Attendance was decent, and the location of the Huntington Center right next to the Browns stadium and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pretty good. Plenty of parking, both paid and free, and a beautiful grassy park area that extends up over the convention center itself, which is situated between two streets that slope down to Lake Eyrie.
Now on to the bad, of which there is PLENTY.
I've been exhibiting full time since 2014, traveling around the country in my RV with two dogs, and Wizard is *by far* the worst experience for the price out there. I have had plenty of successful Wizard shows, but they are usually at the "cheaper" venues like Austin and OKC where the price of a booth isn't nearly doubled for the privilege of exhibiting in a "big" city.
The trouble in Cleveland started with the emails.
When it came time to select my "Top 5" booth space requests, I noticed that I was getting emails for an Inline booth instead of the corner upgrade that I paid for.
I brought this to the attention of Heather Barnes, who is supposedly the Artist's Alley "manager" only to be told that it was a simple clerical error and that I indeed had a corner booth reserved.
This was followed up with two more emails asking me to pick an inline booth which I ignored based on the previous reply. I get to the Huntington Center in Cleveland and, lo and behold, I have been assigned an inline booth.
I walk back to the check-in and explain the situation, and while cordial enough, it's clear that she doesn't really care where I end up, but has to deal with this issue for real now that I'm there in person and won't be dismissed with an email explanation.
She gives me a new location at a corner this time and I walk back to setup. Only the "corner" space that they have assigned me is blocked by one of the 4 foot wide support columns that dot the show floor, rendering half of the space unusable, and blocked to any traffic that would otherwise pass through what should be a main thoroughfare had the space been laid out properly.
Back to the check-in I go, and now she's definitely annoyed with me if you can believe that. I tell her that I either need a real corner space or a refund on the upgrade price and she passes me off to Em, who is supposedly another "manager," who tells me there aren't any other corners available, despite the fact that I had passed several empty corners in AA, and with the show about to start in less than two hours, not looking like they are likely to be filled on time by any other vendors. It turns out that those spaces were reserved for "talent" who wouldn't be able to make it to Cleveland due to the bad weather in Philly that delayed/cancelled several flights, but they would rather keep them empty "just in case" any of the missing vendors decided to drive or whatever.
They say they have an inline Crafters Booth available and I say "fine" because the show is about to start and I need to get setup.
I send an email to Mai (who handles the financial stuff) explaining the situation and ask her to roll over the extra money I paid for a corner upgrade into my upcoming booth request at Philly, but don't get any response. A week passes, and still no response.
I send another email and this time receive a reply that financials for Cleveland have closed, and there is nothing she can do about it, and that she had been informed that I was given an "upgrade" to a Crafter's Booth, to which I reply that had I wanted a crafter's booth I would have paid for one, and that it was the corner space that I needed, as they obviously provide more visibility. I go on to explain everything that happened and the reply I receive is from Heather, who is less than polite in telling me that I should be happy with the "upgrade" that I was given, that they had been "extremely accomodating" to me on site, and that I wouldn't be accepted in any future bookings; all for asking them to deliver what I paid for.
As if I was interested in *ever* doing another Wizard World after this.
I respond that this is why nobody in the industry has anything good to say about Wizard shows, and why their stock has steadily crashed over the last several years (currently trading at around $0.25 from a high of $1.14 in 2014), and that I would be initiating a chargeback with PayPal and Amex, including the fees I had already paid for the upcoming show in Philly.
The reply I received to that isn't printable here.
I have since learned that they have systematically fired/laid off almost ALL of their office staff that knows anyting about the comic book industry, and it is basically a handful of women running the show who don't know anything about business in general, much less pop culture and comics.
It's also worth mentioning that there have been a plethora of non-comic or pop-culture related vendors all over the show floor at *every* Wizard show I've ever done (I think I'm up to 10-12), think massage booths, cable companies, etc., indicating that they are having trouble filling their booths, but they are still willing to cast aside an *actual* comic painter like me over a $50 screw-up on THEIR part.