My experience at MegaCon 2013 at the OCCC in Orlando, FL.

MegaCon 2013 banners.

I pedicabbed for the event on the first 2 days but on the last day, I went inside to do some comic book and toy shopping. It’s been several years since I went into a MegaCon. I used to go with friends for fun but this time was all business. I had a list of comics I needed and getting everything on it was my number one focus. Notice how I used past tense in the last sentence? Grammar aside, I’ll get into more details about how things went for me inside the event and that list was a big part of it.

I arrived around noon on Friday, March 15th to the sight of what looked like a million pedicabs in the South Concourse parking lot where overflow traffic was being directed to. And more pedicabs were arriving via U-Haul. For a Friday, when kids are still in school and people are still at work, it was overkill and made for a slower than expected day. For some reason, drivers don’t understand the concept of “too many pedicabs.” When that happens, nobody makes money. That’s why, for me, it’s important to have other options where there’s far less competition (or none) and higher attendance which would hopefully translates into more money.

I still had an acceptable average per hour on Friday but it slowed down to the point where it was time for me to go home because, again, too many pedicabs were staging and not nearly enough were getting rides. For the amount of time I worked, I’m happy with what I took home but you gotta know when it’s time to leave so you’re not wasting your time and I’m the type of guy that has better things to do with it. Friday wasn’t the day for so many drivers to be out. Saturday is the day that can support that number of pedicabs and that day was just as busy as expected.

Saturday, March 16th is always the big day for MegaCon and last year, I came out pretty good but this year, being more experienced and better prepared, I had a goal to exceed last year‘s tally and I blew it out of the water by implementing a different strategy that only one other driver was doing similarly. When a large event takes place at the West Concourse and parking overflows to the South parking lot, if you know how to pitch and quote, the tips are great. Dropoffs usually take place at Hall A but MegaCon was happening at Hall D. To me, it didn’t make sense to drop people off somewhere and they’d still have to walk quite a distance to get to their final destination when I could take them there.

Additionally, until around the exit of an event, we usually dropoff and return to the parking lot to get another ride. As I said earlier, I’ve attended many a MegaCon in the past. I know how these people think. They attend to be social, promote something, show their geek pride by dressing in costume, shop, meet celebrities, and hot girls attend to show off their assets like they do on Halloween. Hot girls need attention, after all. Not all, but most. You’ll rarely see them dressed like Yomiko Readman but you’ll see plenty of them showing as much skin as Shura Kirigakure. All attendees have one thing in common: they’ll eventually get tired of walking. That doesn’t translate into them wanting to take a pedicab ride but the odds are increased and that also means they’ll leave the event earlier. Some people stay all day, all night (like I used to). Others that aren’t that heavy into geekdom will do their biz and leave when they’re done and they were my target.

On Friday, on some occasions, my staging spot at Hall D was overrun by pedicabs. That rarely happened on Saturday where competition was little to none in that spot. It made no sense for me to stage in a line and look like just another pedicab when I could look like the ONLY pedicab instead. When there’s a glut of pedicabs, people don’t see them as in demand so they won’t use them or they’ll tip less. When you’re the only game in town, the power comes back to you, the driver.

Saturday’s parking situation was a madhouse because there was another convention (the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Expo) going on at the North Concourse that took place outdoors and it filled up an entire section of parking spaces. Add in the number of people who had to park for that convention and you have pretty much the whole North lot unavailable until that convention ended. That meant MegaCon attendees had to wait in traffic for hours just to park and I heard the complaints. The convention center had to open the parking garage on Destination Parkway to handle the overflow. I don’t recall them ever doing that before. The parking lot around it I’ve seen used but the garage itself? Never. It was crazy.

MegaCon groups in front of Hall C.

Crazy good, that is! I arrived around 11am to work on Saturday and the North/South lots were already completely full and they were parking people in the grass. Seeing what I saw the day before, I put in place something I never have before: flat rate pricing. Charging per ride isn’t a technique used often, if ever. It’s usually per person or based on tips. Mostly all of my rides are based on what I call average tips. When people start paying more for the ride, what they pay on average is what I quote. I was getting for one or two people what I’d normally get for three to 5 people. It was great because my pitch involved dropping them off right at the front door and that’s important for an event that involved a lot of walking inside.

Everyone was getting their rides and making money but I wanted to make more. I had to put in a little extra effort for mine due to the distance of Hall D from the most used parking areas but I was tipped more than properly each and every time except for on 3 occasions. Two were heavy loads that I didn’t quote high enough and another was to a hotel that I didn’t know where it was and I charged per person which was a mistake because the hotel wasn’t as close as they made it out to be. Lesson learned. When I dropped off at Hall D, I didn’t turn tail and head back to the parking lot empty for another ride. I never waited more than 5 minutes for a ride at any point in the day. Practicing a little patience, it didn’t take long for someone to take a ride when I staged. To a parking lot or a hotel or a restaurant, someone needed a ride. For the majority of the day, I always had someone on my pedicab and at the end of the day, it took its toll.

I mostly rode on the street because the sidewalks were packed with people. Early in the day, you couldn’t even ride on the street going towards the overflow parking because traffic wasn’t moving. People were saying it was the same way on the highway. Flat rate pricing worked fantastically. It’s not a technique I’ll use often because there aren’t many events that are this busy where I’ll have my own area to work without competition. Always having a ride is something that won’t happen often, either. This just happened to be the event and the day when it happened. The day was so good that it was my third highest average per hour.

I said earlier that all the rides took their toll. I was out of juice in the middle of the evening and attempted to leave when a party of 5 stopped me for a ride back to the convention. I quoted them high, hoping they wouldn’t take the ride so I could take my ass home, but they were willing to pay and I was willing to work for that amount of money. I could’ve just said I wasn’t for hire but I wasn’t THAT tired. After that, I was officially spent of all energy and around that time, I saw a lot of pedicabs staging and empty so it dried up anyway. There was a food truck event going on at the Rosen Plaza and I was tempted to hit it up, not only to try some new food but also to fill myself up with some protein. I needed meat and needed it bad. I opted out because I wanted to eat at my car while packing in for the night and there were closer options available.

It was an excellent day and if I had chosen to work on Sunday, March 17th, it would’ve been a record weekend. My original plan was to work the entrance of MegaCon on Sunday then go inside with a friend who I was gonna meet up with. He has kids so you already know what happened. I ended up flying solo and spent several hours inside. I didn’t bother working in the day. When I was pedicabbing, I didn’t see any celebrities outside but there was one insect costume that was well done and a black chick dressed like Shiro from Deadman Wonderland that stood out. Everything else was pretty much the same old, same old. Not that many Narutards, either.

MegaCon.

Patrick Stewart got the most buzz out of everyone. I didn’t get to see him inside but I saw a lot of creators. The show floor was pretty big. In years past, everything was combined into one big area. It’s clearly grown since last I attended and it was separated into 3 areas: an open area for whatever, the sales floor, and a creator zone (that’s the best description I have for it). First thing I saw when I walked in was a crowd formed around something so I had to check it out. It was a small ring for midget wrestling (MCW – Micro Championship Wrestling). I’m a huge wrestling fan but I wasn’t able to see the ring. They should’ve set that up better and maybe I would’ve stuck around for a match or two.

I don’t know the cost of exhibiting for MegaCon but it’s pretty smart business to have something like that at a place like the convention center to expose your brand although you gotta have it setup right to offer a better experience. My main focus was comic books and if I spotted some good toy and merchandise deals, I would’ve scooped something up. I had my list handy and I also had a runny nose. That totally sucked because I had to constantly get clean, dry paper towels to wipe my nose and I had to use one hand to sort through comics, the other to catch any nose drips. It was horrible. Why now, dammit!?

Flipping through comic boxes with one hand was a major pain in the ass. Always having to cover my nose was another. I was a crippled shopper but not contagious. I still did my thing while being respectful enough to only use my clean hand to touch anything. I went in with a lot of money but only spent 11 bucks because they just didn’t have much of what I was looking for. Here I am wanting to support the economy and very few vendors have anything worth buying. Most of them had a lot of the same things. They gotta diversify. It’s an opportunity for someone with vision to learn what attendees want and give it to them. That’s how you make money.

Not that people weren’t buying because I talked to a vendor and he said Saturday was insanely busy. It was so packed with people that you could barely move. That was the day most people have off. That’s the day when most special events and appearances are held. And that’s the day I’d never attend that convention. I’ve learned that Sunday is the best day to go for shoppers because that’s when vendors lower their prices to dump the shit that didn’t sell. As the day went on, that’s exactly what happened. For example, what were half-off trade paperbacks became $5 each in a lot of places.

It could be that a lot of the good stuff was sold on the other days but what I wanted wasn’t new. There was another guy I talked to who was collecting older titles from several years ago like me. We found some stuff here and there for cheap, as low as 50 cents per book, but in my case, I didn’t get to complete any titles and I LOST MY LIST! A vendor asked me what books I was looking for. I told him I had a list and I’ll be god damned if I couldn’t find it. I had it on paper. Next time, I’ll have it on paper and stored in my phone. Too bad they don’t announce lost lists over the P.A. system.

I was looking to fill four specific titles: Marvel’s Civil War, Rising Stars, Marvel Zombies, and DC’s Justice. I didn’t see barely anything for Justice from any vendor. I managed to get all but one Rising Stars issue to complete my collection. I got a few Civil War titles but without my list, it made it harder to know what I needed. I found very few essential Marvel Zombies books to get me started chronologically. I’ve been ordering my books online, mostly from milehighcomics.com, but as I’ve stated in previous articles, they’re not offering up deep enough discounts yet.

There’ll be more cons coming up and I might attend some. I didn’t see any new books worth buying to try out that were on sale. I also got the first volume of Marvel’s The Twelve for a great price. I want to get Superman: Earth One but there were no good discounts anywhere for a title of that popularity and that makes sense but that’s what people are there for: discounts! You gotta offer ‘em up one way or another. You gotta stand out from the herd of other vendors somehow. Loss leaders. That’s how you do it. Give up the good stuff for less to lure people in and they just might grab something from the el cheapo pile or maybe a statue or some trading cards.

I didn’t see anyone I knew but did recognize some faces I’ve seen from around the way. The toy, poster, and t-shirt selection was either limited or overpriced. I ain’t paying 30 bucks for a Marvel Legends or Transformer that I could get at Walmart for half that. Some of those vendors are ridiculous with their pricing, as always. That’s why a lot of shit was still sitting there after 3 days. Variety, people. Sell me something I want but either can’t get in this country or in any store. I had the money to spend but nothing to spend it on. Can’t say I was disappointed but I am saying I’d employ a different sales strategy for an event of this magnitude. TMNT? He-Man? Dragon Ball? Even G.I. Joe? Barely anything!

I didn’t go in to network and not so much for fun. I stuck to the sales floor looking for what I needed and left. When I was younger, events like MegaCon were always on my schedule to attend and I have great memories but now, the appeal ain’t so great because I’ve developed other hobbies. I’ll pedicab at the event to make money, that’s obvious, but to attend it again, who knows. Depends on my needs and what they’re offering on and beyond the sales floor. That vendor I spoke to said he’d hope that they’d move the convention to a bigger building, likely back to the South Concourse, to accommodate the masses of people attending but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. He wasn’t complaining about how busy it was on Saturday but logistically, it needs improvement since the convention is growing and that’s a good thing.

MegaCon exhibition floor.

There was no police presence directing traffic and pedestrians. I assume because the convention didn’t pay for it and that contributed to the road conditions being as deplorable as they were. I’d be extremely frustrated having to sit in that traffic for a convention that has limited opening hours. Time idling and then having to walk long distances is time that could’ve been spent inside having fun. You got it, that was used as a pitch to get rides and to get a bigger tip. A pitch should cater to the event and audience. Some people use the same tired shit and it just doesn’t work. And they wonder why they’re not making the type of money others are. Some don’t pitch at all. What are you doing driving a pedicab again?

Illegal pedicabs on convention center property was a huge issue that needs to be addressed and dealt with but that’s a discussion for another time. I’m not sure who provided the shuttle buses but I’ve learned that it can be a good source for rides because people will get tired of waiting at some point. It doesn’t help when you’re already in a line. It does help when you’re sitting in that line after sitting in traffic and seeing an empty pedicab waiting to provide you with immediate service. Catching people in the shuttle bus line for rides at the North Concourse was better than catching people leaving their cars. It happened more than once where multiple parties wanted a ride. Whoever was willing to pay more got the ride.

The weather was on the warm side. No rain. Not that windy. Factoring in the number of rides and distance of those rides, about 10 degrees cooler would’ve been preferred. Sometimes you gotta focus on the number of rides to make money. I focused on quality over quantity this time around. Why use or waste energy unnecessarily? Saturday was one of those days to be proud of. Friday was a sign of things to come for future conventions where there may be so many that no one can make good money. We’ll see. Sunday let me know I’ll have to stick to online shopping for the best deals but I won’t write cons off completely.

One party complained that the food prices inside the convention were too high. Why spend that kind of money when you can go to a real restaurant down the street and get a real meal and dining experience? I gave them their ride but I have to say, at one MegaCon me and a friend went to, a vendor was serving cooked food and it was some of the best food we ever had, no lie. The next year we went, we were more looking forward to eating food from that vendor again than anything else but they weren’t there. What I’m saying is, not all convention food is bad food. When you give the little guy a chance, sometimes they’ll surprise you.

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