I enjoyed AZ this year. It was my first time doing craftsmanship here and I really liked how it was dealt with. After a horrific experience at AWA last year, I was extremely nervous about doing another contest. However, you were able to see the judges in a quiet, private area and the gentleman running it was very nice and helpful. Being as nervous about talking in front of people as I am, I liked the personal, private experience a lot. It really helped with my nerves. I still can't believe I won something for my pepper grinder! I am very, very grateful. I felt that all the people involved in the craftsmanship and masquerade portion of the con, from judging to getting the event sticker to line-up to the masquerade itself were very good at what they did (although I've very glad it wasn't horribly hot this year during masquerade line-up and that the door to the convention center was open so we could feel some cool air). I hope I am able to compete next year as well!
My only complaint about the masquerade line-up was that there wasn't much guarding of the line after we started filing in the convention center. There where two girls on the ballroom level that had not waited in line that cut in when the line went passed them. For those of us that were waiting an hour in advance, it was very rude.
Also, echoing the staff inconsistency... Some were great, like the guy guarding the entrance to the hotel for most of the weekend. He was amazing. But I had two major issues with the man guarding the main barrier from the registration area to the convention center two different days:
On Thursday around 8PM, I was trying to get to the dealer's room to get checked-in and get my dealer badge with the rest of my group. We couldn't fit all the people and the stuff in the van, so three of us were to walk. I had never been with a dealer's table before, so I didn't know the proper protocol. We went into the main entrance for the convention center and went to the man guarding the barrier into the convention proper. I very politely said "we are with a dealer in the dealer's room. We need to pick up our badges in the dealer's room, since they are dealer badges."
...this man SCREAMED at us the following, "I DON'T CARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE YOU ARE NOT GETTING THROUGH HERE WITHOUT A BADGE! YOU GO TALK TO THOSE PEOPLE!" to which he violently pointed at the peace bonding table with AZ staff. All three of us were flabbergasted. We went to the AZ staff and said the same thing and were told politely to go outside and that the entrance we had to take was "just around the corner." We went outside and... well... around the corner is down the street, across another street, down a long driveway, under the building... And, when we finally got to the dealer's room, they didn't even have our badges. There were supposed to be six or seven and they only had three. We had to wait until Friday, get our badges at the regular registration, then get one of the three who had dealer badges to escort us into the dealer's room to get the green sticker signifying them as dealer badges.
Then on Friday, I was walking around all day with my pepper grinder without incident. The nice man at the hotel entrance had no issue with it, nor did any of the AZ or convention center staff I ran into throughout the day at the barriers, dealer's room entrance, etc. However, after my craftsmanship judging, I went down the stairs by Con Ops, past the barrier there without incident, and went to the barrier at the other side of the entrance lobby. The same man was there as was Thursday that screamed at us. When he saw my grinder, he stopped me, said "Is that a prop?" then demanded I get it peace bonded before re-entering the convention center. I have no problem with peace bonding it, but his horrible attitude coupled with the fact it hadn't been an issue all day, even with the dealer's room, was irritating. I even saw a person with a FOAM MINECRAFT sword that got peace bonded, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was forced on him by the same guy.
So the tl;dr of this is... the AZ staff is fine, some inconsistencies, but nothing convention ruining. That one convention center staffer needs to be dealt with. If he was in such a sour mood on Thursday, then he obviously should not be guarding a main barrier.
I wish there had been card gaming. By going to AZ, my boyfriend and I missed Magic the Gathering Avacyn Restored Game Day. We were hoping there would be some tourny or something going on, but all we found were some people playing casual Magic in, what I now dub, the Greenhouse (the set of tables and chairs by the window walls on the second floor... go there mid-day and cook). There were certainly enough people playing casual to support something being run. I also saw a fair amount of Yu-Gi-Oh players that probably felt the same way.
And finally... I think we are to the point where elevators in the convention center need to be guarded by staff, at least in the evenings. Elevator parties should be an instant loss of a badge.
When I was helping my sister get their sets from the masquerade down to the parking garage from the ballroom, we managed to break up an elevator party in the elevator by con ops, but the elevator we really needed (the one that takes you from ballroom to ground floor) was ridiculous. There were three boys eating pizza in it. Two of us managed to squeeze in with one set piece. The boys had pushed each button for each floor, so we went all the way up and started back down. While in the elevator, we tried to explain to them that, if they were just in the elevator to party, they needed to get off for people who needed to use the elevator. When it got back to the level with the rest of our group, these boys told them that they would "just have to wait." The elevator went down one more level and, when the doors opened, a girl screamed at us to get out because the power was going to go out. We got out and struggled the set piece down the stairs. The boys were standing at the elevator waiting to get back on.
tl;dr Elevator parties at not cool.
I did enjoy AZ a lot this year, but I feel that the negatives are things they really need to be addressed. I did not have any extremely negative experiences with AZ staff, so the problem does not lie there. I know others had issues with the elevator parties (I know I have every year since the move to the convention center) and I'm sure that, if that one staffer was so sour with us that we weren't alone. Still, I enjoy AZ and can't wait for next year!