Further Confusion 2022 is canceled, and a volunteer staffer speaks about the experience

by Patch O'Furr

Contract terms and angry messages

The cancelation of San Jose’s Further Confusion, among the world’s largest furry cons, was sad for everyone involved. Hopefully they will weather this and return next year. It must have been maximum difficulty at last minute during an unprecedented spike of the Covid pandemic.

The stakes are laid as soon as a furry convention signs a contract to fill a hotel. They get a block of rooms and are on the hook to deliver hundreds of rentals. It takes special circumstances to get released from the contract. If the terms don’t specify a zombie invasion, expect a bill while sharpening your machete! The pandemic must have given them a dilemma: Face a six figure debt or be a spreader event?

That puts them between a rock and a hard place when facing cancelation. That goes for other decisions too; anything involving legality can come loaded with stakes. For example, even a justified reason to ban someone can make them defer to higher powers, hedge answers, or be unable to respond because of consequences beyond their power to afford. But the stakes seem unknown when people get angry on social media.

There’s more than simple costs to consider for canceling. Sure, a properly organized corporation can go bankrupt and clear debt, but what do you think the chances are for the hotel to accept a future furry con? It also won’t help people who’ve taken time off from work and booked flights, or done all the volunteer work for nothing. Most cons depend on unpaid volunteers. When they sell passes, the staff generally aren’t taking a net profit; it only covers the costs, and then the reward is getting to have the event. Receiving help isn’t the same as directing employees; and other staff only have the option to work with them or not at all. Keeping volunteers is a challenge unlike the power of companies to hire and fire at will.

Outside con goers get mad over the money they’ve paid, or expect a simple [this > that] without understanding complications. They think lack of response means the cons are protecting their own benefit, when generally, they’re more protecting the con’s existence for all goers. Volunteers who directly catch the flak may not have decision making power. Their inside view may not match the outside view.

I reached out to one Further Confusion volunteer who agreed to talk anonymously.

(Dogpatch): How did you start volunteering?

(FC staff): I had an interest in how a convention runs. I’ve always seen the public view but wanted to see how it would be as a volunteer so I made the decision to sign up.

What was it like getting ready for FC?

Since I started volunteering there was always something going on behind the scenes such as artwork getting done, discussion of what needs to be ordered, responding to e-mails, discussions with the hotel block. Each volunteer had something that they could help out with and the more help we had the faster it could get done. The lack of volunteers made it a challenge.

Can you talk about how the executive team manages you?

The executive team is very professional and cares about the attendees. This is not some bias answer here because I have seen it myself, the team takes their jobs even if it’s volunteer work seriously and spends a lot of hours getting things done. Furries should be aware that this isn’t some hourly job that we get paid for. We spend a chunk of our free time helping the convention run.

What’s it like dealing with the public?

When dealing with the public it can be brutal, misinformation spreads easily online despite official channels existing. You can’t please everyone so while you do get a lot of positive feedback you will get that message calling you so many things it sometimes makes you wonder why you even signed up to volunteer.

What can you say about the unusual situation with Covid and the process leading to cancelation?

Everyone in the team was getting ready to prepare for the big weekend and once it was past New Years we started seeing things get from bad to worse, a call had to be made and as you’ve seen, a statement was released saying that the convention will not happen as scheduled. It was Pre Con depression for all of us. It’s a horrible feeling when you spend months of volunteer hours and then see this happen. Volunteers did cry at what happened. It’s heartbreaking.

Do you have advice to others for volunteering or thoughts about the future of the con?

Volunteering is rewarding in multiple ways but each convention does this a little differently. Some conventions will pay for your badge for being a volunteer or it ends up being for the following con. You could get swag for helping out. Not all of it is positive though, since from what we’ve seen in the public that if an attendee is mad, they will take it out on anyone they think is part of the convention.

We are living in a different time right now where it’s uncertain if a convention will really happen, since things can change in a month. It’s scary and unfortunately a reality right now. Despite this, we did the work that needed to be done and despite all the stress I don’t regret doing this. I will volunteer at any furry convention.

Remember, if you want cons to exist, and give good service, the best way is to be a volunteer and make the changes you want to see!

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