Final Thoughts on BEA

Great idea for tired readers to gather.
Great idea for tired readers to gather.

The last day of BEA was called BookCon because they sold one day passes to readers to come in and get free autographed books from authors.  Here’s the biggest problem I saw with this.

  • Readers were limited to a small section of BEA.
  • Not all publishers were included because of where they were located in the convention hall.
  • Readers were subjected to long lines and the wait times often exceeded an hour.
  • BEA closed early, at 3 p.m., which gave the readers even less time to look around and get things.

While the readers I talked to were excited to receive the books they did, they were disgruntled and angry to have to miss a lot of what they expected to see, do and go home with.  Many had to pick and choose carefully because getting one book might cost them missing out on a couple more favorites.  There’s got to be a better way, BEA, so please, look at what worked and what didn’t and plan accordingly for next year.

It was packed.
It was packed.
Guards making sure readers didn't go into certain areas of BEA, although I'm not sure why not.
Guards making sure readers didn’t go into certain areas of BEA, although I’m not sure why not.










On the subject of booths.  I try to visit them all and being there three days, I do a pretty good job.  Talking to people who work the booths is very eye opening.  On the first day, there is much enthusiasm and lots of people.  By the last day, the wear and tear is clearly showing.

I stopped by the “big name” publishers on the final day with questions I wasn’t able to get answered sooner.  What I encountered was sad.  It was like they were calling it in.  I don’t know if it’s the lack of training the staff, tiredness, boredom or just plain not liking what you’re doing.  Here’s what I encountered.

  • Staff too busy talking among themselves to be bothered by customers with questions (discussions overheard were of the personal variety).
  • Lots of playing with cell phone including checking email, texting and just playing games.
  • Standing at the booth and just staring into space.
  • Sitting at tables and looking bored.
Waiting here a very long time before finally asking them if they worked here.
Waiting here a very long time before finally asking them if they worked here.
These two just stared through me even though I was standing right in front of them for a very long time.  Finally I just took this picture.
These two just stared through me even though I was standing right in front of them for a very long time. Finally I just took this picture.










These pictures of just two examples of what I saw at many booths.  They are not the only offenders.

I went up to each counter to ask a question and no one approached me, talked to me or asked if I needed help.  After several tries, I finally said to two young women, “Do you work here?” and when one looked up from her phone she said, “Yes.”  Then I asked her if she got paid for it.  She looked surprised but still didn’t ask if I needed help.  Finally, I just asked my question and she pointed me in another direction.

Let me tell you, if I were a reader who was there for the day and wanted to buy books or find out about authors or products, these publishers would be off my list.  And, if I were a person interested in doing business with one of these companies, I would question their judgment in the staff they hire.

Maybe my vision of customer service is skewed by the years I worked for Disney, but to me, it’s common sense that should always overrule everything.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that when you are working a public event for a company, you are the face of that company.  What does it take to smile and greet someone?  How hard is it to say, “May I help you?”

My only thought is that employees are told what day to show up and that physically being there is their only job.  Just a thought, why not offer some customer relations training?  How about matching the person to the job?  Sorry, on any other day I think the world of you, but the last day left a bad taste in my mouth.

I should give kudos to those who always seemed to be open, welcoming and smiling to passersby in my observations.

  • Sourcebooks
  • Harlequin
  • Dreamspinner Press

Sourcebooks Dreamspinner







Bottom Line:  Training takes a little time, but goes a long way.

14 thoughts on “Final Thoughts on BEA

  1. I totally agree with you. When I was working trade shows (years ago), I received training from my boss–what to do and not to do. You’re right, it’s common sense, but sometimes, that has to be taught.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I really want to believe it’s just a matter of not knowing what’s expected. Here’s hoping it can only get better.

  2. Hopefully this may wake some up. Third day on a conference schedule is exhausting for everyone, but you are right that it is not an excuse to just “phone it in”.

  3. I find that younger people do not even acknowledge me or other over 50 persons at all. It is rampant everywhere in the USA. Unfortunately, I do take it personally and I do consider that person the face of their company and then I refuse to do business with them.

  4. It’s the same in any job, courteousness goes a long way, even in a Supermarket I feel annoyed if staff don’t make eye contact and are not pleasant. The biggest compliment anyone can give to another person is to talk to them and reply as if they’re interested. I have generally found Americans to be far friendlier and helpful than British people so I am surprised by this Barbara.

  5. Wow, Barbara! I’m bummed for you that it was such a bad experience. I saw tweets from a few friend there and one walked right out after seeing the chaos and the lines. I guess this Book Con day was a different approach than the last few years. Though I remember the complaints before were that bloggers and readers “hogged” books and took stacks and stacks away while others who attended later received none. I suppose there is a happy medium somewhere.

    Similar to frustrations heard about RT this year, I think the sheer size of this event is possibly part of the problem. Each new idea for corralling fans and creating order seems to have a lot of unintended consequences that cause people to get angry. The stuff with the automotons at the booth–that’s just sad.

  6. Hopefully the publisher did not just tell the employee that you are working the booth without actually explaining what that entails and whether the employee is a fit for this kind of job. Like you said, the people you meet at the booth represent the publisher. I hope publishers read your blog and fix it for next time. Can publishers really afford to lose business with the way the market is going?

  7. Very interesting, Barbara. If I remember correctly from your past BEA posts, this ignoring the customer is not a new problem. However, from all fronts, I’m hearing that Book Con was a success and they plan on doing it again.

    Thanks for the report.

  8. That’s too bad that your event ended on a down note. It is the fault of those in charge, and I speak from experience. The company I owned worked with the top seven sponsors through the Atlanta Olympics®. Vendors and Contractors are always excited when they hear the Olympics® is coming to their city, but it’s a grueling process to make it to the end and to do as wonderful a job on the last day when you haven’t slept or seen your family in months as you did on that first day when it all seemed magical.

    I have one golden rule with any project – “It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” We received wonderful recognition for the projects we performed for those clients, plus for ‘saving’ other projects when those vendors lost their enthusiasm to do the work.

    As for who is at fault, there is only one place to point a finger – at the leadership. If someone from each company had made spot checks throughout the event, they would have known exactly what their representatives (key word) were doing the entire time, right down to the last minute. Maybe they’ll do that next year. Kudos to those who were still smiling when the doors closed.

  9. BEA originally advertised and sold tickets to this as Power Reader Event. Readers were supposed to have access to all of the publishers and vendors until somehow after selling thousands of tickets it was changed to BookCon and only Harlequinn had access to all of these readers. Wonder how much money changed hands there? This is called Bait and Switch. If anyone who bought a ticket under the assumption this event was being run the same way it always had in the past where the reader was not limited to just one area, please contact the Attorney General with a complaint against BEA and it’s actions. If the Attorney General gets enough complaints, ticket holders will be refunded their money. I also know that BEA is going to be hit with lawsuits by almost every publisher and vendor that was blocked from the public. Hope Harlequinn’s check can cover all those legal cost.

  10. Missed BEA this year! I was spoiled and got to go last year and had a wonderful time.

    This is why I love your POV Barbara. Not only do you call out the bad examples, but you do appreciate the people who do a good job.

  11. Many years ago I ‘did the booth’ at BEA for the publisher I worked for and, believe me, what you experienced would never have been tolerated. The publisher was there to [promote the new catalog and take orders and justifying the cost of going to BEA was having those order slips or inquiries to take back to the office. But there was also a senior marketing exec around to answer the questions I couldn’t (and keep everyone on their toes). I remember being exhausted and excited by the responsibility.

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