Youmacon 2013

Youmacon is Detroit's largest anime convention, held in the downtown convention center and several big hotels. This year it was held over the weekend of October 31-November 3, 2013. We'd thought about it last year, but weren't sure about going to downtown Detroit. However, at another con we met some people who'd attended it, so we decided to take a whack at it.

Because of the distance, and because they start load-in at noon on Thursday, we started the journey on Tuesday afternoon. Being gone so long also meant having to board the cat. We had a scary moment as we were about to leave with her. Our U-verse gateway suddenly crashed, and since our home security system's phone line runs through U-verse, we didn't want to leave until we were sure we had phone service. It came back up, but was still shaky, so I decided to take the cat up to the vet by myself. By the time I got back the U-verse gateway seemed to be stable, so we hit the road.

We got up to Fort Wayne, where we stayed overnight with family. On Wednesday morning we hit the road for the remainder of the trip. This enabled us to stop in Toledo and do some shopping, and still arrive in Detroit in good time. Because the downtown hotels were super-expensive, we decided to stay at a cheaper place in one of the suburbs and commute each day.

On Thursday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we took it easy until it was time to head downtown. However, that turned out to be a mistake. First, some really heavy rain had moved in, which made the drive slower than we'd anticipated. Second, the convention center's directions presupposed local knowledge, which meant we missed our turnoff the first time and had to go a long way before we could return.

As a result, we were almost half an hour late to load-in, and arrived to find a line of vehicles waiting to get in. They were taking four vehicles into the exhibit hall at a time to unload their vehicles at their booth. So we sat and waited, and I got a start on my con report.

When they finally brought us in, we were able to pull right up in front of our booth to unload. Furthermore, two big, burly guys showed up and helped get everything unloaded and piled in our area.

Once the van was empty, I had to drive it back out and find a parking lot. I was able to find one just down the street, but it was a bit more expensive than I'd anticipated.

The van parked, I hurried back to the dealers' room to set up. With so little available space, we soon discovered we wouldn't have the room to put out a lot of stuff, so we prioritized the anime and Asian-culture merchandise. We ended up with several boxes of backstock, but we figured that with such a large convention, we probably would sell enough to get most of it out.

We took some time to walk around and meet some of the other dealers. However, a lot of them hadn't even arrived or started setting up. So we headed back to our hotel room to get supper and some rest before starting in on sales. I was able to get some writing done, and we turned in fairly early.

On Friday we ate breakfast, then relaxed and took it easy for a while, since we had everything set up. However, that turned out to be something of a mistake, since parking turned out to be much harder to find. The first several lots were full, or more expensive than listed online. We finally found a place up by the Federal Building, but had to make sure we would indeed be able to stay into the evening without trouble. Then we had a long walk to the COBO Center and the dealers' room.

By this point most of the dealers were either set up or finishing the process, so we went around and visited. Then we hurried back to our tables when things opened.

We'd thought that, with attendance of 20,000 people, we'd be swamped with customers. At Anime Midwest, which had 9,000 people, we were barely able to keep up with the flow of transactions, and we had a friend helping us stay abreast of things.

Instead, we had a mere trickle of foot traffic, mostly window-shoppers. It seemed like I was constantly on my feet for very little revenue. By the time the day ended, I was quite disgusted by the pathetic level of sales we'd experienced.

In the dark we had a terrible time finding our way back to the parking lot and our van. Ours were the only vehicle left in the lot, and I was very glad to see it was safe.

We headed back to our hotel and took a little time to wind down before turning in. I did a little writing, since I'd had no writing time at the dealers' room, in spite of our pathetic sales. We both agreed that sales were going to have to pick up a lot to be worth returning in future years.

Saturday morning we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we stopped at a cheap gas station on the way out to fill up, since we knew we'd be in a hurry on Sunday.

Our biggest parking hassle was finding a lot that was open. So many of the lots cater to office workers and are only open on weekdays. We finally found a spot at a tiny one by the Greektown Casino, then had to trudge almost a mile in unpleasant drizzle.

We got our shop open for business and took a look around at other dealers' setups. Then the doors opened and we waited for the customers to flow in.

However, sales continued to be pathetic. I was on my feet all day, but everyone seemed more interested in looking than buying. Worse, a nearby dealer had the music turned up way too loud, which gave me a headache. By the time we headed back to the hotel and our sleeping room, I was so disgusted by the lack of sales and parking hassles I no longer wanted to bother with the upcoming Detroit NASFiC, which is using the same facilities.

I did get a little writing done before we turned in for the evening. Still, I felt no real accomplishment, and couldn't shake the miserable headachy feeling.

On Sunday we went out to the breakfast area only to discover it dark. Apparently they don't start serving the Sunday breakfast until an hour later than usual. Needless to say, this put a crimp in our already tight schedule. I ended up taking out all the nonessentials ahead of time and loading them into the van, and we ate breakfast right before checking out.

Because time would be at a premium and we had far too much unsold merchandise to carry in, thanks to the lack of sales, we paid extra to park in the lot right by the COBO Center. We headed inside and got everything set up for our last day of sales, and continued to note how pathetic our sales were. We started packing early to make sure we could load out as soon as they opened the gates. However, the t-shirts must've relaxed from their transit compression while they were on display, because they wouldn't go back into the same number of boxes we'd brought them in. We ended up having to beg a box off a neighboring dealer.

Once again we were able to drive right in onto the dealers' room floor, but had to wait a long time to get let in. Once we were inside, we had some good helpers to get us loaded, and we got done in record time.

Then we just had to get back out and on the road home. At least we only had to make it as far as Fort Wayne that first night, but I was very happy to pull in at the in-laws' and be able to carry in our essentials.

On Monday we completed the journey to Indianapolis. We stopped at the vet clinic on the way in and retrieved the cat, who was very glad to see us.

Copyright 2013 by Leigh Kimmel

Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.

For permission to quote or reprint in other venues, contact Leigh Kimmel

Last updated December 6, 2013.