Steel City Con: Even Worse Than You thought

I was not going to talk about Steel City Con again on this blog. I figured I had said more than enough in my last post, which blew up on social media and spread the word about Dom Vader’s shenanigans very far indeed. However, two separate events have occurred which prompted me to revisit this issue.

The first is that Dominic Alessandria (hereafter: Dom Vader), the owner and promoter of Steel City Con, threw a hissy fit and kicked out a bunch of vendors who either reshared my post or posted their own criticism. Attached is a screen shot of a message sent to one of these vendors, providing independent confirmation:

I know of at least three other vendors that got booted, but I’ll leave it up to them to identify themselves. I’m sure they will have plenty to say.

By itself, this is an extremely dickish thing to do. Some commentators on social media who had past run-ins with Dom predicted this, citing examples of people being banned from the Steel City Con Facebook page and having any critical posts deleted (in fact, there’s a Facebook community dedicated to the subject). I didn’t think Dom Vader would go this far; it’s one thing to ban someone from commenting and quite another to throw out long time vendors. But there you have it. Beneath the oily, steel shell of his mechanical heart, Dom is actually very sensitive.

But at least (all?) of these folks got refunds. We, however, still have not received ours.

Now we come to the element that personally bothers me the most. Perhaps in an attempt to come across as the wounded good guy, unfairly maligned by some internet malcontent, Dom Vader peddles the epic deceit that we never asked for a refund. Why he would expect anyone to believe such an outrageous thing I can’t guess, but then again I can’t guess why he thought it was a good idea to tag vendors like cattle and charge them $50 for each separate booth helper, no matter how many were in the building at once. (Oh, you didn’t hear about that? More on that in a minute.)

Obviously, we asked for a refund. That was the entire point of making the Paypal claim. In our claim, we stated the reasons why we would not be able to attend and asked for the $189 back. If you’ve ever had a dispute through PayPal before, you know how this works: the request for refund goes immediately to the seller, who can simply issue the refund or escalate it to Paypal for arbitration. He could have sent us the money back at the click of a mouse-button, but instead he chose to escalate the claim to Paypal.

So much for that.

The second event was a comment I received today on the last Steel City Con post. It is so nasty and calumnious that I did not approve it and I had to redact 2/3rds of the letter because it contains unsupported and probably libelous allegations against two of Darth Dom’s rivals. It was sent anonymously, under the name “F#¢k the rumor mill”, but ten seconds of email searching identified the author as “Cy-Fi Samael,” apparently the owner of a Pittsburgh clothing store. Here are the parts relevant to me:

Firstly steel city con did offer refunds to people after they set the letter or regarding set up schedule changing. There’s multiple vendors that got refunds & I was even offered one when I contacted them regarding it – even though I never said I was planning on cancelling.

Secondly is nice [sic] Casey [Bassett, promoter of Sci-Fi Valley Con] offered you a discount to go on here and slam steel city con – is usual behavior for sci-fi valley.

[Deleted three paragraphs that have nothing to do with Ascension Epoch, attacking Casey Bassett and Renee George of the late Pittsburgh Comicon]

As for the claims in the first paragraph, all I can say is: That’s nice, but he didn’t do that for us. Maybe Dom just has a mad on for us for some reason, or maybe my previous post caused him so much heat he figured he’d better play nice. Whatever, the fact remains that we have not been issued a refund.

The second paragraph is simply a lie. I received no financial incentives for posting the previous article, and anyone who knows me knows that I wouldn’t need to be bribed into exposing someone who defrauded me. A moment’s consideration will show how silly the idea is. A “discount” (presumably to buy a table at Sci-Fi Valley Con) would have been worth substantially less money than the amount I had already sunk into the table at Steel City Con ($189). Sci-Fi Valley Con’s tables are only $59. What sort of “discount” would have made that exchange worthwhile? Moreover, we purchased our table for SVC a few weeks after the last one, way back in June. And this does not even take into account the earnings we could have made at Steel City Con.

For the record, let me state unequivocally that we have no meaningful connection to Sci-Fi Valley Con beyond that we bought a table there in May. This is essentially the same connection we have with any other con — including Steel City Con, for that matter. We did not ask Sci-Fi Valley Con or anyone else to reshare the post (though I’m sure happy they did!). Aside from occasional interactions over email or Facebook and a few minutes of conversation in real life, we don’t know Casey Bassett, Renee George, Dominic Alessandria, or any other con promoter. They are not distant relatives or friends of ours. Before this episode, we had no bad blood, no grudges nursing against Dom. Outside of the convention hall, they may be the nicest or the nastiest people on the planet and we wouldn’t know about it. The knowledge we have about any of them comes from our experiences at conventions that they ran, and all of our comments come in that narrow context.

Now, let’s get to the meat of this new indictment against Steel City Con, delivered in the writing of old Dom Vader himself. The following is the full letter/email he sent to vendors that started this whole controversy. Bolded items are in the original. Note the imperious tone of the letter (one commentator on Facebook said he had never been to another con that “treated their own vendors like criminals or adversaries.” Spot on.) and pay special attention to his new rules about the non-removable wristbands and his parking lot gestapo. Also take note of the bizarre requirement that vendors must receive his permission before distributing their own promotional flyers. Of course, you’ll also see the bit about having to pay for your chairs and the stuff about changing the hours of set-up and the con. I won’t make any more comment on the letter, because I think it says more about the type of convention that Steel City Con is, and the personality of the man who runs it, than anything else I could add.

SET-UP is now THURSDAY ONLY: 9:00am – 9:00pm.
This is an additional hour of set-up time and ensures everyone is ready for our customers on Friday morning when we open the doors.
Note: Dealers / Artists may enter the building at 9:00am on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This makes it easy to remember: same time every morning.
Any ARTIST or DEALER arriving AFTER the set-up times will NOTbe permitted to set-up and will forfeit their table(s) without refund.
Friday 10am – 8pm (3 Day Pass holders get in at 9:30am) Dealers / Artists get in at 9:00am
Saturday 10am-8pm (3 Day Pass holders get in at 9:30am) Dealers / Artists get in at 9:00am
Sunday 10am-5pm (3 Day Pass holders get in at 9:30am) Dealers / Artists get in at 9:00am
Please note: closing time for Friday night is now 8pm, not 9pm.
Effective immediately we will be using special design WRISTBANDS (not badges) for dealers and Artists. Each Wristband will have a specific serial number on it associated with your table(s). The wristbands are A SPECIAL DESIGN hospital grade quality which have a unique design, a unique serial number and are durable, waterproof and hypo-allergenic.
Our staff will physically place the wristband on your wrist (and on your helpers). If you and your helpers are not all checking in at the same time you should give the names of those arriving later to our staff. As with you, our staff will physically place the wristband on your helpers as they arrive. We will NOT give you wristbands for you to place on your helpers.
Badge policy has been overly abused and badges have never been transferable. If you attempt to allow someone to enter the show that is not a true helper you will be ejected from the show. Don’t risk getting banned from the show just to get your friends or family into the event.
Please do not wait until the weekend of the show to purchase additional vendor wristbands. Prices of additional vendor wristbands are currently $40. (The cost is $50ea the weekend of the show).
If you CUT or REMOVE your WRISTBAND at any time it becomes VOID and a new one must be purchased at full price.
Children 10 and under are free with paid artist or dealer table. Children must be accompanied by adult. Limit 2 children per purchased artist table or dealer table.
We are pleased to announce that with the new set-up change security will be in the parking lot every morning of the show to direct parking more easily and more efficiently.
Please cooperate with our security team and follow their instructions. Security has been instructed to contact the show promoter when anyone gives them an attitude or problem.
DEALERS & ARTISTS are NOTallowed to park in the Monroeville Convention Center parking lots. It is more important than ever that we create as much parking for CUSTOMERS as we can. The CUSTOMERS are the reason we are all here!
1. The CVS Building parking lot which is located next door to the Convention Center.  You may park in the West or East side parking lots of the CVS Building. (Look for parking signs)
2. The Doubletree Hotel Monroeville. Located next door.
        NEXT SHOW: APRIL 15-17, 2016
NEW EXPANDED HOURS for pre-purchase of tables:Due to an overwhelming number of artists and dealers pre-purchasing their tables we are expanding the hours for pre-purchase.
SATURDAY: 5:00pm – 8:00pm (at show entrance SCC Booth)                SUNDAY: 9:00am-3:00pm (at show entrance SCC Booth)
Please do not wait until the last minute to pre-purchase your tables. This additional time should allow for a faster and more efficient process.
Special note: Tables not re-purchased by 2pm on Sunday become available to all other dealers / or artists.
DISCOUNT DEALER TABLE PRICE is $129 per table (regular price is $149);
DISCOUNTED ARTIST TABLE PRICE is $79 per table (regular price is $99).
Note: 1 wristband & 1 chair come per table purchased.  (Maximum of 2 chairs when buying more than 1 table).  Additional wristbands, chairs and other options may be purchased.   Sorry, you cannot bring your own chairs.
  1. If someone approaches you with a flyer from another event please report it to show staff IMMEDIATELY!
  2. Also, please be advised you MUST receive approval from Show Management BEFORE attempting to distribute any materials / flyers. Please REPORT anyone handing out flyers which you believe may not have approval.
Due to quick sell-out of the host hotel for our event we strongly encourage everyone to book your room as soon as possible for the next show to get the special room block rate! The Official Hotel of the Steel City Con is the Doubletree by Hilton – Monroeville.  (412) 373-7300.  Tell reservations that you want the Special Rate for the Steel City Con.
Special note: Get to Set-Up EARLY! The sooner your set-up is complete, the sooner you can start making money from other dealers! Many dealers make a lot of money during set-up.
CHECK-IN: is located inside the Dock Doors where you can pick up your wristbands.
1.  TABLE COVERINGS:  Please remember that we do NOTprovide any table covers or skirting. HOWEVER the Monroeville Convention Center will cover and skirt your table(s) for a special price oonly $29 per table. Please notify us immediately if you are interested in this feature (this is almost 50% off regular cost).
When you arrive you should pull into an available parking spot. You will see PALLETS stacked outside of the loading area.  Dealers with larger set-ups should put their boxes on pallets and let the forklift driver take your boxes to your table(s).  Forklift service is FREE!
3.  PARKING:  After you unload, immediately move your vehicle away from the convention center.
4.  Dock doors are CLOSED on show days.
5.  TRASH: Do NOT leave trash in the convention facility.Dealers leaving trash behind will be billed for clean-up costs
6.  SUNDAY TEAR-DOWN:  DEALERS may NOT TEAR DOWN DISPLAYS OR PUT BOXES IN   AISLES UNTIL SUNDAY AFTER 5:00pm.   Dealers who try to tear down early will be documented and not allowed to return to any future conventions. Dock Doors will be locked during ALL show hours.  NO EARLY PACK-UP ON SUNDAY WILL BE PERMITTED!
7.  WRISTBANDS:   Pick up your Dealer / Artist wristbands at Dock Door entrance.  Wristbands  MUST be picked up BEFORE attempting to unload. Abuse of wristbands is considered very serious.  DO NOT CUT or REMOVE YOUR WRISTBAND! (you must pay full price for wristband replacement).
WRISTBANDS will only be given to helpers that are physically present.
WRISTBANDS MUST be VISIBLE at all times so show security can easily spot them.
8.  DOLLY / HAND TRUCKS:  If you choose not to use our fork lift service then you must bring your own dolly/hand trucks.
9.  NO SMOKING:  This is NO smoking facility. Smoking is only permitted outside of building. If smoking in front of building please smoke a minimum of 20 feet away from the building.
10. LIMITED SPACE:  There is LIMITED SPACE behind your table(s). Please be respectful of others. DO NOT MOVE YOUR TABLES:  Exact aisle space has been measured for Fire Marshall Regulations. Do NOT take someone else’s tables. All tables have been SOLD.
11.  ELECTRIC HOOK-UP: Standard electric is $129.00 if paid in advance or $149.00 the weekend of show. The facility has special plug adaptors that are required in order for you to have electricity.

5 thoughts on “Steel City Con: Even Worse Than You thought

  1. As a former employee of the Pittsburgh Comicon, I know both myself and others would be very interested in what exactly Dom had to say regarding the show and our Chair, Renee George. Dom is basically a mental child that gets to play grown-up a couple times each year and makes himself feel like a ‘real’ grown-up by being an ass to people.

  2. Oh geez. I can tell you exactly why Cy was downing Casey at least. She was such a horrible rude vendor/guest the first year that convention was at the Jaffa that she is not allowed back. Major sour grapes there. I know her and yeah. She is like that.

  3. I just saw this blog, and I’m several years too late, but I thought you would enjoy an update on the situation. Dom sold the con to someone far worse than him. No one saw that coming. The guy is the equivalent of a sleazy used car salesman, who is interested only in nickel and diming vendors, and treating them as if they are far below him. He flat out refused to turn on the heat. In fact, not only would he not turn on the heat, he left the front doors open. It is December. He started spamming people with 7 to 10 of the exact same emails a day, and got someone to post constant videos on their Facebook page yelling, “We’re here, where are you?” He let flea market sellers in Artist Alley, and let Tupperware, 31, etc in at the dealer tables. He made a mockery of the entire event. I could go on for several paragraphs about all the ways he ruined this weekend’s con, but I’ll just leave it at that and say that I, as a vendor, won’t be back.

    • Hi Sadie,
      As the new owners of the con, I am saddened to hear your comments. I tried to look you up on the vendor list, but there was no Sadie on the list. Anyway, the heat is included with the convention center rent, so there was no nickel and diming. It happened to break on Saturday, and we worked diligently to fix it. You must have noticed it was toasty on Sunday. We had our entire families there, so we would have no reason to keep them cold! I encourage you to reach out to us to have a proper discussion on how we are improving the con, including limiting no related vendors. I apologize for your poor experience. Thank you

  4. I enjoy attending these events but the biggest complaint I have is the PA system the celebs have to use during the Q&A sessions. It’s the WORST!!! In order to be heard, the celebs must practically have the mic in their mouths. Otherwise the audio drops out. And considering the celebrities are old pros at this type of thing, I’m sure they know how to handle a microphone. This is not an isolated thing either. It was going on years ago and I just attended one this past weekend (4/1/23) and it’s the same old thing!!! The hosts are making the celebrities look like fools up on the stage talking and talking and nobody can hear them. Its very frustrating.

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