ComicCon & Jesus Dressup P2

If that bill wasn’t bad enough, sales weren’t as hot as I’d hoped. Both Thursday and Friday we were having trouble getting people to stop at the our table and participate. There were just too many distractions. Fact is too we weren’t performing well enough to attract anyone’s attention. Our group was mostly introverts, and to get people’s attention in chaos like this wasn’t easy.
As Saturday progressed, I got more and more agitated by what had happened. A couple guys from the docks stopped by to make sure I’d received that invoice. They knew exactly what they were doing. They’d even made us do all the lifting from the truck to the pallet, then off the pallet again while they all watched. Then it took one guy to drive that forklift 50 feet. Frustrated and desperate, I started to hatch a scheme to get out of paying that hustle.

But first, I realized I knew exactly how to attract attention to our booth. No different than how I did it on the street handing out flyers. Except that I’m supposed to be yelling at this crowd. 

There’s video of this, if you’ve not seen it before.

Having a shake-down that morning drew it out of me. I came in like a rocket. Standing out front of our table I just stopped giving a fuck.
And by god, it worked! There’s a fun video of this going down as it happened. 

It was that Saturday afternoon, my friends saw my example and we all became an effective selling machine. When I asked Christine what she remembered from that weekend, she said that the moment she saw me turn up my volume and ranting like a carnival barker, that’s what inspired the rest of them.

At the end of the day Saturday, Christine, Owen and I came back to the apartment, and I told them my plan for Sunday.
The way the place was set up, all trucks had to load at the docks in the back of the building, through those union guys, where all final checking out happened. The only other exit was the front doors. The ones everyone else at the event goes through. 

We had stacks of these 20 pound boxes of magnets still at our booth. I’d completely overestimated how many we’d need. So we were going to spend Sunday trying to sell as many as possible, at great discounts to lighten the load, while I transported everything, somehow, to the front sidewalk. Then Owen was going to stand guard of that pile until we came with a truck to load it all in. Then we scram.

The booth next to ours offered us use of their dolly for the task, and that day it took four hours to walk all our remaining boxes and stuff across that gargantuan building. Our booth was in the farthest corner back from the main entrance. I could fit 4 boxes max on this smallish dolly, then I had to travel the full length of the convention center, from back right corner, to front left corner for the exit. To make matters worse the escalators stopped running about halfway through. They’d busted on account of too many people! Back and forth with 80 pounds of magnets through this unforgiving crowd. I forget how many trips it took but by the time I was pushing the last load, the dolly was a bent mess, and so was I.

As the afternoon grew late I noticed the line of vans and trucks being held way back on the street by uniformed traffic attendants. They were blocking all vehicles from approaching the curb where Owen sat with those boxes.
“They haven’t let anyone pull up here all day.” He informed me. And that line of waiting cars was easily in the dozens. I had no idea how we were going to do this, and praying was obviously out of the question.

When all of our stuff was finally moved out of the building to the front, of which we were the only people with a pile of stuff in the front, Christine and I headed to the truck parked a few blocks away. At the truck we looked at each other completely void of ideas on how we were going to do this. 
“Are we just going to drive up to the front of the line and see if we can talk our way in?” 

Looking at us both, I realized these passes around our necks might actually be the problem.
“What if we take these off? I bet only people with these are made to wait in that line.”
So we removed our ComicCon passes and drove past the lineup of drivers, all with their cynical stares as we rode by. We went right to the security guy waving his hands in the air telling us to stop.
“You can’t come in here. You have to get to the back of the line!”
“We’re not part of this” I explained. “We’re just here to pick up those boxes over there. Is this some sort of convention going on?”
The guard looked at me confused, gestured at the stack of boxes Owen leaned against and said.  “Those are yours?”
“Yeah, I’m here to get those. That’s all.”
“You with fud?” he asked me.
“Yes, I’m with fud.” I confidently responded.
“They’re with fud. Let them through!” And he waved me on to my boxes.

I’ll never forget Owen’s dazzled expression of amazement as we pulled up.
“How in the hell did you do that? Everyone’s been trying to get through for hours! What did you say to him?”
“I told him we were with fud.”

Christine and I exhausted after ComicCon

As fast as we could, we threw everything in the back of the truck, and drove back to Bushwick. We had pizzas delivered and an evening of stories and celebration. We figured that “fud” was probably referring to food delivery – the only vehicles they let through.
But we’ll never know for sure.

Just for the record, the couple in the booth next to us, I emailed asking the cost to replace their dolly, and mailed them a check the next day. They were happy it worked out as well as it did.

Weeks later I received that $4,400 bill in the mail. By the way, they’re a completely different company than ComicCon who I purchased the booth from up front. This invoice was only for those forklift services. I spoke to Mark about how everything went down, and he was sure sorry that had happened. He said there were others who complained about getting the same sort of invoices. There was nothing he could do however.

Something Shaggy told me once about a thing you can do in NYC, is walk into any attorney’s building and get a free consultation. So one day on my way down 14th Street I stopped in one of these places at random and told a lawyer there about what had happened. His advice was to write a detailed letter with the whole story, and the reason why I don’t think I owe them that money and mail it back with the bill. He explained to me how important it is to respond to every bill they send me because there’s print at the bottom of each stating that not responding is an admission of guilt.
“Just keep mailing back that story you told me, and be sure to update the date on each letter you send. That’ll probably work for a bill that small.” He told me.

That’s what I did. I wrote a letter telling what happened and how they would never see any money from me because I felt ripped off. I knew they did it on purpose, and I’d never pay them. I’d rather go bankrupt. They mailed that bill to me twice, and each time I responded with the same story. Then I never heard from them ever again. 

In the end I pretty much broke even. We sold about $2,000 worth of stuff, and about $2,000 in total was spent. I learned a lot, and I tell myself over and over again it was worth it.
Looking back now 14 years later, it definitely was.