Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Another bad show

This weekend I had another bad show. This one was in Port Huron. It was my worst show yet. I had the least sales. I made back several times my inexpensive booth fee, but since it wasn't a local show, I had to pay for gas, lodging, and food. I made enough sales to cover everything but the food, so it wasn't a huge loss, but still a loss.

Setting up

This was my first show that did not have night before setup (it was in the middle of a road, and the road wasn't closed until the morning of). I was a bit nervous about getting everything done in the morning. We're still getting the process worked out and optimized, and it takes us almost 3 hours to setup, after which I'm usually a bit tired. This show, setup ran from 7AM to 10AM, so not only would I be setting up right up until the start of the show, I'll also be doing it a bit tired (I'm not at my best early in the morning), and then I'll be exhausted once the show starts.

Well, we managed to get everything setup in time, and as a bonus, it was pretty cool out so I didn't work up much of a sweat.

Booth layouts were a bit different this time...11 feet deep and 15 feet wide. I had no back space, but 5 feet of side space. I rearranged my grid panels to compensate by removing the middle panel of the left wall (previously I removed the rear middle panel. I think I liked this layout better since it gives you an entire back wall to work with, and the back wall is more visible to someone looking into your booth. I thought it made for a better display.

In addition, I also had some extra electrical conduit and right angle connectors that I had brought for the purpose of setting up an awning to sit under. I made these for the previous show but never got a chance to set them up. We gave them a try this time and turned our 5 feet of side space into a covered sitting area.

Here are some pictures of the booth all setup. You can see my wife sitting under the awning on the left.

One thing you will noticed is that my panels are now covered. I never got around to writing about it, but about 3 weeks ago I spent about $80 on burlap fabric and thread and spent 3 good long evenings behind the sewing machine. End result are some nice looking fabric covers for my grid walls. I'll try to post about these at a later date, but just thought I'd point it out for now.

First Day

First day was slow. It appeared to be on the verge of rain all day, but none came during show hours. However, I only managed to make a couple of sales. After the end of the first day, the rain was very obviously coming, but it looked like the worst was going to be to the north and south of us. To be safe, I packed all of my matted prints away in waterproof containers. However, with the framed prints on the wall, since they are more time consuming to put back up, I decided to take the chance and leave them on the wall. After all, I had already tested the booth through storms at home and had no leaking problems. I wasn't really too worried. I just took off a few prints that were close to the front corners, where I wasn't able to zip up the zippers for the to foot or so due to the awning.

I returned to my hotel, and then the rain came. I wondered often how things would turn up. Would my new PVC contraption be as good at keeping the roof from pooling water as I though it would? Would everything hold up? How would the other artists fare?

Day 2: The Discovery

The next morning, the show was scheduled to start at 11am. I only had about 20 minutes of setup work to do, but I arrived 90 minutes early anyway, just because I had nothing else to do in town. When I got to the booth, my first observation was: no pooling on the roof...so far so good. As I got closer, I realized the awning, which I had left up (not expecting it to be an issue) had collected a massive pool of water in it. I drained it before realizing I should have taken a picture of it. However, it was still raining, so when it collected some more water, I took a picture:

When I got inside, there was a lot more water in there than I had expected. The first thing I noticed was that my work shelf was covered in water. Luckily I had cleared it of everything (business card, calculator, sales slips, etc) the night before, so nothing got damaged. Here is the water on the shelf:

Next I noticed it had got on one of the frames and soaked the price card, but fortunately nothing made it under the glass:

Then I realized the back wall was quite wet, and that a couple of the photos had taken some water damage to the matting:

Another corner had taken on LOTS of water, but luckily none got into the frame:

In addition, there was a nice size pool of water in the print bin, so I'm lucky I had taken the matted prints out to protect them.

Now I had to figure out just what happened. Where was the water coming from? The first thing I noticed is that the water was running down the tent frame and dripping off at the low points.

That explains why certain areas of the walls (namely the center of each of side wall) took on most of the water. However, that was the least of the problems. The entire inside of the roof was covered with water. Whenever a breeze shook the tent, water dropped down everywhere. Where this water came from, I can't exactly be sure. It could have came through the seems, but it was everywhere. My best guess is that it just wicked through the top. Not good.

Next thing I noticed was that the roof velcro along 2 of the sides had come unfastened

Cleaning Up

So now came the fun part...putting humpty dumpty back together and cleaning up his splattered innards. We started by using one of the waterproof box lids like a squeegee and wiping and shaking all the water off the entire bottom side of the roof. Once that was done, we got to work drying off all the frames. However, in the middle of each side, water continued to drip off the tent frame, so we cut open some plastic back and taped them up the to catch the water and divert it off the back side of the panels. We did a similar thing above the entire print bin. Now, with that obstacle overcome, we were able to clean everything up and getting our booth back in order.

We weren't finished with the cleaning until 11:15...15 minutes after the show began. However, it was still raining, and as such, there weren't any more than a tiny handful of attendees at the show yet. I took the opportunity to take a walk around the show and see how everyone else was coping. Lots of people were having water problems much worse than me, so I considered myself lucky. A few people set their displays back up, only to have to take them down again because their roof continued to leak.

One thing I was finally able to find were people using hoola hoops. Even though I already had come up with a PVC solution, I decided to take some hoola hoop pictures for those of you who haven't yet worked something out:

The first photo shows someone using hoola hoops in the center of each side. Although it seemed to work for him, as the second picture shows, the corners are VERY close to pooling. The third photo shows someone using hoola hoops in the corners instead. I'll leave it to you to figure out which way works best.

Working Day 2

The rain continued to fall until about 2:15pm, so half the show was lost there. After it finally cleared up, attendance picked up a bit and the show was moving once again. Or at least the customers were moving....but not the merchandise. By 3:30pm I still hadn't made any sales, so I was a bit down.

That's when it happened. A customer came in and said "You had a picture of Mount Rainier". Suddenly I remembered...I had spoken to someone yesterday about getting a picture of Mount Rainier for her mother, but she said her mother was at the show with her, so she'd be back for it. Well, she sent her sister back to pick it up in her place, but that was good enough for me. I showed her the options, she picked out the print, size, and color she wanted. I wrote up the receipt, imprinted her card, and got halfway done with filling out the credit card slip when she said....wait a minute, I just need to check with my sister on something. She stepped out of the booth to where I couldn't hear her, called up her sister, talked for 2 or 3 minutes, and then came back and said she was going to have to forgo the purchase because they came up with a different idea instead.

I was furious. After being so down about how things had gone the previous day, then the rain, then no sales most of the day, I was feeling a bit depressed. Then this customer came in, lifted my spirits way up, and then pulled the rug out completely from under me. I was calm enough not to explode or say anything nasty. In fact, I didn't say anything at all. I couldn't even look her in the eye as she apologized several times for backing out. I just gave her the cold shoulder. I realized later that was a bit of a mistake...what if she later changed her mind and decided she really DID want that print. I probably blew that opportunity. I should have played it cool and said something about "well, if you do change your mind, I'll be here until 5 tonight". Oh well, lesson learned.

I'm still not sure why she backed out? I tried asking when she first said no, but didn't get anything other than "We're going with a different idea". Did she not like the print her sister picked out? That didn't seem to make sense, because when I showed her the options, she instantly knew which one she liked, and there seemed to be no hesitation about it at all. Did she end up seeing my print and deciding "I have my own pictures, and now that I see what you've done, I get my own printed and mat it up like that much cheaper"? One of life's mysteries.

Later that day, I did end up getting one sale, and it was another lady who was back to buy a print from the day before. At the last moment, she decided to get a different print than the one she came back for, but at least she didn't back out of the sale.

The show ended, I packed up, and got out of there.


The show sucked for me and a lot of other people. I've got some ideas from this show and thinking things over, but it's deserving of another post all on its own. So I'll just wrap this one up for now, simply saying that I need to work on waterproofing and better protecting my work from the rain. The best option would be a better tent, but with a string of relative and actual failures lately, that's not really financially an option at the moment. What I need to do is get some waterproof spray and seal the roof, get some snaps to try and use in place of the velcro, and figure out a good secondary line of protection just in case thing leak again.

No comments: