Hotelpocalypse 2015: A Tale of Two Forms

In Badge/Hotel News, Features by Kerry Dixon57 Comments

Although everything about San Diego Comic-Con has increased in competitiveness over the years, Hotelpocalypse really became the monster that we know today just a few short years ago. Since then, though, it’s become what we consider to be the most stressful sale relating to Comic-Con that there is – yes, even compared to Open Registration badge sales, in which we estimate that you have only a 6% chance of scoring a badge.

That’s because, to steal a line from our staffer James Riley, unlike badge sales, the hotel sale is similar to the stress of the last 30 seconds of an eBay auction, but with none of the immediate gratification. At least in the badge sale, you may leave disappointed, but you have your answer of whether you scored a badge or not in roughly two hours. In the general hotel sale? You won’t know how well you did for days.

And even more so than any other year, how well you did and how many other people whose speed you beat, is completely up in the air, and completely unpredictable.

At 9AM PT, the link provided by Travel Planners and Comic-Con International was to open to to the General Hotel form, where attendees could rank their top six hotel choices in preference, and fill in all of their required information (like name, e-mail, arrival and departure date, how many people would be staying in the room, etc.) Things got off to a very bad start from the second the form opened, when most users, including us, reported the form taking longer than normal to load. How long it took varied person to person, with some reporting 20-30 seconds, and some reporting minutes. This obviously slowed down everyone’s time in being able to submit the form at all.

But that was only the beginning. It took a few minutes for news to filter down that users actually saw two different forms when they submitted – either the “good” form, with a drop down menu of all the hotel choices, that looked like this:

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“Good” form with hotel drop down option

Or the “bad” form, which didn’t include a drop down menu, but rather a scrollable text box. You could select one, or all six hotels if you held Ctrl down on your keyboard, but there was no way to rank them. Here’s a look at the bad form, from Twitter user SDCCIndiego:

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“Bad” form with scrollable box for hotels

That wasn’t the only problem with the bad form, though. The normal form has safeguards in place, so that you can’t accidentally press enter and submit your form before you’ve filled out all of the required information. That safeguard was gone on the “bad” form, leading to several users reporting to accidentally submitting their form before they’d entered in their name, room preferences, or other information. We haven’t seen much chatter from people on Twitter about the problem, but on the Friends of CCI forum, some users reported being able to accidentally submit without all of their information complete:

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Although Travel Planners has yet to offer an official statement on what led to the breakdown in the form (which appears to have affected every browser), Twitter user Kenneth Hung seems to have found the answer – some Javascript elements didn’t load.

We reached out to Travel Planners shortly after we realized there had been a problem, and were told that we should direct attendees to call, so that they could take down names and contact information for anyone with a problem. However, at the time, the company possibly didn’t realize just how widespread the issue was, and were soon inundated with calls. This led to a different solution from Travel Planners: Anyone who had received the “bad” hotel form was e-mailed on Tuesday evening with a new link, to be able to fill out their e-mail (to match with the original submission time stamp and other information) and to rank their six hotel choices. Here’s a look at that form:

2015 hotel choice travel planners dropdown error

Although that’s likely to help the majority of users, it doesn’t address some key problems. Namely, time stamps, and how the form affected them. Most users with the bad form reported that it took them much longer than normal, even without the added consideration of the slow load time, to fill out their information, because the form was different, and did not behave as expected (or directed, as there was no way to rank six hotels).

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From Friends of CCI user imcla

It also doesn’t address another problem: That some users (which we believe to be a very small amount) could have accidentally submitted their form some 20-30 seconds after the form went live, at least with their e-mails filled out, but with no other information, and that Travel Planners would still honor their original timestamp. Although we can understand the concern, because this is a Comic-Con sale and every possibly advantage someone has can mean the difference between you getting a hotel/badge/exclusive and being completely shut out, we don’t believe that this is a widespread issue. Further, there’s a very real possibility that since the form Travel Planners had users with the bad form fill out only included hotel rankings, that they could be discarding any forms without room information (such as departure/arrival dates and room preference), as it’s not enough information to assign a room. Travel Planners has yet to make any kind of statement on those forms, though, so we likely won’t know how those with that issue are dealt with until hotel confirmations go out.

We’ve heard that hotel reservation confirmations could start going out on Thursday night or Friday morning due to the issues (which is at least close to the promised March 26 date), but we only know one thing for sure: When they do, just like every year, thousands of attendees aren’t going to be happy. This year, though, there’s a lot more than usual to be unhappy about.

What was your experience like during the General Hotel Sale? Let us know in the comments.