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Toronto in 72 hours

Our table at the Toronto Comicon
Our table at the Toronto Comicon

I spent last weekend in Toronto visiting friends, pimping comics, and living somewhat of the high life, it was a good, if exhausting weekend, and at the end of it all I’m glad to be home.

I worked out of our Toronto office on Friday, which was a great reminder of why I love living in London.  The trip took me over 2 hours to drive down (we usually take the train from the London office), and was pretty much exhausting.  Everything’s usually fine until you reach Milton, and then things go downhill.  The trip along the Gardiner was okay.

Parking for the day was $9.00, not too bad, and the weekend seemed off to a good start.

I had a 1pm meeting, so I had no time to meet any of my Toronto friends for lunch, and as soon as I got into Toronto I had a wicked headache.  A couple of coffee’s and Advil later and all was well.  I did a little Q and A session with the Toronto folks about our new site and some ideas I have for our old site, and then I sequestered myself away to get some work done.

I had a couple hours to kill after work, so I decided to pop into a couple of Queen Street stores.  I didn’t have any change on me (and didn’t want to use my credit card for a $1.00 parking fee), so I popped into a store to grab a drink and break a bill.  As I was leaving the store, I saw a parking dude at my car.  In the time it took me to cross the street, he had ticketed me with his new fancy electronic ticketing gizmo, and moved on to the next car.  He said to me “well at least you don’t have to worry about paying for parking now.”…nice.  Parking for the weekend $39.00.

I checked into my hotel…which William Shatner himself had screwed me on.  Last time I stayed at the Novotel in Toronto, it’s a 3 star, decent little place.  It usually costs about $90 a night.  Parking is a little dicey, but it’s pretty cheap.  The hotel is decent but not amazing, the rooms are clean, the bathroom small but serviceable, and the in-room wi-fi is free.

On Expedia I found this cool hotel on King and Yonge for $110 a night, but Priceline found me the Shereton Center for only $120 a night!  5 star hotel…I’m thinking internet must be free, parking won’t be TOO bad, and hey, it’s a 5 star hotel!

So imagine my surprise when I got my credit card bill for $360!  I looked into it, and despite the fact that the site didn’t say anything about it, the itinery said that it was $120 US a night.  YOW!  That’s a heck of a jump.

I got checked in, found out about the $40.00 valet parking, or the $20.00 underground parking (parking for the weekend at 79.00 so far), parked my car, and went to my room.

Now my room was nice, but it wasn’t GREAT.  It had a big bed, a marble sink, a chair, a really uncomfortable desk chair, no jacuzzi, a regular style tub with shower.  I went to get on the internet and first there was no wi fi.  Strange.  I cabled myself in on the uncomfortable desk and chair…and paid $14.95 a night for the privileged of the intertubes (kind of essential when the business you’re there to promote is on the internet).  What really sucked was that there was no WiFi for my iPod Touch.  I didn’t realize how much I rely on it for little things until this weekend, and an iPhone is probably a good investment for me at some point.

I walked from my hotel at Queen and University down to Union station to met up with Toronto friends Tim and Larry and we hiked for dinner at a lovely little French bistro on Wellington past Spadina.  The meal was terrific, the company better, and the night was a perfect spring temperature, so we wandered back to King and Yonge for a pint.  After that the boys headed off to the subway while I strolled up to Dundas to check out the now completed AMC theatre up there which had been under construction for the better part of a decade.  I was hoping to catch a late showing of Fanboys, but it had already started by the time I got there, so I walked back to my hotel and realized I’d earned a blister on the ball of my foot.  Yowtch.

Saturday morning was the start of the Toronto Comicon.  Business at the show was good, but not great, although the crowds seemed pretty busy.  Our table was down by about a third over last year, and this year we saw a lot of action on our $1.00 tables, but relatively little action to our hardcover and tpb bins.

We sell at the shows for roughly the same as we’d sell on the site give or take a couple of bucks (we will discount bigger hardcovers since we don’t have to factor in shipping costs), however there was a table directly across from us who had TPB’s, hardcovers, and Absolute editions all for 25% off US cover, and Dan from the Labrynth had a ton of TPB’s and Hardcovers for 40% off US cover.

With that kind of pricing it’s hard to compete.  These guys were obviously dumping stock for whatever reasons, and that’s not something that’s good business.

We did dinner at Canyon Creek, and I gave the wife and kids a call to see how things were at home.  I talked to Kaylin and she reminded me that she really wanted a Tiny Titans comic, so I made sure to put that on my list for Sunday.  I was going to meet my buddy Liam for the UFC fights, but I was beat.  I thought about going to a movie, but instead I stayed in my hotel room, did some work on the monthly ANC update, and went to bed by 11pm.

Sunday morning I checked out of my hotel, popped by the Creperie on Queen for a quick bite to eat (where I was surprised to find parking is Free on Sunday until 1pm), and headed to the convention center.  Rather than parking inside at the $17.00 flat rate lot, I opted for the outdoor lot that usually has a cheaper rate until 6pm.  Of course how was I to know that Sunday was an event day…and parking was $25.00 (parking for the weekend = $104.00).

The Sunday was much busier than Saturday, but I still managed to get a couple of things done, including buying a stuffed Bone for Kaylin, her Tiny Titans book, and a great little sketch of Starfire for her from Agnes at My Misiu.

We packed up, I headed over to Char’s sister to pick up her old Mac, and drove home, a little more weary, and a little sadder for the state of comics as with every one of these shows the crowds seem to thin a little more, and we see more and more of the same faces, and fewer new fresh faces which would represent growth in the industry.  When the top selling comics start selling fewer than 100,000 units in a month, we’ve truly reached an industry in decline.

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

3 replies on “Toronto in 72 hours”

Did you not realize laddie boy that Toronto is striving to become a car free city. Outrageous parking, fast acting meter maids, bike lanes and the weekly closure of at least 1 major artery are all designed to get you out of the car and onto the TTC. As excited as I am to being working in Toronto again.. I fear the Parking Reaper.. BTW that AMC is freakin’ gorgeous. Saw Iron Man there last year. Kaitlyn is also into Bone in a big big way.

That’s what they want you to think. But think about it.. just about any city you go to in North America and abroad greets you with a warm and friendly manner… not an inconvience. If there is a problem with the provided service or hotel room .. they correct it usually by upgrading your room. Parking can be negotiated with a hotel stay. Or you can get an equivalent credit at the restaurant or nearby tourist area. Why do other places do this? Because they want you to stay and comeback. They know you are likely paying a tourist tax so they want to lessen that blow by providing exemplary customer service. In Toronto unless you are protesting and blocking major arteries, or blocking major arteries for a charity bike they don’t want you there. Less traffic means more room for the homeless to sprawl. And with more homeless you can create more committees and groups that can keep the Toronto elite and their cronies in cushy do nothing jobs.

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