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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Customer is Always Right...

(ForewordThis blog is about stretching myself and sometimes baring my soul. In that vein, I have been working on this post since the end of May. I vacillated between making it a seemingly light-hearted list of do's and don'ts for patrons or putting it all out there at the risk of be called "whiney". I'm letting you know right now, I decided to "put it all out there".  There is a chance I won't make any new friends with this post; while my intent is never to alienate, I'm at peace with it if it happens because this post is straight from my heart.)

I've heard this saying many times (the customer is always right); I've even uttered it while working in a retail setting.  However, I've come to understand that this phrase is not necessarily true.

While preparing to do shows, I read many, many articles about vendor etiquette...be kind, don't chew gum, don't eat or drink in front of customers, don't steal ideas for products from other vendors, and so on.  Tonight, I'm going to offer some suggestions for patrons... 

It never ceases to amaze me the number of times I greet a customer walking into my booth and they absolutely ignore me...no smile, no nod, no greeting, not even a grunt. Now I realize we all have less than stellar days or sometimes get lost in our thoughts, but, Friends, when you walk into a booth and the vendor acknowledges you, at the very least smile at them. Saying "Hi" or "Hello" is even better. Most likely, the vendor has spent a significant amount of time to create a pleasant shopping experience for you, so please be kind to them. You never know when your smile will make someone's day!

Next, it's necessary for shoppers to understand that a vendor doesn't just decide to go to a show one day and then set up the next. There are weeks, even months that go into preparing for a show. Much blood, sweat, and tears (both figuratively and literally) are spent to create items to present to the world. Vendors put their heart and soul into their work; it is purposeful.  If something is out for you to see, the artist meant it to be that way.  Now I understand that we are all different and have different tastes; other artists understand that, too.  Some items may not be to your liking or taste...that's not a problem. Every artist cannot cater to every person.  The problem arises when a patron decides that they know how the artist should or could have done something to a piece and says so. "Well, you know, you should have...." or "If it were me, I would have...." or "I don't like that (blank) there." While there is nothing inherently wrong about having those opinions, everyone is entitled to have them, it is not exactly good taste to actually say those things to a vendor.  Remember, their art is purposeful; if they have put it out for you to see, there is a reason it is that way. Your job as a patron is to appreciate it for what it is, whether or not it is your taste.  There are cases where you might actually be interested in something, but would like it tweaked a bit so it suits you a tad more closely.  Some artists will be open to working with you, BUT it is all about the way you present your thoughts.  An appropriate way may be to say, "You know, I really like these; however, would it be possible for you to make me a pair without this (specific color/component/etc) in it?" Maybe then add a reason (if appropriate) like "(blank) doesn't look great with my skin tone" or "I think I'm too short to wear earrings this long."  NOT, "I don't like this thing here. Can you make this piece without this thing?" This may seem like quibbling over semantics, but, remember, the artist has put a little piece of their heart and soul into this piece, (even a small piece) and they have presented it as is for a reason.  Your wording can be the difference between a vendor willingly taking a custom order from you with a happy heart or gritting their teeth at an insult and dealing with you just to make the sale. Of which scenario would you rather be a part?

This next suggestion is similar to the previous one as it has to do with respecting the artist's work. At almost every show, I witness patrons snapping pictures of items they see in various booths. It is frustrating for a vendor to sit and watch a patron whip out their camera/phone/ipad and snap photos of particular work. Please do NOT photograph an artist's work without asking for permission. The work that is presented to you is the intellectual property of the artist and is NOT there for you to photograph, duplicate, and/or sell. Please be respectful of the time, effort, heart, and soul that artists put into their work.

This last thought is closely related to the previous two...hmmm...interesting how they all intertwine and seem to come back to respecting other people. There is a phrase that may at first seem utterly innocuous; however, with a second look, I hope you will understand that it is NOT innocent; but, instead,  frustrating, if not offensive to artists. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard it, I could take the rest of the year off (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but you get my drift.) "What phrase?" you ask. The phrase, "Oh, I could make this!" Yes, I understand that many times this phrase is said innocently to your friend as you're perusing a booth, and is most times not accompanied by follow-through. However, I am asking you to shift your thinking and really try to understand the ramifications of this phrase. A vendor spends time researching, designing, and creating this art that is often cavalierly dismissed by this phrase. A part of their heart and soul is put into this work. Often, there is a story behind it which creates an indelible memory in their mind. When a patron says, "Oh, I could make this!", it is as if all that heart, soul, and time doesn't count. It says to the vendor that you are fine stealing all of that from them.  Maybe stealing seems like a harsh word, but I assert that it really isn't. When you duplicate something you have seen somewhere (without permission), it is theft. It is the same as walking into a department store, picking up a piece of merchandise, and walking out without paying. When you utter the phrase in question, it gives the appearance that you are okay with theft...are you? Is it okay to take an idea developed and created by another and duplicate it for your personal gain? I maintain that it is not. Pause for a moment and think about how those words might make an artist feel. The next time you're walking through a booth in a craft fair or art show, please think about what you say and do.

I'll end on that note...pretty sure I've given you enough to think about. Please remember that it all comes down to respect

Until next time...



Fall 2013 Show Schedule

Here is my show schedule for the Fall...find the one nearest you and come say HI!

September 28       American Sewing Guild Sew Chic Fashion Show   Hess Club, Houston

October 5    9-6    Junk Hippy Roadshow   Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Oklahoma City, OK

October 18-19      Petticoats on the Prairie  Mitchell County Fairgrounds, Colorado City, TX

November 1-2      Rusted Gingham Barn Sale   JB Wells Show Barn, 
Gonzales, TX

November 16       Junk Hippy Roadshow    Waco, TX

Hope to see you there!

Until next time...