Hotelpocalypse 2022: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

It’s been three years (and some change) since we had to suffer through Hotelpocalypse, otherwise known as the General Hotel Sale for San Diego Comic-Con. And in this new dawn, we’re here to tell you… not much has changed (at least on this one front) in the intervening years.

Some won. Some lost. Some are thrilled with their placements, some are threatening to cancel their badges because they didn’t get a downtown placement — and some are still just waiting for the waitlist and hoping for the best.

But let’s get into the nitty gritty and break all of this down.

How It Started

On Thursday, April 28, thousands of San Diego Comic-Con attendees filled out the form with their preferred placements. New this year, you could fill out up to 12 choices, in any area you wanted (previously you could only submit a maximum of 6 downtown and 6 non-downtown).

Then, we waited.

Round One

Round one e-mails went out bright and early around 8:36AM PT on the morning of Tuesday, May 3, with almost everyone reporting back that they received one of their ranked hotel placements. For those who wound up in Mission Valley, it was mostly because they requested to be placed there.

There were, as always, those with seemingly good times who got placed a bit further out.

And most of all, there were those who got nothing… yet. At the time, you didn’t know if your e-mail would be waiting for you in round two, or if you simply weren’t placed. Until that moment, you could have glorious hope (and a lot of anxiety).


Round Two

Round two e-mails kicked off on Tuesday, May 10 at 8:37AM PT. When e-mails did go out, it was a mixed bag. Some got downtown hotels, some got further out hotels, and some got no e-mail at all.

While onPeak states that hotels are assigned on timestamp of when you entered the form, our speculation has always been that round two includes returned inventory from round one — which helps to explain some (but certainly not all) of the discrepancies between those in round two getting, say, a Hilton Bayfront or an Omni, with a later timeslot than someone else with an earlier timeslot in round one, who requested those hotels but got placed further out.

While many were thrilled to get a hotel at all, some were less enthused.

And then, of course, there were the truly poor souls — the waitlisted (though as we say every year, THERE ARE ALWAYS HOTELS ON THE WAITLIST! GOOD HOTELS TOO!):

Of Timestamps, Placements, The Great Randomizer, and onPeak

As always, making sense of this is… not always easy.

The way the General Hotel Sale is supposed to work, according to Comic-Con International and onPeak, is that the “order in which requests are processed will be based on the time a guest was granted access to the form. No further randomization will take place throughout the process.”

But then take the below exchange — someone got on the form at 9:08 and received Hotel Republic. Someone else who got on the form at 9:02 and had it on their list is on the waitlist.

And they even had the same dates:

It’s possible, of course, that a multitude of things happened. Perhaps they had different bed types, and that affected inventory. Perhaps one of them didn’t correctly judge the time (though six minutes would be a lot to be off by).

So what does all of that mean? How does that happen? The short answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The unfortunate truth here is that, as every year, there are weird things that happen in this sale. There are a lot of possibilities, and it’s pretty much the same that we say every year, but let’s go over them.

Human Error on the Attendee Side: It’s entirely possible that there was an issue with some forms, or that people are misjudging their timestamp. The day of the General Hotel Sale is generally chaos, and remembering to manually glance at a clock to see your timestamp (assuming your clock is even accurate) just doesn’t seem like the most important thing in the heat of the moment. So, many people could have a false sense of their timestamp. It’s also entirely possible you entered in a hotel wrong on your placement list, and that’s why you got placed further out than you wanted.

Selection: It’s definitely not apples to oranges. Many of us like to treat every hotel form and every downtown placement as the same, but dates, room type, number of people, number of rooms, and hotel selection preferences all affect availability.

A popular “theory” on the interwebs is that those who request fewer nights may be hurting themselves in the long run, as maybe those who request longer stays get preferential treatment, regardless of timestamp. We, however, don’t think so. Take for instance this poll, which shows a wide spread of number of nights:

As you can see, 3-4 nights is the most common answer (which makes sense, for what is essentially a 4-day convention), but there are selections in every option. We heard from folks who requested just one night and got it (even if they did have to pay a deposit for two nights, a practice we find extremely weird), as well as those who got 7+ nights.

Basically, we just don’t think any of these variables really matter that much. The more likely answer, for us at least, is that it’s a combination of several things — including inventory, and the onPeak of it all.

But let’s move on to the next theory:

onPeak Human Error: The most common theory about how onPeak assigns hotels is that employees are sitting there doing it by hand. We don’t know this for sure, but it would certainly make more sense than all assignments being from a program — after all, a computer could probably get the first round of placements done in less than a week.

Rather, most people think that they probably batch the timestamps into a set number (let’s say 2,000 entries at a time, broken down into batches of 200 — again, all made up numbers!), and then assign those to employees to begin trying to find placements that match what was requested. Some employees are always going to get through their stack faster than others, which could potentially explain some of the timestamps and placement discrepancies. They also could misread your form, or misclick something, or any number of possibilities.


Basically, you’re never going to get a clear answer on what’s happening here. There are always going to be weird, unexplainable discrepancies — but for the most part, the system works like it should. Meaning that the vast majority of those with early timeslots got hotel placements, and the earliest of which mostly got downtown.

There are simply more people who want downtown hotels than can be placed downtown, and thousands of attendees are left disappointed every year because of it.

Look at the spread of this poll, with roughly the same amount of people who got a hotel in Round 1, those who got a hotel in Round 2, and those who are still waiting. That’s a lot of people still waiting to hear anything back at all, and speaks to the sheer volume of forms onPeak must recieve.

The good news is, the waitlist is coming, and there are ALWAYS hotels on the waitlist. Returned inventory from round 2 goes back into the poll, those who cancel their hotels for whatever reason, etc. all wind up back on the waitlist, for those to grab. For those who requested to be put on the waitlist, it will open on May 17 (and you should receive a link).

For those who forgot about the hotel sale or didn’t know it was happening, your date will be on or around May 25.

You can, of course, also always book outside the system. And with the trolley, free Comic-Con shuttle, rideshare, and other options, staying outside of downtown has never been more convenient.

Just remember: Even if you didn’t get the hotel you wanted this year, there’s always next year.


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