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Pundit’s Mailbag —
PMA Needs To Factor Bus Time And Taxi Costs Into Convention City Choice

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 19, 2007

Our piece, PMA Analysis — Does Houston Merit A Permanent Place In The PMA Rotation? brought this “on the money” commentary:

I totally agree, especially on your ease of networking comment.

This was a two-venue event. If you were in the Galleria area as we were, it was like being relegated to the boondocks.

Another major problem with this that you did not mention is the additional cost (both in time and dollars) incurred by attendees.

Time wise, it took a minimum of 20 minutes by cab. If you took the shuttle, it was probably double that. People that did not want to, or did not have the luxury of time for whatever reason, were forced to take a cab, which cost a minimum of $20 each way (that’s if you were a lousy tipper).

So it could easily cost an additional $40 to $50 daily, just to go back and forth once. Many had to do it more often. That is in addition to having to “cab it” anywhere else you had to go, as nothing was in walking distance.

I would lobby strongly for not returning to Houston.

— Peter Dessak
Vice President
Six L’s Packing Company, Inc.

The Six L’s name brings back a lot of memories for the Pundit. We worked for awhile in our family’s Puerto Rican operation, and rare was the week that passed without at least a few trailers of Six L’s tomatoes. Later, after we had launched Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS, we were doing a lot of work out of a Manhattan condo, possibly in violation of rules and laws prohibiting commercial use of the property.

Some neighbor noted all the activity and, as we used the sturdy tomato cartons — many of which were Six L’s — as our portable filing cabinets shuttling back and forth from Hunts Point, the busy-body neighbor deduced we were secretly running a spaghetti sauce factory out of our condo!

The police were called, a detective sent, an investigation conducted. Fortunately, the detective had no interest in the desks, art tables, salespeople and other business activities we had going on. He was focused on finding a spaghetti sauce factory and, failing that, gladly reported we were doing nothing wrong.

In today’s letter, Peter both amplifies our point — that the venue made entertaining difficult — and adds some specific costs to the point:

  • A round trip cost in time of, perhaps, an hour and a half a day waiting for shuttles or sitting on a shuttle for those in the Galleria district.
  • If one is in a rush and took cabs, say twice-a-day two days and once-a-day on two days, it was easy to spend, say, $300 on cabs back and forth from the Galleria. This was easy to do if you wanted to drop off literature in a hotel room after the show or change clothes before a reception. Add in another couple of cab trips to dinners and parties, and it is easy to see the cab bill being more than the airfare.

Beyond these explicit costs, there are implicit costs that are even more expensive:

  • One issue all shows have is getting the buyers to the floor and to the events. If a buyer is adjacent to the convention center and finishes a business review but has two hours to kill before the next one, that is enough to run see some of the show or attend a workshop. If that same buyer is out in the Galleria, he is probably just going to blow off the show entirely that day. That is a big cost.
  • We wrote a piece, which you can read here, urging people to participate in the events surrounding the trade show. Some of these started early. If an event was at 7:30 am, and it took people an hour to shower and dress and transport was 45 minutes, we are talking about people having to get up at 5:45 am to attend a morning session. That may be more dedication than we want to require of people.

We have received a number of comments on Houston as a venue, and we’ll run more next week. Most are in line with Peter’s assessment. We need a hotel package more compact than what Houston can offer at this stage.

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