Tim Hanrahan's column
in yesterday's Plastics News
has me thinking again about NPE
, Chicago, and McCormick Place.
I wrote an editorial
on the topic a few weeks ago:
A story tucked away in our July 20 issue might have shocked some readers. Headlined "SPI looks at NPE venue change," it notes that the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. is going to consider whether to hold the next NPE somewhere other than Chicago's McCormick Place.
Before you panic -- or rejoice -- keep in mind that few U.S. venues have the combination of size, location and capability that McCormick Place can offer. Can you imagine having NPE in Orlando or Las Vegas? You'd miss out on a huge number of attendees -- like those drawn to Chicago -- who are an easy one-tank trip away.
Still, some exhibitors again were left with a bad aftertaste from their McCormick experience this year. Some are upset about labor union rules. That's always an issue, but especially so during this recession, where many firms are watching their budgets closely.
NPE organizer SPI said it is doing a thorough review of the show's location. A stronger economy in 2012 will make a lot of exhibitors forget about these problems. But in the meantime, SPI needs to continue to work with Chicago officials to address these concerns.
Hanrahan, CEO of Erema North America Inc. in Ipswich, Mass., took on the topic with his Perspective column, which we headlined "Costs could defeat McCormick."
Hanrahan notes that he has attended NPE shows since the 1980s, and he's been responsible for his firm's booth design and setup for about 20 years.
He makes the point that high costs -- not union shakedowns -- are the biggest problem at McCormick.
"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," he wrote. "However, one issue that continues to cause concern is the amount of money required to exhibit in NPE."
He cites one humorous, and very memorable story, which will forever be known as "The Pepsi incident."
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.
In this era of discounts
, it is amazing that someone can still charge 86 bucks for a case of Pepsi. I'm sure some blog readers are wondering about career opportunities in the black-market soft drink business at trade shows. Imagine what you could get for a case of beer!
Seriously, though, I appreciate Hanrahan sharing his story, and I wonder if Plastics Blog readers have their own trade show stories.
I still can't imagine SPI picking a new venue for NPE 2012. But I'm not surprised that it is taking a serious look at all the possibilities.