Head Bobbers

It’s been quite difficult to know what to write next about the craft scene, mostly because when I initally wrote about my bad experience, I didn’t really expect it to be read by the thousands of people my stats tell me have read and shared it. So, you know, thanks for reading and adding your comments and getting in touch.

The response has been overwhelmingly in support of what I have been talking about, and it seems it’s happening not just in Glasgow, but all over the UK. Almost without exception, every single comment, email and message has been a resounding “hear, hear!” which is nice to know that I am not on the wrong path entirely with my assessment of the situation.

It does make me feel sad because as several commenters said, I actually enjoy doing stalls at events because it allows me to engage with not only customers but to network with other small businesses and gain exposure in many other ways. It ‘s also sad that it’s no longer viable for me to do events in my home city because the standard can now only be described as bog at best. It  makes me a teeny bit angry that organisers get away with it again and again. And the reason they get away with it is because there is demand from the hobby end of the market stallholders for events and the cycle continues in a never-ending headfuck of awfulness.

So many good points were made in the comments that I thought I’d share some and expand on them. However, there were so many that I’m going to do it in a series of posts. Here’s the first. One comment which was made in response to this post made a very goodpoint which is one of my personal bugbears:

“What has driven me nuts in the past though is when I come away from a fair with poor footfall, bad signage and little publicity investment – and the stall holders all tweet about how good it has been. I saw their glum faces and lack of customers on the day, but it feels like no-one wants to be the bad guy pointing the finger in a community where everyone knows each other.”

– Xtina Lamb.

This is Very Bad Form and does no one any favours. The Head Bobbers, as I think of them, are the stallholders that, when asked if they had a good day by the organisers, nod and smile and make vague “oh, it was great!” statements and are generally super-enthusiastic, even when they’ve sold 3 items and 2 of those were to their neighbour and they haven’t made their stall fee back because only 40 people came through the doors.

We’ve all encountered Head Bobbers. Maybe we’ve all been guilty of being Head Bobbers ourselves, I know I have in the past. Maybe I didn’t want to offend the organiser cos I knew them personally, or they were a bit scary and I felt intimidated, so I just nodded politely and agreed and got the hell out of there. Sound familiar? Maybe you and your stall compadres didn’t sell a single sausage but the venue had a nice cafe and it was sunny so you didn’t mind so much that only 17 people and a Labrador came through the door as you got to catch up with your emails and knit a sock?

Unless you give HONEST feedback about how the event went for you, nothing will change. You must report the true facts and not a rose-tinted view of events, or the organisers will never know they have not done enough. If you don’t feel comfortable saying it in person, then email afterwards. Any organiser worth their salt will have a feedback form or at least email after the event to gather information for them to learn from and work on for future, especially new events. If they haven’t asked you for feedback, or they haven’t been a notable presence on the day, they are not interested in making an event beneficial for everyone. STRANGER DANGER – if you haven’t seen hide nor hair of them all day, you’ve had to find the hall and build your own table, steal a chair from next door, then they turn up at the end holding forth about how everything was great when you’ve had a miserable day, then get the Tipp-ex out and erase that next event of theirs from your diary, stat.

If you don’t feed back accurate information, next time you do this event, it will be a flop again and you will only have yourself to blame. By not speaking out and continuing to attend poorly organised and poorly attended events,  you are throwing good money after bad.

Save your money and your sanity – use that stall fee to book an advert online instead. Or buy a new tool or materials for a new product idea. Make the money work for you as a longer-term investment. Or go to the cinema, or out to lunch or treat a friend or loved one to a meal – you’ve probably been neglecting them and yourself. Be frivolous for once. And enjoy that extra day you’d have spent behind a table in a dingy church hall, quietly seething.

Not only will you thank yourself for it one day but the sub-standard events will die off or improve, survival of the fittest style, making it safe once more for you to return to the choppy waters of craft markets. (But take a life jacket, just in case.)

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5 thoughts on “Head Bobbers

  1. You hit the nail on the head. I think part of being successful is knowing when to cut your losses. Being honest when things are rubbish is important – not only so the fair organiser gets a clear picture of the event, but so you get a chance to really feel how you feel about it. Loss is inevitable in business, but not seeing and naming it for what it is just keeps you powerless. When things suck, say they suck. You won’t get caught out the same way next time.

    Also, hooray for being frivolous and taking care of yourself! Wise words as ever 🙂

    • Being able to say “no” is a difficult thing for a lot of creative people, I think. And being able to walk away from something you really want to work is very hard indeed!

  2. One of the problems with the hobbyists is they only see the cost as materials & table fees not time as they do it for enjoyment. This means they price things accordingly rather than realistically meaning professionals struggle to be competitive at open markets be they physically live or online. A craft fair is a day out and are happy to just make stall fee back. A professional sees it as a day of working time and particularly in current state will struggle to cover this as well.

    • Exactly – I have talked about that before. Whilst I stress I have nothing against people making for pleasure and there is nothing wrong with being an enthusiastic hobby maker, it’s when professional and amateur collide at a serious event that it starts to go wrong, as I see it.

  3. Yep, and I wasn’t suggesting that people should go the other way into a full-on moanfest in person and online when everything isn’t perfect. We need diplomacy in this game, and it is hard work organising events! But please, can we give honest feedback and quit spraying fake feelgood around afterwards?

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