One of the hard and fast rules of journalism is never make yourself part of the story. I don't consider myself a journalist… I'm a guy that writes comics, prose, screenplays or whatever else someone will pay me to do… I'm a wordsmith for hire basically. But when I'm writing for the site, I try to keep those journalistic rules in mind. That is one of the reasons that I hesitated on writing this story.
Reason number two is that it involves the Phoenix Comic Con, which to me is the best show I've ever been to. The staff is amazing, the convention center is wonderful and the attendees are great. I have recommended the show to anyone who would listen to me.
So I hesitate to write this up, but I was approached at the show by people who write for other comic news sites about the incident and I figure it would be best to put it up in my own words. I again want to say that the Phoenix Comic Con was absolutely amazing and went above and beyond to resolve the situation and this in no way should reflect negatively on them…
I was a last minute add to the convention this year, taking over a table from a creator who had to cancel. I was there selling my books as I have been doing for the last 10 years. Being last minute I wasn't able to secure a sellers permit for the show. I was informed when I arrived there would be a $12 fee and I would have to pay a small percent of what I made in taxes… all perfectly reasonable. I was also told that someone would be around to take care of that.
On Friday afternoon a gentlemen from the City of Phoenix came by with the form to fill out. He also said the fee was $50… not the $12 I was initially told. A few exhibitors around me got the same paperwork. He then went on to hand out more forms, letting us know he would be back to collect the forms and money later.
Confused by the change in rates and concerned that we might be getting scammed… two other guests/exhibitors went to guest relations where they were told that as guests that should have been taken care of already. Armed with this information, I went back about my day.
A while later the gentlemen returned with a female co-worker. They came to me first and I told them what we were told by guest relations. The woman stated that the convention was wrong and that I would have to pay. When I suggested that I would like to hear that from someone from the convention, she went off on me. She claimed that she had the authority to access what my sales were and what tax I should be charged and that I could expect to receive a huge tax bill from the state. She stressed that in this case I would be considered guilty until proven innocent and that she would make an example of me. She then started taking photos of my booth as evidence… not sure what a single back drop and a few stacks of comics was going to prove… She gave me her card, showed me a lanyard that I guess was supposed to make her official. Then she noticed the form on my table under my iPad. She grabbed at it to take it, being this would have my information on it where she could then try to make good on her threats. I put my hand down on it, keeping her from taking it. She got even more angry and took off, threatening me with more financial penalties as she went.
I took her card and went back to guest relations and told them what happened. They were shocked and started trying to get a hold of people right away. I returned to my booth with one of the convention personnel but the City of Phoenix employees were no where to be found.
About an hour later, the head of programming for the convention came to my table along with the first gentlemen I dealt with from the city. I was told that there had been some confusion that the price difference was due to state vs. city fees, etc… and with the help of the convention personnel we got it all sorted out. The gentlemen from the city sincerely apologized for his co-worker and how she handled the situation.
The City of Phoenix could have avoided a lot of problems by approaching the Phoenix Comic Con personnel upon arrival and coordinated with them having an official from the show with the tax person so the exhibitors and guests would know it was legitimate. An incident that could have ruined my weekend was quickly resolved by the convention staff who again were fantastic in every aspect of the weekend.
And I understand the tough position the gentlemen from the city was in. As for his co-worker, a Senior Tax Auditor for the Finance Department Tax Audit Division for the City of Phoenix… Just because you wear a plastic badge on a lanyard doesn't mean that folks are going to just assume that you are who you say you are… and you should probably expect that some people are going to have questions rather than just blindly handing you money. If you can't deal with that then perhaps you shouldn't be the one they send outside of the office.