While I agree with her that venues only charge you for the space you use, they dont measure at the show for how much space is covered by tables, you contract for an amount of space, how you choose to utilize that space is up to you. If you look at the Maps in the books, they clearly indicate that there was more space set aside and just not used.
for example the entire "queue hall" area would have been paid for even though it was empty, the area for table top gaming, they paid for the entire area out to the walls, there is no way they rented 5/6th of that space. There is no way that Pax south wasnt paying for all the space from wall to wall where bandland was, and all the space from them, across to the merch booth including insomniac games in the center. While there were some areas that they clearly had not rented for example that carpeted area between bandland and the main entrance, or some of the side rooms around the AFK room or the cactus theater you better believe they were paying for the entire level three even though it was 1/4 empty.
I know that they didnt pay for the entire expo hall, and that there were area on either side or down hallways that were not rented and therefor couldn't be utilized. I understand what your wife is saying and I agree with her, however the venue doesnt say "oh you didnt set up a booth between these two booths, thats not used space"
I understand that the Lightning bolt ares were likely areas they didnt rent and I assume those are what you are referring to, and the white areas were "walkways." Im talking about the star areas are clearly square footage they rented and was just poorly utilized.