It's finally fall, and that means more farmer's markets and shows for American Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs. It may come as a surprise to you, but there are simple things you can do as a buyer to enjoy a better shopping experience.
Since I used to sell my own handmade products at a local market, and because I advise and mentor Makers for a living today, I have first-hand knowledge of some simple steps buyers can take to help create the best possible handmade shopping experience. This post shares some of those tips.
Proper Buyer Etiquette at Local Farmer's Markets and Shows
- Read the signs. Makers always have signs at their booths. There are signs about everything: what is new and available, what they have run out of, what is marked down, which products are samples, where to sign up for their email newsletter, how to enter to win a prize …The first thing you should do when approaching a Maker's booth is to skim for information you need to know to have a good shopping experience. Read the signs. Follow the instructions.
- Ask before you touch. Makers don't make this one easy, do they? Their products are colorful and rich in texture. They beg to be touched, rubbed, tasted, and squeezed. But if the product you touch is not a sample, your touch may end up actually taking money out of a Maker's pocket.Before touching anything, look for a sign that marks an item as a “sample,” or says, “touch this,” to avoid handling something that is for sale. If you don't see a sign, ask before touching. If you are shopping with small children, keep their tiny hands away from products that are available for purchase.
Makers are grateful when their work is respected, and they'll work harder to help you get what you want when you show this kind of respect for what they have to offer.
- Do not ask for a discount. If you are at a flea market or a show for hobbyists, requesting a discount may (or may not) be appropriate. But if you are at as show for business owners, don't ask for a discount.Makers are entrepreneurs. They make things for the sole purpose of selling them at a profit. It's how they make a living, pay their rent, and feed their children.
Items have a price. Respect that price. Sometimes, you can get a discount if you purchase several of a particular item, and if that's the case, the Maker usually displays signage to that effect. Some items may have discounted price tags, while others do not. Either way, respect the price shown. If an item's price is outside of your budget, look for an item within your budget or move on. Save the dickering for the flea market and other venues where price haggling is the norm.
- Do not assume you can eat anything.The smells at a Maker's booth can be incredibly enticing. Pumpkin scented candles, bacon soap, chocolate cupcake soap, salted caramel fudge brownies … Sometimes, whatever you see and smell, you also want to eat. But don't do this without asking first.If items are clearly marked as “samples,” or if there is a sign saying something like, “Try this” or “Taste this,” then have at it. Otherwise, do not presume that you can just stick things in your mouth. This goes for food and non-food items.
Recently, our member, Roslyne Johnson at Maya Indie Spa told me about a crazy experience she had at a show. Roslyne sells bath and body products with a bakery theme. Recently, a man approached her booth and picked up a bar of chocolate brownie soap that was next to a sign that said “Please Do Not Eat.” He then bit into it, put what was left back on her table, and after a chewing bit, complained that the soap tasted badly. The sign said, “Please Do Not Eat.” He didn't read. (See number 1, above.) Not only was it rude for him to pick up the product without asking first (see number 1, above), but it was just plain gross of him to take a bite of soap. It was even more gross for him to put the uneaten portion back on Roslyne's table. Here is the evidence of that dreadful experience.
Can you imagine? Don't be that guy (or gal).
- Try to pay with small bills.The more small bills and spare change you have, the easier it will be for you to buy products quickly and easily. It takes a lot of time for a Maker to hunt for the correct change, and if everyone pays with large bills, they run out of change quickly. Make your shopping adventure easier and more fun by paying with small bills wherever possible.
- Ask for a receipt. The Maker should offer you a receipt. If she uses Square or another mobile payment system, it's fast and easy to send a receipt straight to your email. Always request that a receipt in case you need to return an item.
- Sign up for their email newsletter. The Maker should invite you to opt in to receive email updates about their products. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to get regular updates about new products and special appearances, and even coupons.
- Don't announce: “I can make that!” or “I can make that for less than she's charging.”As my mother always told me, “If you cannot say something nice, don't say anything at all.” While there may be times when you cannot avoid hurting someone's feelings in life, shopping at a local farmer's market or show is not one of them.Makers take great pride in the products they so lovingly create for you. It's rude to exclaim that you could make the product they are selling. In fact, if that's the case (and it may very well be), then go home and give it a whirl. Once you see how much effort it takes, you'll be glad you can buy it already made.
Don't be the insensitive customer who takes digs at someone or causes them to question or second guess the value of their hard work. It's not a good look. Don't do it.
Do you shop at local farmer's markets and shows? Do you take special care to respect and honor the work being products by people i your community? In what other ways do you honor their work? I invite you to share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.