My name is Michael Ford and I am an asshole.
I run a local social organization, Great Basin Geeks. GBG has been around for a little over two years and in that time has grown rapidly. Currently we sit just under 1,200 members. This is not some fancy corporate entity, we have a lot to learn and a long way to go before we are truly a professional organization. We do the best we can with the limited resources available. I personally don’t make a great deal of money, but what I work hard for tends to be spent on the group. Others have been generous enough to help where they can. We don’t sell anything, we don’t have membership dues, there is no revenue to speak of from the group. When we decided to do a small convention, we did it on a shoestring budget that I’ll be paying for into the foreseeable future.
To give a little background, I started GBG with my wife when she asked what I wanted for my 30th Birthday. Because it was also going to be the 30th Anniversary of Return of the Jedi, I asked for a Star Wars themed party. Only problem was, I didn’t know hardly anybody Geeky in the area, even though I had lived here for 10 years. So my wife and I took to the internet, posted in local Facebook groups and Craigslist, and miraculously had about 20 people or so show up. From that party we formed the Northern Nevada Science Fiction Club. We stayed small at about 25 people for a little over a year, getting together occasionally to see the latest Sci-Fi movies, with After Earth doing its best to put and end to it. Then in June of 2014, I had just quit a job that I hated and decided that I wanted to do more with the group. I changed the name to Great Basin Geeks and started sharing an open invitation online. Within a few months we were regularly meeting and having fun together. The group grew rapidly and more ideas were formed for activities.
Among these ideas was a personal one that meant a lot to me. What if I could see the new Star Wars with 100 of my closest friends? So I created a Facebook event for the group and plans slowly started to coalesce. About a month ago, rumors started to circulate that tickets were going on sale early, REALLY early. So we tried our best to figure out how we were going to see the movie as a group. I was firm in my belief that we should go the Galaxy Theatre in Sparks. It would offer the best experience for everyone going. So we tried to reach out to them. My wife sent out an event request form. We looked for a phone number to call for the local theater to no avail. All of us in the group have busy lives, so getting to the theater to ask about it in person proved difficult. In fact, I didn’t make it to the theater myself until the 16th of October. In the meantime, we tried to figure out how much the tickets would be and get the funds into the same pot to make the purchase.
This seems to be where a lot of the hate comes from, so I’ll break down my thinking as best as I can. Looking at other premieres that were coming to the Galaxy, I determined that tickets would be $12-13 each. On top of that, to make it easy to collect the funds, I made a Paypal button that people could click and pay. In hindsight, posting it on the website was a bad idea, but I honestly couldn’t figure out how to put it in the Facebook group. As you may know, Paypal charges for these types of transactions. At a flat $15, I figured I would be lucky to cover any other incidental costs, “convenience fees”, gas, etc. This was discussed with the group and I started to collect the money. When I did go to the theater, I got no firm answers, only that it was doubtful that we could simply rent out a screening. I did not get any other information on what pricing would be (“I don’t know”) or when tickets would go on sale exactly.
Rumors started to fly on the internet. Tickets would go on sale Monday, October 19th. At first it seemed a midnight ticket purchase would be in order. Then more info. Disney was dropping a new trailer. Disney was dropping a trailer on Monday Night Football. Ticket sales would be tied to the trailer dropping.
So instead of getting a day of rest after our first convention, because I had told everybody we were going to see and opening showing, I planned my Monday around buying Star Wars tickets. I got to the theater around 4. A few friends were already there and after checking with the theater about the time tickets would go on sale (“I don’t know”), we hung out and waited. The news crew showed up around 5 or so, looking for people waiting in line. There were about 10 of us at this point and they asked to interview me. Sure, why wouldn’t I get interviewed and share my passion for Star Wars? We finally got inside about 5:30. I ended up second in line. There were 4 cashiers, so I picked at random and started the process.
As I said, I don’t make a great deal of money. I don’t have a credit card. We had pre-sold about 60 tickets. I had a little money in the bank and some money we “made” at the Con (which didn’t cover all my personal expenses). A couple of Geeks had joined me and together we picked the largest opening standard showing we could afford. That ended up being a total of 172 tickets out of a screening that held 189 guests.
I was elated. We had done it! We had gotten tickets so that a large contingent of the Geeks would be able to see the new Star Wars together. We could share our passion with each other in yet another way. This was fantastic.
The news crew said they needed someone for the live broadcast at 6:30 and I agreed. Everything seemed to be going so well. We just made it up to O’Clearys in time to see the trailer and sat down to eat. When my wife posted that we had the tickets, people started clamoring to get them. I was still buzzing from the adrenaline, thinking I had accomplished something amazing and actually proud of the fact that I had purchased all those seats.
Then I got home and it was chaos. People were using the button I had created to pay for their seats non-stop, to the point that I tried shutting down the button while I caught up. There were some technical difficulties that caused me to shut down the page entirely. And while I was trying to get caught up on who had paid, the hate started to poor in.
Despite the fact that I thought I had been very transparent and open with my intentions and how things were going to work, apparently I was mistaken. Suddenly I went from the hero to the villain. I was an evil bastard that was scalping tickets. I was in shock. Scalping tickets? Yes, the cost of the tickets was lower than expected, but I still had to take the day off work, without pay, to secure them. And besides, any money leftover would probably end up going back to the Geeks, probably towards a holiday party. I mean, everyone knows me and how I operate, right?
The world can be a cruel place and everyone is looking for a villain. I couldn’t possibly have the best interest of Great Basin Geeks in mind. I must have been out to rip people off, to profit off the backs of my fellow Geeks. Never mind the fact that I have put countless blood, sweat, tears, money, time, and sanity into building the Geeks and trying to make it an accepting place for everyone.
I got angry. I did my best not to show it, but I made one heated post. I accept the opinions of others and know that what I wrote was counterproductive. I did not remove anyone from the group, I didn’t argue, I didn’t call anyone names or say that people were trolling. I am so sorry that things were unclear and that I made people feel like I was trying to harm them. That has never been my intention.
I know not everyone will believe me, there will be those that believe this was written for nefarious purposes. I can only ask those people to sit down with me face to face and ask what they want to know. I am a very open person, I just don’t always communicate perfectly. I try not to spout off online and some people took this as me hiding. I wanted to make sure that I was as calm and collected as possible when writing this, so I didn’t respond right away.
Maybe all this means that I’m an asshole. Who am I to claim otherwise? But I will continue to do my best to make Great Basin Geeks into the best organization it can be, and I’ll do so in the best way I can. I can’t do anything else.