Saturday, January 28, 2012

Etiquette tips for buyers and sellers

This excellent article by Stacey Merrill shares etiquette tips for both buyers and sellers at art fairs. These words of wisdom and experience apply to any event where you might be selling your jewelry -- or buying something handmade from others.

For vendors...

The suggestions include such things as having prices clearly marked, being available to answer questions instead of on the phone or chatting with a friend, keeping your table clean and neat, and being helpful but not hovering. 

For buyers...

This is something I wish was issued at the entrance of every event! Some of the requests include: Please don't block someone's booth or foot traffic, don't criticize the art/price in front of the artist for all to hear, and keep an eye on children (of ALL ages) and pets.

Read the entire article here

Based on my own informal survey of the Triangle Jewelry Makers, we would also add (or emphasize) the following.

Buyers, please...

* Don't hang out in my booth just to get out of the weather. I love for my customers to enjoy the shade if the weather is hot, or the warmth from my space heater if it's cold. However, if you don't plan to buy anything and are blocking my wares from being seen by others, have the consideration to move along.

* Don't tell me I should charge more for my pieces. I know that you think it's a compliment, or you're just trying to be helpful, but what you're really saying is that I'm an idiot. Many factors go into the pricing of handmade work. My prices are based on careful consideration of the venue, the current market, the vendor fee, the cost of my materials, my level of ability, and even my psychological comfort zone. If I'm so cheap, then buy lots of my stuff and enjoy it!

* Don't tell me something is priced too high. No, it's not just like the one you saw at Wal Mart for $4.99. It might look the same to you, but the one in the store is made in a foreign country where people are paid less, and the materials used are base metal (such as nickel or lead), plastic and simulated gems -- not silver, glass and semi-precious stones.

* Don't try to barter me down on my prices. That's another way of saying my time and talent are not worth paying for. If you honestly love my work but cannot afford it, simply say, "As soon as I get a job again, I want to buy one of your lovely pieces. Do you have a website?" or even ask, "Do you have something similar but at a lower price?"

* If you come back to buy something and it's gone, don't whine about it. Sellers  hear "I wanted that!" countless times. If you wanted it so badly, why didn't you buy it when you had the chance? Better to ask, "Do you have something similar?" or "Could you make another?" than to throw a hissy fit. I'm here to sell things, not read your mind. That's the psychic fair.

* Don't say "I could make one just like it" because while it might be true, there's this thing called copyright and it applies to jewelry, too. Along the same lines, don't ask for step-by-step instructions how to make one the artist's pieces for yourself. We are here to sell jewelry, and some of us also make our living by teaching our techniques. We're not going to give that away for free.

* Do ask to try on the jewelry or look at it more closely, but don't come through and touch, move, knock over, and/or relocate every one of my pieces, and leave fingerprints, sticky substances, dripping umbrellas and drink cups all over my jewelry and my displays. As I often tell my children, "Unless you're going to buy it, look with your eyes and not your hands."  

Sellers, please...

* Don't have cups, papers, half-eaten sammiches and other junk on the tables with your jewelry.

* You can't expect me to pay a premium for things you've thrown in a basket. That's called the bargain bin. If you are charging $12 or more for something, put it on a card, hang it on a display, box it in a gift box, or set it on a necklace bust.

* Do some research and think carefully when you price your work. It may only be your hobby, but sellers who price things just to "cover the cost of materials" undervalue handmade goods for everyone. On the other hand, just because you teach classes or appeared in an art book doesn't mean you can ask $100 for a washer on a chain. It makes you look like a pompous hipster snob.

* Don't charge exorbitant prices because a particular style, item or color is currently popular. Eventually, people are going to figure out that you're gouging them, and you're going to look like a jerk. Yes, you want to make a living and value your work, but keep in mind that the average income in the U.S. is only $27,000 a year so consider your audience when pricing.

* Don't tell me stories about your child/dog/husband/surgery or any other subject unrelated to the things you're selling. It's not friendly, it's inappropriate. And I don't want to overhear these stories while I'm browsing, either. If you are sharing a booth with a friend, cut the personal chatter until I move along.

What are some tips you'd suggest to buyers or sellers of handmade jewelry? 

Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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