Well, another year of Clockwork Alchemy has wrapped up. I’ve been selling books there for six years, and on the staff for five. Over these six years, I’ve made some observations and hope that my thoughts will be helpful.
Right up front, I will say that I understand that not everyone is neurotypical. Some of the things I will write about may be considered challenging because of that. Not everyone gets social cues, or understands what is appropriate. However, I think it’s worth talking about these items. So, there’s my caveat.
As sellers, we all appreciate our customers. Every last one of you. Make no mistake about that. However, there are some things you can do at shows that will make us love you.
- If you have small children, please prevent them from abducting our props and/or product. Hold them by the hand if necessary. I had to rescue both props and product from the hands of passing children this last weekend, as they just grabbed them while passing by. I get that a little kid is going to be excited about a rubber alligator or plush crawfish (hey, my latest book takes place in Louisiana …) … but I think most kids can understand “don’t take things that aren’t yours.” If you do notice your child has taken something, go back and find out where it came from so that the item may be recovered. I was fortunate that I had someone else who could cover my table … and that all it took was me standing up and asking somewhat loudly that the items be put back for them to be returned. This time.
- If it is on the table, please do not presume that it is a freebie. One of my fellow authors had to write off product a couple of years ago because of this one. Please ask. If the author/vendor is away from their table (as was the case in this instance), come back. Don’t just take things.
- If a vendor has convention ribbons, please ask before just reaching across and grabbing one. Sometimes people have only a few ribbons. They may be giving them out as gifts with purchase, have a special word you have to say to get one, etc. A fellow author says ribbons are a privilege, not a right. And … they cost us money. Someone may only have been able to afford a few ribbons, and purchased them only for friends. You never know. It’s okay to ask, but please be gracious if you are declined. I actually had one teenage boy a couple of years ago, after receiving the ribbon I was giving out to all and sundry, come back to my table demanding to know why I had not given him the second ribbon which was behind my materials: a ribbon that was a gift with purchase only. His argument was that he could see the ribbon and had a right to it (yes, he said that). No.
- Which brings me to my next point. Do not go behind the table without being invited. Ever. Vendors have their cash and stock there. The reason I bring this up is that my husband later caught this same young man going behind my table while I was teaching a panel, trying to take one of the ribbons that were for purchasers only. Please be respectful of the vendors’ space. Think of anything “behind the table” as backstage. The audience doesn’t go there.
- Please do not buttonhole the vendor or author. We are unable to leave our site … but also unable to do more business … when this happens. I had a woman interrupt my conversation with a customer this past weekend, to start ranting about an issue that concerned her mightily. She went on for nearly 20 minutes. I lost a customer and I was stuck in a position where I could do and say nothing. She’d found her captive audience, and I cannot possibly know how many sales I lost. She also went away without buying a thing. This is an awkward situation for us as sellers. It’s okay to make chit-chat for a few minutes, of course. We enjoy chatting with people. But please, do not make us the audience for your grievances. This also goes back to item 4 on the list; a couple of years ago a customer went behind the table and sat down next to one of our female authors and started making really inappropriate remarks to both her and some of her potential customers. Because he was “backstage” and seated, potential customers assumed he had been invited to be there. Sales were lost. We were unaware until after the problem had already occurred; the author told us she was basically too shocked at the time to confront the convention-goer (women are also taught to be polite at all times, so that played into it). That person has been spoken to and not been a problem again, but the damage was done.
I really debated about writing this, but it occurred to me that some people really may not know the etiquette, for lack of a better way to put it, of these things. I hope that this list is helpful.