Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists


OK, I had to find a nicer way to say it.  Unfortunately inspired by true events. 

I thought about it and thought about it.  And this was the nicest way I could think of to say that and still get the sharp point across.  Don’t shop-block your fellow artists and professionals.  (And likewise don’t let anyone do it to you.)

Just don’t.

When you’re doing shows, especially juried shows, there are internal cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable professional etiquette and behavior from participating artists, and what is not.  Not too unlike wearing white to a wedding when you are not the bride and it’s not your wedding day, you never want to block or steal a sale from anyone else.  And though most of these rules should be rather common sense to everyone, since they are mostly about basic manners and professionalism, unfortunately they are too often not clear to everyone.

One of those rules is to never violate another artist’s sales space.  We all paid for space at an event, it’s your job to govern your own space, but also to support the show as a whole and to support each of your fellow artists by maintaining a professional approach to everything.  Never come over to a fellow artist’s booth and talk to the customers in their space or block them from being able to shop.  It doesn’t matter if you just talked to them a few minutes before somewhere else.  It doesn’t matter if they’re your best friends whom you haven’t seen in years.  Unless they left their glasses on your table, you don’t go after them into someone else’s space.  You just don’t do it.  Not to mention that it can be seen as stalking.  If you just must talk to those customers, do so privately and in the public arena, not in someone’s space.  Not ever.

And the same goes for friendly chatting with your fellow artists in their spaces.  It’s one thing if you’re friends with that other artist and you’re chatting privately, but as soon as a potential customer shows up, you politely exit, get out-of-the-way or at least shut up right then.  And you keep your chatter to a minimum, because everyone is there for one main reason – to serve the customers at the show.  Nothing else should have a higher focus than that.

You never stand with in front of someone else’s space and block traffic flow to their booth either.  It’s incredibly rude!  In fact, it’s a faux pas for customers too.  Congregating in front of an artist’s booth that you have no intention of shopping at, thereby blocking traffic flow so others cannot easily see or enter that artist’s booth, is a terrible thing to do to someone.  However, because we all want customers to have a good time at an event, we artists generally try to be polite and patient with customers who do this, for a little while.  (If you’ve done this unawares – now you know better – don’t do it again!)

Artists should abso-frickin-lutely know better.  Traffic flow is gold at a show.  Every booth and logo and display is all counting on traffic attention at a show.  You can only sell as much as you are seen.  And you never want to mess with that for anyone!  Talk about bad, bad show karma!  And if it’s obvious that you are doing something like that intentionally, it can get you black-listed – for good reason.

Why is all this important?  Because shows (especially juried shows) are for professionals.  Shows survive and do well as a whole marketplace.  To be respected as an artist and human being, you have to consider the long view and the reputation you build every single day with every single action and choice you make.  And how well can you represent not only yourself, but the other businesses (shows) you align yourself with.

So just on a purely professional class basis, you never, ever EVER do something that could cost your fellow artist a sale.  You know what it’s like.  It doesn’t matter if you like that fellow artist, if you do the same work as they do, or if you’re friends or enemies.  It doesn’t matter if you had the same idea they are selling out there right now or you’re so sure that your product is better and it’s killing you that they were juried into the same event.  You never show your ass or cost them a sale.  You have the decency and professionalism to keep your mouth shut and let them do business.  Express any concerns you have to the appropriate planners and then move forward being the good person and professional you know yourself to be.  Don’t stoop to lower level behavior.

These professional principles aren’t just for the show circuit though.  They hold true anywhere, even online.  It’s happened to me.

I marketed a service offer to my followers on one of my social sites once.  (I’m not just a crochet designer/writer, I work in other fields too.)  In this case, I offered some tech help to some fellow professionals whom I care about through one of my various public pages.  A page you have to subscribe to, to see.  And guess what?  Someone immediately commented about her “identical” services on my post, on my page!  She was just dying for the world of my own readership (not hers) to know that she also wanted to offer what I’m offering.  In all reality, she stepped into my booth space and hawked her wares.

Dude!  You don’t do that!

Needless to say, I took her remark down.  It’s my page, I can do that.  I didn’t choose to respond to her remark though, because anything I could say would either cost me sales, or cost her own sales/reputation.  And it would just leave a bad taste for everyone.  After all, her remark was already… professionally awkward, to say the least.  There was no way I could tolerate her move professionally.  However, I also wasn’t going to compound her mistake by making one of my own in a public response to her  either.  Taking the remark down was as much kindness to her as it was defensive for me.

Whatever your profession, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So here’s the thing my dear artists and colleagues of all walks of life.  I’m betting you already know this, or my title wouldn’t have drawn you in.  You’ve probably already had it happen to you at one time or another.  You know of other fields and incidences where this principle can be applied.  And if you’ve chosen an indie-business path, then you also know that you’ve entered a world where everyone expects you to show some class, to elevate your awareness and likewise raise your level of professional behavior.  Because you are everything in your business and your business reflects on your reputation.  There’s no one to praise or blame but you.  That’s part of what makes this path such a growth-inspiring one.

But it behooves us to help set the example.  Reach out there and help those newly inducted into the world of business ownership.  Be a part of discussions and local Chambers of Commerce and get to know other artists and professionals in your field.  And help everyone understand the level of professionalism that is expected of them.  By example if by nothing else. Pass this article around so others who might not realize what they’re doing can wake up and smell the coffee.

We all need to eat.  We all need to survive.  We all have medical bills, and special needs and causes we fight for.  And we all have lessons to learn.  There’s plenty of need and plenty of pie to go around.   So have some class.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no need to cost someone else their piece.

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11 Comments

Filed under Business, Doing the Show Circuit, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

11 responses to “Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists

  1. It’s amazing how this just isn’t a common sense thing that people “get automatically” and this post has to be written in the first place.

    • It’s surprising how many people are clueless, because usually this sort of thing happens without premeditation. People just are so self-absorbed they are oblivious to what they do. That said, I’ve had hostile experiences at a show too. I haven’t figured out an answer to write about on that one.

  2. Oh my word, YES! When I’ve done book shows, I’ve had authors actually come up, while I was talking to a reader and just jump in, then pull the reader to their place. And yes, it is amazing that this post needs to be written. And sad. Very sad.

    • Wow, that’s astounding Pauline. You would think that authors are more likely to understand the etiquette of polite business better than most! I realize it’s probably a romantic cliche, but still. I have no experience with book shows – do the planners tolerate such behavior?

      • I don’t think the places I was dealing with were as well organized as your shows sound. It is interesting, though. I lack the salesman gene and for me reading is so personal, it is hard for me to push my books, particularly in person. If I’m mulling buying a book, I want to mull. I want to examine the book, browse a bit, get a feel for it, not be talked at by the author.

        So I quit doing many “live” events. If it is a situation where I’m giving a talk and not just there to sign, those are fun. I love to talk books. And I’ve been at this long enough to know that not everyone is going to like what I write. LOL

  3. If your space is not stopping traffic, then there is something wrong with your space, and you better get back and tend to it.

    When I was still in MO and was doing shows, it was typically with my soap making friend and we would split three booths. We both were knowledgeable of the others products,and would actively participate in sales for the other.

    A sale for any booth means, better traffic next year. OR means that vendor has enough cash later to perhaps peruse your items….So good will goes a long way.

  4. Great article, Julia, I have seen this happen so many times, not just to me, but to my fellow artisans as well.

  5. I enjoyed this post! Your a good little writer for sure, and love that you tell it like it is….

  6. So true. I am in a craft co-op with 7 other vendors occupying one storefront. When I work, I try to play up everyone as equally as possible. I also try to do that with our Facebook page.

    I’ve worked smaller shows with my mom, & you get other people saying things like “I can make that.” I’ve thought that, but I would NEVER say it in front of a vendor. That said, I try not to block booths & only go to talk to other vendors when there is a lull in the action.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences Patricia! Like my an artisan friend put it so well once, it’s not even really about whether we can do something, but whether we will. I can fix my car. I really don’t want to. I’m happy to pay someone else who does it faster and better! :)

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