It took more than 8 hours, but I finally got my hotel confirmation for Comic-Con. It wasn’t one of the 12 I’d requested this morning, but it’s in my price range, relatively close, and was actually #14 on the list we put together last night.
All this despite the fact that I put the request in within 5 minutes of the system going online. That part was smooth, and judging by the comments on Twitter and at The Beat, it went smoothly for most people.
Then came the waiting.
On one hand, it was better because I could actually do things — like, y’know, work — instead of sitting there hitting refresh on the browser and redial on the phone for two hours. On the other hand, instead of two hours of active frustration, it was eight hours of wondering whether they had lost my info, or whether I had mistyped my email address, or whether they had actually run out of rooms in the first five minutes and hadn’t gotten around to telling me. A confirmation number for the request itself would have gone a long way toward making me confident that I was in the system.
Later posts on Twitter, and later comments at The Beat, reflected the growing sense of frustration among congoers — and anger as they were assigned hotels that weren’t even on their list.
It seems that not everyone’s requests were handled in the order received. I saw people who had received confirmation hours before I did, but who had submitted their requests a few minutes later. My guess is that Travel Planners was taking two passes through the queue: one pass to handle the requests that they could fill based on people’s actual choices, then one pass to handle the requests where all the preferred hotels were full. Even that doesn’t quite track, though, so I’m not sure what was really going on.
Edit: Katie suggested that they might also be prioritizing based on how many nights you tried to reserve. I was only reserving three nights, so it sort of makes sense that they might give more weight to someone trying to reserve four or five.
Lessons to be Learned
As with the convention’s struggle with crowding, every year they solve one problem only to discover another lurking behind it. A lot of people have compared this year’s process to a lottery, but really, it actually shifted the advantage from luck to typing speed.
Think about it: For the last few years, everyone has had to try to get through, repeatedly, over a period of several hours. Those lucky enough to make a solid connection would then make a reservation and leave. You could start at 9:00 and get through at 9:05 or 11:00, but there really wasn’t any sort of strategy you could apply other than trying multiple avenues at the same time.
Now? Everyone logs in at 9:00, fills out a form immediately, and submits it. Whether you submit your request at 9:05, 9:10 or 9:15 has nothing to do with luck. Instead, it has to do with whether you made up a list beforehand, how long it takes to enter your information, and how much time you spend verifying it before clicking that button.
In that way, it’s actually less of a lottery than it used to be!
Update: I’ve posted some ideas on what to do if you couldn’t get a room.