Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hotelpocalypse 2015

Yesterday was the San Diego Comic Con hotel sale, aka #Hotelpocalypse. Every year, San Diego hotels set aside rooms to sell in this sale, working with CCI to set prices and giving Con goers a chance to get a room at some of the most popular Gaslamp and downtown hotels, or further out along the shuttle route.  Unlike recent badge sales, speed is key - loading the screen as soon as the site goes live and filling out the form quickly directly influence if you're successful, there are no online waiting rooms and randomly generated lines to buy. And then, after the mad dash is over, con goers are left to wait for a few days days before they find out if they were successful.

This was our first year participating in the hotel sale - last year we had a bunch of Marriott points and stayed out in Mission Valley for next to nothing! Before the sale started, I did a bunch of research to prepare.  CCI released the hotel price list before the sale, and resources from the SDCC Unofficial Blog, Friends of CCI Forum, and An Englishman in San Diego were very useful, showing how the form/website has worked in the past, what information should be prepared ahead of time, and how fast hotels sell out.

But none of that prepared me for the reality of the Hotelpocalypse.

I had an hour break between appointments at work, and the hotel sale fell right in the middle of that (noon East Coast time). At 11:30 I got my link ready to go, my list of hotels set up, and then I waited... I was alone in the office, but of course someone showed up and wanted to chit chat moments before the sale started! I politely told them I was busy and couldn't talk, and went back to my nervous shaking, clock watching, and general stressing out.

As soon as the clock hit 12:00 I tried to load the page... but it wouldn't load! I hit refresh until it seemed to load (argh!) then it took its sweet time loading (double argh!), which wasted 40 seconds. But finally I got in! Or so I thought...

It turns out, I had the "bad form." Using auto-fill, I managed to get all my contact info recorded and moved on to the hotel selections, but there was no drop down menu, no list to be made. I kept double clicking on hotels, trying to tab-select, but nothing worked. I guess I hit enter too many times, because suddenly my browser redirected me to a page that said my form was submitted successfully.  All of this happened within the first three minutes of the hotel sale.

I tried again, and got the bad form again, and accidentally submitted it again after I posted that tweet. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I tried again and finally got a working form, which I filled out and submitted sometime around 12:08. I figured there was no way we'd get a downtown room on my form, but a later tweet showed that Travel Planners said downtown hotels sold out around 12:13, so there was a chance. Or we could get one through The Boyfriend's form, which was submitted by 12:04.

I was a little disappointed, because I wanted to stay closer to the Convention Center. But we already booked a back-up hotel in Mission Valley along the shuttle route, so The Boyfriend and I are in good shape.  Knowing we had a hotel and were trying for something closer (and cheaper!) removed a lot of the stress from yesterday's sale for us.

After work was done for the day, I saw this tweet:

I called, more out of curiosity than anything, and reached a very nice Travel Planner who said that, because I submitted a completed form eventually, they would use those hotel selections and apply them to my earliest time stamp (oh man, I really hope I got the hotels right! It was such a blur...)  We also learned that anyone who submitted the bad form with their email/contact info without a later good form submission would get an email to confirm their hotel selections and their time stamps would be honored.

This is good news for anyone who accidentally submitted a bad form within the first few minutes, but isn't so great for anyone who waited for a good form or who received the working form from the start but took a while filling it out. We won't know who lost out on a hotel room because of this problem, regardless of what form they used.

Personally, I wish this process used a system like the Epic waiting room (where users log on ahead of time and randomly get the chance to enter their info) or a lottery where we could enter by a deadline for a chance at our selections. I also wonder what changes we will see to the hotel sale next year, in response to this year's sale and the problems that caused users to receive the "bad form."

Other than those who submitted the bad form and had to confirm their choices by 5pm today, Con goers are still waiting to hear from Travel Planners. Everyone is waiting to learn if they were successful in yesterday's sale.

To everyone who is waiting for an email from Travel Planners, good luck! I hope you hear some good news!

**UPDATE 3/27/2015**
Since I wrote this post, people who only submitted a "bad" form should have received an email from Travel Planners asking for their hotel selections and submitted those by 5:00pm EST on Wednesday, March 25th. Starting that afternoon, Travel Planners began sending out confirmation emails to everyone that included hotel picks and room information.

These emails were sent out until midday Thursday, March 26th. That evening, the hotel reservation emails started. Based on Twitter, it seems most rejections were sent at the beginning. In years past, rejections were sent first, then hotel reservations were sent alphabetically by hotel name. But that so did not happen this year - hotel reservation emails seemed to come out in bulk by hotel, but there was no discernible order to it. It was not alphabetical, it was not done by distance from the convention center or shuttle route or hotel company/family.

The Boyfriend received a reservation for the Holiday Inn Bayside out by the airport because none of his six hotel picks were available to him and he chose the "no waitlist" option - since we have a back up hotel, we decided it was downtown or bust for the hotel sale. But I have no idea why the airport hotels were included as downtown hotels. On the price list they were separate, and it is a 40 minute shuttle ride to the convention center from that Holiday Inn! Crazy. After learning that, we decided to stick with our back up unless I got something better with my own reservation.

The Boyfriend's email came through at 11:20pm EST. I stayed up and kept refreshing my email, but finally threw in the towel at 12:30am EST and went to bed. I was out by 12:45am, and my email came through at 12:55am - I found it when I woke up this morning.

I'm pleased with our reservation - I managed to get a room at The Bristol, within walking distance of the convention center and $25/night cheaper than our back up in Mission Valley!

I hope some things change for next year's sale. People have begun referred to the two form debacle as "Menugate" and there are a lot of people on Twitter complaining because they didn't get a room - though that would happen no matter how flawless the sale went!  And even though we were successful this time, I'm not sure we'll participate next year. The hotel sale is just too crazy. I think we'll go with an early booking at a hotel, or maybe get a condo.

I've heard a lot of good news from my Twitter pals, and I am so happy you guys got rooms!


  1. I'm glad I've never had to take part in this. I hope you end up with something on your list!

    1. Thank you! I'm hoping we end up downtown, just so we can compare it to Mission Valley, but I think we'll stick to pre-booking or getting a condo from now on!