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Hotelpocalypse 2024: The Tortured Hotel Sale Participants Department

If there’s one word that strikes fear in the heart of a San Diego Comic-Con attendee, it’s “Hotelpocalypse”.

The annual sale (which is really called the General Hotel Sale if you ask us or Comic-Con International; who even knows what onPeak considers the sale to be called these days) is essentially a lottery to secure a hotel at the discounted convention hotel rate. Without this sale, you’re left paying upwards of $1,000/night for the best hotels, staying very far out, or spending potentially months trying to snap up live inventory released afterwards that often goes in seconds. So it’s no wonder that so much of the Comic-Con experience for many attendees hinges on the outcome of this sale — but man, if it isn’t torture every single year.

So yes, it’s a new year, and… not much has changed, really. The sale is as ambiguous as ever, with results spread across the board, and a very large swath of attendees currently without a room.

But let’s get into the nitty gritty and break all of this down for 2024.

Fresh Out the Waiting Room

On Wednesday, April 17, 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 no major changes this year, and hotel rates only increased $4-$5 per hotel per night on average.

Beginning at 8am PT, attendees could enter the waiting room, though there was some initial confusion as if you had previously clicked the link from your email, it took you to a waiting room to… enter the actual waiting room; whereas if you just copy/pasted or typed in the URL, you could bypass the first waiting room and enter the real waiting room. Yes, we know that’s confusing even just typing it out.

Then at 9am PT, we were off to the races — or the slow meander, depending on how fast your little green walking man in the walking man felt like walking.

The Bolter or The Slowest (Walking) Man Who Ever Lived

As always, there were a few frustrating technical difficulties for some users during the same. Many attendees reported their little green walking man making it to the finish line, only to receive a “You have left the waiting room” message. Some reported getting this message multiple times. Unfortunately, this effectively seemed to wipe your place in line, putting you in the back, as the sale is meant to be based on the time you received access to the form.

There were a few other assorted technical difficulties.

Compared to other years though, the technical difficulties seemed to be more minimal. Many reported getting through almost immediately or in the first few minutes.

And others, who had been kicked out earlier, did not have such good luck.

How Did it End?

Just like with last year, there was only one round of placement emails, which began going out at roughly 9:05am PT on the morning of Monday, April 22. Emails went out for several hours, with all of the emails (including the “you received no placement” emails) finished around 2pm PT.

Early on, almost everyone reported receiving one of their ranked hotel placements. We’ve long suspected the emails go out roughly in the order of the time they were processed (which again, is supposed to be the time gained access to the form — whether that’s really true or not, well, who knows).

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.


And then, of course, there were the truly poor souls — the ones who got the “no placements available” email (aka the “kick rocks” email). If you were one of these poor tortured souls, just remember that the live inventory sale will open on May 2 and there are always hotels in this sale (including, yes, downtown!), though they go fast.

Who’s Afraid of Little Old Timestamps?

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 onPeak customer support was telling folks a different story:


And as always, there is lots of confusion, as people with seemingly good times (such as two minutes) receiving nothing, while others with 4 to 5 minutes still receiving hotels.

As always, it’s very likely that this is an apples to oranges scenario. The type of bed, dates, number of rooms, the option selected if none of your preferences were available, etc. all affect inventory. Perhaps someone (or many someones) are misjudging their timestamps.

So what does all of that mean?

The real answer is that for the most part, the sale seems to work the way it’s supposed to. Almost everyone who reported they got in “immediately” (in a minute or so or less) seem to report receiving a placement, with the fastest getting the best placements.

After that… it’s all sort of a guessing game. Those who requested further out hotels in Mission Valley seemed to have better results with later timestamps, but again, it may all be down to what you selected if none of your hotel preferences were available.

However, just like last year, one of the biggest factors in this year’s sale is the amount of placement rounds. Prior to last year, there had always been two rounds of placements, with inventory returned in round one available to go to anyone 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 live inventory sale on May 2.

What that means is that more people than ever are on the waitlist. Our very unscientific poll shows exactly this — with 46.9% reporting they still need a hotel (compared to 25% in 2022, back when there were still two rounds):

That’s a fairly large difference, but it makes sense — again, 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 live inventory sale. It means more people are waiting, but it also means there are more options on the live inventory sale.

Last year’s live inventory sale was also pretty messy, though. While there were a lot of hotels available to kickstart things, most went almost immediately — leaving anyone who wasn’t fast enough to spend weeks or even months scrounging to try to pick up a full hotel stay. We strongly recommend following @SDCCHotelTrackr, which posts newly released inventory in real time.


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 from last year, 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.

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 live inventory sale is coming, and there are ALWAYS hotels for this sale. 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 May 2 (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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