Four exhibitors got a shock during the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference in New Orleans, March 15-17, when they realized at least six large HD monitors were missing. Given the type and volume of equipment that disappeared, the incidents appeared to be part of an orchestrated rash of thefts.
Solution Tree, Gravic Inc., Progress Publications, and Heinemann Publishers all reported large-screen monitors were missing during ASCD.
“We always kind of expect little things to go missing while we’re on the floor, because sometimes people don’t know what’s free and what isn’t, but we’ve never experienced theft on this scale at a show before,” said Tony Ethridge, a representative for Solution Tree.
Solution Tree, Gravic, and Progress all noticed their monitors were missing during their initial ASCD set-up on March 14, while Heinemann noticed on the morning of March 16 that its monitors had gone missing after the exhibit hall closed the afternoon before.
“We walked into our booth [Sunday morning], and we realized our monitors were missing,” said Marissa Dupont, a representative for Heinemann Publishers. Whoever took one of those monitors is in for a disappointment, she added, because “it’s a little shaky and doesn’t work quite right.”
All of the victimized companies used GES, the exhibit-services company selected by ASCD. According to a GES representative, “Once [the equipment] hits the conference floor, it’s not our problem; it’s ASCD security’s problem.”
Ken Stills, head of security for ASCD, said all main doors to the exhibit hall were closed on March 15 at 4 p.m. “I was there in the convention center until 1:30 a.m. and saw nothing. After I leave, during the late night hours, security always patrols. I’m not pointing any fingers, because we don’t have proof yet, but the only people who were in there after everyone left were a few conference employees and the cleaning crews.”
Explained Heinemann’s Dupont: “Someone from security told us that maybe [the thieves] got the monitors out by putting them in the garbage cans and then rolling them out the doors, because security was there all night and didn’t see a thing.”
“I bet it was an ‘inside’ job,” said Jan Kreger, a representative for Progress Books. “I mean, who else could it be? What really makes me angry is that last night a security guard came over to me and told me it was 4 p.m. and that I needed to get out. I told her I needed a few more minutes, and she just looked at me and said, ‘I’m still here; I’m not moving until you leave.’ I looked straight back at her and said, ‘Where were you when our things were unpacked? Where were you when our monitor got stolen?’”
Steven Joslin, marketing coordinator for Gravic, said he noticed during set-up that his monitor’s container had its bottom cut out. Once the monitors were stolen, he said, the companies really don’t have many options. Joslin was told to speak to GES shipping, which referred him to ASCD security, which referred Joslin back to GES shipping.
“No one wants to take responsibility,” said Joslin.
Joslin said he spoke to Brittany Bowen, exhibit coordinator for ASCD, who reportedly said, “Well, it’s just what happens sometimes at these shows.” Bowen was unavailable for comment.
Stills, of ASCD’s security team, said he told exhibitors to file a police report in addition to the reports he said he’s been filing on the situation. He’s been filing these reports only with the company’s bills of lading at hand, “to double-check everything,” he said.
As of March 16, the New Orleans police had been around to see some of the affected exhibitors, but not all of them. When an eSchool News reporter tried to reach the New Orleans Police Public Affairs Division, all she got was a recorded message saying the number was out of service. Repeated attempts to reach a non-emergency operator at the New Orleans Police Department ultimately were abandoned, because all lines constantly were busy.
As a result of the thefts, exhibitors have had to purchase new monitors at local retail stores or rent last-minute replacements from ASCD.
Said Kreger of Progress Books, “I heard that [conference personnel] told one company they could rent a monitor for $700. I’m glad they haven’t offered me that, because they would have gotten a piece of my mind. We should be able to use those monitors for free. That’s the least ASCD could do!”
Continued Kreger: “They told us to take our monitors back to the hotel with us when we leave for the day. Yeah, sure. Let me just haul that heavy monitor out. I asked an ASCD representative if she could get me a trolley or something to help me, and the woman just said, ‘I can try and help you myself; but I’m sorry, we can’t give you anything else.’”
Security chief Stills promised to stay on the case. “Along with the police, we will keep investigating what happened,” he said.