Anime Midwest

Anime Midwest was held over the weekend of July 5-7, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, one of the northern suburbs of Chicago. It's not as big as Anime Central, but it's still a big convention.

Because we had been at AniMinneapolis the weekend before, we'd been staying with family in downstate Illinois in between. We headed up to the Chicago area on Thursday afternoon for evening setup, and actually made better time than expected. However, when we got there we ended up having a little aggravation with the parking and getting our stuff into our sleeping room. The bellman insisted on helping us get our stuff up to the room, with no opportunity to get our own merchant cart out and use it -- and then I had to park the van while my husband was getting checked in. It was annoying, and the tip to the bellman added to the expenses we had to meet before we started making money.

Because we wanted a room on a lower floor to accommodate my husband's mobility issues, we got upgraded to one in their executive wing. That meant we had a big, spacious room, but I didn't think the amenities were all that much better. There were never enough towels and washcloths the whole time we were there. For as much as we were paying, they shouldn't have been so stingy on the towels.

Then we headed down to the dealers' room to start loading in. We had a local friend helping us, and a couple of other people we'd connected with on the con's online forum. After the first few loads another dealer lent us his cart. Because it was lighter than ours, I didn't put as heavy of loads on it, but it still enabled us to get everything in much faster than we could have otherwise.

Once everything was in, we started setting up. However, we didn't get as much done as we were hoping to, because they ended up closing earlier than stated on the dealers' information. I almost got locked out because I had been carrying empty boxes back out to the van, but I got back just in time to retrieve my personal belongings to take back up to our sleeping room. We turned in for the night, knowing that we'd need to get started early the next morning to get everything set up before the doors opened.

Friday we got up early and had a breakfast of bagels we'd brought, since such a fancy hotel doesn't provide a complimentary breakfast. Then we headed down to the dealers' room to finish setting up. Since we were doing our second big con in a row without a chance to restock, and we weren't able to sell pocky and ramuné here, we were down on merchandise and ended up putting out some stuff we don't usually display. But we wanted to make sure our displays didn't look picked over.

We actually got ready a little before the doors opened, which gave us time to sit down and eat our lunch in peace instead of having to gulp it between customers. Then the customers started pouring in and it was nonstop busy until closing time. We did well to grab snacks and pop here and there to sustain ourselves. Because we were so busy, we each had a ledger to record purchases, and I had to consolidate everything at the end of the day.

By the end of the day on Friday, I was glad to be able to call it quits and rest. I knew that the night was going to be short, but at least when we went through our money, we knew we'd already made expenses.

On Saturday we had breakfast on more bagels we'd brought with us. Then we headed down to the dealers' room for another day of sales. Once again we were so busy that we were lucky to get away for bathroom breaks. I was very glad when volunteers brought cups of ramen noodle soup and rice from the con suite for us to eat, since it helped to stretch our supply of snack foods and keep us going.

We had one very annoying customer give us grief. She'd bought a t-shirt and now she wanted to return it. Not an exchange on the wrong size or an unnoticed flaw, just buyer's remorse. We explained that we'd refund a defective item, but not buyer's remorse. All of a sudden she starts getting all upset and wailing about how she wouldn't have enough money to get home if we didn't give her her money back (should've budgeted your money better, lady). We were going to hold firm, but when she acted like she was about to start bawling and people started to stare, we ended up backing down simply so we wouldn't look like complete heartless ogres and lose other customers. Still, the emotional outburst had the feel of a calculated display for manipulative value, not a genuine loss of control in the face of overwhelming despair, especially since this woman was not a teen, but someone in her thirties or early forties, clearly an independent adult.

By the time the dealers' room closed for the evening, we were ready for a break. We headed up to the room and had supper, and went through our money. We were doing so well that I would be glad to come back if only it weren't run by a guy that's been accused of a serious crime. Even if he's dodged this bullet, it's possible he could get in more trouble down the road, and I'd hate to have table money tied up if all his cons came crashing down.

After supper we went down to the hotel lobby to use their free WiFi. I also did some writing while my husband caught up on his games. Then we headed back to the room to catch some sleep.

On Sunday we had to allow enough extra time to get our personal belongings loaded out to the van. This time we were not going to pay for a tip for the bellman, so we had our own cart there in the room. I had a little fun finding my way out to the van through the maze of the hotel, but I did manage to get everything out in a single trip.

Then I came back in one last time to gather the things we took down to the dealers' room with us. It also gave us the opportunity to make a last-minute inspection of the room and make sure we hadn't forgotten anything.

The last day was still busy, although by this point we were getting low on a number of very popular t-shirt designs. Because we were so busy, we delayed packing until it was almost time for the dealers' room to close.

Because of the awful logistics, it took us a fair amount of time to get everything loaded out, in spite of having emptied several boxes. I also had to deal with a worn-out box that broke on us. But we got everything loaded in time to get on the road before it got dark. We just had to get down to my folks' place that evening, and we continued on our way home the next day.

Copyright 2013 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated July 30, 2013.