Youmacon 2017

Youmacon is a large anime convention held in Detroit on the weekend nearest Halloween. This year it was held over the weekend of November 2-5, 2017 at the Renaissance Center and COBO Center in downtown Detroit.

Because load-in starts at noon on Thursday, we headed up to our hotel on Wednesday. However, this year the trip was complicated by significant road construction on I-69. As a result, it was almost noon before we even reached Fort Wayne. So we stopped at a Taco Bell there to get a free taco from their World Series promotion, then stopped at another Taco Bell in Ohio to get a second. By the time we reached Toledo and stopped at the Sam's Club to get gas, we decided to skip the Taco Bell in that area in the interest of time.

We got to our hotel in a reasonable time and thought we were going to be settling in happily. However, much to our astonishment, the room we got was most decidedly not handicap accessible. We went back to the front desk to point out the oversight and the desk clerk got really snotty with us. I wouldn't have been so upset if she'd been more conciliatory, but when she doubled down about insisting it was our problem and we needed to Just Get Over It, we were mad enough to call corporate and complain.

Once that was taken care of, we had supper. Then I pulled out a story I'd been working on and made some more notes. However, the further I went on it, the more intensely I felt like it was really part of a much longer and more involved story, and probably wasn't really the first of its sequence.

On Thursday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. They had all kinds of goodies, including sausages, scrambled eggs and hash browns that actually stick to your ribs, rather than just the carbs that leave you famished an hour or two later. That's one thing I really like about this place, and it'll be one I really miss if we have to find other digs for future Detroit conventions.

Then we headed downtown in hopes of getting the best possible place in line, since we knew ahead of time that every minute was going to be precious for us. However, in spite of arriving an hour early, we still ended up behind the ramp to the COBO roof. I could tell right away that we were going to be lucky to be in the first round of people let into the exhibit hall to unload. There was nothing to do but pull out a notebook and try to get as much writing done as I could, since I had no idea how much writing time I'd get in the evening.

As it turned out, they were bringing everyone in through a different door because of the rain, and making us wait a certain amount of time so that our vehicles would dry off and not leave puddles on the show floor. I could understand that, but it was still frustrating when every minute was going to be precious for us.

Finally they let us in and took us to our booth to unload. The two union guys even helped us unload, which really sped up the process. As soon as we got everything out of the van, I pulled it back out and drove around to the COBO Center rooftop parking lot. Going up that ramp is always interesting, in a sort of fun, sort of scary way because it spirals so tight that a vehicle with a long wheelbase runs a real risk of scraping a tire against the curb.

When I got to the top, I was astonished to discover that they'd raised the price of parking from six dollars to fifteen. This was going to more than double our parking expense, but given that there aren't any better places to park in downtown Detroit, we would just have to hope that the convention would do well enough to justify the expense.

Parking was further complicated by work that was being done on one of the big seams on the COBO Center roof. It wasn't that big of an area fenced off behind the orange snow fence, but it was long and narrow and stretched crosswise right down the middle of the COBO roof parking lot. I ended up having to go all the way back to find a way around it so I could park within a reasonable distance from the elevator that took me to the exhibit hall.

Even so, I was able to get back down in a reasonable amount of time and get back to work on building structures for our merchandise. I'd cut the t-shirts back so harshly that we ended up with six 3x3 structures for figurines and an additional 1x2. I got the t-shirts all into their hutches and set to putting figurines into theirs.

Once we got most of our merchandise done, we decided to call it a day and head back to our hotel for supper. Much to our disappointment, we discovered that the maids had done absolutely nothing while we were gone. The bed was not made, and the towels were still all in a heap on the floor. When we went to the front desk to complain, we discovered that they now have so many long-term guests that we have to specifically request housekeeping services every morning if we want the room made up. This is not a good sign for the continuing quality of this place, and makes it that much less likely we'll return to it the next time we do a Detroit convention.

On Friday we got up early and headed down to the breakfast. I was carrying my loaded plate to the table when, much to my dismay, it simply folded up in my hands and went crashing to the floor. Obviously there was no way to save the food, so I went back through the line and filled a fresh plate. This time I was more careful about how I carried it so it wouldn't get an opportunity to just fold up like that.

At least that was our only sour note of the day. There was a little more traffic on I-96 as we headed downtown to the COBO Center, but we still made it in good time. We then finished our setup, complete with all our informational signs, and even had a little time to walk around and look at other people's setups. I had a brief moment of terror when my phone seemed to have disappeared, but when I used the iPad to signal it, it turned out to have been slipped into the wrong pocket of my belt pouch.

Once the doors opened, we got a pretty good flow of customers. We were getting decent sales, but they were pretty heavily tilted toward cash rather than credit. Of course anime shows do appeal to a younger crowd, and a lot of them don't have credit cards. However, we were getting a lot of twenties, which suggested that people were using their debit cards at an ATM and paying us with cash. It wasn't bad when they were buying big things, but it became more awkward when people wanted to buy Japanese bells and erasers, which went through a lot of our change. I was very glad that I'd been able to buy some change before we left.

After the dealers' room closed, we headed back to the hotel. At least this time the maids had cleaned things up, and we even had a shower chair. Even if it wasn't a proper handicap accessible room, the shower chair was going to go a long way to making for a good stay for my husband. We had supper and then I tried to get a little more writing done. I finally reached the point where I just put it away and decided to move to a different project.

On Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, then headed downtown to the COBO Center. Although we were going at the same time as we had on Friday, traffic was much lighter and we had a much smoother trip in. We got parked and then I set to rearranging some of the hutches to get some additional merchandise out. I also got one of our steampunk watches onto the charity auction.

Sales actually picked up and we sold a fair amount of stuff. I sold a number of squishies, and probably could've sold even more if I'd had time to put in an order after Grand Rapids Comic Con. But with money being tight, I didn't want to risk having a bunch of my capital tied up on merchandise that arrived at our home base after we left. I was also able to sell a number of figurines, both Eastern and Western, which enabled me to consolidate several boxes of figurine boxes.

We had a frightening moment when a woman wanted to buy one of our dragon incense burners, only to discover her wallet was missing. She went hurrying off to find it, and I could only hope she did. There were other customers to deal with, so I had no real time to think about them. But just as we were closing, she reappeared with wallet in hand, ready to buy. It turned out she'd left it with a friend and completely forgotten about it. Fortunately we were able to sell her the incense burner, since she had a Saturday-only badge.

We drove back to the hotel in pouring down rain. Part of the time it was so heavy that I slowed down because I didn't feel confident of my traction, or my visibility in the dark. But it had slacked up by the time we got to the hotel, and I didn't have to pull under the awning to get our personal belongings out.

We had supper, and I pulled out another story. This one had been critiqued by several friends, and I was trying to figure out how to slip in clues that this story was taking place on another world, and not just an alternate Regency England with magic.

On Sunday we had breakfast at the hotel, then headed downtown for our last day of the convention. I did some more rearranging of our merchandise, hoping that it would make a better showing and we'd get more of it sold.

Once the doors opened, we were pretty much continuously busy. I almost hated to start packing, because we were having so much foot traffic and I knew that as soon as we were visibly packing, sales would decline. However, most of the stuff I was packing had shown little or no interest, and we had a hard deadline to meet on loading out and being gone, and we could not afford to miss it.

We had some really good help packing and loading. I was quite surprised at just how many boxes we'd been able to empty, since I'd packed an awful lot of merchandise in the previous several hours. We nested as many boxes as we could, in order to reduce the cargo volume of our merchandise. We actually were done and out of there an hour before our deadline, and there were still several other vendors frantically packing.

We headed back to the hotel, happy to have several hours left to wind down and still be able to get to bed at a decent hour. We had supper and I counted our money. Then I did some more notes, trying to sort out the changes I wanted to make in the story.

Monday morning we got up and had one last breakfast in the hotel. Then we carried our personal belongings out to the van and we hit the road home. We stopped in Toledo and deposited our money at the branch of the bank. Then we headed across US 24 to Fort Wayne. To avoid the construction right around the I-69/I-469 interchange, we took some country roads through a small town in Allen County.

We'd been making pretty good time until we got onto I-69. Then we ran into one huge backup for construction, and then a second for a horrible wreck just north of Pendleton. Thanks to that, we got to the free community meal at the church late, and I had no real appetite for the food. But I was glad when we got back home safely and I could relax. It had been a long trip, and even if it had been successful, it had still been tiring.

Copyright 2017 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated November 27, 2017.