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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Archive for October, 2010

The response

In my last post, I included a letter I wrote to Michael Pelosi of Showcase Events, the fine folks who ran the Definitely-Not-A-Craft-Fair I was part of last weekend.  Today, I’m going to share with you the insipid, finger-pointing, passive-aggressive response I received – which of course ignores the actual question I asked.

Enjoy.

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Hi Melanie,

Thank you for your email. Your feedback is valuable to us. Sorry to hear the show was not successful for you. We have many jewelry vendors that do extremely well with us year after year. Location, display, salesmanship, price points all play an important role in an individual’s success. We do have a mix of vendors, with not all categories appealing to others.2011 is nearly 1/3 sold out already which is one indicator of the successful events which we provide vendors.  This show is not for everyone. We do though have many handcrafted vendors that continue to return annually. If you would like to consider a more premium location, and sign up earlier, I believe your results would be much better. Again, thank you for your concern and consideration. Best wishes to you in the future.

Sincerely,

Michael

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As you can see from this letter, my lack of sales must surely be attributed to my own incompetence.  After all, if my displays had been nicer, people would have stopped to look.  (No, wait, plenty of folks stopped to look, that can’t be it.)  Perhaps if my salesmanship had been more professional, I would have connected with a few folks and sold them something.  (Oh, that’s right, I talked to a lot of people.  Some of them even made purchases.  Others  became new friends and business connections.)  Well, if my prices were more reasonable, then surely I would have been mobbed by customers desperate to buy my goods.  (Perhaps they were confused by the fact that I didn’t have a large shiny cash register, so they didn’t know where to put the money.)

Actually, he does have a point about price.  Which is exactly the point I made in my letter.  The folks buying at that event did not want handcrafted sterling silver Swarovski Christmas earrings for $25, they wanted machine-made Swarovski Christmas earrings for $10 imported from the third world.  Who do you think sold more?  Not I!

And this brings me back to the very problem that caused all us crafters to have such crappy sales: this event is geared toward the Wal*Mart crowd, not toward the handcraft crowd.  Six different skilled artisans, all in different media, all with years of experience and success, tried this venue for the first time.  And every one of us, doing our friendly and capable best, failed miserably.  What does that tell you?  It tells me the problem is not in the products, or the salesmanship, or the displays, or any other excuse he can come up with.  The problem is that we didn’t have a customer base at that venue.

The funny thing is, this show used to be full of crafts.  But over the years the organizers’ focus has shifted, and in order to fill slots and make money they’ve turned what once was a craft festival into a flea market with Santa.  Showcase Events could easily bring back the handmade vibe, but they’d have to do more than the empty gestures they offered this year.  Marking a few booths with “Artists in Action” on a map that few people look at doesn’t do much to call us out.

How about creating a shop within a shop – two rows of booths facing each other?  Put down different colored carpet, put up different colored backdrops.  A whole other color scheme, something earthier with browns and golds instead of bright white and red.  Perhaps add arches over the aisles to make it feel more intimate.

While we’re at it, add one leaf to the handout and give each Artist a 1/4 page ad for free, instead of lumping us in alphabetically with the home improvement hustlers, the food vendors, and the book signings.  At very minimum the descriptions listed should reflect the information we actually submitted!

And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to treat your vendors better as a whole.  Making us pay full price for parking is beyond ridiculous.  We don’t even get a discount rate?  And even the free coffee only lasted a couple hours.  Would it kill you to put on a second and third pot?  This is Seattle!  People drink coffee all day here!

I could go on and on; the lousy management of this event left me with plenty of fodder for (constructive) criticism.  But I don’t want to bore you all with the gory details.  Suffice it to say that I’ll be sending another letter soon, asking (again) for a feedback or complaint contact.  Another very carefully worded letter, which I will post here so you can keep up with the saga.

Until then, hope you’re all doing well.  Wish me luck as tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo.  If you don’t hear from me much, that’s why.  I’ll be writing a 50,000-word novel about kittens with opposable thumbs.  Stay tuned for (occasional) updates!

The truth will out

Everybody’s been asking how my show in Tacoma went, and I’ve been putting a good face on the whole thing. The truth is, while I really did meet some wonderful people and while I did get some valuable information out of the time I was there, it was far too expensive to justify it as market research. And really, there was far more to it than just money.

So I am posting here a letter I wrote to Michael Pelosi, the gentleman who sold me my spot in the show. When he gets back to me and as the situation develops, I will post updates here as well.

“Michael,

Words cannot express how disappointed, how upset I am at last week’s Holiday show in the Tacoma Dome. We artisans were completely abandoned by your organization. Lumped in with the home improvement sharks, the ticket-selling paintball employees, and the acne medication, and surrounded on all sides by importers of cheap garbage. Not to mention nickel-and-dimed at every turn. And then to top it all off, the information printed in your lousy excuse for a brochure was patently incorrect. Whatever incompetent you had in charge of writing the copy for your flyer took the description I provided – “jewelry, prayer beads, and glassware accessories” – and rendered it “jewelry, engraved glass, and bottle stoppers.” I suppose I should be happy that your organization is entirely incapable of attracting any but the Wal*Mart crowd; since no one was interested in handmade goods, I had no customers to explain your error to!

I have, in fact, been so enraged at your personal misrepresentation of this show as being friendly to the crafting community, that it has taken me four days to craft a letter that communicates to you my feelings in a coherent manner.

Please send me the contact information for your complaint department immediately, so that I will know who to write to on this manner. I can speak for all six crafters I boothed with (all first year vendors at your show) that none of us will return without seeing significant changes making your show friendly to handcrafts. And that, in fact, is a stretch, as we all discussed our general unwillingness to return on principle. I can certainly understand now why so many of your regular attendees speak with such disappointment of your show.

I have been given to understand that your organization used to support arts and crafts, and in fact this show used to have crafts in the title. Showcase Events is obviously making no more than lip service to support of actual arts. I am sickened and saddened by the treatment I and my fellow artists received, and am not inclined in the slightest to remain quiet about it.

I await your prompt reply,

Melanie Malcolm Delker
Mel’s Bells Jewelry”