Saturday, May 18, 2013

ART SHOWS 101: Survival Tips for Show Artists and Crafters Vol. 9: How to handle discount seekers, clueless festival goers and artist wannabes

     Volume 9:
How to handle discount seekers, clueless festival goers and artist wannabes

“What do you want for that?” $50?! I’ll give you five bucks, take it or leave it!”

Artists and craftsmen who have done even a small number of shows are painfully familiar with those words -- or at least the sentiment behind them.

The clueless, sometimes rude, comments that are made to show artists and craftsmen never cease to amaze me. Right behind the low-ball discount seeking comments are phrases like:

“Look at this stuff. My kid can make that!”
“Do you know who makes all of this stuff?”
“How did you do that? Exactly?” Like, say I would want to make one.....”

And the list goes on and on........... because, when you are dealing with the public, you are bound to run across a jack-ass or two :-)

So, how do you respond to questions and comments of this sort? Do you give in to the discount seekers and sell your new, beautiful work for a fraction of your asking price? Do you angrily snap at the “would-be” customers and commenters and tell them to get out of your booth?

The answer to both questions is NO! But you should have a plan to deal with situations like these. While I can’t tell you how to set your pricing policies, or give you canned responses to all of the ridiculous comments and questions you may receive, I CAN tell you that it’s really not worth blowing your top at the festival goer who has asked you the 100th stupid question of the season. It may feel good for about a minute, but it’ll make you look bad to anyone within earshot -- and you really don’t want to lose a sale to a non-discount-seeking customer because you were a jerk to the person standing in front of them in line.

Think about and formulate a discount policy BEFORE you go to your show. While it’s absolutely fine to NOT offer discounts of any sort, there may be situations in which you do want to offer one. You may want to establish a “Friends and Family Discount Policy” -- something like a standard 10%- 20% off your asking price.You can also choose to extend that discount to repeat customers and people buying large amounts of work at one time if you’d like. Establishing a policy, (even if it’s just written in your head :-) will do two things. First, it will make you really think about your pricing and profit margin. Second, with a policy in place , you won’t be caught off guard when a complete stranger asks for a discount. Do you need to give a complete stranger the same discount you would give to Aunt Sally? Hell No! But you’ll at least have done the math and decided on the maximum discount you’re willing to give. 

As for the insulting low-ball “I’ll give you five bucks for that” comments, just grit your teeth and say “No” -- with a smile, albeit a fake one. I’ve found that it’s just not worth your breath to explain that all of the items in your booth are hand-made and they are not flea market items; or taking the time to remind the offending asker that he does not bargain for purchases at supermarkets or gas stations; or stating that your art work is a means of making a living, not a hobby. While that may all be true, it’s not going to change the mindset of Mr/Mrs. Five Bucks, but it will frustrate you and waste your time.

As for the myriad of other strange, weird, funny, insulting and unbelievable comments you may receive, take the high road and answer as politely as possible. Keep in mind that many people attending festivals and shows just don’t understand what we do. We want to believe that each and every person who walks into our booth knows the hours upon hours of time we spend creating out work, and the time and energy we spend getting ready for the show, and the jury processes we go through to be accepted into shows, but they don’t! Many of them are well meaning individuals who truly think we are selling someone else’s work and are given free spaces to do so; and some of them just don’t take the time to think about how their questions will be interpreted by us. Not that I'm saying we're over-sensitive, but are we? :-)

At the end of the day, get together with other show artists. Share and trade your stories. Laugh about them. If all else fails, blog about them. I do :

Until next time -- keep creating!



  1. I love this series! Thank you so much for your advice- I'm storing it all away :)

  2. Great post Alison - dealing with the public in any situation can be quite a challenge - it's certainly more frustrating when some of the careless comments diminish your effort and hard work! Great advice!

  3. Great post! I have to share an animated video I saw on Youtube a year ago of a potter selling at a craft show and the similar comments of "I'll give you $5 for that mug." Its priceless...

  4. Thank you all! I've really questioned whether or not I should continue writing these posts and if anyone reads them -- I guess you do :-)

    Yes Sarah, please DO share the Youtube video! I'd love to see it!

  5. This is a really great post, thank you Alison.