Tuesday, July 24, 2012

get out of my booth.

It's Tuesday, and I'm finally recovered from my weekend selling at the Renegade Craft Fair.  Did I say selling? What I meant to say was showing, I was showing my work at the Renegade. It was, unfortunately, the most beautiful day of the year on Saturday. When you live in the Bay Area and you wake upon a Saturday morning and there is not a wisp,  not a trace of fog, you spend the day outside, not locked up in a giant box with a bunch of hipsters selling felted owl hats or meticulously crafted letterpress birthday cards that say, "I HATE you more every YEAR" or ceramic cupcake stands with a bird on it.  Put a bird on it, get it? Get it? I love that show, don't you?

Ha ha ha. Get out of my booth.

typical exit lines (click)
At the show, I was refining some of my theories regarding the nature of human behavior in a retail environment and, since I had time, taking notes. My theory says that 80% of show attendees are there only to look at all of the cute stuff,  get ideas for stuff they want to make themselves, find the very cheapest deal available, or take pictures. It's the other 20% I'm trying to suss out, and there are lots of clues.

There are the people who look for a bit and then ask for a card or if you have a studio. These are mostly the "inspire me" people who have no intention of dropping a dime, but they don't know how to get out of your booth gracefully, so they use that line as a way to make you think they will buy later.  Look, it's okay to just walk out of a booth and just say, "Thank you!" You don't have to pretend, I can see right through you when you give me that apologetic smile, and you are just making me pretend along with you, which annoys me after a while. Just. Get. Out. And you're welcome.

Worse than that are people who look around and then ask you what cone you fire to. This is code for, "I too am potter, therefore I can appreciate your hard work, but I am not buying, because I can go home and make this myself." No, you can't. But by all means, try.

When people walk in and start handling work, it's usually a good sign, but only when they combine it with some eye contact and/or conversation.  They are telling me they are willing to engage with me, they want to buy, they just need a little push in the form of a reason to buy, which I am happy to supply.  This, for me, is a fun interaction. You are allowed to stay in my booth.

It's the people who avoid eye contact and start handling work only to check on price who are hopeless cases. I know that most people want to spend $18 on just about anything made out of ceramic, and they cannot make sense of my prices. $44 for that? Holy shit, a bowl for $140? Are you serious, you want all that money for something that holds a cake? I can spend all afternoon reading the minds of people scrunching up their faces at the little white sticker on the bottom of everything. And you know what? That's why I put the sicker on the bottom of everything, so you have to pick it up to find out, and maybe that way you will learn something about pottery, and why it costs more than $18.  In the meantime, please run faster as you exit my booth.

I've already written about the people who wander around shows taking pictures without asking. When I see someone with no shopping bags in their hands and a giant camera around their neck, I know what is about to happen, and it's not a sale.  People with cameras at shows come in as the most clueless bunch I have ever encountered while selling. All take, no give with these people. Get out!

 Then, there are the customers I've come to know as "heavy petters."  For example, a sweet-looking young lady (SLYL) walks into my booth:
SLYL: "Oh my god, I love your work, I'm always looking at it on Etsy. It's so beautiful..."
BAJA (bitter and jaded artist, that's me): "Isn't it so much better to see it in real life?"
SLYL: "Totally... I have almost all of your work in my favorites."
BAJA: "Which is your very favorite?"
SLYL: "All of them..." (wistfully strokes a cupcake stand with a faraway look in her eye) "It's so beautiful... so perfect... I just love all of your colors... "
BAJA: "Picking out the glaze colors is my favorite part."
SLYL: "It's so unique...I just love it... you are sooooo talented...well... thank you!" (abruptly turns on heel and exits booth.)

An interaction like that I call "fake foreplay." A customer comes in, supposedly all hot and bothered for my work, fully engages me with heavy petting in the form of compliments, feels me up by touching a bunch of pieces, and just when I think we are about to get down, leaves. High and dry. Wait! Come back!  Here, take a card, take a picture, my studio is always open! I thought you loved me...