Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hibble Hobble Hubby

I believe an important aspect of happiness is the ability to laugh at yourself and, if you truly believe your wedding vows (the part about "two shall become one"), at your spouse. Of course, for the sake of the relationship we all claim to be laughing with them not at them. Well, last night was one of those occasions.

We had planned a whole different day than we had yesterday so we salvaged the evening by heading for our usual casino. (This was part of the original plan.)

They were having a special evening of drawings every 15 minutes with cash prizes and slot dollar awards. To participate, you needed to drop special coupon entries previously mailed to you in the drawing bins by 6 p.m. Well, we were running kind of tight on the timing, so I dropped The Big Guy off at the door so he could drop our entries and then I went to park. After parking, I took the shuttle back to the casino, touched base with him and then went our separate ways until we met up for dinner at 8:45.Since it was still daylight, I went outside and enjoyed the beautiful evening air and the scenery. Our casino has a horse track and is surrounded by a fantastic golf course. There is a gorgeous lake in the infield of the track that has loads of ducks and geese. There are usually quite a few folks out there in the stands just getting a whiff of fresh air, having a smoke or just killing time in a comfortable (and cheap) manner. When the track is silent, I find it relaxing to sit in the stands and just watch those feathered friends for awhile. (On a sunny day, I'll take a book and work on my tan.)

At the appointed time, we met in the Picnic Area (deli) and while he stood in line to get our meals, I rounded up a table for us. (Key to this incident is the fact that we intended to leave home at 4:30 and I let him nap until about 4:20 so he really wasn't very wide awake yet when we left home.) When he came over, he burst into laughter and pointed out that he had mismatched shoes on. Other than both being a shade of brown, they were really different! (Different heel height, higher rise, etc.) He really was quite lopsided!
He was laughing as he had noticed he walked funny when he first got out of the car but never looked at his feet. He just assumed he had pulled something working in the yard earlier in the day. Now, almost four hours later he had looked down. Of course, he was wearing shorts so I'm sure a few others may have noticed before he did. (His feet do sort of stick out - he wears a size 15!)

Now, most of us would simply feel embarrassed and try not to call attention to the fact. Not my man! He laughed and then pointed it out to those standing in line with him. This is the part that made me laugh ... and laugh...and laugh at the image of these folks, telling their friends about "the crazy old man" they saw in line. Thank goodness, I wasn't with him!!

I DID check his feet before going out in public with him today !

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Consignment Selling Experience - Pt. IV

Let's get this show on the road. You now know where you are going to consign your merchandise, for how much and you have signed a contract with the shop. When starting a consignment relationship, I suggest taking it slow and starting with a fairly small amount of stock - kind of a "trial run." You can always add additional merchandise if things go well and sales are occurring with no problems in the payment schedule. Now, let's get that merchandise ready for delivery.

Tagging -

At this point, you should have already discussed tagging with the shop owner and know whether you will tag the merchandise or the shop will do this. If you are tagging, you should know what information, in addition to the price, needs to go on that tag. Tags will usually carry some sort of code to identify the product as yours (I refer to this as a "vendor code".) Normally, such code will have been assigned to you by the shop. It may be your initials or a number code. There will usually be some sort of code identifying the item itself and, of course, the selling price. Be sure this information is written very clearly and is easy to read to assure the correct price will be charged and you will be properly credited for the sale.

You should also have already sorted out what kind of personal contact information the shop owner will allow you to include on the tag such as your name, phone number and/or a website address. It is important to respect the shop owner's position on this matter. It is their right to ask that such information not be attached.

Inventory Sheets -

Make sure you maintain good records of what merchandise is delivered to the shop. Be absolutely certain your records agree with the shop's records in this area by keeping an exact copy of each inventory sheet for delivered merchandise.

When personally delivering to a shop, ask the shop's representative to go over the delivery with you and to sign and date each page indicating receipt of the listed merchandise. If shipping merchandise, pay the extra fee for a signed confirmation indicating receipt date and by whom. Also include in the packing paperwork, a written notice to the shop personnel to contact you within 48 hours of receipt if there is any dispute as to the packing slip and merchandise received.

Many stores have their own Inventory Form to use with your delivery. If they do not provide one, create one of your own. This should be done in table form and should include a column for the item's name, the item's code number, the price you will receive for that item, the shop's percentage of that price and the full selling price of the item. You may want to include a column that can be checked off when an item sells. I suggest the selling price column always be the last column (farthest to the right) as this makes it easier for the shop personnel to check the price f there is any question.

I mentioned a code number for each item. This should be done in the form designated by the shop and, if possible, with a system that makes sense to you. For example: "your vendor code+T-01", "T-02" etc. might mean T-shirts with the number indicating different designs.

Miscellaneous comments -

Once a shop has your merchandise, maintain communication on a regular basis. Most shops do have some schedule for reporting to you with regard to sales but if you desire, it is quite appropriate to give them a call or drop an e-mail every few weeks to ask how things are going. If it is a local shop, drop in occasionally to check on your merchandise. (I emphasize "occasionally." Daily would not be appropriate in most situations!) If after a reasonable amount of time (3 - 6 months) your work has not begun to sell, you may want to withdraw your goods and look for a shop that reaches your target market better.

If the shop is local, you may want to offer to carry a flier or business cards for the shop to any local craft shows you are doing or give them out to friends and family. Be sure to tell your customers that your work is also available in that shop. If the shop is not local, you may offer to mention them on your website or in your blog.

Go ahead, try a little consignment. I could be the start of a beautiful (and profitable) relationship.

Good luck and good sales to you!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Working the Shows Wednesday - Be a good neighbor !

Okay, so you’ve arrived at a show, found your spot and begun to unload. NOW is the time to start being a good neighbor. Whether the show lasts one day or two, this is your new home for so many hours and the folks on either side of you are your neighbors . They can make and break you, so be nice!

Since space is usually tight when unloading for your show, it is important that you remain aware that you are not the only person trying to get in and get set up at that moment. Time is just as important to your neighbors as it is to you.

If you are unloading for an indoor show, be sure to locate your space before unloading. Try to unload at the entrance closest to your space. As many people will need to unload at that same door, unload all of your display, merchandise and equipment and MOVE your vehicle BEFORE beginning to set your display up. No one wants to park six vehicles deep while you are leisurely opening and covering your tables and your car blocks the unloading zone.

When unloading for an outdoor show, attempt to park in a manner that blocks as little of any driving lane as possible. Try not to park in someone else’s space while unloading. Should they arrive while you are parked in their assigned spot, they have nowhere to unload and will not only lose precious time themselves but will also be blocking yet other sellers from getting to their assigned spots. Again, DUMP and MOVE. Do not take time to set up tables and such before moving your vehicle.

If there is a staggered set up schedule, it is done so to allow the smoothest transition for all. I have done many outdoor shows that had all folks in “Aisle A” enter the show area at a specific time, say 8 a.m. and all the folks in “Aisle B” enter at 8:30. This is done as there is very limited drive through space and this allows all “A” folks to get their cars in and out and then all “B” folks have time to come in. If you are an “A” but don’t need much time, you MUST still arrive at your assigned time. I have seen shows that made those stragglers walk their things in if they arrived late as the set up was staged that way as there would not be room for vehicle traffic once both sides of the street were set up. They’ve probably developed this system over many years of experience and I actually find these are some of the best organized and smoothest flowing shows around.

As you unload, do not stack your boxes, tables, etc. in someone else’s space or block an entire aisle with your things. Do not leave small objects laying in the center of a walkway where someone can fall over it. Do not shout at your help. If your spouse, partner or child is assisting you, speak in normal tones. Do not yell across the 10’ space and do not use vulgar or inappropriate language while setting up. Everyone is working in close quarters. We are all on tight schedules and we all have trials and tribulations while setting up. No one wants to listen to you scream maniacally at your help. It is distracting and obnoxious, not to mention unprofessional.

This is also not the time to stand and chat with your neighbor. It’s okay to say “Hi! I’m so and so, looks like we’ll be neighbors today.” This is not the time to tell them your life story or complain about the traffic this morning or anything else. Everyone is rushing to get their booth set up. The clock is ticking at this point. Chat later during slow times. (Incidentally, they probably have no real interest in your life story or your complaints anyway - even later, unless it gets really slow!!)

Do not expect your neighbor to help you put up your tent or canopy. As I’ve said before, you MUST be able to get your booth set up by yourself or with the help you bring with you. You cannot count on the kindness of strangers. They have their own booths to set up in the same amount of time that you have. They, too, have timed their set up. They have not timed setting up their booth and yours in the given amount of time.

The most common complaint I hear about neighboring crafters is about the crafter who simply doesn’t understand the concept of the size of his or her space. If your space is 10’ x 10’, that is exactly how much room you have. You must be able to contain your booth display, your merchandise and yourself (and kids) in that space. Most shows do not allow buffer zones between spaces. Where your 10’ ends, your neighbor’s 10’ begins.

You must remember to leave access space within your space for you to get in and out. In many instances, you will have booths on either side and at your back. In other words, if you use a 10’ table across the front of your 10’ space, you best be prepared to crawl under if you need to get out! (Again, a bit unprofessional.) Most shows prohibit having any portion of your display protrude into the general walkway. Practice your set up until it fits within the assigned amount of space. Remember, your neighbor has every right to put solid walls up along the sides of their booth. They have no obligation to leave that space open for your convenience.

While most show people do chat with their neighbors, offer to keep an eye on your booth while you make a restroom run and may offer to assist you with that tent, you cannot expect them to do so. You must plan to be self-sufficient. Some shows do provide “booth sitters” who can relieve you for a few moments once or twice during the day. If you will need such assistance, you should discuss this with the show organizer when registering to do the show. Again, I find the “booth sitter” system to be a little iffy and try not to depend too strongly on such an arrangement.

Other complaints include neighbors who play loud boom boxes for their customers’ enjoyment (and their neighbors’ stress). All folks do not enjoy the same music you do. If you insist on playing music in your booth, keep it at a volume only heard within your 10’ of space. The same statements apply to incense and other strong smells. What you find soothing many find offensive and some may even have allergy problems with such strong scents. (Many shows also prohibit any lit object on display such as candles and incense as obvious fire hazards. )If your children are with you, they should be fairly quiet and orderly when sitting with you. They should not be rough housing or running and screaming in close proximity with the booths.

Remember, your craft show booth is a place of business and you should behave accordingly within that space.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - "Grand Avenue"

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here are my teasers for today:

"It was in this park - the Grand Parkette, as the town had christened the tiny triangle of land, unaware of the inherent irony - that we first met almost a quarter of a century ago, four grown women making a beeline for three children's swings, knowing the loser would be relegated to the sandbox, her disappointed youngster loudly wailing her displeasure for the rest of the world to hear. Not the first time a mother has failed to live up to her daughter's expectations. Certainly not the last."
pg. 3, Grand Avenue, Joy Fielding

This is the saga of four women raising children of like ages in a tight knit community -sort of shades of Desperate Housewives. If you're a fan of the TV show, you'll probably enjoy this book.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weary Weekend

I'm still having trouble getting back in the groove here at home. The suitcase is still on the guest room bed, packed for the most part. The laundry from the trip has made its way to the laundry room but not into the machine yet. There are still a few things simply dropped in the living room.

Saturday, we found ourselves at yet another BBQ competition. This one was in Middletown, Delaware where we knew a large number of the judges and many of the cook teams. This was a first time event and, surprisingly, hit the ground running with 42 teams competing !!
Today, we were also out of the house for the day, arriving home just in time to view last week's Lost before tuning into tonight's final episode. I'm not really sure how I feel about how the show ended. I think it seemed like a let-down or a cop-out. I don't think it answered all my questions as promised. I'm not sure where I thought it was leading but it didn't get there for me. Any of you have comments on this one? Please 'splain it to me!

I'm sure I'll be back on track by tomorrow. Hopefully, I can find a dose of energy somewhere between now and then.

Giant Squirrels

They say things grow bigger in Texas but what about these squirrels in Iowa ?

For perspective, bear in mind The Big Guy is 6'4" (That's him in the pic.)

We were in Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs to judge a BBQ contest (If you look hard, you'll see the competitors' tents set up around the edges of the park.) but I fell in love with the squirrel statues. They're all over the park. Other than size, they are very realistic looking.

I couldn't wait to get back to the house and show the pictures to our little niece. She and her parents had spent the week nursing a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest and she was totally infatuated with squirrels for the week.

I got so wrapped up in checking out the squirrels, I never took any pictures of the contest itself !!

Seriously, it was a great contest. It marked the first time we've ever judged in Iowa and we met a lot of terrific fellow judges there. Once you are a certified KCBS judge, you can judge at any KCBS contest, anywhere.

Even 1200 miles from home, we worked with a contest rep we've been with before. All KCBS contests go by the same rules and procedures and judges all undergo the same training. We truly have a lot in common with these strangers.

I always leave a contest with the name and email of at least one new friend - and this one was no exception. My newest friend and I are exchanging recipes and ideas for using barbeque leftovers. (Yes, true bbq lovers have a lot of leftovers to use up!)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Glimpses from our Midwest Tour...

Of course, I took a picture of the sunrise. (Don't I always?)
This was somewhere on I-680, close to the western border of Iowa on our trip home on Wednesday.

It's what we saw shortly after crossing the Missouri River on the Old Mormon Bridge.
This was the first time we had entered and exited Nebraska using I-680 which cuts across the corner of the Omaha metro area as opposed to I-80 which trucks right through the center of town. We can't believe we missed this easy route for so long ! This is about the volume of traffic we saw both ways. The I-80 route is quite congested crossing right through the downtown business district. Traffic is fairly heavy on that highway 24/7.

Okay, continuing this backwards travelogue, Western Iowa has embraced the concept of wind energy in a big way. There are stretches of road where you can see windmills lined up for acres and acres. I think they look impressive and rather majestic.
It was really quite breezy on Wednesday and those big old blades were spinning quickly. Looking down a long line of them, I imagined a group of synchronized swimmers moving in perfect choreography. (Okay, it was very early and I really did get that image in my head. The Big Guy suggested I should nap a bit when I said that.)
Backtracking to the beginning of the trip, we made it to Davenport, Iowa the first day. Davenport, one of the Quad-Cities is on the far eastern border of the state and sits right along the Mississippi. We arrived on May 5, Cinco de Mayo. The riverboat casino, Rythym City, (part of the Isle of Capri casino corporation) was celebrating in a big way with a Mexican buffet, party beads and a Mexican dance band so we spent a few hours there after our long 13 hour drive, dining, listening and (yep) gambling a bit.
Well, I'm still recovering from the long drive, so I'll stop there for the night. I can't wait to show you the unusual squirrels we found in Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finally home!!!

We're back. Safe and sound but really tired after two days of driving!! We made Toledo last night after 13 hours on the road and finally pulled in the driveway after 10 more hours today.

Just got in, sorted through mail, spent a half hour on the phone with Verizon fooling with this danged internet connection again before being able to sort out literally hundreds of emails in our various accounts (It will take days to read them all!), check out my Facebook pages, the shop and a few more essentials. Whew!! I'm now really tired.

I did have posts planned for each day I was gone but the internet problems kicked in the last morning I was home and I wasn't able to do the final preps on all of them so there were a lot of blanks. (Seems I learn something new about pre-posting every trip!) Dawn did her best to fix what she could for me and post some of them. I'll make a blogger out of her yet!!

I'll have something fresh to post in the moring when i feel a lot fresher. I've really missed chatting with all of you. Can't wait to catch up with all of your postings, too, but not tonight!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Consignment Selling Experience - Part III

Okay, so now you know where you are going to consign your products and you’ve worked out what percentage of the selling price you will receive. Now, you need to sign the contract. Never do consignment without a contract!!!


One cannot emphasize enough - NEVER, NEVER sign any any contract you have not read and understood! If you don’t know what it means, ask. Don’t accept a vague answer saying, “it’s just legalese.” “Legalese” usually carries a lot of impact and can be extremely important.
Read the contract very carefully. It should cover all aspects of your relationship with the shop.

Check to be sure each of the issues listed below is dealt with and you are satisfied with each provision.

1) Percentage of selling price to be paid to you (the crafter). Be sure the percentage you have discussed and agreed upon is the same as the one written in the contract.
2) When will payment be made for any sales. Most shops pay in 30 or 60 day cycles.
3) DO NOT accept any provision that allows the store to lower the marked price on an item at a specific point in time. This is a practice often used in consignment thrift shops but is NOT used in the gift/craft business arena.
4) If the store runs any type of sale that would reduce the selling price of your product, your payment should still be based on the original price you agreed to. (For example: If the shop has a 10% off sale for a specific holiday or such and an item you agreed to price at $20.00 sells for $18.00 during that sale, your percentage will still be based on the $20 price.)
5) The contract should specify a specific schedule for reporting to you regarding sales. Many shops issue bi-weekly or monthly e-mails.
6) How long will the shop keep merchandise if it is not selling. Most shops will return unsold merchandise after a specific time - often 3 or 6 months.
7) Who is responsible for lost, stolen or damaged merchandise? Do they carry insurance for these situations? Will you be paid your full percentage for such losses?
8) Some shop contracts will demand exclusive rights to sell your merchandise in a specific geographic area. This issue is entirely up to you but, generally, anything beyond a 5 mile radius for exclusive territory is excessive.
9) The contract should state that the shop is responsible for paying all applicable sales taxes on the total selling price. Do not agree to any other arrangement on this issue.
10) Some shops will have a clause pertaining to special custom orders on your merchandise.
11) Some contracts will also specify how an item can be tagged with regard to identifying you as the crafter. It is not unusual for a shop to request that you do not provide a website or phone number on your personal tagging. Most will allow you to include your name or your business name on that tag. Some will allow a non-sales venue internet address such as an e-mail or blog address. ** This is generally considered a reasonable request on their behalf.
12) Contracts may include language regarding a shop’s inventory listing procedure.

Just because something is in a pre-printed contract, it does not mean it must be included. Negotiation can occur and clauses can be crossed out and initialed by all parties or written in and initialed by all parties. Any changes written into a printed contract MUST be initialed by both parties.

Be sure you are given a copy of the signed contract. I also request a written alternative phone number and contact address for the store owner to be written on the contract.

If by chance the store does not provide its own contract, you should be prepared with one of your own making. Sample contracts abound online for free. Simply search the term “consignment sales agreements” (or contracts).

Part IV of the Consignment Selling Experience will cover inventory sheets and any other miscellaneous information I feel you may find helpful.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Consignment Selling Experience - Part II

So, now that you’ve decided you do want to try consignment selling you need to determine the answers to two basic questions before going any further. Those two questions pertain to pricing of your products and whether you want to sell only at local shops or if you are going to reach out to non-local venues.


You first need to determine how much you need to receive in your pocket for each of your products. You are the only person who can determine this. You are the one who knows the cost of your materials, how long it takes you to make each item and how much profit you want to make from each sale to make it worth your while. Remember, there are still some expenses involved in selling on consignment and these costs must also be considered. These would include such items as shipping or delivery costs (time and fuel), any packaging involved and time for the extra record keeping you will need to do.

Once you know your bottom line, you then need to decide whether you will maintain the same pricing both in your personal sales (online and at craft shows or wherever) and in your consignment venues. There are two schools of thought on this. Some feel that the same item should be the same price everywhere regardless of who is marketing it for you. Others, like myself, feel the price should have some flexibility based on where it is being sold.

I personally charge less on my Etsy site than I do at local craft fairs and other sales venues. I base a big portion of my pricing on overhead costs and the cost of selling online is considerably lower than my other venues. I also feel the online customer has taken the time to go to their computer, find my site and will be paying additional shipping charges. (Ultimately, the difference is usually negated by the time one considers added S&H.) Likewise, my prices are higher for consignment than on my site.
Most consignment stores will use percentages between 70/30 and 60/40, with the crafter receiving the higher percentage. A few shops are asking 50/50 but I find most of those are negotiable if you are persistent and have truly unique and high quality merchandise. I would not consider anything that sways the numbers in favor of the shop. (**Please note: Fine art galleries handling original artwork and large sculptures generally do charge 50%. This is a standard in that arena. This article is designed for the “crafter” not for fine art.)

Once you know what prices you will be offering you can start to look for the right consignment market for your goods.

Finding a Consignment Outlet

Local or Non-Local

Many crafters prefer to only deal with local shops. The advantages to this are you are able to keep a closer watch on your merchandise. You can actually see the shop, personally get to know the owner, see how your goods are displayed and maintained and drop in to check on your merchandise and sales on a regular basis. You are afforded the opportunity to identify problems and take steps to rectify the situation in a more timely manner. You also avoid shipping costs when you can personally deliver the goods. The downside is you are going after the same customers there as you may be going for at local craft shows if you are also physically selling your own products. Alternatively, while you are reaching the same market as the shop, they are usually displaying your merchandise 7 days a week in a location where the customer can always find them.

Dealing with non-local venues presents some concerns in that you cannot see the actual shop for yourself and cannot be sure of how your merchandise is displayed and handled. If a problem occurs with the shop, you have no way of knowing this until it may be too late to mitigate the damages. You also have the additional costs and damage concerns of shipping your merchandise to the shop. You will often only “meet” the owner through their e-mails or phone calls.

Now that you know the geographic location of the stores you are looking for, you need to find those that are willing to take your merchandise on consignment.

If you are looking for local outlets, the first thing to do is go and visit those shops you think look compatible with your work. If you don’t know of any such stores in your area take a walk through the various business districts and shopping centers. Try looking in the phone book under “gift boutiques” and any other tags you can think of. Ask in your local craft supply stores for suggestions as to what local businesses sell handcrafted items.

I generally advise two visits before approaching the owner/buyer/manager. On the first visit look at what merchandise the shop carries, the quality and price range of the products. Look at the displays and see what type of effort is put into showing these things in their best light. Go back a week or two later. Does it look like items are selling? Is there anything new? Have the displays been updated? Is the shop clean? What about the help? Were they friendly and helpful? If you feel good on this second visit, approach them about carrying your merchandise. You should have something to show them in the way of samples and be able to back that sample up with photos of additional merchandise. If they sound interested ask about their policies as to commission charged and such. Make an appointment to show them additional pieces and to go over the contract. If the shop does not have their own contract, offer to prepare one of your own and bring it with you. (*We will discuss contract provisions in a later section.)

If you are dealing with a non-local venue, you must make more effort to research the shop and scope it out. You will often see out-of-town shops advertise for merchandise in various craft magazines or on craft-oriented websites. Sometimes they will approach you through your online site or at a craft show. Ask if they have a website you can view or if they have advertising brochures or such to review. Check the local phone directory for their area to see if the shop is listed. (You can do this easily online for free.) You can go so far as to call the Chamber of Commerce there and ask about the business. Google both the business and the name of the owner who has contacted you. Often, you will turn up local newspaper articles that mention the shop. Ask for a sample copy of their consignment contract. (In most cases, if they have approached you, they should be prepared with a contract for your perusal.) Do not hesitate to ask for pictures of the shop - inside and out. They are well aware that you are not familiar with their location and a reputable shop owner who is truly interested in your merchandise will be glad to comply with such a request. If they object to your questioning, run the other way.

With all consignment shops, you want to ask:

1) What is the commission split? (If you can’t agree on this, there is no
sense discussing anything more.)
2) How long has the shop been in existence and how long at its current location?
3) How many consignors does the shop deal with?
4) Who is the owner and who does the day-to-day management of the shop? Who will you be dealing with?
5) What type of insurance coverage do they provide to cover your merchandise (fire, flood, hurricane, etc)? Do they cover theft?
6) Is there a theft problem in the store or in its neighborhood?
7) What type of advertising and promotions do they do?
8) Do they carry similar merchandise to yours?
9) How will they display your merchandise?
10) How long will they hold your merchandise on display before returning unsold items to you?
11) Who is responsible for return shipping for non-local venues?
12) Can they provide references from other consignors they deal with?

Go with your gut feeling. If communication is poor or it feels weird and uncomfortable. Do not go with this shop. Keep looking for the right outlet for your work.

Once you are satisfied with these answers, ask for a copy of the contract. Read it carefully. Take it home and review it several times. Questions anything you do not understand. If there is an issue you do not agree with, bring it to their attention and attempt negotiation in that area. Remain somewhat flexible. This should be a give and take discussion. Both parties will need to be comfortable with the agreement.

I will discuss the actual contract in Part III of the Consignment Selling Experience

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Who is this old man in my bed?"

Today my man celebrates his birthday. This is one of those "MILESTONE" numbers. You know, one of those we used to associate only with our grandparents. As you know we are traveling at this point so in honor of The Big Guy's big number today, I'm rerunning a post I wrote several years ago about him getting old. (I figure it's safe. He has no access to a computer on this trip so he should never know!!)


Everyone talks about the things that make them feel old but I think the biggie in my life lately has been the fact that I’m now married to what appears to be an “OLD” man. How did this happen? I mean, I know a few years have slipped by and, after all, he was a bit gray when we first met. (He found his first gray hair by age 21! His dad was white-haired by age 40.)

There have been little age-isms sneaking up on us all along the way. There were the obvious signs - reading glasses, which he insists get worn low on the nose and angled, an array of “daily“ pill bottles on the counter for blood pressure, sugar issues, cholesterol and arthritis! Then there were the little petty things that a wife notices (and friends are too kind to mention - at least in front of you.) Things like insisting on using exact change in the grocery store if he has it. I never thought I’d be with the old guy holding up the line to count out 21 pennies! Or, for that matter, the one handing off the stack of coupons and then questioning whatever one might kick out. Of course, he very carefully reviews his receipt as he gets it to be sure they didn’t overcharge for the produce or such. Yes, I’m with the dude swimming in the ocean in a white T-shirt and baseball cap because “he burns easy.” (This began only a few years after we began dating!) In more recent years, he’s also worn those little nylon swim shoes into the water to protect his touchy tootsies. Then there’s the specially shaped neck pillow in bed and the afghan draped over his lap in the evening. Oh yeah, and the evening “naps” in the Lazyboy!

Don’t even get me started on the bed habits. I didn’t know it was possible to snore in all those positions! I try to sleep through the clearing the throat routine in the morning. We saw Bill Cosby do his live routine about this back when we were young. We thought it was hilarious then. I should have realized he was just further along the timeline than we were.

There is an upside to your hubby getting older. They generally need to make more restroom stops frequently. Cross country trips are much calmer when you’re not always the one saying you need to make a pit stop. Few have been my idea for several years now. I just enjoy them as they occur.

Well, sometime in this past year I’ve had disturbing thoughts about him getting really old. There have been numerous times at restaurants, malls, festivals etc. when I realized the elderly man walking toward me with the old man shuffle was MY man! I’ve worried when he came in from shoveling snow or working in the yard, huffing and puffing and a bit flushed from the exertion. There have been times when he made the strangest noises while sleeping that I actually watched to be sure he kept breathing. (I don’t confide those moments to him, of course.) There was the time it dawned on me that he was now several years older than my dad was when he passed on.

(***The bad news is, he didn’t rob the cradle. I’m only a few years younger. What does that say about ME?)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working the Shows Wednesday - Bits'n' Pieces

This week's comments are a collection of little bits of advice about doing shows. None are large enough to justify their own post, but are important enough to mention.

Show Log Book

As you do shows, you should maintain an ongoing record about each show. I keep mine in a loose leaf notebook. Include all the basic info, the full name of the show, date, contact info for the show director, space price and any other expenses (application fees, electrical fees, etc.) I note total sales, and total expenses (hotel, tolls, food, etc.) I now add a photo of my display at that show. (I just snap it with my pocket-size digtal camera and print out on my computer. ) Make notes as to any details about the space, i.e. lumpy ground, poor lighting, excellent location, near restroom, etc. Is there anything special you want to remember about this show? (great food, top-notch entertainment, un-Godly heat or humidity, unsupervised children running amok, etc.) Was there one product that was really moving well? (You'll want to remember this next year.) I also attach a copy of any Mapquest directions I used and any notes about a different route or any detail about getting there. I always note the total mileage to the the show and how much gas I used. (When gas was at $4/gallon two summers ago, I eliminated a few shows based on that one item.) Sometimes I attach any paperwork sent by the show committee about layout, etc. If you decide to do this show again next year, this information will be very helpful.

Price Tags

Be sure to have prices attached to or posted for every item you are selling. Customers tend not to ask. if they can't see how much it is, they simply move on. It is bad form to haggle or negotiate with customers at a show. It is acceptable to make a deal if a customer is buying multiple pricey items. It is also frowned upon, and often prohibited, to post "clearance" signs or "end of season sale" signs. "Show Special" on a specific item or group of items is acceptable if posted in a dignified manner. (For example, a single earring display stand with a 3"x5" card reading "Show Special" would be appropriate.)

Know ahead of time what payment choices you will accept. Be prepared for those payment methods. Have adequate change available. Do not expect customers to have exact change. If you will be charging sales tax, have a sales tax chart readily available to allow quick and accurate calculations. Have pennies available for that purpose and do not attempt to "round off." It is unprofessional and illegal.

If you are sharing a booth with another seller, discuss before hand how money will be handled and how combination purchases (things from both of you) will be packed, etc. If it appears to be one display, customers will not expect to deal with each of you separately.

Regardless of what happens at the show or why, maintain a cheerful and friendly attitude for your customers. They won't buy from a frowning, grumpy vendor. (They just may run for the hills.) If sales are slow, do not whine. Your customer and neighbors do not want to hear it. Stay upbeat. You can always cry all the way home or beat up your pillow before turning in for the night. SMILE, it really does help sales.

Be ready on time...
If the show starts at 9 a.m. be ready to sell at that time. Allow plenty of time for set-up. If possible, be ready earlier than the opening moment. By the same token, never close down before the appointed break-down time, regardless of how bad sales may be. (The exception here is devastating weather. We've all been forced to accept defeat from time-to-time.) Breaking down early hurts both your fellow crafters, your reputation and, most of all, your potential customers. Many a person has returned to me late in a show to purchase that bigger item they needed to think about. Many like to see everything at the show before making their buys. I've also made many sales because I was the last one standing when latecomers came by.

Display Pics
Take pictures of every display you do. Review them later and decide what works and doesn't work. Don't count on your memory to recall how you did it last time. Many show applications also require pictures of your display as part of the jury process so you will be prepared.

Most Important:
Have plenty of stock of product. Take more than you could possibly imagine selling. Have it all tagged with information identifying you so they can get in touch with you for more. Drop business cards into every bag.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Words of Wisdom from the mouths of babes!

Having just celebrated Mother's Day, let's take a look at the wonderful wisdom of children and why we love them so!

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, 'Mom, that lady isn't wearing a seat belt!'

On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, 'The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.'

A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar. During her struggle the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. 'Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle.'

A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the women's locker room.. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, 'What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a little boy before?'

5) POLICE # 1
While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, 'Are you a cop? Yes,' I answered and continued writing the report. My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?' 'Yes, that's right,' I told her. 'Well, then,' she said as she extended her foot toward me, 'would you please tie my shoe?'

6) POLICE # 2
It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. 'Is that a dog you got back there?' he asked.
'It sure is,' I replied.
Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, 'What'd he do?'

While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, 'The tooth fairy will never believe this!'

A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, 'Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit.'
'And why not, darling?'
'You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning.'

While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased.

The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: 'Glory be unto the Faaather, and unto the Sonnn, and into the hole he goooes.' (I want this line used at my funeral!)
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!'

A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages.
'Mama, look what I found,' the boy called out.
'What have you got there, dear?'
With astonishment in the young boy's voice, he answered, 'I think it's Adam's underwear!'
Gotta' love'em!!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Somebody said...

With Mother's Day coming later this week, it seemed like the right time for some truths about Moms!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Consignment Selling Experience - Part I

(What is it and what are the pros and cons?)

Within the last few weeks, I’ve been approached by several retailers about selling my work on consignment. I’m sure this resurgence in the consignment system is based strongly on today’s economic conditions. There just isn’t a lot of capital out there to fund small businesses at the moment. Cash flow is limited for just about everybody from Fortune 500 companies right down to the one-woman gift shop. Only those who can creatively manage their shops will survive. They need to be resourceful in maintaining a fully stocked store and in getting those shoppers who actually do have a few bucks in their pockets into their businesses.

When I started to seriously sell my work, way back in the early 70s, there were a huge number of stores that worked predominantly with the consignment system. It was the norm at that time. As time went by, they became harder and harder to find. Then, the craft mini-mall and co-op system took hold for a while. That now seems to be declining. When I left my job in the legal field a few years ago, I searched for a few consignment markets for my work and had trouble finding any in my area. There were a few craft malls within a reasonable distance but nothing very impressive.

Today, small gift-based businesses are suffering and there simply isn't enough cash flow to fully stock without being resourceful - in comes consignment selling! If crafters enter these arrangements in a professional manner, with written contracts that spell out everything, and with caution (check out every shop to the best of your ability), consignment can be very beneficial to both you and the shop. You can get considerably more exposure and sales without a lot of marketing effort on your part. The shop is fully stocked which encourages more sales (hopefully, of your product). The concept of “handmade” is kept alive.

Over the years, I have been on both sides of the consignment contract. I have sold on consignment in a number of stores along the way and I have owned and operated my own shop where I hosted a number of consignors. I’ve experienced the pros and cons from both sides of the issue. There have been good and bad experiences.

Let’s start with the basics:

“Consignment Selling” is when you create the product and then turn it over to someone else to sell in their shop for you. When the product sells, you receive a percentage of that selling price. You retain ownership of the product until it sells but it is not in your possession.

From the Seller’s Point of View:

The Pros of selling on consignment:

You do not need to devote your time and energies to marketing, whether that is sitting at craft shows, listing and promoting items on line, working a party-plan system, whatever. This is ideal for those who have physical limitations and cannot get out and sit through a long day at the craft show or haul their merchandise and displays in and out. If you are not “a people person,” you don’t need to interact with strangers and make small talk simply trying to push a sale. If your time is limited, this gives you time to devote to creating and not sitting and waiting for a sale. You have the opportunity to reach an audience that may never see your work otherwise. Your work is on display at all hours of the shop’s operation without tying you down for that time period. You don’t have the overhead of doing shows such as entrance fees, travel expenses, display costs, etc. In most cases you control the selling price of your product.

The Cons of this system:

You do not have physical control of your merchandise. You are not there to protect it and see that it is being handled gently and displayed in a safe or appropriate manner. You cannot talk up the sale or attempt to “sell up.” You may be subjecting yourself to possible losses of merchandise or damage to your goods. In some cases, crafters have trusted their products to less than reputable folks who have absconded with the goods or have sold the merchandise but not paid you for them. Shops have closed up and simply disappeared without any warning to the crafter and you are left with trying to find the owner and your merchandise.

From the Store Owners View Point:

The Pros:

You can provide a better quality, quantity and wider variety of merchandise to your patrons without the huge initial cash layout. Crafters are not paid until the product has actually sold and the money has come into the till.

The Cons:

You are now responsible for someone else’s merchandise. You have a tremendously increased amount of paperwork, both for inventory purposes and bookkeeping purposes. You cannot always count on what merchandise is coming and when. Often, quality of the workmanship will vary. Some crafters see consignment as a means of dumping whatever doesn’t sell in their other markets (odd colors, weird color combinations, etc.) Dealing with the crafters can be trying at times. All believe they should have the best spot in the shop and special treatment when requested. Some will call or come in almost daily to check on their sales and advise as to what you should be doing to move their merchandise.

You are responsible for display racks, insurance coverage, taxes and other business licenses. You are paying the lease, utilities and promotional expenses. You are often devoting a large amount of space to merchandise that simply isn’t moving but you cannot mark it down or run a special as you have agreed to a specific price with the crafter. Crafters often come in without notice and want to pick up their merchandise for whatever reason. Many like to treat the shop as if it has a revolving door and want to “borrow” their merchandise back to do a craft show and then bring it back to the shop after that show. Checking those products in and out takes time and disrupts the flow of business.

Done wrong - consignment can be a nightmare for all involved. Done right - everybody can benefit and make money from a good consignment arrangement.

So, how do you find the right shop, get the right contract and work it out to have a good experience? That’s what I will address in Part II of the Consignment Selling Experience.

So, take some time to create and I'll be back to tell you how to find the right consignment arrangement that works for you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Advice about mom and others you love ...

This is another rerun from posts a long time ago so if you've been with me for over a year, you may recall reading it before. The advice is still solid and I was reminded of this experience once again this past week. We can all use reminders like this one from time to time.


I have something important to relate but let me preface this tale by stating, confidently, that my mom and I were best friends not just relatives. We had many adventures together -- adventures that would have filled a book and that book would have had lots of laughs, some tears along the way and probably a lot of sage advice that would be really helpful if those in need of it would listen. That being said, I need to tell you a tale of one of my experiences while shopping with Mom.

We were getting out of the car at the mall one afternoon and Mom was taking her good old time getting to her feet. I was standing near the rear of the vehicle waiting for her. I can’t recall why I might have been in a hurry to get inside so I can’t explain me rushing her along with words to the effect of “C’mon Mom, we don’t have all day!” (This did take place quite a while ago!)

As luck would have it, a Church friend my mom’s age was passing by at that exact moment and she overheard the comment. She stopped and stated very emphatically, “Just be glad you still have her with you!”

I felt like I’d been corrected and immediately resented her comment. We went ahead and exchanged the usual pleasantries but, in my mind, I was thinking, “Why don’t you mind your own business, you old biddy!” For months after that, I thought those same thoughts each time I met up with this woman.

Mom has been gone almost fourteen years now and I know we spent as much time together as we could. I know I told her I loved her and I know she felt that in my actions. There are always some things you regret not getting to or not seeing her on that last day but I am comfortable with what our relationship was.

There are so many times, however, that I’d love to quote my mother’s friend! I see friends who I know will have many regrets and, out of friendship, I want to say something to give them a much needed nudge. I don’t do it as I recall how much I resented being told. I simply silently pray they will see the light and jump in there and enjoy what time they have.

If this applies to you in any way, Dear Reader, please take the advice for what it’s worth and apply it where needed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Working the Shows Wednesday - A Jewelry Rant

As I am still traversing the Midwest without computer access, I will rerun a craft show rant (specific to some jewelry sellers). This particular complaint is still a huge issue with me and, if anything, I'm seeing even more of it this season.


There seems to be a huge amount of commercially made, buy/sell jewelry being exhibited at “craft” shows lately. They’re even turning up at some of the nicer juried shows. When I noticed this and felt it was somewhat blatant at a show run by a promoter that I’ve known for quite some time and respected for the excellent shows she has delivered over the years, I asked her why she was allowing these sellers at her shows.

This promoter stated it was her belief that allowing them to display their “nice” buy/sell merchandise in an attractive manner (Their booth display was eye-catching and well done.) was better than having empty spaces. She felt customers would balk at paying for admission to a craft show that was not full but would not object to the presence of these exhibitors. She actually indicated she did not feel the average customer would notice. Because they were comparatively priced with those who were creating their own merchandise, it was her belief, their participation would not hurt the true jeweler’s sales. She claims her true crafters have not objected.

I, as a customer, do object to their presence at a craft show and I told her this. I would actually rather see a smaller show than see the same merchandise I can find at my local K-Mart and such. I also pointed out that, if she is doing this at all of her shows, it may be why she is unable to fill the space she has allotted for jewelry with actual crafters.

I also find it hard to believe the true jewelers involved do not object. I believe they are simply remaining quiet as the shows are generally well advertised and attended and sales are healthy. It’s time these folks, both sellers and customers, voiced their objections. Make a point of complaining to the show organizers, committees, sponsors and/or directors about the presence of buy/sell. If these groups still want to allow these vendors to take part in the event, let’s not call it a “craft show“. Simply refer to it as a “market” or a “fair.”

My second jewelry complaint concerns the proliferation of “jewelers” who are simply stringing beads together to form a single strand necklace or bracelet and filling an entire booth with this sort of production. Some have actually learned the art of attaching a clasp to the string but there are a number of sellers simply using elastic cording and tying it off, similar to the second-graders’ Mother’s Day project! Technically, these pieces are handmade and, since they chose the type and color of the beads to put in whatever order, I suppose you could stretch that into claiming they “designed” it, too. Again, as a shopper I am very disappointed when I come across these booths.

What’s really sad to say, is that all of these vendors are selling and making a profit at craft shows!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Memories of Bad Vacations!!!

I've spent the day organizing clothes and packing for our trip. First, I laid everything out on the bed and then went back and cut out about a quarter of it. I waited an hour and went back and cut out some more.

Even with all that cutting, I know The Big Guy will complain about how much we're taking. He'll remind me we can do laundry there so we don't need so much. Then he'll play the trump card, "Remember, we did an 8-day cruise with no luggage at all!!"

Oh, yes. We did !!! I've been vacation traumatized ever since.

Just as in that commercial on T.V., our luggage toured the Western Caribbean and we didn't. We did, however, spend 8 days traveling through the Southern Caribbean. We were the ones who wore the same outfit over and over, and, yet, over again! Actually, we were one couple out of twelve caught up in that fiasco.

Yep, the cruise line personnel loaded an entire cart of luggage onto the WRONG ship!!! And, they did NOTHING about it!

We did everything we were supposed to. We claimed our luggage at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. We took it with us on the cruise line's bus to the Miami dock. We had the proper tags on each bag. We hand delivered our own bags to the cruise line's baggage handler at the dock (within 40 feet of our ship), who placed a second tag on each bag, further identifying the correct ship. They put all of the bags belonging to those of us arriving on that bus into a large luggage cart to be loaded on the ship. We walked aboard.

About an hour after we set sail, we had not yet cleared the Miami harbor, we (and twelve other couples) were called to the Purser's Office where they told us our bags had been loaded on the ship docked next to ours (approximately a block and a half down the dock). Both ships belonged to the same cruise line. We could still see the other ship on the horizon at this point. No attempt was made to stop them from sailing away with our bags. I believe they could have stopped the first ship at that point, allowed our ship to catch up and then send a tender over for our bags. This apparently made no sense to them. (We've been on enough cruises to know they CAN make up that time.)

They assured us our bags would be waiting at our first port (2 days later). The Captain and officers kept this pretense up for those two days while other crew members voiced some doubt. Our luggage did not show up in St. Martin's. We were told to expect it to "be on the dock" when we went into Barbados the next day. It wasn't. On the 4th day, they finally told us it was the airlines' fault. No one would fly unaccompanied luggage. I'm sure they could have spared a crew member to accompany all those bags. We were however assured the bags would be at the terminal when we arrived in Miami the following Sunday. (The luggage apparently only booked a 7-day cruise.)

Fat lot of good that did us. I had a pair of slacks, a pair of capris, a tank top, the underwear I was wearing and a pair of sandals. The Big Guy had a pair of jeans, a pair of denim shorts, a golf shirt and the shoes and boxers he was wearing. They did offer us each a T-shirt bearing the cruise line's emblem and a date from 2 years earlier. They came in Medium or Large. We were neither.

My man put up enough fuss they finally let him go to the gift shop where he found a T-shirt that fit very tightly and was priced at $25. Under protest they gave him the shirt. My bosum didn't fit any shirt they had available so I was offered nothing. When it became apparent the luggage was never coming, they issued all of us a $50.00 voucher for the gift shop. Note: These tiny little shops do NOT carry all the necessary toiletries one would expect. What they do carry, is priced at about 5 X the shore price which in turn is at least 3 x what you'd pay at home.

All those whose luggage was involved were given a cute little cosmetic bag containing a safety razor, one Q-tip, a tiny little toothbrush that resembled a toy, a tube of toothpaste that held enough for at least two brushings, one piece of floss about 8" long, a safety pin, one bandaid, a single pack of aspirin, and one or two other items. (This cruise line used to have a nice toiletry basket in each cabin like a good hotel but discontinued that prior to this cruise.) Anything we received after that was only after making multiple demands.

We spent our entire day in St. Martin's shopping for necessities. Note: The ship's crew was not the least bit helpful in sending us the right direction to find what we needed. We were told to ask a cabbie. Cabbies would only take us to the tourist district souvenir shops. We learned later there was a mall only about a mile out of that area that would have had most of what we were looking for.

Apparently, the clothing shops in that part of the island do not feel women wear underwear. We were able to find some for The Big Guy, but not for me. I spent every night washing my undies in the sink and drying them with the hairdryer. The neighbors had to wonder what weird activity we did each night after midnight that involved using that dryer for an hour! Most ships do have washers and dryers available to passengers. Of course, unless you are on a special nude cruise, you've got to have something to wear to the laundry room! The Big Guy spent several hours of the cruise sitting in the laundry room reading while our outfits washed.

We learned a lot on that cruise. We learned the cruise line will not knock themselves out to go the extra mile for you. You will only get what you demand. If you don't know it's available, you won't know what to ask for. Some folks demanded laundry service. (Of course, they were not guaranteed service faster than the 24-hr service advertised on board!) Some cabin stewards were better at providing extras than others. Ours was one of the latter. Some were able to obtain free formal rentals for formal night, although the selection is very limited both in total number, variety and sizes.

I have two sister-in-laws. One is built like a model and one is comparable to myself in many ways. Thank goodness the second one was the one cruising with us. I was able to squeeze into a bathing suit, a bra and a top or two she had for me. My backside is a bit broader so she couldn't help with pants or undies. Had the other been with us, I guess I could have borrowed earrings!!

In the end, the cruise line gave us vouchers for a free cruise at a later date. They gave one per cabin. Luckily, when we booked our cabin there was a special running for folks flying from our local airport. For that reason, we booked our room and The Big Guy's sister's room in each of our names, thus getting us two vouchers! Since the voucher was basically just the price of the cabin, it was only worth about $370. We did use them the next year.

That time, we left from Galveston. We flew there a few days early to spend time with a friend who lives there. Before he dropped us off at the ship, I loaded up about 7 carry-on bags with almost everything from our big suitcases. (There are size restrictions on carry-ons as they must go through an xray machine as you board the ship.) I wasn't taking any chances. Of course, the suitcases made it with no problem that time.

Did I mention this happened on our 9th cruise with that cruise line? We used our vouchers on our 10th with them. We had been going annually. We have not been back on one of their ships since and it has been several years.

I always tell folks, we've been evacuated due to a hurricane, we've gotten sick on vacations, had entire weeks of rain, car trouble, vacationed with teenagers (4 at a time!), spent multiple weeks traveling with a mother-in-law, had problems with the beach houses we've rented, been bothered by phone calls from the office continually throughout a trip, and more, but this sticks in my memory as our WORST vacation. It was not FUN !!!

So, what's your worst vacation story?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Working the Shows Wednesday - Stay for the full show!

A couple of big shows took place in our area this past weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn't spend a lot of time running around to visit all of them as I had a lot to get done before we leave on vacation later this week.

As one of our favorite bands was entertaining late in the day on Saturday at one of the shows, we did make an effort to get there although we arrived late in the day (about 3 p.m.) at a show that closes at 6 p.m. This is a huge street fair that encompasses about 6 square blocks around the country courthouse, features four stages and approximately 400 vendors of various types ranging from food and crafts to civic groups to realtors, and more. The event runs for two days and generally attracts at least 15,000 people per day.

When we did this show, it was always one of the best of the year. From talking with a number of friends who still sell there, that has not changed. The day was very warm, sunny and a bit humid (normal for our area!) The crowd was unbelievable! We literally shuffled along the event. People were loaded down with bags of merchandise they had purchased. It's moments like that when I really miss doing the huge outdoor shows but I simply cannot physically handle them anymore without a lot of additional help that I no longer have.

All this brings me to one of my biggest complaints about crafters at these shows: Those who pack up and leave early!!! With three hours left to go for the day, humongous crowds of "buying" folks and the biggest entertainment draw of the day still to take one of the main stages, we found several spot already vacated for the day and had to dodge several crafters who were trying to maneuver large carts loaded with their tables and display pieces through the mob. As there is no vehicle access until after the event closes, these people were pushing these carts for a number of blocks to their vehicles (a minimum of 5 blocks!) They really acted "put out" that it was so hard to work their way through the crowd! Hey guys, there's a reason why promoters add that sentence to the contracts that says "Crafter must stay until the show closes for the day."

I stopped to glance at a few things left on the table of one packing jeweler. The pieces were lovely but I wondered what else he had displayed earlier. I asked if sales had been bad. He indicated it was a fantastic show for him so I point-blank asked why was he leaving early. He shook his head and said, "This place becomes a zoo when everyone tries to get in and load at the same time!" I guess he found it easier to haul everything several blocks instead regardless of lost sales!

I purposely called another friend today who was selling jewelry there to ask how the last few hours had gone. She was set up six spaces down from the early packer. (They were, incidentally, immediately adjacent to the entrance to the stage area where at least 500 people listened to the final band.) She advised she had sold approximately 130 pieces in those last 3 hours at prices ranging from $25 to $55.00. She figures the other guy did her a favor by leaving as they had similarly priced items.

I have often made my biggest and best sales in the last hour of a show, especially at street fairs and such where folks simply don't want to carry the purchase around all day or, in the case of this event, want to see all of the displays before making their choices. As a customer, I have personally done both myself. Leaving early does not just hurt you as a seller but it harms the show in general. If you were only expected to sell in the first few hours, no shows would last past lunchtime. When buyers show up later in the day and find a large number of spaces empty, they won't be back next year. I wish promoters would enforce their rules. They cannot physically restrain crafters to keep them from leaving early but they can force them to forfeit the second day of the show or not accept them at future shows as punishment. I have actually only come across a few promoters who have taken such action.

As professional craftspeople, we must act professionally. Living by the contracts we sign is just one small part of that attitude. We'd all be unhappy to arrive at a grocery store advertised to be open until 10 p.m. at 7 p.m., only to find they closed early as business was slow or they wanted to avoid the congested highway on their way home.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Vacation Preps

It's been a busy couple of days here. I'm trying to get everything ready for our vacation in a few days. I am bound and determined I WILL NOT be struggling at the last minute to get everything packed!

I think I've got everything done to keep the homefires burning while we're gone. I've posted the "Vacation Rules." After last July's trip , I can't stress enough, "No digging in the front yard!" (I'm thinking of embroidering it on a sampler.) That pit still has not been completely resolved!!

I even posted a surreptitious list of things that CAN be done AS LONG AS THEY'RE DONE BY THE TIME WE GET BACK!!! This includes things like repairing the concrete on the patio, painting the railing on the inside stairway, steam cleaning the carpets, etc. I don't really expect any of that to be done, but, Hey, it's worth a shot!!

Last time, we came home to a new toilet seat (It broke the night before we left.) and a freshly caulked tub. I wasn't surprised by the toilet seat as I had purchased the new one the morning we left and had it standing in the bathroom as a hint. I think it was a matter of personal comfort if they wanted to use the facilities at all while we were gone. The caulking, though, was a pleasant surprise as it had been on the To Do List for months.

I seem to have a pretty good handle on the laundry and ironing of clothing that needs to go with us. I've started the pile of odds and ends that I want to take (You know, a stray book or two that wandered East at some point and needs to find its way home, Ravens souvenirs for the misplaced fans, a stack of photographs for the family [some still do not have email or facebook], and more.) I still need to make a grocery run to pick up those regional faves that just aren't available in the Midwest and to gather nibbles for that 1200 mile drive. I'm exhausted but I think I may actually have my act pretty much together at this point.

Unfortuantely, I won't have internet access while traveling so I'll be busy going through withdrawal and missing all of you. In the next two days, I need to type in advance postings for both blogs. I've come up with a few interesting items for your reading pleasure while I'm gone. So, please keep stopping by.