Most of us are just gearing up for the Spring show season and some are venturing into the Craft Show World for the first time this year. As shows aren't quite into full swing here yet, I'm still drawing on past WSW posts concerning important aspects of doing a show. This one, concerning keeping your cash safe, first ran on September 16, 2009. I think it is worth repeating.
... Just what you’re doing with all that cash at your shows? I mean, do you have it locked up tight like Fort Knox or laying out in the open like those popular “Need a Penny” dishes near so many store registers? Hopefully, you’ve found a comfortable medium there.
The majority of sales at most shows are transacted in cash. We need to carry a supply of cash for the purposes of making change and, on a good day, we need to carry money home by the fistfull. So, how do we contain that cash? It needs to be kept in a somewhat handy manner for the purposes of making change in a busy sales environment but must also be secure to keep it from springing legs of its own.
Robbery is not usually a huge problem at most shows but, most promoters and organizers will admit, it can happen. Most show contracts specifically state the show is not responsible for any damages resulting from theft of merchandise or cash. While many shows do have some security personnel, you are on your own when it comes to holding on to your cash (and merchandise).
Most thefts at craft shows are crimes of opportunity, meaning we make it easy for the crooks. Common sense comes into play at this point. Let’s assume we are all bright enough not to leave a huge amount of cash laying out on our tables for all to share. It is important to keep the change box easily accessible to you as the seller but out of reach for the average customer. In my opinion, it is also wise to keep only the bare minimum of cash in the change box or tray (as the case may be). If your change container is grabbed, the crook will only have a minimal profit and you will still be on solid financial footing for the remainder of the show.
Booths with back drops or walls as a back border are always best as the general public does not have easy access to your backside. This gives the opportunity to have an additional, lower table height behind your display tables to keep your change container and other vital business supplies together and not reachable from the front of the table. If this is not an option try to sit an open, shallow box under the edge of your table with your change tray sitting inside of it where you can simply reach in and easily grab what you need.
Many sellers are now using small electric or battery-run cash registers. The drawers can be locked or coded so that they can not be opened easily by unauthorized fingers. Unfortunately, these registers don’t weigh much and can be easily disconnected from their plugs with a quick hand motion. I have seen instances where these have been grabbed, dropped into a fabric tote bag and easily carried off. Again, only keep basic change amounts in the register.
Keep all bigger bills and the major portion of cash separate from the change tray as this is the most visible of your money. I subscribe to the theory that it’s best to have the majority of that cash on your body. Pants with lots of pockets are great, money aprons or belts, or even the incredibly fashion-lame fanny pack (worn in the front), are also good.
***Do NOT keep checks or charge slips in the change box or cash register. These are generally larger sales and can account for a large portion of your sales. Again, pockets are good. I have also seen sellers who slip these into what appears to be an empty stock box under the table. (Crooks are unlikely to try to steal your empty boxes!)
Doing a show alone? While you might ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your booth while you make a potty run, it is not wise to turn all of your cash over to them. For sales not covered by the minimum in your change tray, they can simply ask the customer to wait for a second. (I’m assuming you will be literally running this personal errand you are on and not strolling around enjoying the free entertainment.) I’m not questioning the level of integrity of your neighboring crafter but I’m simply aware that they have a lot going on at that moment, what with watching both displays and dealing with customers’ questions etc. After all, most of us are just asking them to “keep an eye” on things, not make us rich while we’re gone.
Also, be aware many shows do provide “booth sitters” for those who are working alone. Most of these folks are simply volunteers willing to spend a few minutes in your booth “watching” it. Many are instructed by the show management NOT to conduct a sale. They won’t need cash backup form you.
Most cash thefts at shows occur during loading in and out. I, personally, keep my cash secure in my car until everything is unloaded. My cash is also the first thing to go into my car when packing up. (Glove boxes do lock for a reason.) It is never left unattended in my booth space during these times.
DO NOT be overly obvious when handling your cash stash. DO NOT stand behind your table counting out the wad to see how you’re doing. No one needs to know you are carrying several hundred dollars in your pockets. When carrying your cash in or out of the show, DO NOT pack it in a clear ziplock bag and carry it like a purse! (Yeah, I have seen this!)
One unique approach I have witnessed while doing a Main Street type festival was seeing a crafter make an ATM deposit of excess cash. Apparently a branch of his bank was located right on the corner. He was doing well and had several hundred dollars in cash on him. He simply walked over and deposited a large portion to his account. Now, that’s protecting your cash!
Again, use common sense. Be aware of your surroundings. Use the same precautions you would use using the ATM at your local shopping center on a busy Friday night.
Happy selling, y’all !!!