GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR BOOTH #4: He-e-e-ere’s Eeyore!

Fourth in a series of how to get certain people out of your booth at a craft show.

I know all my show buddies are going to laugh themselves to death at this one. Could it be because I tend to do this? oooooh nooooo…..

It’s the person who hangs out in your booth–often another artist–who is sad.

Sad ,sad, sad. And they are going to tell you about it. And nothing is going to stop them.

The show isn’t going well. The management is giving them a hard time. They forgot to pack enough light bulbs. They can’t find their favorite sweater. Their feet hurt. Their mother died. Their dog died. You get the idea.

The ones I hate the most have a wistful, sad, breathless little voice to go with the tale of woe.

This is not the person who, in the course of chatting or catching up, simply mentions the ups and downs in their life of the last few months. This is the person who goes on and on and on, without break, without end, without stopping to even inhale, it seems. A never ending tale of woe and grief.

In your booth.

At the show.

Your natural tendency is to try to cheer up this person. Don’t do it! Doesn’t work. Ain’t gonna happen. The person determined to hang out and complain in your booth has had years of practice doing this. It’s how they get what they need from people. You can’t change that in a few minutes.

Look, I whine. You whine. We all do a little whining. Shows are hard. Really, really hard! Set-up is brutal, and sometimes it’s just not a good show.

The thing is, there’s a time and a place for whining. During the show is not the time. And parking yourself in someone else’s booth is not the place. Parking yourself in someone else’s booth while there are customers around is inexcusable.

You, me, our fellow craftspoeple, have paid hundreds–no, thousands–of dollars to be at this show. The last thing I want, after creating an atmosphere of passion and excitement and happiness, is for a Gloomy Gus to take up residence in my booth.

Do you really have time for this? I don’t.

I’ve tried a few different diversions, with some success. If someone tries this during set-up, I let them go on for a few minutes. (Especially if they’re willing to listen to my tale of woe! You know I’m big on reciprocity.)

Then I interrupt with, “I am really sorry you are in such a hard place right now. Unfortunately, I have a small crisis going on here, and I simply have to take care it. Can we meet up later and have a cup of coffee?” (For bigger woes, a bottle of wine.)

This is especially good for someone you’d like to maintain relations with. You acknowledge their pain, but defer it to another time.

A tactic that’s been used effectively on moi goes something like this:

I’m hanging out in a friend’s booth, (never while a customer is there, thank goodness–I have SOME limits!) rambling on about how hard life is for me, when I notice that Bonnie or Mark or Amy is staring at me with huge, round, unblinking eyes and a trembling lower lip. When I wind down, they say in a soothing voice, “There, there, Eeyore!”

I know it’s time to stop. But I think this only works with people you love who are willing to take the hint.

I’m getting better. Sometimes I just catch myself doing it, clap my hands over my mouth, mumble, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” and flee. I try to buy them a beer after the show, too. Lots and lots of beer.

There are other people…oh, let’s just call them noodges! I don’t really care if I maintain relations with them. In fact, they probably aren’t your friend. You are simply a captive audience to them. You know who they are! It gets harder to move them on without getting rude. Still, if there are customers in the booth, it’s worth treating them nicely just so customers don’t see your dark side.

Other than shoo this person out of the booth with promises of calling them after the show (did you see that one coming?), I’m still looking for the perfect one-liner. I’m thinking it might run along these lines: “Listen, here’s the number of my therapist–she’s not cheap, but she’s really good! And she says I have to stop trying to help other people myself, or she’ll take me to court for practicing without a license.”

Oh, how about this one? “Hey, the liquor store just called for you; they want their ‘whine’ back!”

Just kidding on that one. Customers may laugh if you get sarcastic, but no one really feels comfortable with it. They fear that, if they slip up, they’ll be the one to feel your tongue-lashing next.

Seriously, get these people out of your booth before they bring you, and your customers, down, down, down. If they need a hug, give it to ‘em. But move them on.

And don’t be one, either.

Okay, so what if the sad person is a customer?

That’s a hard one. But here’s an insight: I treat them like the people who want something for free.

Because, in essence, that is what they want–your time, and your sympathy, during what is a work period for you.

Sometimes, like the free milk people, I give them something.

I keep the names of some self-help books I’ve enjoyed, and jot them down on one of my postcards. I refer them to my blog, if their issue is something I’ve dealt with there. I offer to put them in contact with people who have helped me with similar situations.

And often, I talk about how making my art has helped me. And how some people have actually bought my work to help themselves, as talismans to remind themselves how powerful they really are.

I hope I don’t sound like friends and customers can’t come and talk to me about the big stuff in my booth. Gosh, sometimes we bond so much, we all end up crying! That’s what art does sometimes–opens our hearts up and empties our tears, so something healing and restorative can begin.

But the thing is, in almost every case, these sad people are not really customers.

By that I mean, maybe they are at the show, and they are not artists. They look like shoppers.

But they rarely buy anything, they never bring their friends to buy, they never promote your work in any way. It’s always about them. They are simply looking for an ear, and they are very good at finding captive audiences.

Don’t let them trap you in your booth!

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7 Comments

Filed under art, booth behavior, business, craft shows, customer care, getting people OUT of your booth, mental attitude, selling, shows, time management

7 responses to “GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR BOOTH #4: He-e-e-ere’s Eeyore!

  1. Nancy

    Luann:

    We therapists call the folks you mention the “yes, but” -ters, no matter how much you listen, suggest, offer, etc., they will tell you why they can’t do what you’re suggesting. The extreme versions of these are what I call the “black holes” – be careful or they’ll suck the life out of you!

    You’re ideas about offering them something at a later time are great.

    Nancy

  2. Luann,
    These articles are so helpful, I have had people like this in my booth (and probably been one myself) and was completely clueless as to how to get rid of them. Are you sure you don’t have a license to practice psychology? You’re very good at it. =)
    I was thinking about the last one that you were talking about, the “customer”. Maybe you could keep a couple of tasks or errands on the back burner that are not all that important but they take you out of your booth momentarily. Like fixing something on the outside of your booth, or talking to one of the promoters, etc. Then you slowly walk “with” this person towards the opening of your booth, all the while looking very empathetic. Once you get them outside the booth it may be a bit more uncomfortable for them to go on complaining or you have a better chance of catching someone’s eye and pretending to need to talk to them? Does that sound too passive/aggressive? I don’t know, =) that is about all I can come up with.
    Colleen

  3. Nancy, thank you so much for your professional opinion–always good to hear from you!

    Colleen, that is an EXCELLENT suggestion.
    I was going to suggest running to the restroom, as a matter of fact, but thought it might be unfair to people who have to work their booth alone–it’s not always possible to leave easily. I think your idea is even better.
    This action is not passive-aggressive at all. It’s highly pro-active! :^)

  4. I just found your blog on the homepage of wordpress!!!

    Great reading here, I’ll stop back by later–the kids are calling for me!!

    Take care,
    Amy

  5. Hi Luann:

    So great having discovered you, your art, and your blog.

    I have a rather polly-anna way of handling the other artists you describe that whine – I call it my “Happy Booth” stance.

    I say something like this: “Oh, I’ve declared my booth the Happy Booth for this show – no matter what only good stuff can get discussed here, so’ll we’ll just have to leave that topic alone, ok?” – And with that I usher them out. They may think I’m an optimistic nutcake, but its worked so far, and it keeps me from getting dragged into remorse, upset, etc. over a negative conversation, and WHY WHY WHy did I let it go on and on and on.

  6. YES!!! You got it! Thank you Lyn!

  7. Pingback: Getting people out of your booth | The Crafted Webmaster

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