As in the past, after the NPE plastics industry trade show has packed up and moved on, questions arise as to the value received from the show and McCormick Place and Chicago.
As a person who has attended NPE shows since the 1980s and been responsible for our show booth design and setup for approximately 20 years, I believe I am qualified to comment on some of the conditions and issues within McCormick Place.
The rumor mill
Despite many horror stories that circulate regarding McCormick Place and the trade unions, I believe that most of the stories are possibly urban myths. I have not witnessed any of the rumored problems in the past regarding uncooperative workers, bribes or payoffs. I have found most of the tradespeople to be courteous and professional and, for the most part, qualified for the job.
However, one issue that continues to cause concern is the amount of money required to exhibit in NPE. For those of you who attend the show but are not responsible for signing the time sheets and payment checks for the show, I am sure you have heard that it is expensive yet you probably have never heard much about the actual costs.
The Pepsi incident
Here is one small, but particularly galling example that just about everyone can relate to:
During the NPE2009 show, we ran out of soft drinks and ordered more through the Chicago Restaurant Partners LLC office. We ordered four cases of Pepsi products. I believe that if we traveled to a local grocery store, the total purchase would be around $30. Well, in McCormick Place $30 does not go very far.
The price of four cases of Pepsi products in McCormick Place typifies, for us, the general attitude and prices charged exhibitors.
The total charge for four cases of Pepsi, delivered to our booth, was $345.39. The invoice breaks down to $254 for the four cases of Pepsi, a 21 percent service charge, and a 10.25 percent Illinois state sales tax, a 3 percent Chicago soft drink tax, a tax on the service charge, and a food and beverage tax. Government taxes totaled $38.06, which is more than the legitimate retail price of the soft drinks.
Now, a nice man in a tuxedo delivered the Pepsi, along with a couple of buckets of ice and a few cups. Good service? Sure, but not worth $345.39.
I could go on. A $640 dollar TV stand rental is another good example. But you get the point. Paying a premium for convenience is one thing, but the McCormick prices are ridiculous, and the cumulative effect can add up to enough aggravation to be the tipping point when it comes time to decide on whether to exhibit at the next NPE, or not.
Hanrahan is CEO of Erema North America Inc. in Ipswich, Mass., a supplier of plastics recycling machinery and systems, as well as service, parts and technical support.