I started this blog as a planner blog and covered some experiences at different planner events over the years. I’ve stepped back from a lot of the planner content I used to create, but I was deep in the community for a while there. Planners Gone Wild and their GO WILD event were a huge part of that picture for me. I dipped out of the Facebook group a few years back since it wasn’t my thing anymore and, I’ll be honest, the GO WILD Vegas event had a weird vibe to it that I still can’t really explain. The point to all of this is, I still love the community and follow along mostly on lurk mode lately, have made some great friends along the way, and not every thing is for everybody.
GO WILD announced their 2023 event location and ticket price today. It’s finally an east coast-ish location in Washington DC, and I do love the play on WASHIngton. Tickets are $700. You could hear the collective gasp at the sticker shock echoing through the Facebook groups. It’s causing quite a stir, both for some good and some kinda silly reasons.
Of course, since Planner Drama gets me the most clicks on my blog, I have some thoughts. Grab your hydration vessels and let’s talk about some things.
This Hobby Is WILDly Expensive
I’m gonna be blunt; planners & planning are a “privileged” hobby and a big part of that privilege is having a high dollar amount in disposable income. There is no better example of that than planner events. It’s not just the cost of tickets, travel, and lodging that you end up budgeting for. There’s a huge culture of FOMO merchandise and extra costs that comes along with this (and many other planner-related) events. At the *minimum*, you’re probably going to buy a special sticker kit for the week, but most people get shirts, and more stickers, and a special planner insert, and special pens, and tablemate gifts, and swap sheets, and matching roommate stuff, and special outfits, and the list goes on. GO WILD in particular has a culture of *more* when it comes to all the extras. It’s not required but it does make things more fun, and I say that from experience.
GO WILD Is Trying To GO Premium
The similarities between how GO WILD and DisneyParks are structuring their experiences are really noticeable. Disney has been coming under some scrutiny lately for essentially pricing out or limiting the experience for the average family. Go Google it for the full in-depth business analysis, but the TL;DR is that the new pricing structures are focused less on the quantity of people coming through the gates and more on the quality of visitor experience (aka, people who are willing to spend more for extras that used to be free). I have no numbers on any of it, but I believe the assumption is that the ROI is going to be higher if you cater to the people with more money who want a more elite experience than the budget traveling family of 5 who is going to pack their own sandwiches into the park.
If you take that idea and move into a planner event, you have a situation where it might make sense to the organizers to charge a high dollar amount for a conference that features more fireworks at the cost of not being financially feasible for a majority of their members. And, like… this is a conference that is known to bring in C-list celebrities as keynote speakers and light-up stilt dancers for the cocktail party. It helps create the FOMO for next year.
And yeah, there is a snobbish gate-keeping aspect at play here too.
Ok, Kiwi… you seem to be pretty understanding of a $700 price tag for an event that has gone up a quarter in price since you last went. What’s the catch?
I’m glad you asked! I actually don’t think the price increase is that unreasonable on the surface given the state of live events and the cost increases in everything over the past few years. My side-eyeing comes from having to commit hundreds of dollars before you even know what you’re getting out of the event and their handling of refunds (or lack thereof).
GO WILD tickets typically go on sale before they announce anything about the event other than location. You are putting down hundreds of dollars and you literally don’t know what you’re getting. Yeah, you can make some educated guesses based on the previous years’ line-ups since there are a lot of repeat presenters but there is no confirmation on who or what is going to happen at this event until after you’ve committed your $700. You might get to see someone who you’ve always wanted to see speak and be moved to tears by their presentation! Or you might have to sit through a noted anti-vaxxer vegan former celebrity talking about something completely unrelated and want to stick forks in your eyes. You don’t know. It’s like a blind bag of events, except the cost to play is a significant chunk of money, even for the higher-income attendees. It feels like a weird lottery that you don’t entirely agree to.
No GO, No Dough
Like everyone else in the world, when Covid came and ruined everyone’s 2020 (and counting), GO WILD had to cancel their event for the year. I don’t know if you know anything about canceling major events, but it is a major fucking pain. It sucked for everyone both planning and planning on attending.
They rescheduled for 2021. This involved a whole new lineup than the previously announced one. If you had a 2020 ticket and wanted to go to 2021’s event, you were golden. If you couldn’t attend the 2021 event for whatever reason, you were kinda screwed. There was a no-refund policy in place that prevented you from getting your money back from the organizers AND from personally reselling your ticket. There was an official resell list through the event, but most people on there did not have their tickets resold. There are conflicting reports on if a digital viewing option was available and/or working. The whole thing ended up being a bit of a poorly communicated cluster that left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
To be fair, the nonrefundable/nontransferable issue is not just a GO WILD thing. It’s a hotly debated subject involving Ticketmaster/Live Nation as well. The music industry side of me sees the pros. The consumer side of me agrees with the cons.
I just think events should be transparent about what your ticket is getting and not be shifty about whether or not they will actually resell your ticket, especially as everyone is trying to figure out how to do things in person in a “Post Pandemic” world. Obviously, I don’t know the financial margins on this event, but I do know that there is a longer ROI on finding a way to accommodate a frustrated fan to keep them engaged than there is burning that bridge with a hard no.
Final Wild Thoughts
Is $700 too much for a ticket to GO WILD? It’s more than I would spend, but if it sells out at this price point then obviously there is still a market. I think people who have been through a few rounds of WILD sales are rightly skeptical of the cost this year. Those people probably won’t GO. Life goes on and the world continues to turn, you know?
What I will say is that I do have some of the best memories from my two WILD experiences, and they were less about the event and more about being with my friends. I would absolutely spend $700 to spend a weekend with them, but I would rather take our ticket money and spend it on an Airbnb at the beach instead.