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Hotelpocalypse 2023: Look, We Don’t Know Either

Oh, Hotelpocalypse. We did not miss you.

As devastating as the badge sales can feel (because after all, there are a lot more options for hotels after the fact than there are options for procuring a badge), there is possibly no Comic-Con event as frustrating as the General Hotel Sale. And yes, that is the name of this sale, no matter how many times onPeak mixes it up.

We’re here to tell you that it’s a new year, and not much has really changed. The sale is still as ambiguous as ever, with results across the board. Some got the perfect hotel they were hoping for. Some got a seemingly great “timestamp” but absolutely no hotel. New year, same story, same UBlog here to try to make sense of it for you.

But let’s get into the nitty gritty and break all of this down for 2023.

How It Started

On Wednesday, April 12, thousands of San Diego Comic-Con attendees filled out the form with their preferred placements. Just like last year, you could fill out up to 12 choices, in any area you wanted (prior to 2022, you could only submit a maximum of 6 downtown and 6 non-downtown).

There were other changes this year, including a dropdown featuring the hotels with the number of beds available for each hotel. It meant everyone had to slow down a bit to ensure they were being especially careful with their selection. The option looked something like this:

Not a Great Start

It was already off to a rocky start almost immediately, as the confirmation page after you submitted hadn’t been updated for 2023 — so dates selected were reflecting 2022 dates. That meant that while the month and date (ie, 7/19) were correct, both the day of the week and the month were wrong. As we showed you on Twitter with our 3-second Photoshopped screencap, here was how to read the dates on the confirmation pages:

Not confusing at all, right?

To make matters worse, onPeak did acknowledge the error — but made it sound like they were going to send out a recap email with submissions, to indicate/confirm the correct date. Instead, attendees were emailed the equivalent of “We got your confirmation, thanks” with no other information.

And that’s to say nothing of a few other technical errors. For some, hotels only showed up on a list to highlight, rather than to select — in what sounds very reminiscent of the “Year of Two Forms” back in 2015, aka the worst hotel sale ever.

Other users reported that their hotel selections on the confirmation page showed up as blank.

There was also whatever this was in the waiting room. Bigger is not always better.

The most common error though was a 504 Bad Gateway error, which several users reported receiving.

Round One (and Only)

As there was only one round of placement emails this year, emails started going out roughly around 9:49am PT on the morning of Monday, April 17. Emails went out much slower than normal, dragging confirmations out for over two hours. Early on, almost everyone reported receiving one of their ranked hotel placements.

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

It wasn’t long, though, before folks were no longer receiving their first choice.

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… kind of an impossible task.

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 folks who gained access to the form two or three minutes in were still receiving the Omni.

While others who gained access almost immediately got nothing at all, or odd results:

As always, it’s very likely that this is an apples to oranges scenario. The type of bed, dates, number of rooms, etc. all affect inventory. Perhaps someone (or many someones) are misjudging their timestamps.

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

We wish we had some magical answer for you — but we simply don’t. OnPeak has never been particularly forthcoming in how this sale operates. There is one big difference this year though, and we want to talk about it: The amount of Placement Rounds. Traditionally, there are two rounds of hotel confirmations. We have always suspected this was to place more people in a hotel initially, because any returned rooms could then be granted to someone in round two. Now, whether or not this was fair is maybe a different matter. The argument being, why should a round one Hilton Bayfront go to someone who got in at four minutes simply because it was returned in round one? But whether or not you liked this system, it’s gone now. Rather than going direct to an attendee in round two, all returned inventory is now heading straight to the waitlist.

What that means is that more people than ever are on the waitlist. Don’t believe us? Here is the very un-scientific breakdown of the hotel confirmation “status” back in 2022 after the end of round two:

And here is this year’s results:

That’s a fairly large difference, but it makes sense — aagain, with the returned inventory not going back into the “pool” for round two, the folks who would have normally received those spots are instead heading straight to waitlist. It means more people are waiting, but it should also mean that there is substantially more waitlist options available than normal.

Outside of that, though, there are still a lot of wonky results. And the list of possibilities is 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 (even easier this year with the hotels listed by bed type), and that’s why you got placed further out than you wanted.

Selection: This is a big one. 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.

Similarly, what about those who tried to give themselves more options and selected multiple bed types for a given hotel (ie, if two roommates selected both a King and 2 Queens for the same hotel)? Well, it doesn’t seem to have hurt them — but did it help them? It’s impossible to say.

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 just a few hours.

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.

Take this for instance. We know of two people who were placed in the Residence Inn Downtown rather than the Residence Inn Gaslamp — and one has screenshots of their confirmation page selections, which definitely says Residence Inn Gaslamp. So did onPeak simply select the wrong one when placing?

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.

The good news is, the waitlist is coming, and there are ALWAYS hotels on the waitlist. Returned inventory from 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 April 25 (and you should receive a link, though it will also be posted on CCI’s site).

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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