Under The Microscope

Airport Economics

As we’ve noted in multiple posts before, we’ll be at Macworld San Francisco this January (booth #341, have you got it memorized yet?). Today, I finalized the rental of our equipment for the show. If you’ve never worked a trade show, you may not be aware of the highway robbery to which we’ve just been subjected. Allow me to demonstrate, with a simple question and answer posed to several people, just what’s occurring at trade shows throughout the world.

How much do you think internet access costs at Macworld?

“$60 a day, so $240”
“About $300”
“$200 or less”

As you can see, the answers fall in the $50-$300 range. That’s a reasonable range, but which one is exactly right? The answer is none of them, because the actual cost for 4 days of internet access is $1095. I’ll repeat that, because it bears repeating. Internet access for exhibitors at Macworld San Francisco is one thousand ninety five dollars. That’s $273.75 per day, or $37.76 per hour that the exhibit hall is open.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Here are some more great examples:

100 square feet of carpeting (10’x10′ booth):
Standard: $605
Plush: $672
Ultra Plush: $943

Wastebasket: $19.50
Wastebasket Emptying: $38/day

Aluminum Easel: $47.50
Easel Back (“For the back of signs to make them stand up”): $10.70

That’s just a small sampling of “how they getcha”, but it’s all pretty terrible. Sadly, it all falls under the umbrella of what I like to call “Airport Economics” – a closed market where prices are fixed and you can’t do a damned thing about it. In the future, we may “buy a booth”, that is, buy most of the items that we’re currently renting, and make them as collapsible and shippable as possible. For now though, we have to deal with GES, the supplier for MWSF.

This would have been the end of the post, except for the horror that is the GES ordering site. Hey, what exactly does GES stand for, you ask? Well, looking at their site, it would appear to be “GES Exposition Services”, but we knew with the prices above that they couldn’t be cool enough to have a recursive acronym (like GNU). It looks like GES originally stood for “Greyhound Exposition Services”. Near as I can figure, that means that “GES Explosition Services” now stands for “Greyhound Exposition Services Exposition Services”, and that’s fantastic.

With a name like that, I shouldn’t have expected much from the site. But I didn’t expect something this horrible:

Needless to say, the site wasn’t working with Safari. I tried Camino (and Firefox), and got the following:

Fantastic, no? It finally worked in IE (*shudder*), and even after I registered, I was unable to sign in using Safari. You’d think perhaps the company running a large portion of the biggest Macintosh show in the world would have a website that worked in Safari. You’d think.

Update: This has been linked and commented on quite a bit, and I wanted to be sure one thing is clear. This is not an indictment of Macworld SF, but a problem with all trade shows, using Macworld as an example. My experience has been that people aren’t aware of just how much trade shows cost, and are amazed when they hear prices like this. There are a few comments of “This isn’t news”, but a lot more that say “Unbelievable!”, so I think it was worth posting.

Additionally, the internet charge listed below comes direct from the Moscone Center, and appears to be the same for all shows. The other services come from GES, and while ridiculous, are not abnormal. Macworld magazine and their parent company IDG put on a great show – the problem is just that, it’s a trade show.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Our Software