Sold Out!

This is the internet of our discontent.

Fans complain when an e-commerce site crashes and keeps them from making a desired purchase.

They also complain when a site works with perfect efficiency.

There ain’t no justice!

Tickets to San Diego’s Comic-Con International 2011 sold out in seven hours last Saturday, February 5. Internet and TV news outlets made breathless reports that the overwhelming demand crashed the online ticketing system three times. Fans vented their frustration about repeatedly getting “Over Capacity” error messages.

Ticket Leap reached out with technical explanations about why their system was not prepared for the unprecedented strain:

In 2009, [Comic-Con] sold out after 6 months. In 2010, it sold out in 2 months. On Saturday, Comic-Con International 2011 sold out in 7 HOURS (200x faster than last year if you’re keeping track). Needless to say, the demand was unbelievable, reaching a peak of 403,000 page requests per minute and a total of more than 35 million total page requests throughout the day.

An interesting contrast to the Comic-Con ticket story is what happened the first day that the 2011 Worldcon accepted online hotel reservations.

Renovation’s hotels the Atlantis, Peppermill and Courtyard by Marriott began taking online reservations on January 18. The Atlantis is the designated party hotel and it’s the closest to the convention center, to which it’s inked by an air-conditioned sky bridge. Doubtless these attributes are the why fans reserved every available room in the Atlantis on the first day.  

When that happened a few fans felt the committee deserved criticism, yet it’s hard to pin down what they ought to be blamed for. Quite unlike Comic-Con’s situation, fans wanting to reserve a room for the Worldcon seemed to have no trouble getting through to request reservations. And I personally think that was the story. No system crash. Information readily available. Either people were able to make reservations where they wanted, or they immediately found out their first choice was unavailable and they needed to pick an alternative.

That’s an infinitely better situation than the days of paper forms when it’d be weeks before you found out whether the tourist bureau had put you in your first choice or somewhere else. (That’s right! When I was your age we didn’t have the internet, we had to walk 20 miles through the snow to…) And rooms are still available at the other official Worldcon hotels.

However, all the Comic-Con tickets are gone. Honestly, beneath the media’s surface treatment of this as a pop culture consumer crisis the stories really seemed to be a coded celebration of Comic-Con’s commercial prowess. So many people want tickets they broke the computer!

Surely Comic-Con’s organizers must be delighted when news coverage increases the pressure felt by the City of San Diego to do whatever it takes to keep the event in town for the long term. Because overshadowing last weekend’s story about frustrated ticket customers is the fact that an enormous number of people do have tickets and will be coming in July to enrich the local economy.

7 thoughts on “Sold Out!

  1. I have a simple solution to the country’s problem with enlisting men for the armed forces. Draft everyone under the age of 30 who applies for a membership at SDC. The US Army will surely have enough able bodies, then, to invade Iran! Maybe Cuba too!

    Just kidding.

    How many would really be “able?” : )

  2. Would you believe that Google I/O (the Google Developer’s Conference, in May) sold out in 50 minutes this year? And had similar over-capacity problems with online registration?

    When I say it’s a 5,000 person conference the first is believable if crazy, but the second is absurd. Then again, for some reason the I/O reservations system was running on Coldfusion, rather than on one of Google’s own technologies. At least when it blew chunks they didn’t have to take all the blame.

  3. …when I was your age, kids, I had to write twenty miles through the twilltone, uphill all the way, to get to the Gestetner…you kids have no idea. You and your new fangled technologies, Bet you think a collating party is some fringe political group. I’d like to see you try and wade through one going in the wrong direction.
    No, ‘cut a stencil’ is not an old-fashioned euphemism for breaking wind.
    Kids these days, Sheesh!

  4. IMHO a big part of the Atlantis/Peppermill issue is that there was no noticeable reward for being willing to walk a few blocks. I’ve never signed up for the closest hotel to the convention center before, but since it was basically the same price…

    As for crashes: it seems like the more high-profile and desired the event, the more willing the people behind it seem to be to tolerate crashes and instant sellouts, no matter how many fans are upset.

  5. Petrea: the rates Reno offered were the best we could get from each hotel, and they ended up at the same figure. (I am sure they know each other’s positions pretty well so we should probably not have been surprised). I don’t think it would have been appropriate to try to create an artificial reward by asking the Atlantis to increase their prices from what they were willing to offer.

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