Eventerpocalypse: Major Force

Being underneath a rock for the past month and change, thanks to the internet, I know what’s going on? But more realistically, did people travel to, say, Anime Boston, not knowing it’s cancelled? If you did please let me know because I want to know your story.

In a more sober note, obviously as someone who’s done 5+ cons a year for the past…decade plus(?), I have this itch that needs scratching badly. Camping on hotel carpet floors waiting in line for events while talking to other like-minded people is not really what I miss…but I even miss that now. What I really miss is the anticipation and sometimes, the payoff. Thus, Anime Boston being my first real casualty this year is already a small acknowledgement hitting home. I enjoy Takahashi Minami, OK? Of course, I am pretty lucky that I still have a job, I can still pay my bills, and I’m in good health. I appreciate all the delivery guys and retail folks, some who are also in my life as friends and family, let alone the MDs and RNs and EMTs and whoever else out there actually fighting the pandemic. Other personal eventing hits can be better checked in my ongoing eventing log, which is also pinned to the front page of the blog.

With that out of the way, here’s what you should do regarding US/Canadian cons. I’ll write, later, some stuff about the other event types.

  • Assume cons are cancelled for all of 2020. That means, yes you, AWA and Anime NYC. Until Americans have a widely available vaccine, you can be sure nobody is going to allow non-essential, entertainment events of large scale to happen. USA took on huge economic tolls, as tens of millions of people lost their jobs, in order to slow the spread. This is the context we operate in, so short of a vaccine, there is no chance anything that will scale the virus on 10000s of people will happen. Especially when it’s a 100% leisure activity. Vaccine timeline is on the order of a year, so best case scenario we’ll be looking at early 2021 for a vaccine–probably more like mid-late 2021 given that it’s not trivial to produce and administer hundreds of millions of these, and that’s just for Americans.
  • Don’t worry about cons announcing cancellations. It doesn’t matter–you’re not going to go to any cons in 2020 anyways. Do keep track who is cancelled and how the refund policy works.
  • Do know that cons vary a lot. Some are for profit, lowest-common-denominating gravy trains; some are educational non-profit foundations trying to bring the most woke Japanese acts (w). Cons are in different financial shape–just like the XFL, some cons might go bankrupt after this year, some aren’t. Who knows? If by delaying the cancellation, con organizations can have a better outcome, these cons will. And it doesn’t really matter because you, an attendee, won’t be going to any of them anyways. It doesn’t matter if they announce cancellations early or late, you aren’t going to go anyways, because it will be cancelled sooner or later.
  • Cons can save money sometimes by cancelling closer to the actual date, because in order to trigger escape clauses and insurance claims, certain government policies have to be announced. Until it happens, they will wait before they can announce anything.
  • Please don’t harass people who run cons or even pester them. Everybody knows what’s going on, especially people responsible dealing with cons, it’s what they do. And con runenrs are definitely having a harder time than you! If you don’t think so, then you really should forget about cons and spend your free time solving what’s troubling you. I mean what’s really at stake anyways, unless you are an artist or vendor who relies on cons?
  • Speaking of people who are having a hard time, for artists and vendors, well, I hope you applied for that SBA loan (PPP). I heard it kinda didn’t work so well. My condolences. And you have a real standing to pester cons for refunds, because that’s your livelihood.
  • Refund vs roll over? If you know you’re going next year, it’s better to roll it over. If anything, there’s a chance the price will increase because every con that had to cancel lost money! If you need the money back or if you don’t know you can go, then yeah of course, try to get it refunded. Expect price increases in the near future, across the board, is what I’m saying.

On Force Majeure: It’s fancy legal term for “act of god” which is a bigger label for things that relates to ways contracts may terminate due to unforeseeable circumstances beyond the parties’ control. Basically, unless something like that happens, people are expected to follow on contracts they signed. Most legal contracts that’s worth anything will have some kind of clause governing when an force majeure situation happens, and basically it will spell out what happens, usually saying something about being conscionable or whatever (TL note: some of the deposit or payment will get returned; sometimes all, sometimes not). It might also include a list of naturally occurring events that are excluded or included as a situation where force majeure occurs. In general, things that commonly happen are not acts of god. Obviously nobody would disagree that government shutting down cons to fight a pandemic is an act of god in terms of executing contracts related to an anime convention. (Maybe this is why the country is in trouble, LOL.)

It gets more complicated in that different types of contracts care about this on different levels. Most service type contracts (catering, venue rental) would not really go too deep into this, but insurance contracts usually do. Because, well, it’s insurance. Good insurance policies precisely cover weird stuff that nobody can foresee. Cheap/bad ones spells out that they do not cover whack things. You pay for the difference. And pretty sure, some cons have corona related things covered by insurance, some do not.

Key thing here is, since what happens in a force majeure is defined by the contract specifically, what happens to a con in a force majeure is not universal. Different contracts can have different terms dealing with it. While most contracts these days for stuff like what cons do are quite similar/boilerplate, not all of them are the same and so it’s probably bad to compare one con’s legal situation with another. Further, different cons are in different financial shape too. For-profit cons also have different limitations versus nonprofit. And this is not like buying things off Amazon.com, cons are negotiating with other businesses who are suffering in this economic weather as well, so the money cons already ponied up might not make it back, or it might get deferred to next year, whatever. It’s up to each con to negotiate how that’s done with their suppliers.

For an anime con, think of like, renting a wedding hall. You have to put down a deposit well ahead of time (probably last year, for 2020 cons, if not earlier), and then closer to the event you are due the rest of the amount. For cons like AB I’m sure they paid all of that before the Federal emergency declaration.

The other consideration in this domino effect of corona cancellation is the leniency of the venue. The venue is easily the most expensive part of running a con. Or rather, venue including hotels. Since most cons deal with big hotel chains, they are actually easier to deal with in terms of event cancellation, as they have national (or even international) sensitivities, and a lot more of their money comes from individuals anyways. Organizations are closer to loss leaders (hotels make real money from selling hotel rooms to people going to the ballroom, not renting out ballrooms). Con centers owned by companies specialized in event rentals, especially like big ones like AEG, really do not have as much leeway (it’s all of their revenue, vs hotels), and likely will be way less lenient. Con centers affiliated with local municipalities will likely lean with the government announcements, but it’s not a sure thing. But a lot of those locally owned con centers don’t have shareholders, and you know what that means…

Hope this info is helpful, we already know the internet is crap when it comes to misinformation in the corona era, let’s not add more to it.

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