Thursday, November 7, 2019

I got stuck in the Funko line at NYCC 2019

In 2018, I went to the New York Comic Con for three days instead of my usual Friday and Saturday routine. A Flutter signing at the Dark Horse booth and a late-scheduled Tick panel made it an easy choice to appear on Sunday for, I believe, the first time. I told myself that this would be a one-time deal, though, as NYCC involves a lot of travel for me and I felt that I could do everything I wanted to in two days. So when the 2019 version rolled around, I was content with only going on Friday and Saturday.


A few weeks before the show, I found out that NYCC was holding an online lottery for some of its panels and exclusive merchandise, and I took a look at what was being offered. There were only a few listings for each day, of which everyone could choose a few to enter for a chance to win the opportunity to attend or buy. I entered my info for all four days, thinking that I would just not show up to something that I won unless it was a can't miss item or event.

And then, a few days later, I got an email that I would be able to enter the Funko line on Thursday.

I'll admit, as soon as I saw that I had won, I saw dollar signs. I don't have much of a Pop! collection myself, but I also know that there's a great demand for some of the rarer and popular items out there, and I've never been able to get into the line at Comic-Con in San Diego. I checked eBay to see what people were pre-selling some items for. There were listing for a chrome Batman figure that people were buying for $400! I took a deep breath and decided that I pretty much had to go. I got caught up in the idea of paying for my trip by spending a few hours in line.


So I packed up and left home early in the day on Thursday. This was really only eight hours or so before I was planning on leaving in the first place, so I lost a little sleep and packing the night before was a little more hectic, but I figured it'd be worth it.

I traveled from Western Pennsylvania to Newark, New Jersey, where I caught a train at Penn Station into New York City. I walked from my stop to the convention center, made it through the entrance lines and through the crowds to the Funko booth, in the 700 section of the floor. I arrived at a few minutes after 1:30 (my group's time according to my ticket) and I was really hoping that they wouldn't try to keep me from getting in line after being a few minutes late.


It took a while, but I found the line, which stretched back, and back, and back...a total of seven aisles! I found myself near the Marvel booth on the main floor. It was just an incredibly, unbelievably long line, but I thought that there was a chance that it would move quickly, and I had gone just for that, so I decided to stick it out, at least for a little while.


I ended up waiting in line for around four hours. I brought my headphones and I listened to music. I read news articles. I stared into the void for four hours! At some point, I figured that I might as well stick it out the rest of the way. It was a test of endurance and obstinance, I guess.


I eventually made it to the 700 aisle and the Funko shop was in clear view. But I then learned that the line wrapped all the way around the booth, and snaked back and forth before arriving at the registers. I got a sheet of paper with a list of everything that was on sale. As I worked my way around the booth, workers would update us on everything that was sold out for the day. The first things to go, of course, were the big-ticket items. By this point, I knew that I wasn't getting anything that was on the top of my list.


I ended up feeling pretty bad for the workers at the booth, because not only were people getting frustrated over the long lines and taking it out on them, but people who weren't able to get in line were constantly walking by and asking if the line would open up to everyone. One worker was really optimistic about things, and told several people that by 5:00, he expected that everyone with a ticket would get through and the booth would be open to everyone! "I can't promise anything," he said, over and over, "but it's happened 100% of the other times when I've worked the booth."

I was near the end of the 1:30 line, and there was one more group after ours - a 3:00 line. Since the 1:30 line didn't get through until after 5:30, though, I have to believe that not everyone in the 3:00 line made it. And at about 5:00, someone made the announcement that the line would not, in fact, be opening up to general attendees that day (the guy who thought it would looked genuinely stunned).

One popular rumor circulating through the line was that Funko gave out more tickets than they normally would, thinking that some people wouldn't show up. And when everyone did show up, they had no way of accommodating everyone in line.


Right before 5:30, there were just a few people in front of me in the line. I could see the bare shelves in the booth. One person, who was directly in front of me, looked at his list, said, "well, they're sold out of everything I want", and got out of line. He had been waiting for four hours! Everyone around him was speechless - why not just go through the line at that point? What is there to lose? But I respect his self control.

For my part, when I got to the register, I'll admit that I was just in "buy something" mode. I ended up buying five figures, which you can see above. They were all still exclusives, I figured, and if I could make a couple bucks off of these, then my long wait might at least be somewhat worth it.

After the show, I sold four of them and ended up losing a few dollars overall.


As I was listing the figures, I saw that Gabriella Pizzolo, the actress who plays Suzie on Stranger Things, was making an appearance at the upcoming Rhode Island Comic Con. I ended up taking it to the show and having her sign it. It sits on a shelf as a tribute to the frustration that I felt waiting in that damn Funko line for the majority of one day at NYCC.

All in all, it was an interesting experience. If I had a time machine, I'd of course tell myself to avoid this line at all costs, but at least I have some reference for the future and know to stay away. And honestly, it kind of feels like I got my just deserts, trying to use my ticket for a fast cash grab when there wasn't even one figure that I was going to get for myself. Can you really blame me, though? The first few folks who were able to get in line certainly made thousands of dollars from their purchases. I guess it's just not something that I'm cut out for.

So let this serve, at least, as a warning to anyone who gets what seems like a golden ticket to the Funko line in the future: if you show up and the line is seven aisles long, go and do something (anything!) else with your time. But, hey, at least I got an okay story to tell.

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