A trade show like Affiliate Summit attracts a lot of people who pay good money to be there. As group, they represent billions of dollars in potential business.
This is a group that many people want to reach, and that is one of the reasons why they’re willing to pay a lot of money for a show pass. However, there are always a few asshats who will do what is call LobbyCon. This is where someone who hasn’t bought a pass, stands outside the show floor lobby, and tries to leech off the show by soliciting the paying attendees. It’s not hard to understand why this would make you an asshat.
A prime example of such asshatness is Stefan. He stood outside the lobby holding this sign.
He made it look like he had a show pass by putting a lanyard around his neck and then blocking it with his sign. According to Janet Thaeler (who took the above photo), this is what Stefan does. He crashes conferences. He is an asshat. When confronted by the ASW staff, he became abusive to them. I’ll let Affiliate Summit Cofounder, Missy Ward, tell the rest of the story.
I hadn’t seen “sign-guy” until Monday afternoon as I was tied up with my session and other things going on with the conference.
I guess it was about 2:00’ish when an attendee came up to me (one that has attended every one of our conferences for the last 8 years) let me know about the “asshole that was hovering right at the start of our conference area with a sign promoting his business that didn’t have a pass.”
I spoke to my staff about it and they let me know that there were a handful of attendees that had spoken up about it and that a couple of my employees had previously asked him to leave the premises.
At that point, I went over to speak with him myself to find out why he thought what he was doing, was OK.
I introduced myself as one of the owners of Affiliate Summit and at that point, he simply eye-rolled me.
I asked him for a business card and to see his attendee pass. He said he didn’t have one but he was “outside the conference area.” (This was exactly 4” away from where our contracted space began — the entrance to which 6,400+ conference attendees needed to walk through in order to access anything related to the conference).
I then explained that several attendees had complained that they thought it was unfair of him to do what he was doing and that it was potentially taking business away from them, which they paid to get. I further explained that I wasn’t happy that he was taking advantage of my hard work to get all those attendees to the event, which he was soliciting and benefiting from.
With the chutzpah and arrogance that I’ve never seen before he told me that he highly-doubted that anyone complained and that I didn’t know what it was like to have no money and try to start a business and finished again with the fact that he was outside of the conference space, so pretty much, I can go screw myself.
I then told him that I absolutely know what it’s like to start a business with no money – Affiliate Summit started in 2003 with an $800 investment – $400 from me and $400 from my business partner. Neither one of us at the time had an extra $400 laying around. I was single mother of a 2-1/2 year old and that $400 was pretty much all I had and yes, I was potentially taking food out of my kid’s mouth if this new venture didn’t work out.
I worked my friggin’ ass off knowing that it was either sink or swim time. But in no way would I ever consider trying to be successful off the backs of others and that what he was doing not only insulted me, but would insult anyone at that conference that was in his same position.
I then asked him if he minded that I brought over some random attendees to ask them what they thought about what he was doing.
One of the attendees asked him why he thought was so special that he didn’t deserve to buy a pass. He also told him that his friend inside the show was in a similar line of business as the sign-holder-guy and that he was certain that his friend would be pissed off knowing that he paid to attend and that sign-holder-guy who didn’t, was potentially taking away business from him.
The other attendee told him that he would never do business with a company that was a freeloading bloodsucker and further said that if he didn’t have the money for a ticket that he should have taken advantage of the hundreds of free pass opportunities or scholarship programs that Affiliate Summit offers.
After those two conversations, I asked him if I should continue asking other attendees what they thought. He then said that he got the picture and asked me not to blog about the situation.
I told him that while I couldn’t kick him out of the hotel (I didn’t know at that point that he was breaking hotel rules and that I could have had him removed immediately), I suggested that he move far away from the entrance and let him know that I didn’t think it would be good idea for him to come back the next day as I was planning on looking into other recourses to have him removed.
Listen… I totally understand what it’s like to be broke and trying to grow your business. I UNDERSTAND IT WAY TOO WELL and in my opinion, doing the “LobbyCon” thing and rationalizing that you’re adding value to the conference vs. being a distraction and parasite is bad enough. But openly taking advantage of other people, when if he would have simply taken advantage of the free passes that we make available is just being an asshat and that’s something I will never condone.
Don’t be an asshat like Stefan. If you’re going to a show like #ASW15, then you should support it by buying a pass, or at least try to win one of the many free passes Affiliate Summit gives away for every show.