Volunteers aka Staff now have to pay to be a part of Phoenix Comicon

Volunteering for Comic Conventions everywhere is always fun. It offers you a chance for a free pass, benefits and for some who can’t afford a pass, it’s the only way they can get in and at least enjoy the atmosphere. There are so many benefits to volunteering at a comic con giving up your time for the better of a show that does wonders for people.

The Comic Con market is saturated around the states & even other countries almost one every weekend somewhere or another. Due to the over saturation this leaves no reason for people to have the NEED to buy, when they can just wait a couple more weeks for a different show. Shows are trying everything they can to not fade out and be one of the top leaders in the markets, but the latest move from some in the Arizona geek scene seems a little less appealing. Phoenix Comicon wants your time and help to host a great show but you need to pay to do it. Most recently the People at Phoenix Comicon (PCC) have posted some news regarding how to be a volunteer, or the term they use “Staff” at their future shows starting in 2017.

From Phoenix Convention Director Matthew Solberg: 

“As we move into 2017 with our shift to utilizing the Blue Ribbon Army for our staffing needs…

This does require those who wish to continue to be on staff to become a dues paying member of Blue Ribbon Army, with annual memberships beginning at twenty dollars for 2017.  We know for some this is no issue and for others this will be a no decision on continuing to be a member of staff.”

One of the major reasons for this was supposedly they had problems with volunteers claiming the benefits of being one, but not showing up for their duty during the show. I think that was more of an issue within the convention staff, not keeping track or staying organized themselves and/or screening their volunteers when they sign up.

20 dollars is the going rate for the membership to the Blue Ribbon Army and other membership levels are available as well. 20 dollars may not seem like a lot to a few people and to some may seem like 200 dollars, those that have been a part of the Blue Ribbon Army for a while now may not be as “disgruntled” about it as much as the next person. This on top of everything else that comes out of pocket to attend a convention when you are volunteering your time. The photo ops, the autographs the merchandise, this may not seem like a lot, but will make some think twice about buying. This in all else will have an impact on the vendors and exhibitors at the show.

Reasons it’s an iky amongst other words kind of move…

Forcing people to pay membership fees to a non profit social club: Somehow just seems inappropriate to me. The only way to get to us is to go through them mentality staffing wise. Sure there is nothing wrong with helping a charity and people who don’t want to, don’t have to. Seems like a back door to make money for the Phoenix Comicon themselves and make it legitimate on paper by going through a non profit. Somehow just seems inappropriate to me for a Non Profit to have that much pull for a company, or a company having that much pull with a non profit and previously being "unofficial".

Phoenix Comicon's loyalty seems to go green: I am not talking about the environmental green either, I am talking about money. It seems like Phoenix Comicon is more concerned about making money now, than the loyalty of the fans, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors that made it what it is today. This announcement followed by the one announced back in October about preferred seating for panels, seemed like a way to get more money for their bottom line. This I find more true to the fact they are dominating the Arizona Comic Con Geek scene at the moment and are taking advantage while they can.

Creating a two tiered fandom or a clique: Seeming people are better than others, those that have no problem spending and arm and a leg at a comic convention, compared to those who don’t or can’t. Even with the tiers they are going to have when you sign up for the Blue Ribbon Army membership and the board will be choosing the staff. Whose to say they aren’t going to be picking the ones that pay more so they will be sure to return and get more for their dollar? Paying the membership does not even guarantee you a staff spot, only a chance at one.

Owning the Convention Scene: In the convention director's email says "Wizard World (conventions) lost $4.2 million last year", I believe due to coming off as greedy and an over saturated market. More recently the loss of the Amazing Arizona Comic Con leaving the Arizona market, makes sense why they did, and now PCC swoops in to dominate the scene. Does it work for them, more than likely being one of the only major comic con scenes out here at the moment, people will feel they have no choice should they want to volunteer.

Ever changing arguments: The reason behind this makes sense to an extent, but the bigger picture it does not, as there are other ways this type of thing could have been handled. Maybe going through the Blue Ribbon Army first for staffing, them having priority and being guaranteed a staffing spot since they are paying dues. Even having realistic staffing numbers than the ones mentioned in the email, from the convention director if this show wants to grow.

Aside from all that, the Marketing Manager Kristin Rowan reached out shortly after I posted on social media I wanted to write an article about this. I thought of some questions to ask for clarity, and thought it would be best to hear it directly from a reliable source. Some answers have me thinking PCC is the 501(c)(7).

There are different tiers to the BRA membership, this could entail that the ones paying the higher amounts will be selected for most of the roles rather than those just paying 20 Whose to say that wouldn't be the case?
The tiered membership levels offer additional benefits to all members, which are listed on the Blue Ribbon Army website. The levels are in no way tied to selection of staff positions on the Phoenix Comicon committee. As it is impossible to prove a negative, the proof of this can only be established as each team is formed.

Does paying the membership of 20.00 or any for that matter guarantee you a staff spot at PCC shows? Or just a chance for you to be chosen?
The short answer is "no". Once all staff positions are filled, being a member of Blue Ribbon Army will not guarantee a staff position that is not available. However, anyone interested in applying for an open position can do so without joining Blue Ribbon Army. Once that person is selected, membership in Blue Ribbon Army is required before officially accepting the position.

They say this is a change mostly due to people not showing up for shifts yet claiming benefits, do you think the PCC staff within itself did all it could before resorting to these new guidelines?
Staff not showing up for shifts but claiming benefits is one of the many reasons for this change, but not the only one. But, yes, internally, structures and consequences have been implemented to stop this from happening. 

For those that have no interest in joining the BRA for yearly events & only doing it specifically for your show is it going to be considered the new way or the highway?
At this point, all staff members will be members of Blue Ribbon Army, but there is no requirement to attend other events.

Those that have been loyal to your staffing even managers for the past few years, are there any chances for "grandfathering" people in. As in if a current manager does not want to be a BRA member & or pay yet know the dept. Like the back of their hand will you be unofficially letting them go?
The federal regulations of maintaining 501(c)(7) status require membership dues.

With the new changes & lately announced preferred seating charge it would seem PCC has lost sight of loyalty & concerned about going green as in only making money. Is there any clarification on this and/or other small fees we will be seeing before the big show in 2017?
There are always changes implemented to ensure the continued success of our shows. We did offer preferred seating options for a few panels at Phoenix Fan Fest and there have been some paid events at Phoenix Comicon as well. As of yet, no decision has been made regarding this for Phoenix Comicon this year. 

I am very much appreciative of Kristin taking time out of I am sure a busy week to answer some questions thank you!

There will be big changes for PCC in 2017, I am sad to say I didn’t have the best time volunteering last year and was one of the worst for me. I was really struggling about moving to another department and didn’t want to give up on it. I most certainly wouldn’t want to "pay" for another experience like last year, and don’t see much changing other than the amount of money coming out of my wallet.

I loved what I did at PCC and made some great friends. Do I think this is the best thing? NO. Do I agree and this? More than likely. Is it still cheaper than buying a pass? Yes. There are many valid arguments to this change overall and the concept behind it. I am not the biggest fan of this, but might give PCC the benefit of the doubt and try it. Why? because it will be something to write about on the site and share with you all, for those of you would be interested or those on the fence. I am sure if I do it will be in another department this year, and wishing PCC the best of luck implementing these new guidelines.

For the full note from the Convention Director you can check it out here 

What do you think? Do you think it’s a smart move by the people of Phoenix Comicon?
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