Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

 A friend of mine sent the following dialog to me between her and a customer at the ACC show this year.  I thought she handled him very well and that this would be a good post for all of the subscribers to the Art Fair Insiders blog.
  "  I had one guy come in last year and wanted to know if he order in multiples, would I discount my prices.  I explained that they were wholesale prices and no I wouldn’t discount them any more.  He said he has 11 galleries, blah, blah, blah.  So he gave me a $500.00 order and wanted net 30.  I talked to the people on his reference sheet and gave him the net 30.  Then he paid with a cc.  Did not hear anything from him all year.  I had 2 other stores in my booth trying to place an order when he came in with his groupies.  He stood there explaining to one of them how he did not put my stuff in a prominent location in his store because I would not discount it and he thinks there is one piece left.  I handed him a new brochure and said ‘Hi, Robert’...then he started.  ‘All the artists that I buy from give me a discount, at least 20%’, I said ‘If you place a big enough order, I’d include a couple of extra pieces, but these are my wholesale prices’.  Then he said ‘I don’t want to intimidate you, but I traveled to China this year and eliminated the middle man on things that I buy’, took the calculator from my daughter who was trying to write an order, and started punching in numbers telling me how much money he was saving.  I said ‘Gee, Robert, I can’t compete with Chinese prices, I make all of this myself and I don’t have Children slaves working for me’.  He started telling me how he was happy to help those parents send their children to college and I said ‘Excuse me while I take care of my customers’........cheesh what a jerk." 

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Comment by Kelly Allen on March 30, 2012 at 1:21pm

Great post thanks for sharing that information. I have been doing trade shows and, retail shows for 20 years. I trusted everyone in the beginning and got burned. I believed they were gallery owners. To find out that they were having a home show for the neighborhood. With online sites anyone can have a great business card believable. I make my own jewelry and, work hard to make enough for my gallery orders and, a few retail shows. I don't want valuable inventory that could be sent to a gallery to be sent to someones home. I have been approached so many times this year for Home Show parties, then they want to return what they don't sell. Has anyone else been asked by a so called gallery to find out it was a Home Show? I thought I could read my customer better then this by now but, they had the good shoes I always look at the shoes now (Thanks Judy Goskey for the heads up on that one). A few almost got past me until I finally asked enough questions and checked the background information. Has anyone gone ahead and agreed to sell them wholesale priced pieces?

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on March 9, 2012 at 3:24pm

I like to the story and the what i had learn but I will not the children comment that just put you at his same label and we are better than that.

Comment by Stephen Filarsky on March 9, 2012 at 1:36pm

Boy, what a jerk.

However,I think Nancy hit the nail on the head.

I think your friend unconsciously told the customers who were making sales that it was more important for her to make points arguing with this guy than take care of them. If I was a one of those customers, there is a chance I would have left for that reason.

She argued with Robert because she wanted to.  When he came in, she should've told him you "I will be right with you",,etc and then ignored him and returned to her real customers. If continues to interrupt, at least then you are defending the time you are spending with your customers.

If she doesn't offer discounts on wholesale prices, that's all she has to say. Period.

He spent a whole $500 dollars over the course of a year. And you are responding to his BS?

What did this contribute to her business? Did she lose Robert as a customer? I don't think that it matters.

Did she leave a bad taste in the mouths of the other customers in her booth?  I sure hope not, because it wasn't worth it.

PS I learned this the hard way.

Comment by bridget donahue on March 9, 2012 at 12:41pm

Well said David!

Comment by David Olday on March 9, 2012 at 12:11pm

I had a flight instructor once who said I had more nice ways of telling someone to go to you-know-where than he had ever seen.  With that in mind I agree with the people who have said they would have explained they didn't deal with companies that buy from China.  And it's the height of rudeness to actually take a calculator from someones hand while they are using it.  I feel it is *very* proper to gently take the calculator back and hand it back to the person he took it from.   if there should be any problem with retrieving the calculator simply explain that he can keep it with your compliments and perhaps it will impress the next subject more if he actually has the normal business equipment to work with.  Following this up with an explanation that while you appreciate the opportunity to business with them but you're not used to doing business with people who lack the usual courtesies or with people who wish to mingle American made art work with Chinese mass produced trinkets as you feel that honest representation of what one sells is mandatory. 

Of course if he tried that with my iPhone he'd be retrieving a stump where his hand used to be......  ;-)

Comment by courtney gillen on March 7, 2012 at 3:08pm

 Wow this is great.

    Yes this happened at ACC, Judy maybe you should pass all this along to the person this actually happened to.  I personally recommend to that artist to consider doing BMAC, if they arent already.  Wendy Rosen is running for congress and has already been a strong lobbyist for American handmade. Is the American Craft Council doing that? From what I have seen in the past few years they are highlighting work from other countries. How does that help me?

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 7, 2012 at 10:35am

This is a great discussion. Many thanks to Judy Goodwin for starting it and also to everyone else, with all their expertise, who commented: Nancy, Courtney, Ann Marie, Bill Coleman and Bridget. All your experience is so helpful to the rest of us. I am so impressed with the quality of this interaction.

Comment by Ann Marie Crosmun on March 7, 2012 at 9:06am

I had a woman come into my booth, saying that she was a gallery owner, and she wanted to buy a necklace at half price---nothing else, just the one necklace. She got very belligerent about the price. I told her that this was the best price for that piece. She came in two more times, and I gave her the same price. The next time she came in (by that time I had had it with her attitude), I increased the price--told her that that was the best price for her (even tho the ticketed price was less). She stormed off. Then her husband came in, he bought the necklace at my price. The lesson learned here, never discount on a single piece, because once you do, they will always expect it (and they will tell their friends to haggle with you).

I have also made the mistake of not checking to see if a person is really a gallery owner. Years ago, I took a woman at her word when she said that she owned a gallery. She bought several dozen pairs of a certain earring (at wholesale cost). After the sale, I researched 'her gallery', and discovered that she was buying those earrings as gifts for her girlfriends-she did not own a gallery, nor was opening one. My loss. But, now I wait until I get home, research the client, then proceed.

Sometimes, I hate all of these life lessons that we have to learn ;-)  

Just don't tell me, what doesn't make the mortgage payment, will, at least, make us stronger...... 

Comment by Bill Coleman Entertainment on March 5, 2012 at 6:48pm

A few decades back, I was at a flea market where a persistent bargain hunter repeatedly demanded half off the stated price for an item. (glass as I recall).   After repeatedly stating the fixed price, the seller finally "relented", put the item in a paper sack, and broke it in half, stating that NOW it was worth the demanded price!

Comment by Judy Goodwin on March 5, 2012 at 12:53pm


  This situation happened at the ACC show.  I don't think he'd have the guts to show up at the BMAC show!  

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