True story: A publisher planned to make a big splash at Comic-Con. He had an impressive 20’ x 20’ booth space in a desirable location and wanted to make the most of it. He’d ordered a massive metal booth from China that got shipped in directly to the Con.

It all sounded great. The booth looked impressive. The night before set-up, he rounded up everyone including his wife, handed out booth assembly instructions, and explained his set-up plan: The booth was already at the Con. He would drive everyone over in a van early in the morning, and his team would have all day to set up the booth.

As he spoke, I thumbed through the assembly instructions with dread. Then I pulled out the convention’s exhibitor paperwork and read the set-up rules. Basically, if a booth took more than half an hour for two people to assemble, the exhibitor had to pay for the con’s Union workers to assemble it. I held up the paperwork and asked the publisher about it.

“Don’t worry about that,” he told me. “I have a plan to get around it.” Ahh. Tomorrow was going to be one of those days. I shook my head in disbelief.

The next morning, we entered the Con to start set-up. When we arrived, the booth containers were on the convention floor at the location. I took one look and realized the misgivings I’d had last night were spot on; this booth couldn’t possibly be assembled without a crane. Lou Ferrigno standing on Arnold’s shoulders couldn’t have assembled this thing. Besides, it was incredibly obvious this would take the Union team hours, even with a crane.

I waited for the train wreck to begin via the publisher’s grand plan to circumvent the Union workers. Here it came. The publisher said, “I have to leave to run errands. There’s the booth, the assembly tools were shipped with it. If the Union reps come over, tell them you’ve got it covered, you don’t need their help.” Then he left. Yes, that was his grand plan, to leave and let his wife and his team fend for themselves.

As the team stood around confused and stunned that they’d been left to fend for themselves, a Union rep came over with his clipboard and a contract for services. The publisher’s wife bravely tried to say what he’d told her to. The Union rep looked at the booth containers, half-smiled, and basically said, “Uh-huh. Right.”

Then he pulled over a folding chair, sat down in the booth space, crossed his arms, and waited.

“That went pretty much like I expected,” I said aloud. “I’m taking my wife and daughter to the zoo.” And I did.

End of the day, I returned to the convention center to see what was happening. Nothing was done, because the publisher didn’t authorize the Union to begin assembly. As I turned to leave, the publisher arrived, upset that the booth wasn’t up. He argued with the Union rep, oblivious to the fact that a crane was needed to assemble the booth.

In the end, the publisher had to pay TIME AND A HALF for the full assembly because the Union workers had to stay late to work on it. And, of course, full Union fees for the teardown, as well.


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