consent. It’s one thing for a convention to generally run on the “volunteer to be on panels” model — this year’s WFC has made a great show of letting authors, etc know that just because they want to be on a panel doesn’t mean they will be on a panel, i.e., it’s a privilege, not a right — but it’s another thing to plump for that model and then turn around and start tacking on “premium” fees, and then not share those revenues with the people who are solely responsible for you having those revenues in the first place.

Let me put it another way. I have friends who go to media conventions who charge for their events, like autographing and one-man shows. The conventions they go to offer them a minimum fee for attending (which is covered in the cost of the attendee ticket and other revenue sources) and then anything else my friends make they keep. SF/F literary conventions don’t really do that — authors and others who attend as pros understand that they are going to be compensated by book sales (or art sales, etc), so typically they don’t charge for their time.

If WFC is going to charge for Kaffeeklatches, then they are either intentionally or otherwise moving their programming model closer to the media convention model. In which case the author should be asking: Where’s my money, dude? This would especially be the case for a convention at which I paid out of my own pocket to attend.

3. For that matter, did the convention inform the authors who they are using for kaffeeklatches of this switch to premium pricing at all? Because were I an author who had a kaffeeklatch at the convention, I can tell you with certainty what my response would be: If you charge fans for a kaffeeklatch without my knowledge or consent, I can guarantee you the one person who won’t be at the kaffeeklatch is me. As far as I can see it’s a wholesale revision of how kaffeeklatches are done and from the outside looks rather more like an attempt to soak attendees for a little extra scratch than it does anything else. The convention would be putting me in the position of being complicit with this additional soaking. And I would not like that. At all.

4. Likewise, if I were an attendee, and a convention sprung a set of additional charges on me this late in the game, I would be more than a little bit pissed off. Attending WFC this year already will cost hundreds of pounds/dollars in memberships, travel, lodging and food — and now plinking me an extra five pounds for an event that is free at every other convention? The words that spring to mind in response to that are not charitable. The very best is “penny ante bullshit.” It makes this particular WFC look disorganized and greedy. Who knows what other previously unannounced charges they’re going to offer up between now and the convention itself? It’s a guessing game, it is — and it’s not going to make people attending very happy.

WFC is of course able to do what it wants — and what it wants is to charge for kaffeeklatches. But I don’t think it’s a very wise or nice thing to do.

168 thoughts on “On Charging for Kaffeeklatches

  1. Twitterfeed is reporting that these “special” events are also scheduled to be in a part of the hotel that is not handicapped-accessable. That’s a double-plus ungood.

  2. Yowch, Scalzi! Tammy and I attended one World Fantasy Con about ten years ago – and left early because it was so poorly run we couldn’t find or get into panels we wanted to listen to, and the autographing session was like the infamous “Arena Seating” that caused several deaths at a Who concert!

    Sounds like this poorly-planned high-handedness is endemic to WFCs….

  3. THIS is a terrible idea! As a member of a smaller con that plans such things, this sets a horrible precedent. If WFC does split the “take” with the author, this will become a new standard that small cons won’t be able to mirror. Often we have lots of last minute cancellations. If it weren’t for the drop-ins, some of those tables would be next to empty. If the con can’t properly monitor their KKs, they shouldn’t have them. This is just bad news all around.

  4. I was one of the authors invited to do one of these Kaffeeklatsches at this year’s WFC (and I am on a mailing list with many more I won’t presume to speak for, but that’s where we hashed this subject out at length). To speak to your point #3: We actually were appraised of the fee, at the time we were asked, and your other points are precisely why several of us declined to participate.

    I am eager to be at WFC, to read, and to generally be supportive of it, but in respect to the Kaffeeklatsches I am not pleased or impressed, for all the reasons you cite and for the gormlessness of “We are again charging £5.00 per person to cover coffee and biscuits, and to dissuade people from not showing up.” Actual direct quote from the latest WFC programming upgrade.

    Because nothing says “welcome to the world fantasy community!” like a pre-emptively punitive fee for assumed deadbeats.

    -SL

  5. Doh. I am a bad tapper on my magic key thingy that makes words appear on my screen. What I meant to write was:

    “We actually were appraised of the fee, at the time we were asked, and that and your other points are precisely why several of us declined to participate.”

  6. The WFC website also says that the Kaffeeklatches are being held in a wheelchair inaccessible location:

    http://www.wfc2013.org/news-pr19.html

    “These events will be held during the day in the Chartwell room at the very top of the Hilton, which offers stunning panoramic sea views on Brighton. (Unfortunately, this area of the hotel is inaccessible by wheelchair.) ”

    The lack of wheelchair accessibility is why I am not attending World Fantasy Con this year, after attending in 2010, 2011 and 2012. I can afford the con; I just can’t afford the aggravation of not being able to get to everything at the convention.

  7. WFC, like many events in its class is a great place for networking. In fact they point out that certain publishers and editors will be holding Kaffeeklatches. Here, let me quote it verbatim:

    As an added bonus, on the Thursday we are presenting a special quartet of Publishing Kaffeeklasches where you can spend time with the movers and shakers from international publishing houses Bragelonne, HarperCollins US, PS Publishing and Tor UK. These are not pitch sessions, but they are a rare opportunity for you to learn how the publishing industry works and what editors and publishers are currently looking for.

    “Rare opportunity” coupled with people trying to launch a writing career and an extra charge for that opportunity equals exploiting your audience.

    Also, “on the Thursday”?

  8. “On the Thursday” is standard Britspeak. Not a mistake.

    I’ve been behind the kaffeeklatch sign-up book as a volunteer at at least one convention and I’ve signed up for dozens of kaffeeklatches, including the lottery kaffeeklatch for Neil Gaiman in Montreal. Dealing with no-shows is a no-brainer, you just give the kaffeeklatch list and waiting list to the door dragon and if someone doesn’t show up, the next person on the wait list gets in. I’ve made it into kaffeeklatches off the waitlist before.

    I’ve rarely been to kaffeeklatches that offer coffee, much less cookies (biscuits). I think the ones at Denvention had coffee. In Montreal for Gaiman, they sent out for tea.

  9. Agreed. The seats at these events should be for whoever signed up first, not for whoever had the extra pocket money. I hope there will be some independent kaffeeklatsches held off site.

  10. Also, lots of up-and-coming writers don’t get a full registration table. People at the con end up seeing these writers on panels, they get interested in the person, and then decide to check in at the Kaffeeklatch. Pre-paid seats will be a disservice to the newer writers who are less well known. The whole thing baffles me.

  11. I see it more as exploiting your “pro” attendees. I’m not going this year, so I don’t really have standing to complain, but everyone pays a membership fee to go to WFC. No one gets a free ride, except the guests of honor. There is something unseemly, I think, about charging an author (or editor) to attend, and then charging the fans extra for the opportunity to talk to them in a small group.

    I’ve said elsewhere, I suspect that the hotel is charging the per head fee for catered refreshments, and the committee has not factored that cost into their budgets. Only the hotel catering department is running off with extra profit here. But the committee should have factored that into their budgets before deciding to have Kaffeeklatsches at all. Were I going, I would refuse to participate under these circumstances.

  12. I’m also concerned that they seem to be accepting sign ups for kaffeeklatches ahead of time. So fans that have memberships for WFC that don’t have easy access to the internet will arrive with no chance to get into a kaffeeklatch even if they wanted to pay the five pounds. Most cons, in my experience, either have the kaffeeklatch sign ups available starting when he con opens, or open sign up 24 hours in advance of the kaffeeklatch.

    And the idea to have the “premium” kaffeeklatches in a non-accessible room is more sucky than the five pounds. Were I a program participant (very rare) I would refuse to participate in a con event that was inaccessible to members of the con.

  13. Sounds like they’re trying to curb interest to me, for some daft reason. A fiver in any first-worldish denomination can be a surprisingly effective psychological barrier. Literal, physical barriers to people who use assisted movement devices speaks loudly of their planning and priorities for choosing locations for events at the con and for the con itself.

    Is there something they might get out of provoking a backlash against klatches? An excuse to cancel them for the next go-round, so they can use the space differently? I know fandom is growing and changing, but there’s a very strict limit on how much you can stuff in a hotel or convention centre. Not that I think that excuses an ‘Oh, by the way, there’s a five quid cover charge to see the authors.’

  14. When they talked about the kaffeeklatches I thought they’d be part of the general programming. People are saying the cost isn’t high for someone who can afford to go to the convention… but actually I can’t afford to go. The funds were given to me as a gift, so any additional costs will be tricky as they weren’t in my original budget. Also, the rest of the programme isn’t available, so I may have to drop out if there’s a clash, and that’d mean issues getting the money back (if it’s possible to get it back). Which basically means there’s no way I’m going to these.

    Outside of that, the hotel website says they have accessible meeting rooms. So they used one that wasn’t for the event, in a way that implied they went for it because the views were nice and that was more important than accessibility.

  15. Wow. That’s a horrendously bad idea.

    Next they’ll be adding a “ice water and a glass” charge to go into a room with a panel.

  16. Hm, the closest experience to a paid kaffeeklatch was the auctions for actor meet-and-greets at Chevron, where the money raised went to a charity of the actor’s choice. Fair enough I reckon.

    Charging for tea/coffee and biscuits is pathetic and I think this has finally made my choice between WorldCon and GeekFest.

  17. People are saying the cost isn’t high for someone who can afford to go to the convention

    Which is stunningly clueless in itself.

    Lots of people scrimp and scrape and save to go to cons. They share rooms with other people and eat meals in the con suite to make it more affordable (I understand con suits don’t exist with food in the UK? Or do I have that wrong?) There were lots of cons I went to in my youth where I brought my own food and six of us shared a room. Even now I usually have breakfast in the con suite and bring my own lunch. More for convenience than utter financial necessity these days but that’s certainly not true for everyone.

  18. Misa Buckley – This is the World Fantasy Convention, not WorldCon! WorldCon in London next year has no plans, as far as I know, to charge for kaffeeklatches.

  19. I’ve never made it into a klatch – so I see a view that says I shouldn’t have to pay as much for my membership as someone who does get to go..I’m not sure about that. I understand that is hasn’t been charged for previously – and these charges would have to be there when I first signed up, not added on after..

    To the argument that the hotel is insisting they use their coffee and biscuits – possible but just refuse the offer – as far as I know klatches don’t usually have refreshments for the crowd.

    But that there are parts of the convention which are inaccessible? That is outrageous.

  20. The fact that the event is taking place in a wheelchair restricted access area seems like a legitimate beef to me, especially when voiced by someone confined to a wheelchair. I can’t comment on the logistics of that decision, but all else being equal, it clearly sucks for those folks who can’t attend.

    But I don’t get the argument against the five pounds for coffee and biscuits.

    1. I’m not sure I see how this is irresponsible budgeting on the part of the convention. They want coffee and biscuits, and they’re charging for it. Instead of charging everyone who attends the convention, they’re charging the folks who will actually have access to the coffee and biscuits. Fair enough, in my opinion.

    2. I’m not sure I get your second point. Why should the convention split the “profit” of the event with the writers?
    A) is the convention making a profit off of the five pounds? Or is that money going to the caterer of the biscuits of coffee? Meaning, is there a profit to be split in the first place?
    B) assuming there is a profit, why is this any different than the charge of attending the convention overall? No one argues that those profits should be split, despite the fact that many people attend only to see and possibly meet some of the guests.

    3. It’s fair, in my opinion, that guests might choose to not be guests. Such is obviously every individual’s prerogative. That said, I do believe there was advance notice. ETA: and Lynch’s comment above reinforces what I believed to be true.

    4. These things have a way of working themselves out. For instance, as an attendee, five pounds doesn’t impact my decision. But it would yours. If there are enough people like me, then great. If not, then the policy will, of course, change. Meaning folks like me wouldn’t be able to enjoy their coffee and biscuits.

  21. If it’s really to cover the costs of tea and biscuits, set up a kiosk in the hallway with a line about how “refreshment will be available ala cart”. Surely there are better ways to raise funds if that’s what is needed (like silent auctions, art raffles, event t-shirts, branded autograph books – of course those also entail some risk with upfront money).

  22. I’ve attended KKs and literary beers at WorldCon, and never had to pay for anything. At LoneStar3, I would have had to pay for my literary beer had I wanted one, but the beer was optional, and I’d guess that at least half the people at the table weren’t drinking anything. I would definitely think twice about attending a KK with such a cover charge, since I’m going to it for the company, not the food/beverage.

  23. Kind of like going to Kings Island Amusment Park and paying the park fee and then when you get in, you have to buy tickets for some of the rides. Means I won’t be back.
    On a side note, does anyone else here have a problem with the sidebar items at the top covering over the first few comments on the right. I thought it might be a setting, but I can’t figure it out.
    Dave

  24. @davewhuss, I’m not having that issue on my monitor. The right sidebar isn’t covering any of the comments for me. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about display settings to give you any advice as to what might be wrong though.

  25. @Jonathan Knight, did you read the original post or some of the following comments, because I’m not sure what you are missing? As has been said by others, to cover the cost of coffee and cookies makes little sense, given that ‘kaffeeklatches’ generally don’t serve refreshments – and if they do, then those should be absorbed into the cost of the con, just like the cost of putting covers on the tables at an authors’ panel doesn’t mean you charge an extra five pounds at the door of the panel. The second rationale (discouraging dropouts), which you don’t address, also seems a bit odd; it means that if someone can’t attend or decides not to, they’re out $10, but then nobody else gets to attend in their stead, as would be the case if they had a waitlist as is typical practice.

    As for ‘things working themselves out’, well, isn’t discussion one of the way to work things out? Perhaps I’m misreading you, but you seems to be saying that people shouldn’t fuss about this because it will also somehow Turn Out In The End if only everyone stops talking.

    I understand that organizing and running a con is a nightmare and it often feels like (and, sometimes, is) a situation where the people running it are busting their butts while others’ contributions to the con are limited to sitting back and sneering “You missed a spot”. However, the combination of the needless and badly-justified fee, the lack of accessibility, and the “this isn’t a pitch session but it kinda is” marketing that Josh Jasper refers to upthread? I am gathering up all the side-eye for WFC on this one.

  26. I’m getting the feeling that the people running this particular WFC wanted to put on a WFC without actually holding to the standards and expectations of a WFC. Charging extra for Kaffeeklatsches -and- making them inaccessible to certain segments of the attendees?

    Then there were some telling bits from their FAQ, including:

    “One of the highlights for me at the World Horror Convention in Brighton was the “Pitch Black” event, where authors, artists and editors could meet with book publishers to pitch new projects. Why are you not doing this again at WFC 2013?

    Although we wanted to hold another “Pitch Black” event at WFC 2013—with even more publishers and agents in attendance from around the world—we were told by the WFC Board that this kind of event was not compatible with the type of convention they wanted us to hold and, as a consequence, we were informed that we could not organise such an event as part of our programming. Our apologies for any disappointment.”

    and

    “I’ve seen on Twitter that you are not using women writers on most of your programming. Is this true?

    Of course it’s not. The majority of our Programming Team is female, as are most of the organising Committee. However, World Fantasy Convention 2013 does not operate on a gender “quota” or “parity” system for programming. Instead, our aim is to match the best people available to us to the most appropriate panel topics, thereby creating an informed and enlightening discussion for your entertainment. Most panels will be mixed, a few will be predominantly male, and others will be mostly female. It all depends on the subject matter and who has agreed to be on programming. We are not only looking at a balance of sexes, but also a mix of established/new writers and UK/overseas speakers to present the broadest number of views possible. In the end, the only criteria we are considering is the suitability of the panellists to talk knowledgeably about their chosen subjects.”

    These things really do imply, to me anyway, that they’re chafing at what it means to put on a WFC instead of their own usual convention. They’re both a little snarky and a little passive-aggressive in their tone and their policies. I wonder what other “quirks” will pp up by the time the convention itself rolls around.

  27. WorldCon in London next year has no plans, as far as I know, to charge for kaffeeklatches.

    That’s correct – we don’t plan to charge for kaffeeklatsches and we plan to hold them in an accessible room.

  28. I just want to reiterate that the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton this year and the World Science Fiction Convention in London next year are completely different conventions, run by totally different groups, and sanctioned by completely separate bodies. I don’t think you can draw any conclusions at all about either of these conventions from the actions of the other, good or bad. “Worldcon” is the World Science Fiction Convention, not WFC.

    (I’m not involved in organizing either event, although I’ll be attending both of them as a member.)

  29. This situation makes me sad. When I think of cons, I think of events where people can get together and bond over their favorite subject matter. It seems the WFC is only interested in having well off folks who aren’t handicapped attend. Granted, I am sure that was not what they were thinking when they made these decisions; however, this is what they are left with.

  30. Lots of people scrimp and scrape and save to go to cons. They share rooms with other people and eat meals in the con suite to make it more affordable (I understand con suits don’t exist with food in the UK? Or do I have that wrong?)

    I don’t know about that, but hotels in the UK include breakfast with room prices. It’s usually a full English breakfast, plus cereals and other stuff. Basically like having a dinner in terms of calories. So for anyone on a budget, eating up at breakfast is a good idea.

  31. WFC can, as the kids say, bite me.

    “Kaffeeklatch” is the term, not the literal description. I’ve been going to Worldcon on and off for (yikes!) 32 years and have never actually seen coffee provided. People bring their own beverages (usually purchased from the hotel/convention center), since everyone likes something different. I have heard tell of events where particularly generous authors pony up the dough for attendees to get a little something, but this is quite rare and marveled about. Same thing with Literary Beer.

    So now they’re proposing that everyone budget 5 quid in advance for lousy catering (which people who are diabetic, celiac, vegan, etc. won’t be able to eat), and if for some reason none of those with the 5 quid show up, they collect another 5 from the waiting list.

    And THEN they put it in a place that no one in a wheelchair (or, I suspect, a walker) will be able to get to.

    This is elitist rapacious capitalism at its worst, and I say the hell with it.

  32. Mythago, yes. I did read the original post and the comments that followed. Bear in mind that because I might disagree with you doesn’t actually mean I’m missing something. It means I disagree with you.

    Other kaffeklatches not serving coffee and biscuits has nothing to do with whether or not this one does. Because this one does. And the catered cost for doing so runs five pounds a head. Whether or not the kaffeeklatche *should* offer coffee and biscuits is a matter of opinion, which is to say that your opinion on the matter is valid, but not in any way a universal truth.

    In regards to your position that the cost of the coffee and biscuits should be absorbed into the overall cost of attendance, I disagree. It seems more than reasonable to me that the cost should be picked up by the folks enjoying the coffee and biscuits. For instance, if I’m not attending the kaffeeklatche, I don’t see why the cost of my attendance should go up so that others can enjoy coffee and biscuits. How does that make sense? Everyone benefits from, as you say, covers on a table. Not so much from catered coffee and biscuits.

    I didn’t address the dropout potential because I don’t see how it’s really relevant. I’m also not completely sure how it will work in practice. If this is a matter of reservation, so be it. Reserve a spot if you want a spot. If you fail to show up then you broke your reservation and apparently forfeited your five pounds. Plenty of events work well using that formula. Plenty of doctors use the same method; if you don’t cancel your appointment within a certain amount of time you get billed. This isn’t, in my opinion, some new bit of skulduggery designed to cheat the masses. Also, in the case of someone reserving a spot and failing to attend, I’m not at all certain what the actual outcome is. I’ve heard suggestion that the spot won’t be filled by anyone else, but I simply don’t know that that is true. Knowing a little bit about the way these things work, something tells me empty seats might just get filled.

    My comment about things working themselves out was in response to the original post’s fourth point. The fourth point seemed, at least to me, to be suggesting that attendees would be pissed off, or at least that they would have the right to be pissed off. In my opinion, whether or not that is true on a scale large enough to matter is something that will work itself out. Will they or won’t they attend? I argue that they will attend. Anecdotally, I would. None of that is to say that discussion isn’t worthwhile. I believe discussion is valuable, hence my participation here. However, I don’t believe discussion acts as a crystal ball. So in the final analysis, I think any point about attendees (by-and-large) not appreciating the fee enough to boycott the event is nothing more than speculative.

    I hope this answers your question sufficiently.

  33. I’m a bit surprised to see you essentially encouraging people to get out the pitchforks and heat up the tar. Is there a lot of other behind the scenes stuff that prompts worry for the whole shebang? The tone of discussion of the OP and of the comments do nothing to encourage a discussion that leads to everyone’s gaining a complete understanding the situation and whether some changes can / should be made. I know no one involved – am totally an outsider – but if what I am seeing here is something extrapolate from: “Wow. Just, wow.”

  34. Cindy, I tend to agree with you. I try not to mention my feelings on that level too much because I recognize I might be cynical. But if I am cynical, it’s because I feel like I’m seeing OUTRAGE! just about every time I turn around.

    It’s super hard for me to believe that folks are actually at home, upset and sad because they just learned that someone somewhere decided to serve (and charge for) coffee and biscuits.

  35. Brief historical note:

    Back in the old days (the ’80s) when KaffeeKlatches were invented (by Priscilla Olson for Boskone), hotels tended to be a little easier about food in function areas, or were more willing to let you pay for corkage for a room. In the old days, many cons provided coffee/tea for everyone at the table, Nowadays, that still happens when cons co-locate KaffeeKlatches with the Con Suite.

    Worldcons were generally able to provide coffee or tea until at least 2001. I think for MilPhil, we wound up having to have the KaffeeKlatches in an area near a coffee bar. We felt pretty rotten about not being able to provide coffee for free for everyone, but we did provide the writer/artist/guest with a free drink. Attendees were not required to buy drinks to attend, and I don’t think any lit con has ever required it.

    I like KKs/Literary Beers very much and think they add a nice extra way for panelists and attendees to interact.

    IMHO, given a choice between charging a separate fee and not having any drinks/biscuits available, I’d suggest WFC put KKs in a room without any food.

    Oh, and most convention centers HAVE been charging cons for water for the last 10-15 years.

  36. WFC seems to have made their situation perfectly clear (see their Twitter feed, the stuff they emailed to Scott Lynch). You will be paying in advance for food/beverages you might not be able to consume and didn’t even ask for, and the authors/content providers get bupkis. Also, views are more important than people.

    WFC doesn’t care for discussion or changing the situation, since this has been mentioned to them before and they just keep reiterating it. You WILL pay non-refundable 5 quid and you WILL NOT be allowed to attend if you’re in a wheelchair.

    @pnh and @kstandlee: doesn’t this mean the WSFS Trademark Protection Committee needs to swing into action and tell WFC to use their own damn name instead of biting off the older con’s reputation? And how have I never noticed all the doubled letters in “committee” before?

  37. I’ve been to a number of conventions that held kaffeekatches. I’ve never actually attended one of the kaffeeklatches myself. The hassle of the signup sheet was a sufficient discourager for me.

    I would, however, be surprised and a little disappointed if I went to something called a kaffeeklatch and there were no coffee. I would expect coffee, and tea, and biscuits. Nothing fancy. Nothing worth 5 dollars/person, let alone 5 pounds.

    Like most of you, I find the charge appalling. I’m also dismayed at the quote Josh Jasper provides, which says they’re not pitch sessions, but then goes on to describe them as – pitch sessions. Chances for aspiring authors to get their foot in the door.

    Well, that part’s WFC for you. It sees itself as a giant schmooze session for the industry. At Worldcon, kaffeeklatches are just a chance for fans and authors to meet in a few-on-one situation, no implication of “will you read my story” carried.

    Jonathan Knight, you keep saying that you don’t see why the people who eat the coffee and biscuits shouldn’t pay for the coffee and biscuits. Scalzi already answered that one too: because it’s “penny ante $%*!@”. It’s like airlines saying that, since only some passengers want blankets and pillows, charge for blankets and pillows. Why not make the whole convention a la carte, then? Charge attendees of each panel. Charge for visits to the dealers’ room. Charge for visits to the restroom, even – there used to be pay toilets in the world, and even restroom attendants whom you were expected to tip even if you didn’t need their services. After all, these things do cost money, and only the people who go to them use them. This is what would inevitably follow from disbelief not only in the concept of a public good, but a public good for within the community of people who’ve already paid a hefty sum to attend the convention in the first place.

  38. Simon S.,

    I don’t believe it’s, as you and Scalzi put it, penny ante. And I’d caution that a mentality like that runs the risk of seeing a lot of embedded “penny ante” costs in attendance fees. After all, enough pennies eventually make a pound.

    In my opinion, your argument about public restrooms and trips to the dealer room is somewhat, for lack of a better word, silly. Those are clearly available to all, for the benefit and (in the case of the bathroom) comfort of all. Coffee and biscuits served at kaffeklatches are obviously *not* for the benefit of all.

  39. That’s a good point. Coffee and biscuits served at kaffeklatches are obviously not for the benefit of all! For example, they’re not for the benefit of people at the kaffeklatch who can’t eat (or just don’t like) coffee and/or biscuits. Or for anyone with mobility issues who can’t get to the room at all. Or for the benefit of the authors, who apparently don’t want this “perk” anyway. Or for any of the people who just want to hang out with authors and weren’t actually looking to be fed random biscuits in the process.

    But for anyone who looks at an opportunity to hang out with a favorite author in a small group for an hour and says, “I’m not sure about that setup… What if I have to bring my own snacks? I’m only interested if there are snacks provided! I would pay for that!”, well. The coffee and biscuits are definitely for the benefit of those people.

  40. @Johnathan Knight (and I apologize for getting your name wrong before), certainly ‘disagree’ and ‘didn’t read’ are not synonymous; but when you’re repeating things that have already been addressed as if they hadn’t been, it’s not clear that you’re actually disagreeing rather than simply having overlooked what has already been said; it happens, particularly in longer discussions.

    “It’s a matter of opinion” is a bit of an odd thing to say, given that surely nobody is arguing there is a One True Way of running a convention, handed down by God; in essence, you’re dismissing any disagreement by saying since every opinion here is just an opinion, none can be worth more than any other. That’s more than a bit reductionist.

    WRT your argument that people attending the kaffeeklatsch should pay for food and drink rather than being ‘subsidized’ by the convention as a whole – you don’t seem to apply this argument to the kaffeeklatsch itself. Why should people who don’t want the cookies (or can’t eat them, or would prefer to bring their own food) have to subsidize those who do as the price of attending an author event?

    As for the dropout potential not being ‘really relevant’, apparently WFC thinks it’s important and relevant, since they stated it as one of the reasons for the policy. It also seems quite clear how WFC expects it to work in practice: you pay your money for your kaffeeklatsch spot, and if you don’t show up, they keep your money.

    In both of these situations, the stated reason for the charge – snacks and attendance – are more than a little thisney, and as to attendance in particular, counterproductive. If the goal is actually to make sure people do not play dog-in-the-manger with kaffeeklatsches, then it would be more sensible to do what pretty much every other convention does and maintain a waitlist. If the goal is to make sure that the con is not subsidizing people’s meals, then the policy probably ought to be the same for the kaffeeklatsches as for every other event at the convention; please note that WFC isn’t charging five pounds to attend panels on the claim that it covers the optional coffee urns.

    That, on top of WFC’s own statements that the kaffeeklatsches will not be accessible, and the marketing of the kaffeeklatsches as a super duper networking opportunity, is what is putting a bad taste in a lot of folks’ mouths.

    You’re spending a lot of time and energy shaking your head at people who are spending time and energy talking about, and being upset about, perceived problems in an event that is meaningful to them. I assume you appreciate the irony.

  41. I see several major problems here.
    1) Accessibility. Having a con event in an area that not all attendees (including authors) can get to. Not right on any level.

    2) Charging people to hang out with authors and editors who have paid their own way to get there is using people, plain and simple.

    3) Charging for kaffeeklatsches when the full schedule hasn’t been released. That means people are paying blind, without knowing whether they have conflicts in their own schedules.

    4) Many people scrimp and save to go to cons. For many (including me) kaffeeklatsches are a great perk of con membership. I eat meals in the room and share a room with friends at cons to be able to afford to go. I don’t want to have to choose between lunch and a kaffeeklatsch, and I don’t want this to become the norm. I think there are a lot of new writers and fans who will be similarly dissuaded, at a time when we’re trying to bring new people in.

    If it’s a food thing? Don’t have food. The only kaffeeklatsch I’ve ever been to with food was one where Jo Walton brought her own biscuits to share. I’ve been to several with tea and coffee and water, which no doubt was built into the con costs.

    I see a couple of commenters saying “why should we pay for food for a perk we’re not taking part in?” but that’s their choice not to participate. I’m far more upset for the people who might like to take part but can’t even access the room.

  42. As someone who’s been involved in con running for a con that provides coffee and such at the klatches, we factor the minimal cost into membership. WFC charging what they do does not at all allow them the excuse of tacking on extra fees just to enforce attendance. It’s jerkishness, plain and simple

    Also, as it’s inevitable that a con hotel screws *something* up in the contract, you can usually get them to comp coffee services, or provide a reduced rate. Of course this assumes you have someone competent working on the contract.

  43. fadeaccompli, I think you make a reasonable point. That said, I do believe it’s an issue that will, as I mentioned above, work itself out. What I mean by that: I think that if enough attendees don’t appreciate the coffee and biscuits then they won’t be on the table next time. That’s just the way these things seem to work, in my experience. Demand leads to service. Lack of demand leads to no coffee and biscuits.

    ***

    Mythago, I’m blind to the irony, to be honest. From my perspective, I’m not trying to attack anyone or to change anyone’s mind on this. Rather, I’m trying to understand where other folks are coming from while expressing how I understand where WFC is coming from. At least in regards to the coffee and biscuits.

    The wheelchair access, in my opinion, is a whole other matter. I get that criticism, and while I don’t understand the logistics of WFC’s decision (assuming they actually made the decision and the space available didn’t make it for them), I think it’s a real shame that people in wheelchairs won’t be able to attend. I’m pretty much with everyone on that criticism, though I don’t think the lack of access has anything to do with evil people wanting to evilly deny opportunities to the disabled. I think, rather, that it probably happened due to some logistical issue I’m unaware of. Primarily because I think most people really do mean well at heart.

    I can only guess that WFC’s policy about no refunds deals with the cost of catering per head. If folks who reserve a spot don’t show up *and* no one else wants their spot then the convention is left footing the bill. It makes sense to me that the convention doesn’t want to be left paying the head cost of folks who flake on the event, and while I get the argument that *someone* would probably take the spot, I accept that “probably” isn’t always good enough when you’re trying to prepare for any eventuality.

    I got the impression that you were suggesting a hard line about how all kaffeeklatches should forgo actual coffee and biscuits because most do. I disagree with that, in general, especially as I like coffee and biscuits and like to see events try out new things. I didn’t mean to be reductionist, but my apologies for having done so. I will make an effort to not do that in the future.

    And, in fairness, as I mentioned to Cindy in a comment above, I am somewhat cynical these days, largely because I feel like I see an outbreak of outrage in the speculative fiction community every week or two. From my albeit limited perspective, some of the outrage has been coming across as manufactured in nature. At least to me, in my humble opinion.

    No worries about getting my name wrong. I’ve been making several typos today; they tend to happen from time to time.

  44. How can you, in the 21st century, not provide wheelchair access? I will be shocked if this isn’t addressed. It’s a moral outrage and a PR nightmare.

  45. Johnathan Knight, I agree that this will probably work itself out. But I think that this discussion itself–what happens when people point to the arrangement and say “This is a problem and should be fixed”–is part of the way things do work themselves out. Various people showing up to say “This is a problem” or “Wait, this is a problem? It’s not a problem to me” is the working itself, not an unfortunate side-effect.

  46. And the sad part is,knowing fandom, if the con put out a jar and said “the hotel is insisting on serving to coffee and tea, can you help us out?” They might well get the money they need and maybe more….

  47. @Johnathan Knight, perhaps we’re talking past each other on the attendance issue. The problem isn’t “no refunds”; it’s that one of the stated purposes is to discourage people from signing up for a limited-room event, and then not showing up. Logically this doesn’t make much sense, since the problem of no-shows is better addressed with a waitlist, and frankly for many people five pounds is not going to be such a financial penalty that, once spent, it is an enormous motivator to show up.

    Regarding cookies and coffee, again, the issue is not simply whether it is or is not Done for a kaffeeklatsch to offer these things; it’s that, again the offered justification doesn’t seem to make logical sense. A hundred pounds for nibbles and coffee for twenty people…well, as someone on Twitter noted, that had better be kopi luwak they’re serving. If it’s really not all that much, then worrying about non-attendees “subsidizing” an urn of coffee seems picayune, as a) every individual could choose to attend and b) surely the portion of your attendance fee paying for somebody else’s handful of cookies is going to be tiny indeed.

    TL;DR here, is that when a con is doing something unusual after already having made missteps, and the arguments for their doing something unusual are very strange, people are not going to simply say “oh, okay, I guess is just the funny little way of this particular WFC”. They are, quite understandably, going to feel that the con is not being honest with them and is not being considerate of its attendees, and I don’t see how that is manufactured outrage.

  48. fadeaccompli, I agree that conversation is worthwhile. In fairness, I’m doing my part by putting forward my opinion here, which is to say that I don’t think it’s a big deal. I think it’s fine to pay the five pounds, eat the biscuits, drink the coffee, enjoy the kaffeeklatch and move on. That said, one thing conversations can’t do is predict the future, right. Only time will tell how many folks agree with me. Here on Whatever, it seems like a healthy number of people don’t agree with me. I don’t know that such will hold true statistically at the actual event though. And if enough folks who are actually attending *do* agree with me then the policy will ultimately work out fairly well. Otherwise, folks like me won’t be enjoying coffee and biscuits.

    I can only assume there are some folks out there right now who are undecided. They may even be reading these comments trying to make up their minds. But honestly, I’m guessing that, for the most part, the bulk of people really don’t care one way or the other and probably never will.

  49. Pointing out a change of policy on coffee and biscuits compared to other cons, that’s fine, but calling it ‘penny ante bullshit’ that looks ‘disorganized and greedy’ is a very cheap shot.

    What you call ‘this particular WFC’ or ‘this year’s World Fantasy Convention’ isn’t some monolithic entity or a hive mind. It’s made of real people, not Borg drones. Look at the details and photos at http://www.wfc2013.org/committee01.html/. These are real people you are implicitly insulting, people who have done nothing to harm you, your family or your colleagues. Has any one of them ever used the SFWA Twitter feed to imply that a fellow author is a savage? Not that I know of. Do any of these people deserve to be labelled, even implicitly, as penny ante bullshiters? I don’t think so.

    Let’s give this Borg collective some names: Chairperson AMANDA FOUBISTER. Does she deserve labelling as a penny ante bullshiter? Have you talked to her about this to find out why this policy is different? What about co-chairperson and novelist MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH? I certainly don’t know him well enough to imply he’s a bullshiter who is involved in disorganisation and greed. What about co-chairperson STEPHEN JONES. ‘He is the winner of three World Fantasy Awards, three Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker Awards and three International Horror Guild Awards etc etc.’ So it looks like he’s involved in bullshit and greed. I bet he’ll steal the hotel towels, too.

    I hope you realise that you have just insulted a lot of people in UK SF/fantasy and fandom over what is a very minor difference in policy. These are real people, working hard to run a convention, not a bunch of evil profiteers.

  50. In other words, mythago, when a con does something weird and annoying (to those who are used to the way it’s usually done), and offers a TOTAL BULLSHIT explanation, to expect fans to just accept the bullshit is naïve at best.

  51. I would not be at all surprised if 5 pounds a head is what the hotel is charging them for coffee and 1 cookie per person. This is how hotels make money on conferences. For example, I just looked at the catering menu from the Marriott in Burlington, MA for snack service: $9/person for coffee, tea, soft drinks, and bottled water, $10/person to add an “energizing mid-morning snack”.

    If you want to bring in your own food, you’ll need to pay a corkage waiver, which defaults to costing almost as much as their catering.

    You can try to lower these costs with negotiation, and the WFC committee should have done that, or done without refreshments at their kaffeeklatsches, but I don’t think it’s correct to speculate that they’re making money on this.

  52. Mythago, the price doesn’t seem outrageous to me, but maybe I’m out of touch. Most of the catered events I attend are charged a fair amount for the catering. I tend to just accept that caterers are expensive.

    The stated purpose doesn’t seem illogical to me, not really. As I mentioned above, I think the convention has a vested interest in making sure people attend. For one, they want people to show up so that the event is popular, and for two, they need to make certain that the catering is paid for. Since it doesn’t seem strange to me I’m left not understanding.

    After all, what other motivation would they have?

  53. @Eric Arthur, I’m guessing the folks who will be unable to attend parts of WFC because it is inaccessible don’t feel this is a “minor difference in policy”. People who feel as though interest in a kaffeeklatsch is being used to nickel-and-dime them for money, especially people who are already financially stretched in attending, likewise don’t feel this is “minor”. Of course it’s important to remember that there are real people behind this, and as I and others have noted, that running and organizing a con often feels like the fable of the man and his son taking they donkey to market. Does that mean the collective actions of the committee as a whole are beyond criticism?

    @Johnathan Knight: I’m not sure what I can add beyond what I’ve already said.

  54. Johnathan: Here is why I think people are violently disagreeing with you:
    I, personally, wouldn’t be that bothered by going to a KK and finding out I had to buy a £5 cup of coffee to be let into the room. After all, if I meet with an author in a café I am usually expected to buy something. Not a big deal.

    However, what is a big deal, to me, is that I really, really do not want conventions to start charging extra for some items. For example, if I understand the finances correctly the Hugo ceremony and the Masquerade are both a significant part of a Worldcon budget (mostly because of hall rental and tech requirements). It would make a lot of financial sense for a worldcon to lower the door price and charge extra for these events. There are probably other examples.

    Eventually, this would mean conventions with first-class members and second tier members. Despite being a card-carrying capitalist, I really wouldn’t like that development. This is not how they are supposed to be run. I suspect other commenters here feel the same way.

    Hence, a loud backlash with heated pitchforks is a good thing.

  55. Hehe, it’s actually written “Kaffeeklatsch” in German. As in gossipping while having coffee and cake/biscuits. Funny to see that term used in an english language environment.

  56. Sten, I appreciate your position. I think I get what you’re saying, but ultimately I’m forced to disagree. In my opinion, your concerns seem to be relying too much on a slippery slope fallacy. Because this is happens, that will happen. I don’t know that it’s fair to predict a hierarchy of membership in the future because WFC wants to provide coffee and biscuits, and as such, has to have it catered by the hotel, and as such, has to charge by head.

    Mythago, I appreciate your position as well. I’ll give your comments more thought as time goes by, but in the meantime, I think it’s definitely fair to politely agree to disagree.

  57. After all, what other motivation would they have?

    Squeezing some additional money out of attendees. To find out why they would do that, one would need to look into their finances.

    Another note: WFC appears to be moving outside of standard practice in the convention industry by offering beverage/snack service at its kaffeeklatch. Which would be fine, if they weren’t asking (no, insisting) the attendees pay for it. That can’t make the claim that this is a necessary step in order to continue to run the kaffeeklatches. That certainly calls their motivations into question.

  58. And this is why I have policy against anything being charged “a la carte” at nwcMUSIC. It means there are bands we can’t book sometimes (because they want percentage of gate), but I’m okay with that, because nobody wants to get nickeled and dimed like that.

  59. Doc Rocketscience,

    In my opinion:

    1. Do you know how much profit is in the five pound kaffeeklatsch? First, for your appraisal of their ulterior motivation to be correct, you have to be able to show that they’re keeping the tiny amount of money we’re talking about. Are you certain the money isn’t going to the caterer and not the convention?

    2. I’m not aware of any claim they’ve made asserting that this charge is *necessary* to continue to run the kaffeeklatsches. I’m only aware of their claim that this is how they’re doing it this time.

    It’s entirely possible that I don’t have all the information. But, for what it’s worth, I haven’t seen anyone else (here, on twitter, or elsewhere) step forward with any solid, incriminating evidence.

    I’ve heard a lot of authors say they don’t want to charge their fans money to speak with them. That seems fair, but there’s an attendance fee anyway, so what’s really being said is that they don’t want to charge *more* than the attendance fee. Except the authors who’ve suggested that the attendance fee of everyone be raised to accommodate the event. Which is still charging. I’ve heard authors say that they think the event should happen without coffee and biscuits. That’s fair enough, but I think it’s worth waiting to see how many fans agree with that. I’ve heard authors suggest that the money should be split between themselves and the convention, which I think is a pretty bad, possibly egregious, idea. I’ve heard the folks who run the convention being accused of greed. But I haven’t seen any substantive evidence to support that accusation. Which is, of course, not to say it doesn’t exist. Simply that I haven’t seen it, which makes the accusation seem somewhat knee-jerk and understandably offensive to some folks.

  60. Davewhuss:

    On a side note, does anyone else here have a problem with the sidebar items at the top covering over the first few comments on the right. I thought it might be a setting, but I can’t figure it out.

    I have that problem when I’m using Internet Explorer (Version 8, I think) but not with Firefox. It’s irritating but I chalked it up to “outdated browser”.

    Lurkertype: bookkeeper

    Eric Arthur:

    I hope you realise that you have just insulted a lot of people in UK SF/fantasy and fandom over what is a very minor difference in policy. These are real people, working hard to run a convention, not a bunch of evil profiteers.

    Do chairperson AMANDA FOUBISTER and co-chairperson MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH and co-chairperson STEPHEN JONES realize how many fans they’ve insulted? No one else tells the fans they don’t trust them to show up for kaffeeklatches. Every other con uses waiting lists to handle that not-problem quite nicely.

    If the hotel is charging you £100 per kaffeeklatch, maybe the committee should do what almost every other con I’ve attended does—not offer coffee and biscuits at kaffeeklatches.

    Purposefully holding the special kaffeeklatches in a room inaccessible to mobility impaired fans is a further insult to fandom and the insensitive frosting on the disrespectful cake.

  61. I don’t drink coffee, so I’d be pretty ticked to have to pay for something I won’t actually consume; it would have to be a pretty special biscuit to be worth ~$8 on its lonesome. Where’s the opt-out for people who don’t or can’t consume the coffee and biscuit? I tend to skip events with extra charges because I attend cons on a tight budget nowadays, but I’d certainly skip one where I was required to pay for something I won’t even consume.

    Seems like it might be a religious issue as well for, say, an observant Mormon or (depending on the exact type of biscuits) Jew.

  62. I can’t say that I have much of an opinion about this, kaffeeklatsches being a bit of a sore point with me even without being asked to pay for them. Most of the cons I’ve been at that have them put them on the schedule, but never tell you where to sign up. (Many never mention that you have to sign up!). The few times I have found the sign up book, I have been discouraged from signing up, because I am ‘only’ a reader. Don’t recall what con I was at where I was told the kaffeeklatsch existed to help budding writers. I have had much better reception at Literary Beer events, even getting invited to join one because I was in the bar at the time and there was room.

  63. Without having to attribute bad intentions on anyone, I can see both sides here. But I imagine that the organizers came about the fee from the opposite direction than most are speculating. Instead of saying “Hey, let’s have coffee and snacks and charge what the facility charges us”, I think they decided to charge for entry then used the food and drink to give the attendees something to show for it. For any limited event there are two ways to handle it. The usual way is to spend time. Time spent in line waiting for the sign-up sheet to open up. There are those who argue that they would rather spend money than the time. My 19 year old self would spend the time. My 50 year old self would rather spend the money. Both arguments are valid. It looks like the organizers decided in this case to go with the money barrier rather than the time barrier. Can you argue that charging is discriminating against those that can’t afford it and that time is free? Of course. Is the access issue discriminatory? Absolutely. The argument that they may as well start charging for dealers room and panels doesn’t follow since the dealers room and most panels don’t fill up. Even the panels that do fill up are in rooms large enough that the barrier to entry isn’t all that high. Most people that want to get in usually can. It’s only the very limited events that people are primarily willing to pay for. Concert organizers are doing this more often. VIP sections and Meet and Greets are popping up in almost every venue. It may be unpopular but if it works here, it may become the new normal.

  64. Well that’s a shame. The point of the klatches was to enhance the appeal of cons as a whole and therefore any costs associated with the klatches are part of the general costs of the con. Like the panels and readings, the klatches were general programming. If the con can’t afford the klatches in their general programming, then they shouldn’t have any of them. If they don’t have enough enhancements to the general con, then they lose far more attendees to the whole con than just the klatch audience.

    Rather than them hoping to buttonhole the authors at the convention or a hurried conversation over an autograph, the klatches were a way for con attendees to interact with the authors they like and not impinge on the author’s time otherwise, since the author was volunteering the time. For the author, there was the chance to connect with fans in a non-noisy setting, reinforcing a loyal client base and maybe acquiring some new fans who were curious to meet the author. However, the klatches, being small groups that people have to sign up for rather than simply show up for, have minimal return for authors, compared to panels, readings and signings. The authors, especially bestsellers, are mainly doing it as a favor to the con so the con can attract more attendees.

    Food at conventions is made available for purchase. There is no subscription fee for food that may or may not be consumed in order to attend a speaking event. To charge a subscription food fee instead of offering food for purchase for one set of events and not others at the convention sets up a fraudulent practice — the con is charging a ticket fee for the klatches, not a food cost. There is no reason that they have to supply food at the klatches or supply food that is subscription and not at purchase instead. The hotel does not insist that food be served and paid for in its other meeting spaces for other con programming beyond general water fees already being paid for the entire con.

    So clearly, the con organizers of this World Fantasy Con don’t want to do the klatches, regard them as a problem in time, staff and space in regards to other programming. In which case, the logical plan was to not have them. Instead, the con has arranged to have the klatches in an inaccessible, separate space for which the hotel for some reason requires food be served at a set fee, rather than at purchase, possibly because it is prime space with views outside of the convention area. There was no reason to have the klatches in a space that requires that extra charge. (Again, meaning that it is a ticket fee for the particular space, not the food.)

    It means mid-list authors, who most benefit from klatches, might as well cancel out, as most fans who want to see them will instead take their chances at catching them on the floor, and bestsellers also have little incentive to hotfoot it over to another area of the hotel for something that isn’t much value to them in the first place. And also, in general most authors don’t like having their fans screwed over. And their publishers really don’t like their authors being put in that position. So instead of the klatches providing enhancement to the con, they are a detraction. So again, logically, they just shouldn’t have had them.

    It seems more and more as if most of the big literary cons are determined to send everybody over to the media cons and die off. Media cons charge for everything, but they have movie stars, premieres, and way more free giveaways. Publishers seem not to be coming as much to the literary cons and certainly not making as big a presentation at them as they used to. They are reserving their efforts for the higher profile media cons. But publishers do still spend money on the literary cons, and for the con to use their authors for an event that benefits the con and charge extra fees for it — fees which the publisher also is not involved in nor has any control over — that’s going to raise some problems too.

    It may be that this is going to get more “a la carte” at literary cons — with fees charged here and there for various events, like media cons. But authors are not movie stars (even if Neil Gaiman gives that impression.) There’s a limit to how much money they are worth to draw attendees. So the value of the roving cons that change locale is being greatly lessened by inept pricing. And given that the convention system is one of the big advantages for SFFH, that’s a sad impact on the industry. The WFC is often a good con, so hopefully it will just be an off year.

  65. Johnathan Knight, have you attended fan-run SFF conventions? I’m asking because you seem…unfamiliar with fannish culture.

  66. Xopher,

    You’re not accusing me of being a fake gamer, are you?

    But yes, I make a regular habit of attending SFF conventions. One of the things I love about fannish culture is the diversity, the way different folks gather together to enjoy a love of SFF despite holding different beliefs, spiritually, politically, or otherwise.

  67. Well, just to add another data point: The access issue is unconscionable, that’s a logistical issue you look at when you are choosing a venue.

    If I’m an author and they are charging for my presence I’d better be getting a cut of that. Not that most authors are celebrity enough to warrant that, particularly ones that are attracted to these kinds of things. The math doesn’t just add up on this one.

    If you want coffee and cookies there’s a Starbucks on the corner. People aren’t going to these for the snacks.

    I once had to put on an event and I was required to use a specific room that required I pay for the catering too. (It was all the same institution.) We didn’t pass the charge on to the attendees because the point of the event was to launch the new edition of the journal and get people interested in it. The price of the party was built into our budget. We wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if we were like, “We have to charge $3 for entry to cover the cost of the cheese and crackers.” We didn’t say, “Well someone has to foot the bill for the water with half a lime floating in it.”

  68. You’re not accusing me of being a fake gamer, are you?

    LOL! That would be pretty funny, considering how much of a gamer I’m not.

  69. I can see arguments pro and con charging for the KKs. I see no excuse at all for holding them in an inaccessible area. All non-private events at cons should be available to all attendees, not just the able-bodied. This should be non-negotiable.

  70. Eric Arthur:

    “calling it ‘penny ante bullshit’ that looks ‘disorganized and greedy’ is a very cheap shot.”

    No it’s not, because it is indeed penny ante bullshit, and it does make WFC look disorganized and greedy. I would accept that it makes WFC look disorganized or greedy, rather than and, in the sense that if their problem was that they were disorganized and didn’t know that they would need a certain amount to cover the cost of the kaffeeklatches before they decided to pass the cost along directly to the members, then perhaps they are not greedy; on the other hand, if they did know and intended to pass the cost along all the time rather than place it in the general cost of the membership (as it appear they did), then “disorganized” isn’t accurate, although certainly “greedy” might still accurately apply. But I can see how both could still apply as well, so and may still work.

    “I hope you realise that you have just insulted a lot of people in UK SF/fantasy and fandom over what is a very minor difference in policy. These are real people, working hard to run a convention, not a bunch of evil profiteers.”

    Then they shouldn’t do things that give off the appearance of being evil profiteering, such as, say, taking an element of convention program that in nearly all other cases has had its cost incorporated into the cost of membership, and pricing it out individually for no apparent reason other than to do it and see what happens. Well, this is what happens: People complain about it and discuss it online and say what they think it looks like. If AMANDA FOUBISTER, MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH and STEPHEN JONES (to use your all caps) engage in practices which from the outside look like penny ante bullshit, neither they nor you should be surprised when people say that it is what it looks like.

    And while we’re at it, Eric, AMANDA FOUBISTER, MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH and STEPHEN JONES deciding to put these kaffeeklatches in places that are not accessible to all the members? Complete fucking bullshit, and they should be ashamed both to have done it, and to by all indications attempt to blithely blow past this little detail as quickly as possible in their messaging. (Edit: It’s the book club events, not the kaffeeklatches, which are being held in an area inaccessible for many with mobility issues. Still a problem, and still blithely breezed over, but not this specific problem.) Now, as it happens, there are several other things about this year’s WFC that also bother me, which are among the reasons I decided not to attend it, but I think for the moment we should keep focus.

    Also, Eric, you know what, if calling out what appears to be complete bullshit is something you consider insulting, then that’s life. As it happens, I’ve been called out by people on actions of mine (and actions of the organizations I am responsible for) when they’ve thought they were complete bullshit, and often when they have, they have not bothered to contact me first. And that’s fine, because, you see, I am a grown-up and I understand that in the real world people do not always feel the need to do what I might feel is convenient for me to have them do. What’s more, even without jumping through all these hoops that might be convenient for me, or knowing the complex roots of the issue, from time to time the criticism was yet still valid, and because I was a grown-up I was able to accept the criticism and take action.

    Perhaps AMANDA FOUBISTER, MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH and STEPHEN JONES might yet do the same. Because, I believe, perhaps they are grown-ups, too.

  71. As an author, I feel weird and vaguely guilty when fans say they’ve driven a long way to see me–I mean, I’m not that cool in person! I can do nothing cool enough to justify a four hour drive! Surely they are not getting their money’s worth!

    If they had to pay extra money to get in and see me? I’d be beyond mortified. I’d certainly never go back (not the WFC is beating down the door, mind you.) What if somebody came away thinking I’d think less of them as a fan for not ponying up even more money to attend?

    Now, I had been to high teas that did have an additional charge, but they were not billed as “Time with Writer” they were billed as “Formal High Tea.” I was invited, as GoH, but that was all, and my presence was entirely secondary to awesome tea and watercress sandwiches and Steampunk attire. (Hell, at one, I was literally serving the tea–and glad to pitch in!)

    Just seems like a bad choice all around. Hope it never catches on.

  72. Here’s an announcement I just posted over at my own blog:

    If I am ever attending a convention as a professional, and they ask me to do a kaffeeklatsch, and they try to charge the fans, not only will I turn down participation in the kaffeeklatsch…

    …I will also pick a time and a locale — like a nearby actual coffee-shop, a corner in the hotel bar, or one of the hotel rooms — and be there, available to meet and hang out with at the specified time. We can bring our own coffee, as we would if we were just naturally hanging out together. I’ll announce the time and location on my blog, on twitter, on any other social media I can think of, or the convention newsletter if there is one and they’ll let me. A sign on the party board, whatever!

  73. May I hesitantly point out that the Kaffeeklatches are not being held in a wheelchair inaccessible room? The WFC site is fairly clear that the venue is the ‘Library’, which is off the main lobby of the hotel. The Book Club events are the ones being held in ‘Chartwells’, the inaccessible location. Still a problem, but the hotel is 120 years old – if every room was completely accessible I’d be shocked. The organizers probably took whatever was available to them on those dates rather than cancel an interesting event. Has anyone asked?

  74. I know that UK hotels differ greatly from US hotels in that they are generally unwilling to allow outside food (no corkage, for those familiar with the term). Hotels in the US are now charging over $100/gallon for coffee or hot water for tea; also, $3-5/cookie (though they are very large ones). Therefore, I can readily believe the price does mostly cover costs, probably rounded to a nearby neat number.

    OTOH, I don’t think it’s right to charge. Better to put the kaffeeklatchen (to use the proper Germanic plural) in an area where people could buy their own food from a kiosk, or just offer water, or pop them into a corner of the ubiquitous Brit bar. This is especially true for this WFC, which has been sold out for forever, and thus could plan for this. And in this day, having program in an inaccessible area is a major issue.

    Frankly, I’m surprised the WFC board–which does exercise some control, though it’s mostly in the form of stern disapproval–hasn’t said anything. I can only hope that people won’t take this a la carte idea to heart.

  75. kch, thank you for pointing that out; the WFC site does seem clear on the issue. To quote: “All these events will be held during the day in the “Library” room, just off the main lobby of the Hilton hotel.”

    Again, thanks for clearing that up, and I’m glad you chose to say something. Sometimes details get overlooked in the middle of knee-jerk reactions. Honestly, I didn’t even think to double check it. I took it for granted as the twitter comments started streaming in.

    And, if I were a betting fellow, I’d guess there’s almost certainly a logistical reason behind anything taking place in an inaccessible location. Just my opinion.

  76. Speaking from experience, hotels will be delighted to charge a ridiculous amount for this stuff. If this is the case, however, once again, they should have already dealt with this as part of the overall cost of running the convention. The solution is not pass on the cost to attendees who are already paying a considerable sum to be there.

    I have no horse in this race but…someone is going to pay the ridonculous catering charges. How is building the charge into the overall ticket price not passing it on to the attendees? All it does is spread the cost from a larger charge to kaffeklatch attendees to a smaller charge amortized over the larger number of total attendees. For the price difference, simply divide the ratio of kaffeklatchers by convention-goers. If you think that’s better, then say so. I would if I attended conventions, and I imagine the authors feel similarly since their goal is to interact with and build their fanbase and barriers to that aren’t helping them. But don’t pretend it won’t get past on. The only way it won’t get passed on is if they go with your first suggestion of nixing the catering, or they negotiate a better deal with the hotels. Of course that all hinges on it being the hotels that are doing the price gouging and not the convention organizers trying to increase their profits. And either way, their stated reason of discouraging no-shows doesn’t hold water. But I was under the (possibly incorrect) impression that genre conventions ran as not-for-profits, in which case one has to ask where the largesse goes if not to the hotels.

    @mythago

    Why should people who don’t want the cookies (or can’t eat them, or would prefer to bring their own food) have to subsidize those who do as the price of attending an author event?

    If the hotel is charging for heads whether they nibble or not, then the seat at the table carries catering costs regardless. Thus the person who attends the kaffeklatch is costing the convention in a way that the person who doesn’t isn’t.

    @Sarah Pinsker

    Charging people to hang out with authors and editors who have paid their own way to get there is using people, plain and simple.

    More than that, it’s hurting their business by putting a barrier between them and their fans.

  77. I’m not sure it’s that big a difference. It’s still an informal conversation between authors and fans and it still costs the same amount. The only difference I see is that the Book Club will have a focus on the books themselves, rather than (I’m assuming) the more general discussion of the Kaffeeklatsches.

    And it’s still not accessible to all. If the hotel can’t offer full access to all, then they should have 1) chose a different hotel; 2) chose a different location for the event; 3) not held the event at all.

    Looking at their schedule, it looks like you have to choose between the ‘klatsches or the Book Club events most of the time; exceptions being 10am to 1pm on Friday and Saturday. As a fan, I’d much rather go to something that focuses on an author’s work and let’s me talk to them about it. No offense John, but I’d much rather discuss your work with you at such an event instead of your personal life, as interesting as that appears to be from your tweets. ;-)

    If I’m in a wheelchair*, I would have no choice but to attend the ‘klatsches if I want to talk to an author in a relaxed, unhurried setting. That means I am being excluded, through no fault of my own.

    *Full disclosure, I’m not in one. I find the idea of excluding others solely because they are in a wheelchair rather offensive.

  78. Johnathan:

    Sometimes details get overlooked in the middle of knee-jerk reactions.

    (emphasis added) You know, it’s actually pretty rude to call other people’s reactions “knee-jerk.” Most of the reactions here are better thought out, if less verbose, than yours.

    And, if I were a betting fellow, I’d guess there’s almost certainly a logistical reason behind anything taking place in an inaccessible location. Just my opinion.

    There’s a reason for everything. Doesn’t mean it’s a GOOD reason. This comment, like much of what you’ve said, strikes me more as an attempt to goad (albeit couched in polite language) than as a significant contribution to the conversation, especially since the reasons they may have put events in inaccessible locations have been discussed at length in the thread. Also, it is not an opinion; it’s a guess as to a matter of fact. I could say “I’d guess that Johnathan is a ruby-throated nuthatch; just my opinion,” but labeling it my opinion doesn’t make it an opinion; it’s an entirely unjustified conjecture on a matter of fact. (NB: I do not actually believe you are, or may be, a ruby-throated nuthatch; my selected example is deliberately goofy.)

    Nothing should take place in an inaccessible location except meetings of the TAB Conspiracy…because anything that does becomes a meeting of the TAB Conspiracy!

    Gulliver:

    I was under the (possibly incorrect) impression that genre conventions ran as not-for-profits, in which case one has to ask where the largesse goes if not to the hotels.

    In general, fan-run conventions (as opposed to commercial ventures like Dragon*Con and ComiCon) are. I understand that WFC is an exception to that, and is a for-profit one, even though run by fans. I have only vague information though, so a few grains of salt here.

  79. In relation to the price charged, it looks to me from the fine print in other sections of the Con website that they struck a deal with the hotel for free space for smaller events with the caveat that there would be a minimum F&B charge of 100 pounds/hour. The organizers must have decided to pass this directly to the participants rather than have the overall attendance cover the charge. Sounds OK to me, but I’m a libertarian that does understand that others will differ in opinion. As for the minimum charge, that’s not an uncommon way of covering the costs of operating the room.

    uldihaa – I get your point of view, but if the Chartwell room was the only room available, would it be any better to not allow others the pleasure of interacting with authors just because some people couldn’t attend those specific events? Is it not possible that the organizers are simply doing the best they can? Again, has anyone asked?

    One last note – I work in the hospitality industry (Executive Chef at a resort), and trust me, we generally aren’t gouging on the F&B. These places are very expensive to operate at the level of service and quality demanded. If my operations turn a final profit of 5% after all expenses – food, labour, linens, utilities, etc, etc – my owners are happy.

  80. Apparently you can’t bold something inside a blockquote here. I meant to bold Johnathan’s phrase ‘knee-jerk reactions’. I did preview but thought it might be one of the things that shows up differently on posting.

  81. @kch, thanks for the clarification – but it’s the same problem, which is that parts of WFC are not accessible and there don’t appear to be attempts to make them so. “But it’s in an old building” – WFC chose to have it in this building. If it was a situation where the hotel pulled a switcheroo on the rooms so that they thought everything would be accessible when they booked the place, or if they were in the process of working to make them accessible, I suspect you would see a lot less anger than just a shrug-and-a-deal-with-it.

    @Gulliver, many events throughout the convention are going to be used by some people rather than others, yet those aren’t segmented up into pay-as-you-go. That’s really what’s bothering people, not the five pounds per se, particularly since it’s not simply “we must pay for the catering” but “it’s to keep you guys from begging off”; the cookies seem to be the result, not the cause, of the charge.

    @Jonathan Knight, if you’re working towards reasoned and thoughtful discourse, that effect is somewhat lessened by swipes about ‘manufactured outrage’ and ‘knee-jerk reactions.’ Barely-hidden contempt is really not much better than open contempt. Either consider that other folks might have legitimate grievances even if you don’t understand them, or affix the mask a bit more firmly, eh?

  82. kch:

    In relation to the price charged, it looks to me from the fine print in other sections of the Con website that they struck a deal with the hotel for free space for smaller events with the caveat that there would be a minimum F&B charge of 100 pounds/hour.

    Free space, for 100 pounds/hour? I don’t understand how that could possibly be construed as “free space.”

    uldihaa – I get your point of view, but if the Chartwell room was the only room available, would it be any better to not allow others the pleasure of interacting with authors just because some people couldn’t attend those specific events?

    First of all, yes it would, in my opinion, but if we get all socialists-vs-libertarians John will swat us. But your ‘if’ isn’t very plausible. Are they really using ALL the space in the hotel otherwise? Is there really NO accessible space they could have used? And, as mythago points out, they chose the venue, so it’s still their screwup.

    That said, “has anyone asked?” is a good question. I don’t think a straight or honest answer will be forthcoming from the convention, though, given how they’ve weaseled about the reasoning for the kaffeeklatsch charges.

    mythago:

    @Jonathan [sic] Knight, if you’re working towards reasoned and thoughtful discourse, that effect is somewhat lessened by swipes about ‘manufactured outrage’ and ‘knee-jerk reactions.’ Barely-hidden contempt is really not much better than open contempt. Either consider that other folks might have legitimate grievances even if you don’t understand them, or affix the mask a bit more firmly, eh?

    Thank you for this. It’s not as much of a mask as he thinks it is, is it?

  83. Uh guys, we might want to avoid any personal comments about posters. The Mallet awaits, I’d imagine.

    uldihaa – I get your point of view, but if the Chartwell room was the only room available, would it be any better to not allow others the pleasure of interacting with authors just because some people couldn’t attend those specific events? Is it not possible that the organizers are simply doing the best they can? Again, has anyone asked?

    Yes, it would be better. By holding these events in a place they know isn’t fully accessible says that they are willing to exclude certain people in favor of others. I’ll ask my own question: Is it acceptable to deny access to an event based on physical disability? The convention can choose where, when, and even if an event will be held. A person in a wheelchair has no choice about being in that wheelchair.

  84. @Xopher, I think here ‘free’ means ‘unused’ rather than ‘without cost’.

    @kch: As has been mentioned several times, the committee is stating that they made their decisions for particular reasons, so I don’t understand ‘has anyone asked?’. Based on what you’ve said about how the hotel likely is assigning costs (and I appreciate what you’re saying about the profit margin), the situation, then, is that WFC somehow ended up hiring a venue that could not accommodate their convention, and so has decided to a) buy additional space after the fact and charge an additional fee to the attendees to get that space, and b) exclude certain paying con-goers from events that aren’t accessible.

    Yet again, I understand that con planning is Why Daddy Drinks and no plan survives contact with the vendors, but that is not the rationale that is being given. ‘Due to unforeseen complications we must rent additional space’, or ‘we are currently negotiating with the hotel to remedy this problem’, etc etc., if true, would result in far fewer problems then ‘Hey, we’re just making sure y’all have munchies at the reading’.

    And no, it isn’t better to go forward with an event that unfairly excludes people rather than find a way to make sure all can attend. “Hey, sorry, wheelchair users, but at least the able-bodied people can go!” is….not a good approach.

  85. Xopher,

    I do believe there was a lot of knee-jerk reaction in regards to this matter. Including my own as I was a critic of the kaffeeklatsches taking place in an inaccessible location. I accept that you feel me expressing my belief on this topic is rude, but I disagree. I think calling people mean names is rude, but I don’t think saying, “Hey, I think there’s some overreaction here, and we could all stand to look into this more deeply,” is rude. I think it’s honest, at least from my perspective.

    I don’t understand why you believe that other reactions here are more thought out than my own. I do understand that my position isn’t in lockstep with many of the other comments and suspect that might have something to do with it. If not, could you clarify? Because, I assure you, I’ve thought through the things I’ve typed here.

    If I’m verbose, which I probably am, it’s because I feel the need to be as exacting as possible in what I’m saying. My apologies for that; I understand it can come across as annoying to some folks. To explain a little, whenever I’m commenting somewhere that tends to have a different overall outlook on things, I feel the need to be crystal clear, specifically so that folks don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Even so, there are times where replies confuse me, especially when they presume that my comments are carrying some sort of additional baggage I never intended them to. These things, in my opinion, happen a lot online. People are often used to arguing against platforms as opposed to individuals, at least from my perspective.

    Which brings me somewhat to my next point. Perhaps I wasn’t verbose enough, odd as that sounds. What I meant by my logistics comment was that I didn’t think WFC purposefully intended to have any events take place in an inaccessible area. Why would they? I think it was a necessity of some sort, and I’m less inclined to take them to task for something that *may* have been a necessity. And yes, that is my opinion. Someone else’s opinion could easily be that WFC is purposefully discriminating against folks in wheelchairs.

    I don’t see why you can’t hold the opinion that I’m a ruby-throated nuthatch. Why couldn’t you? You could hold the opinion that I’m a mouthbreather, or a fool, or a goof, or a verbose windbag with nothing better to do tonight than type my small thoughts here. You could also hold the opinion that I’m a good guy who means well. It’s certainly your choice, and, ultimately, I’m glad you don’t think I’m a ruby-throated nuthatch as I think you seem like a thoughtful, nice person. Personally, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and look forward to more, unless you’d like to request that I never respond to anything you say again. In which case, I will respectfully oblige.

  86. Xopher Halftongue –

    Ah, right, sorry. It’s fairly common in the industry to talk about giving ‘free’ meeting space to groups with a minimum purchase of rooms or F&B. As you point out, the space is not actually free, but in this case it seems the payment for it is not direct to the organizers, but through an F&B charge which the organizers will pass to the participants (I must emphasize that this is informed speculation on my part, however).

    Why the organizers decided to do it this way I have no way of knowing or even guessing at. Really, if it’s so important, someone should ask them – they might have a good reason. Or they might be saving up for a new car…

    “First of all, yes it would, in my opinion…” And in my opinion you’re wrong. Most importantly, though, I agree that this is not the place for that discussion, in particular in that I believe neither one of us could come up with an argument the other hadn’t already heard before. So enough on that…

    As for simply asking, I don’t know about you, but I’ve long since learned to ask when something doesn’t seem to make sense – sometimes it still doesn’t, but amazingly often I discover that people are just trying to do their best, just failng to be perfect.

  87. Johnathan: It seems to me – and apparently also to Mr. Scalzi and most of the people here – that charging $8 for coffee and biscuits for an event already included in the expensive convention is a perfect example of penny ante bullbleep. If it isn’t, I can’t image what would be. Obviously you disagree, and if your view prevailed, there would be no criticism of it.

    You’re quite right that costs add up. That is why convention memberships costs as much as they do, to pay for those costs. That is why adding additional minor costs of the same kind above and beyond it is penny ante bullbleep. If the convention were priced a la carte from the beginning, and advertised as such, it would be less so.

    That is why the thought experiment of separate costs for the dealers’ room and the restroom is relevant. Not everybody goes to the kaffeeklatches, but not everybody goes to the dealers’ room either. But it’s there for them as part of the convention costs. And remember, charges to use the restroom are a real thing, even though the restroom, above and beyond anything else, ought to be there for everyone to use. It used to be a common thing, but people – people like those speaking out here – rose up against it. Why? Because it was penny ante bullbleep.

  88. uldihaa, mythago –

    In relation to the accessibility issue, I believe that you may very well be wrong in your opinions. However, that is simply a clash of worldviews and hence something I’m not going to discuss at this venue. Let’s just leave it at that, please.

    mythago –

    I definitely agree that the reasons given on the WFC website might not be the whole picture of why they decided to go the user-pay route. I suspect, however, that there might be a little more to it than the picture painted here – but I’d vote incompetence rather than venality.

    The venue certainly has the space – I’d maim for that much meeting space – but if they decided to add the Book Club and Kaffeeklatch after the main booking (as an extra special something for the conventioneers), they might have been limited in what was available at that time. I really don’t know – and I suspect that no one else here does, either. Hence the call for someone to contact the organizers directly. Much more useful than speculation…

  89. Let me note that WFC membership is already 150 pounds, which is (a) not cheap by any measure and (b) about the same as this year’s WorldCon at current exchange rates, but WFC is a day shorter and much, much smaller (by design; it caps its membership).

  90. Also, I see no reason why WFC’s own statements should not be taken at face value. WFC has given two reasons why it is charging for these events. It strikes me as dubious rhetoric to claim that we “really don’t know” why they have chosen to charge, merely because those reasons have come under heavy criticism.

  91. Xopher – in the world of hotel meeting rooms/event planning, there is a list price for renting the space, and a separate catering or food and beverage charge. Hotels usually ‘waive’ the space charge in exchange for a minimum catering threshold such as a per person charge, and I find the per hour thing a bit hard to believe – especially at that rate, which is outrageous. It gets a bit more suspicious to me as this is a Hilton Hotel, and in my experience the Hilton (like most large chains) has meeting room packages that include non-alcoholic beverages. And before someone says it – yes, I have set up meetings in the UK, including UK Hilton Hotels, notably the Hilton Park Lane where room rates alone are roughly twice the rate of the Hilton Brighton Metropole. Don’t get me started about how this is all happening off season for Brighton…

    (Just a side note – not all UK hotels include breakfast in their rates. In fact, a lot of them give you the option of including breakfast for a hefty fee. For example, the Hilton Brighton offers a bed and breakfast rate that is 10 pounds more per day, meaning you are paying about $16 for breakfast. Not really a bargain)

  92. Simon S.,

    That’s not actually true. Opinions prevailing rarely, if ever, mean that criticism doesn’t exist. That’s one of the great things about this world, in my opinion. All sorts of people think all sorts of things. I will certainly concede that the prevalent opinion here at Whatever is that charging five pounds is somehow penny ante. Nevertheless, I disagree, and I’m confident others do as well, as I’m sure we all realize.

    Is disagreeing about this somehow unfair or cause for concern? I’m open to discourse and disagreement so long as Scalzi feels the matter is on subject and being handled with an appropriate level of respect and politeness.

    Regarding the dealer room and bathroom example: the difference, at least to me, is clear. Everyone is welcome in the dealer’s room and the bathroom, whether anyone chooses to utilize the location or not. Everyone is not allowed in the kaffeeklatsch, specifically because there’s finite space. And by finite, I mean noticeably finite.

    ***

    Mythago,

    I realize there’s probably no way to convince you, but for what it’s worth, none of my comments here have come from a place of contempt. I do disagree with you ultimately, but I don’t dislike you because of my disagreement, much less feel contempt for your opinion. Do I understand your opinion? Not really, but I’m a firm believer in your right to have it and express it.

    Despite my disagreement with a lot of folks here, I’m an active reader who lobbies others to pick up Scalzi’s books because I think they’re extremely well written. I also feel the same way about Mary Robinette Kowal’s books and Hines’ as well. In fact, the list goes on. Suffice to say, I’m a five star rater of much of the literary talent of folks who I sometimes disagree with on passing issues. None of that would be true if I wallowed in contempt for others.

  93. Xopher: I don’t think free space for a guaranteed F/B charge is unreasonable, in general. In fact, I think lots of places effectively work like that, if indirectly (in the sense that if your monthly meeting in the private room of the restaurant doesn’t order enough food, they will decline your reservation). Making it explicit in a conference setting seems fine.

    That said, if this is the case with WFC, it isn’t being handled the way I would expect it to. The F/B guarantee for a “free” room isn’t a catering charge, but rather a reasonable expectation of business. It isn’t a matter of WFC paying £100/hr up front, but rather the venue providing the space, and a F/B service. At the end of the event, the hotel would go to WFC and say “OK, the Kaffeklatch was guaranteed for £100 F/B, and 13 people ordered cans of Coke for £5/ea and 2 people ordered ham sandwiches for £10/ea, which is only £75. You need to pay £25 to make the guarantee.”

    The expectation of all parties in that “free space with f/b guarantee” is that the guarantee is high enough for the organizers to make an effort to get people into the space, but low enough that nobody expects the guarantee to have to be enforced. The hotel would be expecting to get way more in F/B sales directly to the kaffeklatch patrons than they made WFC guarantee.

    Forcing the kaffeklatchers to make good on that guarantee in pre-payments to WFC is penny-ante.

    Of course, if my third-hand understanding of why WFC is doing this is incorrect (as third-hand understandings often are), then the above is not relevant.

  94. Kate Nepveu:

    “Also, I see no reason why WFC’s own statements should not be taken at face value.”

    Yes, this. If you offer a reason for your actions, then people will work from those reasons. The reasons offered in this case are: covering cost of coffee and cookies and to keep one from skipping out. Both are of dubious value, in my opinion, for reasons noted in the entry.

  95. mythago: Ohhhh! Of course. That makes sense. Thanks.

    Johnathan:

    I think calling people mean names is rude, but I don’t think saying, “Hey, I think there’s some overreaction here, and we could all stand to look into this more deeply,” is rude.

    An overreaction is a reaction that is inappropriate in proportion. A knee-jerk reaction is one that occurs without thought. Saying people are overreacting is a good deal less rude than saying they’re reacting without thought.

    To explain a little, whenever I’m commenting somewhere that tends to have a different overall outlook on things, I feel the need to be crystal clear, specifically so that folks don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.

    Actually, that’s fairly sensible. While I don’t entirely agree with your choices on that matter, I apologize for the ‘verbose’ comment.

    What I meant by my logistics comment was that I didn’t think WFC purposefully intended to have any events take place in an inaccessible area.

    Well, no one is saying that WFC is up there going “Bwah-hah-hah, let’s keep the physically challenged people out of the Book Club sessions! No gimps at those meetings! HA! I have an evil laugh.” The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. They’re being accused of being inappropriately and culpably indifferent to the needs of physically challenged people.

    I don’t see why you can’t hold the opinion that I’m a ruby-throated nuthatch. Why couldn’t you?

    Because it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a checkable matter of fact. I could hold a belief to that effect, but it’s not an opinion. It’s a rather stupid belief, especially since avian typing skills tend to be limited at best, and your lengthy responses are unlikely to have been typed by the hunt and peck method! (I ask no forgiveness. I am beyond mercy, I recognize.)

    This is actually kind of important. People who believe in young-Earth creationism often assert that they “have a right to their opinion.” It’s not like being of the opinion that flan is better than crème brûlée (though this too is wrong—in my opinion). It’s a false belief on a matter of fact, not an opinion. They have a right to belief absurdities, except that, as Voltaire pointed out, belief in absurdities often leads to the commission of atrocities. But those aren’t opinions. Thinking that everything is a matter of opinion, or worse, that all these “opinions” have equal value, is actually mentally crippling; it’s a kind of stupidity.

    No, I don’t think you’re stupid. I quite expect you to see my point on opinion/fact, though you may not agree with its application to the main topics of this thread.

    You could hold the opinion that I’m a mouthbreather, or a fool, or a goof, or a verbose windbag with nothing better to do tonight than type my small thoughts here. You could also hold the opinion that I’m a good guy who means well.

    You see, those are judgements. Judgements are opinions; even when a court hands them down, that’s what they’re called. (Actually, if one takes ‘mouthbreather’ literally, that’s also a checkable matter of fact; as a metaphor, it’s an opinion.)

    Personally, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and look forward to more, unless you’d like to request that I never respond to anything you say again. In which case, I will respectfully oblige.

    I certainly will make no such request. While I have no doubt that you would, in fact, oblige should I do so, it would be inappropriate for me to make the request even if such were my desire, which it is not.

    In fact, I’m liking you rather better after this comment than I did before, for whatever that’s worth.

    kch:

    Ah, right, sorry. It’s fairly common in the industry to talk about giving ‘free’ meeting space to groups with a minimum purchase of rooms or F&B.

    Wait, so you didn’t mean “available” as mythago speculated? That sounded plausible. But what you say here makes sense too.

    And in my opinion you’re wrong. Most importantly, though, I agree that this is not the place for that discussion, in particular in that I believe neither one of us could come up with an argument the other hadn’t already heard before.

    Quite.

  96. @Lurkertype: I’ve replied to their tweet. We’ll see if they pay any attention.

    @Jennifer Stevenson: I don’t know the details of this year’s WFC, but each year’s WFC is a completely different committee. Each one is organized differently. The two in the Bay Area, for instance, (most recently San Jose) were run by SFSFC, which is a non-profit corporation. (It’s the same entity that ran the 2002 World Science Fiction Convention and the 2011 and 2013 Westercons.)

    @mythago and others: I have no doubt that the catering costs are not a profit center for the convention. Hotel catering costs are insane.

  97. Johnathan: This is not as simple as you make it out to be.

    Everyone is welcome to sign up for the kaffeeklatch, so long as room remains.

    There are often other events at conventions which require signup.

    People are also welcome at, e.g. panels, only so long as there’s room for them. Fire marshals in particular will enforce the limits here.

    Many, many facilities in the world do not welcome people to their restrooms unless those people have already paid, or agreed to pay, a fee for other services. (e.g. “Restrooms for customers only”)

  98. Simon S.,

    Folks have already paid to use the bathroom. They paid an attendance fee, remember. And that’s fine, in my opinion.

    The twenty people allowed in the kaffeeklatsch isn’t the same as the practically endless traffic capable of moving through the dealer room or the bathroom. Panels generally have enough room for the folks attending, but they do sometimes get crowded. Even so, people can usually stand in the back or off to the side.

    What panels don’t have is coffee and biscuits. Only twenty people get to be in a single kaffeeklatsch and eat those biscuits and drink that coffee. There’s a price associated with it. Either the people who have access to it pay for it or the cost gets amortized out to everyone. And, assuming you’re one of the folks in the kaffeeklatsch and I’m not, I just don’t feel like we’re close enough yet for me to start paying for your coffee and biscuits. And I think it’s arguably selfish of people to ask me to.

    Now, it’s reasonable, in my opinion, to argue that coffee and biscuits shouldn’t be served. Then there wouldn’t be a problem, right. Except . . . some guests may *want* coffee and biscuits provided and may not mind the five pounds to get it. Since only twenty people get to be at one of the events it doesn’t take a lot of demand for coffee and biscuits to justify providing coffee and biscuits. Additionally, there very well could be a contractual issue with the hotel forcing the convention to accept what amounts to catering. I just don’t know the answer to that; I don’t have the information.

    It appears that there are seventeen kaffeeklatsches being offered. Each one containing twenty folks at five pounds a head. That’s one hundred pounds per kaffeeklatsch, or 1,700 pounds total. Or about $2,720. Is that penny ante to a convention? I think it looks like about three thousand dollars, and I don’t know many businesses that would want to eat it if they didn’t have to. And, for what it’s worth, I maintain that there are probably more than enough people who are happy to pay five pounds that they probably wouldn’t have to eat it.

    ***

    Xopher,

    You know, I actually had no idea what a ruby-throated nuthatch was. I thought it was some sort of goofy insult you made up on the spot. Now, while I *do* think, by definition, you could theoretically hold the opinion that I’m a ruby-throated nuthatch, I agree with you at least in spirit. An honestly held opinion along those lines would, in my opinion, indicate a loss of touch with reality.

  99. One of the best “KaffeKlatch” moments I ever had was at a local (Pittsburgh) convention, where I got to join Michael Swanwick for a pleasant hour of conversation. The cost? My time. Sorry WFC… I think you oopsed on this one.

  100. J Knight:

    1. You asked what other motivation could they have. That’s one. Whether it’s an actual motivation is unclear. Personally, I suspect they are over-charging by a quid or so in order to cover some other shortfalls elsewhere in their budget, but that’s purely speculation on my part. As I indicated in saying that one would have to take a look at their finances in order to say for sure.

    2. No, they haven’t claimed that they have to charge. so the question becomes: why are they doing it? If it’s to cover the cost of the food service, that’s something no one seems to have asked for. Kaffeeklatches sans coffee seem pretty popular in their own right. If it’s to enforce attendance/discourage no shows, as has been pointed out and not refuted, that is more easily accomplished through waiting lists.

    i for one don’t see any way to describe this but a bad decision on the part of the organizers. And that’s before even getting into the ethical and legal issues of charging for the event when the primary attractions (the authors, not the cookies) are offering up their time free of charge, or at a personal financial loss.

  101. Everyone is welcome to sign up for the kaffeeklatch, so long as room remains.

    And they have an extra five pounds to spare over and above membership, hotel, travel, and food expenses. As opposed to the people who had the five pounds in advance and were willing to book without seeing the rest of the schedule.

    It’s conceivable (barely) that all the people who signed up and paid might not show up. Is there a wait list at all? Will those people have to pony up the 5 pounds too?

    Many, many facilities in the world do not welcome people to their restrooms unless those people have already paid

    Said facilities are almost never a Hilton in a advanced economic country wot till recently ruled the waves and kicked off this whole industrial revolution thingy we’re all enjoying so much.

    Had WFC come out and said “Look, we’ve got to charge for the KK’s or the hotel won’t let us have the space, and so we have to charge up front”, people would have grumbled and then coughed up. But to say “We wanted to make sure you lot got bad coffee and mediocre baked goods” and “Now, you’d better not cancel this amazing opportunity for weak coffee and baked goods, you deadbeats!” is, indeed, penny-ante bullshit.

    The wheelchair inaccessibility for the fan club panels is a whole separate issue, which is also worth asking WTF about in this day and age. But, hey, at least people in wheelchairs always have plenty of spare cash to throw around to buy their way into the klatches, right? Right? Oh wait…

  102. The facts are pretty straight forward:

    1) The WFC does not have to offer the klatches as part of its programming.
    2) No one asked them to provide refreshments at the klatches, nor is it required.
    3) The WFC is insisting that there be refreshments at the klatches, that attendees pay for these refreshments and not on an at purchase basis but a set fee.
    4) There are spaces that the WFC has already paid the hotel for where the klatches could be held that do not require additional catering beyond set-up and water, such as meetings, readings, panels, etc.

    So we are left with this:

    That the WFC requested additional space or the hotel insisted that they use additional space and the hotel insisted that these particular events, unlike other events, include catering to have that space, that it not be part of the convention package.

    That the WFC did not budget for this and did not have the funding to hold the actual events as part of their programming, despite having high attendance.

    That instead of cancelling the events and staying within their budget, the WFC decided to pass the budget overrun on to attendees. This then changed the klatches to a special, paid event, which is a whole other kettle of fish for the authors who are being marketed specifically by the convention as their attractions for these klatches. The authors were not consulted about how much should be charged for their particular paid event at which they would be speakers, or whether they would prefer to pay the charge themselves or whether they could arrange a klatch through the convention but off the premises to avoid the catering fee. So the authors were forced to abide by the WFC overrunning their budget through bad management, or to opt out.

    That the WFC has not stated that the hotel forced them to use extra space and a catering fee for that space even though no catering was desired by the membership and that is why they have to charge to preserve the events. Instead, they stated that the convention had chosen to charge for mandatory food, which was not charged for any other programming and events, and to make the klatches a ticketed event separate from the convention to force attendance, unlike any other author meeting programming at the convention, including other sign up events. (This may or may not be to cover the set catering fee insisted by the hotel for the space.)

    None of these three possible situations — the hotel insisted on a catering charge for the space for this one programming event and the WFC choosing to overrun their budget instead of not doing the programming, and not take the overrun out of their profits but instead add additional charges to the attendees; the WFC deciding on its own to force mandatory catering on attendees; the WFC deciding to force attendance for these events but not other programming — shows interest in serving the needs of the attending customers and authors. It leads to understandable suspicions about how the convention runners are doing their bookkeeping. Add the fact that some of the programming in the convention is not accessible to the disabled — a fire/accident hazard concern for all attendees — and it is again clear that the WFC folk are basically not concerned with whether parts of their convention are working or not.

    Conventions need attendees, need publisher support and need authors. They don’t need cookies or to continue programming they don’t have the money to buy space for. Insisting that the authors deal with upset fans while claiming that nothing can be done about a problem the WFC runners created — they really should expect all the flak they’ll get about it.

  103. Johnathan: I think I need to repeat that pay toilets are real things, that were once very common in this world. You’re arguing that it makes sense to charge for biscuits, but not for toilets. Yet charging for toilets was once normal, and it was driven away by the same line of argument now being used to decry charging for biscuits, an argument you don’t consider justified.

    Your cost scale for the biscuits is fallacious, as it assumes the 5 pounds is the actual cost. I don’t believe that, and if the hotel insists on charging that much for it, the con shouldn’t offer it. Remember that the charge is being imposed on all the kaffeeklatch attendees, whether they want the biscuits or not.

    Regardless, in the context of the entire budget for the con, no, it’s not a lot of money. Amortized over all the members, like all the other costs that are amortized over all the members, and remembering how high the price is to attend at all, no, it’s not a lot of money.

    Lurkertype: My point that everyone is free to sign up for the kaffeeklatch was within the context of arguing that the con shouldn’t charge the 5 pounds, so it’s not necessary to point out that hurdle.

    Re your other point: On the other hand, establishments that do restrict the use of their toilets to paying customers include many fine restaurants and other retail outlets in the very same advanced economic countries that until recently ruled the waves, etc.

  104. For the record the ruby-throated nuthatch is a rather attractive bird.

    Also motive is irrelevant. If something stupid is being done by an organization I don’t care if they are doing it for evil reasons or not, I just want it stopped. It doesn’t matter if it was poor planning or greed.

  105. It irritates me that WFC chose to use the coffee as the main justification for the fee. Isn’t that backward?

    “I’m paying to attend this event because of the COFFEE. Oh, and hey, there’s going to be an author there, too! Free bonus!”

  106. Ah, I knew there was a reason that the “deterring no-shows” argument was problematic for me. It was reminding me of a Toronto Star article from a few years ago.

    On top of the other objections that have been raised to charging for the kaffeeklatches (objections which I agree with), there’s evidence to suggest that charging fees could actually encourage people to be no-shows, rather than being a deterrent.

    http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2008/07/04/daycare_late_fees_no_deterrent_study_finds.html

  107. Simon S.,

    To clarify, I’m not arguing that it’s reasonable to charge for biscuits, but not bathrooms. I’m arguing that it makes sense to have a separate charge for biscuits, but not bathrooms.

    To reiterate, the regular attendance fee pays for, among other things, the bathrooms. Everyone has already paid for the bathrooms, you see? Regular attendance fee does not, however, pay for the coffee and biscuits. Nor should it, in my opinion, because not everyone will have even so much as a chance of eating the biscuits and drinking the coffee. Everyone will have a chance to use the bathrooms.

    Consider the way the hotel charges the convention. First, the hotel has to rent out the space, right? Within the space rented out, bathrooms are included. Thus, bathrooms fall into that cost. That cost is then transferred over to attendees, via membership.

    But wait. Now there’s another charge unrelated to the *space* rental. This is the catering charge. It amounts to blah pounds. Now that charge has to be transferred over to the attendees. But thankfully I’m not being asked to pay for your coffee and biscuits, no matter how little you think the my share of your snack would be once amortized. It doesn’t make sense to me, if on principle alone.

    Regarding the cost of the catering: I have zero reason to believe that the cost of catering is substantially less than five pounds. Frankly, in my experience, five pounds sounds low as far as hotel prices are concerned.

    Finally, to respond to your comment about folks who may attend the kaffeeklatsch, but *not* want the coffee and biscuits: well, how is that different from folks who attend the convention but don’t want to use the restroom there? They’ve still paid for it via their amortized attendance monies. And as an individual who’s paid for it, it’s their choice whether or not to enjoy it. The same holds true with biscuits and coffee. It’s part of the price because it’s there. Hopefully, most people will enjoy it.

    ***

    Katharine, thanks for the update. The wheelchair access situation was the only thing I really had any problem with.

    ***

    Kat Goodwin, I disagree with your summation of the facts. I especially disagree with your conclusions. For the most part, I’ll leave it at that as I don’t think either one of us sees eye-to-eye close enough to get very far in a discussion.

    However, I couldn’t help but notice this:

    “It leads to understandable suspicions about how the convention runners are doing their bookkeeping.”

    Suspicions about their bookkeeping? I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but this almost sounds like an accusation of corruption. Please, correct me if I’m wrong. If I’ve somehow misread what you’ve written.

    Turning a charge for coffee and biscuits into an accusation of suspicious bookkeeping is, in my opinion, pretty far out there.

  108. Different people certainly associate different baggage with certain words. To me, suspicious, when used in this bookkeeping context, means:

    “: a feeling that someone is possibly guilty of a crime or of doing something wrong”

    It’s possible that’s not what was meant, hence my statement asking to be corrected if I was wrong about the usage.

    ***

    General statement/question:

    Does anyone know what the attendance at WFC will look like this year? How many people do you expect to show up?

    850?
    1,700?
    More?

    I was giving some thought to how much it would cost everyone else to amortize the cost of the coffee and biscuits. If 850 people attend, that would mean that *everyone* would have to pay two pounds more to cover the cost of the coffee and biscuits, while only a handful of people would get the coffee and biscuits. 1,700 people attending would mean everyone would be paying one pound more. And so on.

    That seems like a lot to ask everyone else to do, at least to me. Instead of having a limited group of folks pay five pounds, everyone is now paying one or two pounds? So even the kaffeeklatsch folks are paying the one or two pounds, meaning they’re only saving three or four pounds because everyone else is attendance is also paying. Doesn’t seem fair or logical, at least to me.

  109. Johnathan: When I wrote “charge for” I meant a separate charge. I don’t know why you think I need that explained, because I wrote that the alternative is amortization. I presume you know what that term means.

    You keep saying that it doesn’t make sense to have a charge – a separate charge, whatever – for the bathrooms, so I must once again remind you that a separate charge for the bathrooms used to be a normal and expected thing. It doesn’t make any sense to argue that the bathrooms are inherently included, because there exists a standard model in which they aren’t.

    There also exists a standard model in which inexpensive snacks are included in the original membership price.

  110. Simon S.,

    We’re talking about a very specific model. The one being used. The price of the space is inclusive of the bathrooms and is already figured into attendance fee.

    *If* the hotel had pay-toilets then it would be reasonable for the convention to pay less for the space that’s being rented. Then restroom users would then be able to pay for their own personal and private toilet experience.

    But the hotel does not have paid toilets so breaking down payment into a piecemeal method doesn’t work on a practical level.

    I’m honestly not sure what we’re going on about with this bathroom topic. Do I think it’s everyone’s inherent right to use someone else’s toilet? No. Do I think it’s nice when someone allows everyone to use their toilet? Yes. Do I think it’s within the bounds of reason to ask for money for that type of service? Absolutely.

    *Could* payment be structured in a different manner? Sure, I suppose. It’s just a matter of how complicated you want to get with it. I’d be fine with everyone’s attendance fee covering coffee and biscuits if everyone were supplied with coffee and biscuits.

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think coffee and biscuits count as inexpensive snacks when supplied via hotel catering. But, in fairness, inexpensive is subjective. To my worldview, hotels tend to be expensive when compared with a normal grocery store baseline, just like concession stands at movie theaters tend to be expensive.

  111. Oh, and in regard to the term amortization, I was just going with it. The term’s being used in an off way. To my knowledge, amortizing something is about paying off debt in a gradual fashion.

    Splitting the cost out among several people isn’t exactly amortization, but I’m guessing we’re all on the same page regarding the point of what’s being discussed/suggested.

  112. I was getting an odd feeling of deja vu reading this topic, and finally realized why. Perhaps a bit of fannish history is in order.

    The tradition used to be, especially in the larger conventions, that a Guest of Honor speech, award presentations, etc., would be given in conjunction with a banquet. Frequently held in a hotel, sometimes in a restaurant with a separate dining room available. Attending the banquet usually involved an extra cost, and there were a limited number of seats.

    There are a number of reasons why you almost never see a con banquet like that anymore:

    — People complained about the cost.
    — People complained about the food. (Obligatory ref: “Bouncing Potatoes” by Poul Anderson.)
    — People complained about the service.
    — People complained about the facilities.
    — People complained about not being able to get tickets at the last moment.

    From a conrunner’s perspective, organizing a banquet was not only an additional hassle, but a BIG hassle, with little reward. (Have I mentioned complaints?) Even with an additional pricetag attached, it could be expensive for the convention. (I may be misremembering, but I think the banquet’s expense was one of the reasons cited back when the 1983 Baltimore Worldcon ended up in the red.)

    I don’t get to many conventions anymore, especially the larger ones, but to the best of my knowledge, the banquet tradition is pretty much dead, with speeches and presentations held in meeting halls instead.

    This kerfluffle over the kaffeeklatches looks an awful lot like all the old banquet problems writ small.

    In short, those who fail to remember the past are doomed — DOOMED, I say! — to repeat it.

  113. So do the people who run these ‘cons’ make money off of them? The smaller ones seem to be run by local interest groups, but I wonder if the larger ones turn profits. I would guess that the people who run ComicCon make a considerable amount of money off of them.

    note, I have never been to a con, so I’m speaking as an ignorant outsider.

  114. I’m more offended that it isn’t wheelchair accessible, than that they are charging extra. I’m surprised there isn’t more of hoopla about that. Doesn’t the UK have laws about discriminating against people with disabilities like they do in the US? They are basically saying, “If you are in wheelchair, and you wanted to attend, well, screw you!”

    I’m still offended that they are charging extra for the event, if the authors involved are having to pay to attend the convention themselves. That said, if I was attending the convention, and one of my favorite authors was going to be there, and the authors attending were being comp’d their tickets, AND it was wheelchair accessible (I don’t use one, but I’d be embarrassed to attend an event that excluded people who need them) I’d be okay with forking over the extra money –IF it was a SMALL group of people attending…but the coffee and treats, better be DAMN good –no dried out pastries! ;-)

  115. @brucearthur: I used to wait tables when I was in college and a little after that. Most restaurants charge alot more for ‘banquets’ and give smaller portions that are not as good as food off the regular menu. Its a fairly standard way to price gouge for a private space. Don’t blame you for cancelling this. Most people won’t realize this. Its hard to book a big enough space for alot of people and not get gouged.

  116. ” (I may be misremembering, but I think the banquet’s expense was one of the reasons cited back when the 1983 Baltimore Worldcon ended up in the red.)”

    You are misremembering.

  117. World Fantasy is one of the few conventions that still has a banquet.

    WisCon has a dessert salon, which costs $15, before the Guest of Honor speeches and Tiptree Award ceremony. For that, you get two desserts, and after everyone’s been through the line they generally let people go back for thirds or fourths. If you don’t want to pay for a ticket, they open the room up to the general public before the speeches begin.

  118. Donna,

    Tales of the wheelchair inaccessibility have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated. The kaffeeklatsches were never inaccessible, taking place in the Library room off the main lobby.

    The accessibility of the Book Club events were questionable, but it seems that may be cleared up as well. Apparently Hilton revealed a staff elevator/lift that will be available to get to the Chartwell room, to my current understanding.

  119. “Doesn’t the UK have laws about discriminating against people with disabilities like they do in the US? ” The U.S. has Ted Kennedy’s multi-year battle to thank for the Americans With Disabilities Act. It didn’t happen magically.

    The U.K. has the Equality Discrimination Act 2010; see this from an anti-discrimination organization. http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8069_disability_discrimination-legal_briefing . As with the ADA, to get the Act enforced the disabled person has to go to a County Court and go through a judicial process. This takes time and money. I would guess — the summary doesn’t say — that there’s an exemption for historic buildings.

    tl;dr: Having a law doesn’t necessarily mean you can get it enforced in linear time.

  120. Grand. Now an author has the opportunity of attending a Kaffeeklatsch that a) may be empty due to sign up fees and/or b) may be empty because people had to drop out for various reasons and there’s NO waiting list and/or c) because too many of his/her fans on wheelchair bound. Mind you, I can’t even find the WORD accessibility on the FAQ page, which suggests a larger problem. Wanting to use a part of the facility that offers fabulous views is understandable, but using a part of the facility that *apparently* requires food be bought *and* is inaccessible? Seems rather short sighted, even at a high-priced pro-con.

  121. @Guess: Most, but not all, SF/F genre conventions are organized as non-profit groups (specific legal details vary by locality) not run for the profit of individuals. (Major high-profile exception: DragonCon, which is very much a for-profit corporation that makes a great deal of money for its stockholders.) ComicCon, which, you cite, is a non-profit corporation, and its books are open for public inspection by law. It’s large enough that it can afford to hire a handful of full-time employees, but it does not have stockholders and does not pay dividends or profits to individuals.

    Some World Fantasy Conventions have been run on a for-profit basis. I do not know what the structure of this year’s WFC organizing committee is, but I would be astonished if they’re making any profit at all on merely GBP5/head for coffee and cakes.

    When SFSFC (a non-profit corporation on whose Board of Directors I sit) hosted the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, we had a small surplus after paying for the event. (I don’t have details with me, but I think it was on the order of US$2,000 surplus on about US$150,000 revenue; we don’t do this for the Big Bucks!). Similarly, we had a surplus of revenue over expenses after running the 2002 Worldcon of less than $60,000 on nearly $1 million gross revenue, more than half of which we donated to the following three Worldcons. We’re not talking about really huge sums of money here relative to turnover. (And also bear in mind that nobody working on the event gets paid for doing so; for instance, co-chairing the 2002 cost me roughly $50,000 spread over seven or eight years. The convention didn’t pay me for those expenses, nor would it have been expected to do so. I’m an extreme case, but the point is that running genre conventions in general is a hobby, not a profession.) In general, it would be completely unreasonable to expect these events to be run for profit, given that all or nearly all of the labor is unpaid volunteers who not only don’t get paid to do the work, but they actually pay their own way (membership, hotel, travel) to do so. The imputed value of the volunteer labor is probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars at least; less for a WFC, more for a Worldcon.

    What most people are missing here is that hotel catering costs are insane. GBP5/head is at best a break-even proposition, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the convention actually loses a little bit of money on each purchase. The high costs of such catering is one of the reasons why you don’t see many conventions doing catered events anymore.

  122. Re: accessibility update:

    Note that this means that WFC still made this decision thinking the room was inaccessible. Note further that it is likely to be a giant pain in the ass for anyone to use that staff elevator, if the hotel doesn’t even acknowledge its existence some of the time.

  123. Also, while that FAQ update makes clear the 5 pounds goes to the hotel, they still offer the “stop deadbeats” explanation. The idea that book clubs and coffee-things aren’t core parts of con programming is rather news to me as well. And, finally, _no-one expects refreshment at events that aren’t held in the con suite or at an explicit meal_.

  124. @Kate Nepveu: “Note further that it is likely to be a giant pain in the ass for anyone to use that staff elevator, if the hotel doesn’t even acknowledge its existence some of the time.”

    The last time I was at a con that depended on a service elevator for access, the hotel staff on the ground denied all knowledge of any previous agreement and refused to let it be used.

  125. OK, I read their new FAQ on this topic. They say this:

    Unfortunately, we are unable to run a wait list on the day because 1) we have to pre-order the refreshments, 2) we don’t have the staff to manage multiple lists, and 3) people will not want to wait around to see if they can get into one of these events when they might be missing something else that they want to see.

    This is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

    1) Running a wait list wouldn’t in any way impair pre-ordering refreshments. If people are signed up in advance, and don’t show up, the next person on the wait list gets in. If payment is collected in advance, the no-show forfeits their payment and the first person on the wait list gets a freebie. If people are paying at the door, there’s no reason why the first person on the wait list couldn’t pay just as easily as the no-show could have.

    This makes sense only if “wait list” means “list of people who are signed up provisionally and will decide at the last minute if THEY WANT to attend.” This is not how the term is commonly used, and their #3 makes it clear that that’s not even what they think it means. GRADE: F

    2) They “don’t have the staff” to run a waitlist, but they WILL have someone checking names and IDs at the door, or they will have attendees who haven’t paid cramming in up to the capacity of the room. That person could also have the waitlist, which would simply be the people “below the line.” Maybe they have a distorted idea of what’s required to keep a wait list (why “multiple lists,” for example?), but still, this is nonsense. GRADE: D

    3) People will not want to wait around to see if they can get in? Yet they apparently think people WILL want to sign up in advance without even seeing what other events may be counterscheduled. And really, if people want to go to a KK enough to put themselves on a waiting list, that’s their choice. This one is actually beyond stupid. They just want to have three reasons, because three reasons sounds like it’s enough. GRADE: F-

    Also, they’re making the “Dictionary Error” or perhaps the “word comes from X therefore X is its only meaning” error. Their explanation makes it clear that it was their choice, not the hotel’s, to insist on coffee and biscuits. They are apparently unaware of the fannish traditions surrounding these events and made something up based on the name. I mean, they’re British, so maybe coffee is a bit of a mystery to them….YES I’M KIDDING.

    Seriously, how fracking clueless are these people? That FAQ makes things worse, not better. It essentially says “we’re doing it this way because we’re completely incompetent and incapable of rational thought.”

    Jonquil, was that at ChiCon? The hotel was generally hostile at that con, I recall. I understand that this was partly because there was an ongoing labor dispute.

  126. While I agree with everyone of OGH host’s criticisms, I do feel that I would have not coped much npbetter than the otprganizers.

    Talking to a friend trying to organize an event in NJ recently she was complaining about the unbelievable prices to supply a bagel/coffee that local spaces where charging. I am not sure if this is a major shift since the economy turned up but perhaps it is.

    On the hotels side, I don’t know what there true costs are, at a guess they may have to bring several people for a full shift to supply these services when the banqueting areas are used. I’d appreciate input from people who actually know.

    Finally, as pointed out, a detailed Mea Culpa on this would have avoided many of the problems.
    A simple statement that we misread the hotel policy and here are the options, we invite your feedback would have been a much better approach.

  127. Xopher, it was at a small (<100 people) Buffy convention. The problem there was very similar to the problem here: the concom (one person, in that case) hadn't put in the legwork to make sure that accessibility issues were handled. This was particularly egregious in the case of the small convention, since a member in a motorized wheelchair was known to be attending.

    You don't have to be evil. You don't have to have evil intentions. All you have to do is fail to pay attention, after which the discrimination against people with disabilities happens naturally.

  128. From the updated FAQ:

    The definitions of a “Kaffeeklatsche” is 1) “An informal social gathering at which coffee is served” and 2) “Talking or gossip at such an event”. This is the experience that we are trying to recreate with our special programming events.

    Interesting. The “coffee” part probably shouldn’t be the number one definition here, at least when it comes to a con like this. There’s kaffeeklatsches and kaffeeklatsches, but apparently the organizers are very wedded to the refreshment-based version.

  129. @Guess, I would like to offer an addendum to Kevin Standlee’s comments about ComicCon. San Diego Comiccon is indeed a non profit-however, the term ComicCon is not trademarked and many others are for profit.

  130. Kat Goodwin:

    it is again clear that the WFC folk are basically not concerned with whether parts of their convention are working or not.

    EXACTLY.

    They are apparently unable to conceive of a kaffeeklatch without catered refreshments (ironic since they’re fine with elves, dragons, eldritch horrors, etc.), even though that’s the way they’re always done.

    This idea, along with their increasingly ham-handed “reasons” show they aren’t very good with planning, budgeting, public relations, and a bunch of other things we should reasonably expect from a convention committee people are trusting with goodly chunks of money. The idea that they can’t spare anyone to check up on the wait list — even though someone’s going to be standing right there to tick off those who paid — is somewhere beyond gormless. The gofer who’s checking can’t let the people who have queued up if a paying person doesn’t show? I’ve gotten into KK’s at Worldcons by being on the wait list.

    The words they say make sense one or two or a few at a time, but put all together in sentences, they don’t.

    Hugo award ceremonies are much more attended now that people don’t have to shell out for rubber chicken and bouncing potatoes. We line up. We go in and sit on uncomfortable chairs, and then we leave. The banquet idea is, honestly, terribly divisive — at an event where we’re all supposed to be equal, it automatically creates a two-tier system. And Ghu knows we won’t forget the leftover smell from the 1983 Baltimore crab feast… all the joys of low tide, indoors!

    Baycon traditionally serves desserts before Meet the Guests. Everyone can come in and have one pass through the line (if you don’t want baked goods, there’s fresh fruit), and then seconds once everyone’s had a shot at the lemon squares, brownies, cookies, and berries and melons. We don’t pay extra. Somehow they’ve cracked this for anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 people (total — many fewer actually go to MtG).

    ———————————————————————————————————

    The inaccessibility of certain rooms is simply barbaric. Maybe or maybe not there’ll be access via freight elevator, if the staff cares or is informed. And you don’t mind going the long way around, as usual.

    (I must say, after the masquerade and Hugos in Chicago 2012, the hotel and con staff were quite good at loading the regular elevators and the freight elevators… which are right next to each other. Splendid.)

    It has been proven, time and time again, that making spaces wheelchair accessible turns out to be good for everyone. Curb cuts, for instance, are swell for people who can’t lift their feet, parents pushing kids in strollers, bicyclists, women who are so pregnant they can’t see their feet, and those of us who trip on curbs due to age or clumsiness or both.

    I suspect the late Anne McCaffrey would have been a topic of the fan club type meetings, and the last time I saw her at a con, she was piloting one of those electric scooters as though it were a dragon or a spaceship. I couldn’t possibly confirm that she said “Ramming speed!” at one point as she zipped across the hotel lobby. ;) So they’d make her have events in the 5 quid room only, since she mightn’t be able to get to the free fancy room? I doubt she’d have liked that.

    TL;DR Bad WFC. Bad concom!

  131. I’d like to be the next in line to register disbelieving amazement that a member of a con running organization could write the words, “Unfortunately, this area of the hotel is inaccessible by wheelchair,” without stumbling five words in over the realization that something has gone terribly wrong.

    I am further amazed that the writer of these words not only didn’t immediately seek out a remedy that would make those words unnecessary, nor, should that be impossible, did they follow them with profuse apologies and explanations and compensations, but rather the writer then tucked them away in parentheses. It gives the impression that their reaction to having to write those words at all was “Oh. Hm. Unfortunate. But maybe if we act like it’s not a big deal, everyone else will follow suit?”

  132. Nicole J. L-L * Indeed. The “oh BTW” attitude is much akin to burying nasty things in the fine print, or hoping something will go away if you don’t mention it.

    Not to mention that “wheelchair inaccessible” also usually means you can’t get there with a walker/zimmer, and it’s going to be a complete bitch to do if you use a cane, crutches, or simply aren’t real keen on/good at/get exhausted from using stairs.

    Is that your rap name? :)

  133. If it was only penny-ante there wouldn’t be the uproar; this is a Lady Godiva ante.

    We have a weekly meeting in an inexpensive place; rent, coffee, ice water, cups, glasses, plates, a dozen assorted rolls (we pick up at a local grocery), tables, chairs, power, free wi-fi included. $us30, roughly.

    I can see high-quality coffee, tea, and biscuits being $us8/ head for twenty people and the hotel barely breaking even. I bake — as a hobby, not as a pro — and sometimes cost things out. Ingredients are cheaper in bulk, but labor is expensive. Cute little decorated cookies, five minutes each, ten or fifteen minutes for me. There are robots that do some fancy sugarwork now.

    Understanding, though, doesn’t mean I’d like to pay for it, especially when presented in this way.

  134. Kastandlee:

    The high costs of such catering is one of the reasons why you don’t see many conventions doing catered events anymore.

    Which is why the klatches, despite their name, are not catered at conventions. (And they can change the name of the things how they like as well — author salon, author meet and greet, etc.) Yet the WFC is insisting that these klatches (and at their last conferences,) be catered. So either the hotel insisted that the space used requires catering (which is then part of the cost of the space,) or the WFC decided that they would force catering on the attendees for unknown reasons. It is more likely the former, at which point, the WFC should have either cancelled the events because they could not fund them, especially as they are apparently claiming they aren’t regular programming (even though at most other conventions they are;) or arranged with the hotel to do the klatches in another space that does not require catering from the hotel; or found money in the budget to cover the cost, a cost they seem to have been aware of well in advance of the convention. So it’s mismanagement and they created a problem where no problem had to exist and thus had a budget overrun. They are insisting that attendees to the event pay a ticket fee — pay for the cost of their budget overrun, which they themselves caused.

    That ticket fee is not for food, despite their claim that it is. If it is was for food, then only those who wanted food would need to pay the fee, and the hotel would provide food only for those who ordered the food and paid a food fee, which they would have a full count of since attendees have to sign up in advance (the equivalent of box seats versus regular seats.) Instead, the fee is for the EVENT, which makes it part of the cost of the space. You have to pay the ticket fee to attend the event, whether you partake of food or not. It is a cover charge. The WFC is claiming that they can charge this ticket fee because the klatches are a special side event — an unusual designation — and the authors are speakers, as they refer to them. Therefore, money is being collected for the event, not the food, a side special event at which the authors are then expected to speak for free and without any say in how the event is run.

    These klatches enhance the convention and its appeal to attendees, meaning the convention is exploiting the authors for special events they didn’t agree to, rather than the authors simply participating in the general programming, which is usually how the klatches are run. Whether the WFC makes money from this, covers its budget overrun costs or still loses money on the klatches is irrelevant. It’s exploitative, it’s mismanagement, it’s counterproductive and it raises questions about the procedures and accounting methods of the con, that they would willingly incur a budget overrun and pass part of the cost on to the attendees when having the budget overrun should not have occurred in the first place. The accessibility issue for the klatches or other meetings adds to the issue and indicates further poor planning.

    Lurkertype:

    The idea that they can’t spare anyone to check up on the wait list — even though someone’s going to be standing right there to tick off those who paid — is somewhere beyond gormless. The gofer who’s checking can’t let the people who have queued up if a paying person doesn’t show?

    Well that’s the illogic to it. They claim that the cover charge was necessary in part because no-shows who choked up the sign up meant other people couldn’t then get into the event. But even with a cover charge, no shows always occur. People have accidents, hangovers, schedule conflicts where they decide to forgo the fee. And even though they are charging a ticket fee, other people still can’t get into the event if there are no-shows if there’s no waiting list. So the ticket fee has nothing to do with making sure that people get a fair chance to attend, since they refuse to have a waiting list to create that fair chance. So the claim about no-shows being unfair is irrelevant to charging the ticket fee.

    And yes, if you have staff there to make sure only ticket holders get in, then that same person can run a waiting list, which is part of the sign up to attend, which allows wait listers who are there to pay the fee and get in five minutes before the starting time of the event and five-ten minutes after the start time. I have been to special paid side events at media cons and comic cons, such as concerts, and that is how they do it. You are required to show up at a certain time before the event, usually by ten-five minutes before the start time. If there are spare seats after that announced time, they either let people in for free to fill the seats, or they let people pay the ticket right there and come in to cover the empty seats. If you don’t do it that way, as someone else pointed out, you have the author wasting time on half empty rooms and the author is the person who gets the flack from upset attendees.

    WFC is usually a busy convention, so probably they will have enough people to pay the fee, if not show up. But it is poor and strange finance in budget overruns and it alienates authors. It reduces the appeal of the cons these people run in the future on this system compared to other cons where klatches are part of the general programming and free. And the reasons they give for the special ticket fee are clearly false (or extremely misguided.) The fee is a ticket fee for the event, not for food. The costs of food don’t have to be covered because food doesn’t need to be offered. Therefore, WFC is demanding that attendees cover an extra cost the WFC chose to incur. The ticket fee does not solve the issue of people who can’t get in because of the sign ups filling in and in fact makes that problem worse, since they will not use a waiting list system. Their claims as to why they can’t have a waiting list make no sense. The ticket fee does not help, but in fact hurts the authors for what is for them an event of minimal benefit in the first place.

    So it’s not a horrible sin, though the inaccessibility issue is. (Not only does it hurt the disabled, but if there is an incident and someone is injured, or a fire, etc. and people have to be carried or limp out, the lack of access is a hazard.) But it is a mistake. Cons make mistakes and learn from them and fans are usually fairly tolerant of that learning curve. But these con runners appear to believe that this is not a mistake but a great policy they keep repeating where they mess up their budget and their programming and then make authors and attendees pay for it, offering lame and inconsistent reasons for doing so. This tends to make some authors testy. Cons that don’t listen to feedback at all — especially literary cons that need to work with authors — tend to be far less pleasant than cons that do.

  135. A friend called my attention to the Metropole Brighton’s official accessibility packet. http://greenparty.org.uk/Conference/Brighton%202013/Hilton%20Accessibility.pdf (Note that this is linked from the Green Party’s conference materials; like most sensible conventions, the Green Party links to accessibility information directly from their site.)

    I quote: “All of our function rooms are accessible.”.

    I can come to one of two conclusions:
    1. The ConCom didn’t bother to request the accessibility packet, which is quite detailed and very useful.
    2. The ConCom didn’t bother to read the packet.

  136. I am not at all surprised to see World Fantasy respond rapidly and appropriately to a group they perceive as respectable and important.

  137. Steven, am I correct in assuming you mean WSFS, and that the response is removing the offending tweet? That’s the only rapid and appropriate response they’ve managed in this whole snafu.

    And since they were able to do that (and I suspect this is your point), that means they do not regard the authors or fans as being in that “respectable and important” category.

    Just making it explicit for the subtlety-impaired.

  138. Just want to reiterate the comment from way above that while there is a WFC board that oversees the annual conventions, each convention is run by a different group of people (although there is occasional overlap between individuals, usually but not always in areas where it isn’t crucial for the person in question to be living in or pretty close to the con city; last year, for example, my husband and I programmed Toronto’s WFC from several thousand miles away, and we’ve been asked to be a part of programming for a future WFC, even further distant from where we live).

    I can’t recall kaffeeklatsches coming up at all in discussions of programming for WFC 2012; had they done so, we’d have either incorporated them into the programming and there’d have been no charge (just as there’s no charge, above and beyond the membership fee, for attending readings and panels), or we wouldn’t have done them (if there was no way to fit them into programming).

  139. Kat Goodwin: Well, exactly. They’re redefining words to suit their bad planning and budgeting. If they’d said up front that the hotel was demanding 5GBP a head for those rooms, fine. People would have ponied up the dough, or not. But claiming that there’s some great outcry for catering that no one’s ever had before is just bovine excrement. As is claiming that these sort of events are some special bonus they’ve invented and are graciously allowing fans and authors to pay for.

    (Both the klatches and the non-accessible Fan Club events require the 5 quid, BTW)

    And having no wait list is ha’penny ante bullshit. It’s possible that there’s going to be an author standing in an empty room and a lot of people who would have loved being in there who won’t be allowed to hang out with said author.

    I’m not sure why they think that their inability to budget should be paid for by the fans and authors. Or why they’re handling this so badly. At best it’s clueless and at worst it’s arrogant.

    We know they can respond quickly and appropriately (viz. the Twitter situation called to their attention by WSFS), so I wonder why they can’t do anything correct regarding this even dumber situation.

    Incompetence and arrogance are always a bad combo; throw in terrible PR and we have a hat trick of bad, with bonus oops for non-accessibility.

  140. What’s fascinating here is not so much the concom’s various missteps; it’s the degree of disagreement over the dimensions of the kerfuffle. Clearly, this is a cascade failure. One: the hotel contract wasn’t well negotiated, such that certain meeting spaces were rendered overly expensive to use. It doesn’t much matter whether the fee is for room rental or catering; the budget impact arises either way. Two: the budget process failed to anticipate the impact of actually using those meeting spaces until far too late in the event-planning cycle. And, inevitably, three: imposing the £5 kaffeeklatsche surcharge guaranteed a PR disaster. It was only a question of in what direction the mud would fly.

    A key point here is that WFC is the flavor of con that does not comp memberships or other benefits for program participants — because what no one seems to have noticed anywhere above is that all of a sudden they’re doing just that, simply by not charging kaffeeklatsche “host” authors the £5 fee.

    Doing that, of course, would have been suicidal: the affected authors would’ve complained (and rightly) that they were being charged to appear on programming. The outrage would have been spectacular, and the concom clearly foresaw that much. But they overlooked the flip side: not charging hosts to attend kaffeeklatsches sets up an equally indefensible paradigm.

    Again, it doesn’t matter how one views the fee. Call it a direct food charge (and don’t assess it against the host author), and you have the event’s other attendees subsidizing the author’s meal ticket. At the very least this is socially awkward and makes the concom look cheap; at worst, it still raises concerns about unequal treatment of con members based on program participation. OTOH, call it an “admission charge” (since the host isn’t paying it), and see the upstream discussion for all the ill-advised precedents that sets.

    Can anyone say “no-win scenario”?

  141. All true, John C.B. Even so, they could have done some damage control by telling the truth instead of trying to bullshit people even more. And it still doesn’t explain why they’re unwilling to have a wait list.

  142. Interesting PDF; after it says all the function rooms are accessible it lists the rooms and the access routs. Chartwell is not listed.

  143. Barbara Roden:

    I can’t recall kaffeeklatsches coming up at all in discussions of programming for WFC 2012; had they done so, we’d have either incorporated them into the programming and there’d have been no charge (just as there’s no charge, above and beyond the membership fee, for attending readings and panels), or we wouldn’t have done them (if there was no way to fit them into programming).

    Yes, because that’s actual budget planning. But the people running the WFC apparently run several other annual cons and they’ve been doing this routine several times from what they themselves say. So they figured they could keep doing it for the WFC. And they can. But this being the Internet, authors (and others) can complain. This strategy of theirs not only doesn’t help them in any way but again, it puts participating authors in a real bind.

    Lurkertype:

    It’s possible that there’s going to be an author standing in an empty room and a lot of people who would have loved being in there who won’t be allowed to hang out with said author.

    That’s why I think the convention chiefs don’t really like the klatches. They want to have them as an attraction but they want to spend minimal staff time, cost, etc. on having them and have exiled them to essentially a back room. Having events with sign ups is probably an extra pain to deal with, so they are passing on some of the pain to the attendees and the authors. But really, they could just not have them. Have something else that they like more.

    John Bunnell:

    Again, it doesn’t matter how one views the fee.

    It doesn’t matter except that the WFC runners have made a big deal about calling it a food charge fee. They obviously feel that this is a better sounding excuse for charging a fee than calling it an event ticket, re the comp issues perhaps. Which would seem to indicate that they’ve already gotten a lot of flack for this arrangement from their previous conventions, and the insistence that it is just for food and can’t fund anything else — like staff with a waitlist even though staff must be present to deal with ticket holders — seems to them to be a safer rationale. After all, a lot of people here felt it was reasonable to charge for food catering. But food catering isn’t required for these events, so the issue is why are they insisting on food that has to be paid for by attendees who don’t want the food, just a talk with the author? Why focus on the food? If the hotel insisted that the events be catered, why not say that? Why go to the dictionary to insist that the klatches must have food, when usually these days they don’t? Clearly many people have pointed out that the food isn’t needed to them. So their obsession with the catering and how they talk about it is kind of interesting.

    Running a convention is hard, for profit or no, and mistakes do get made and tolerated. But this seems less a mistake than a long term strategy for these particular people running conventions. And the question is, why, when it makes authors and attendees highly unhappy and turns an appealing event for the convention into a much less attractive one that is damaging for a lot of authors, and exploitative of them, are they following this strategy? So something else is going on here, besides whatever catering terms the hotel is into. Not something nefarious; something ideological having to do with authors and klatches. It may be a belief that literary cons should be more media con-like. It is unfortunate, and authors like Scalzi definitely don’t want it becoming a precedent in literary conventions or otherwise. Authors simply can’t draw attendees to allow for charges that are done for movie star autographs and the like. So having several literary conventions run by a major group that nickel and dime events and programming is a real problem for authors who already can’t afford to go to many conventions.

  144. So having several literary conventions run by a major group that nickel and dime events and programming is a real problem for authors who already can’t afford to go to many conventions.

    I doubt that the operational decisions of the concom for a UK-based World Fantasy Convention will have much if any negative impact on concoms in the United States. If anything, the present kerfuffle seems likely to discourage the average US concom from making a similar series of mistakes. And I speak as someone who’s had a number of years of experience on concoms, though that’s some years behind me nowadays.

  145. A more on-topic post:

    Here is how World Horror 2013 did kaffeeklatches. Catered with coffee and tea, and yet no extra charge to attendees. You had to sign up in advance by email,* you could indicate up to three you’d like to attend in order of preference, you would only be attending one, and each had a max of 15 people. If you determined you could not attend, you were asked to let the con know so they could admit the next person on the waiting list. Also, it looks like the same con progress report announcing the kaffeeklatches also announced the full con programming schedule, so you could make your decision fully informed.

    *Email signup, I think, is a much more humane and accessible option than that I’ve seen at World Con: physical sign-ups only at a physical sign-up table, available beginning about 24 or 12 hours before the actual kaffeeklatch, which may involve waiting in a very long line and thereby missing programming you would have liked to attend. How this method excludes those who cannot stand for long periods of time, those who cannot easily sit on the floor and rise again, and those who simply want to go to con programming held at the same time as the very long line for a popular kaffeeklate would form, is not rocket science.

    To my impression, WHC is somewhat parallel to WFC in that they are both relatively small and pro-oriented. I’ve attended both in the past and enjoyed myself immensely. But I suspect wide-range enjoyment of either always depends on who’s running the con on any given year.

  146. So it’s either budgeting incompetence, money-grubbing, or a passive-aggressive method of dealing with a kind of programming they don’t like.

    None of these options make them look like the sort of people you’d want to give your money and time to. Throw the obviously bullshit “explanation” on top of that and it’s even more terrible.

    Fie on these people, I say. Feh.

  147. One thing to keep in mind is that this is a British convention, which means the place to meet authors and editors is in the bar. The bar will be in a very easily accessed location, and it will be filled with at least the British writers, because Britain. Writers. Convention. You don’t need to go to a Kaffeeklatch to meet people.

  148. The coffee and cake must be *really* good. I mean, we’re talking at least a caramel slice. Possibly even a choccy hobnob.

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