Youmacon is a big anime convention held every year in downtown Detroit in the fall. This year it was held over the weekend of October 29 to November 1, 2015 at the Renaissance Center and COBO Center. We decided to give it a second chance because we were told that the communications problems which led to our poor sales in 2013 had been resolved.
Because load-in started at noon on Thursday, we drove up on Wednesday. Traffic was pretty smooth until we got to Toledo. As we were getting off I-475 to get gas at Sam's Club, we saw a cop car get on and head north. Shortly afterward we saw fire and rescue vehicles heading toward the interchange, and we could hear a lot of sirens. It sounded like there had been a very bad accident somewhere to the north of us, which suggested a serious backup. So when we left Sam's Club, we headed over to US24 and took it north until we could reconnect with the Interstate. It took us through a bunch of road construction, but at least we were moving forward instead of sitting in traffic.
The rest of the trip went fairly well, right until we got to I-96 and everything started jamming up. We had to creep for a while, but finally we were able to get on it and finish our trip in. Our hotel showed some architectural indications of being an older building, but it must've received some serious recent renovation, because our room was quite nice.
Even with the delays, we still got there in plenty of time for supper. Afterward, I pulled out a notebook and did some work on my writing. A lot of it was notes, but I did produce a little text on my novel before we turned in for the night.
On Thursday morning we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. This place had a really nice breakfast, complete with scrambled eggs, hash browns and and sausages. Then we headed out to find the mall that was supposed to have a Vitamin World, since we had a coupon. It was a little further on Six Mile Road than we expected, but once we found the mall, we were able to shop quickly and efficiently.
From there we headed downtown to the COBO center. This time we knew how to get there, but were surprised to find the line forming in a different direction, such that we had to lose time getting turned around so we could join it. While we were stuck in line, I used the time to work on con reports.
We were supposed to start load-in promptly at noon, but ten minutes after noon we were still waiting. About that time a Detroit city cop came by, took a long look at us, and then headed up to the loading dock entrance. A few minutes later the line started moving.
However, that still wasn't the end of our hurry up and wait woes. We got brought inside and then told to park in a huge antechamber with a bunch of other dealers and wait until they could get us on the actual floor to unload (the COBO Center is used for the big car shows, so they let us drive right up to our booths to unload, which is a real boon in bad weather, like the high winds we were experiencing that day).
Finally we got to drive in and start unloading. It should've been quick work, but we were badly aligned relative to our tables, and had to work around them in an awkward way. When we got everything out of our van, we needed to get it out and parked. At least we knew about the lot on top of the COBO Center, but there was a trick to getting from the loading dock to the spiral ramp that led up to the lot.
Once I got the van parked, I had to get back down to the level where the exhibit hall was. I ended up using the wrong elevator and having to walk a long way on the concourse before I found the right door. After that it was a matter of pushing hard to get everything set up so we'd be ready to sell when things opened the next morning.
Finally we had to call it quits for the night and head back to our hotel. At least we didn't have a long walk back to the van, but as we were driving back to the hotel, we missed the ramp to the Interstate. We ended up in a rather colorful part of Detroit, and I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility of having to give a gang-banger a short, sharp lesson in Newtonian mechanics with the van's front end.
Thankfully we got back to the hotel without incident and even had a bit of time to wind down and relax. I did a little more work on my novel, trying to pull together some key elements I'd been struggling with. However, by that point I was tired enough that I couldn't remember any of the cool ideas I'd come up with while working.
On Friday morning we got up and headed to the hotel breakfast. Then we headed downtown to the COBO Center to finish setting up and start selling. We did get finished setting up in time to do a little looking around and talk to some of the other sellers.
When the doors opened, things seemed slow, but traffic did pick up as time went by. However, a lot of people seemed to be planning out their buying strategy, which left us trying to keep our hopes up after the very poor showing at Grand Rapids Comic Con two weeks earlier.
By the time the dealers' room closed for the evening and we headed up to the rooftop parking lot to retrieve the van, I was feeling rather glum about our prospects. At least this time we got on the right exit and made good time back to the hotel. I did some more work on my novel before turning in for the night.
On Saturday we got up and ate breakfast before heading back down to the COBO Center for what should've been our best day of sales. However, sales remained stubbornly slow all day long. Although we sold a fair amount of stuff, we were standing around waiting far too much for my tastes. From what I heard from a couple of other dealers, they'd added another row of dealer booths since the previous year, eliminating the little cafe that had been in the vendor area.
By the time the dealers' room closed, I was feeling a lot less sanguine about our financial situation. We drove back to the hotel and I did some more writing before we turned in for the night. However, I could tell I had a whole lot of thinking to do.
Sunday morning we had breakfast and headed down to the COBO Center for our final day of sales. Once again sales were slow at first, but by midday they'd really picked up. There were even times we couldn't keep up with the flow of sales. But during the lull times it was just dead, which was beyond frustrating.
Finally we had to start packing, which had to have cut into our sales. We did have a few more before closing time, but not nearly as many as I'd been hoping for.
Once we were packed up, I headed up to the roof lot and retrieved the van. Getting to our booth was a bit more interesting this time, but with excellent guidance from the union guys, I got in place. We had two great helpers, including one whose day job was on the docks for FedEx, so we got packed fast and well.
When we got back to the hotel, I did a little more work on my novel before turning in for the night. However, it was overshadowed by my sense that we were going to be in a very tight financial situation if our upcoming cons didn't turn in better sales.
On Monday we got up and had breakfast before packing our personal belongings and getting checked out of the hotel. Because we wanted to use several coupons, we made another trip up to Vitamin World. However, that turned out to be a mistake, because we missed a ramp and ended up going way too far north. We had quite a time getting turned back around and on the right track.
We made several stops, including one at a branch of our bank in the Fort Wayne area to make a deposit. As a result, we were later getting home than we would've liked.
Copyright 2016 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 19, 2016.