Selling my soaps at craft shows, farmers market, online, and to wholesale customers has given me the opportunity to meet people from many different walks of life. Each setting has a unique group of customers with different objectives and different shopping needs. But of all these selling scenarios, I have to say that selling at craft shows is my favorite.
Craft show shoppers are my people: they appreciate the value of handcrafted artisan-made products, and most importantly, they come to shop. If you can fulfill their shopping needs, you will make a sale. And make no mistake – I love craft shows, but when I go to a show as a vendor, I come to sell.
One of my first shows was at an outdoor festival, and I was so excited to be invited to sell my soaps. My first customer approached my booth in tiny, shuffling steps, an older gentleman whose face lit up in delight when he saw my soap display. A few steps behind him was a middle-aged woman who followed him up to my booth. His hands had a slight tremor as he reached for a bar of soap and he put it right up to his nose – no, I realized in horror, he put it right ON his nose – and inhaled deeply. The woman who was with him roughly grabbed his arm and said, “Come on, and put that down!” He started to put the soap back on the table and a string of snot was attached to his nose and the other end was attached to the bar of soap. And so…that was the moment I decided that I would start wrapping each and every bar of soap.
Now that was a memorable experience, and not a good one. The old man didn’t mean any harm, and I felt sorry that his companion or caretaker handled him in such a rough way. I tossed the bar in the trash immediately, but I’ve only had to throw away merchandise maybe a couple of times, which is really not bad at all, compared to most retail settings.
And then there are the kind of people who just say whatever pops into their heads, like a petite young woman who once came up to my booth and walked up and down the table, smiling and looking at each basket of soaps. After a few minutes, I asked her if I could help her with anything, and she looked me straight in the eye, still smiling, and said, “Your soap is very ugly!” Then she laughed and walked away.
Another person who apparently speaks before thinking was a man shopping with three teenagers standing next to my booth. He grabbed a bar of soap off my table, sniffed it briefly, and then held it up high to show the kids with him. He proclaimed loudly, “Hey, guys! This smells like stink bugs!” Before I had time to think about it, I walked over to him, snatched the soap out of his hand and told him, “Teaching kids to be rude and disrespectful just isn’t cool with me. Get out of my booth.” Although these incidents are really the only times I’ve had to deal with very rude people or unintentional damage, the negative tends to be memorable – in a horrifying, nightmarish kind of way. And then there are the customers that make me feel like I’m the best soap maker in the universe.
Like the customer who bought $120 worth of merchandise, and then came back two hours later and spent another $100. She just raved about everything, how her family and friends were going to love their soapy Christmas presents so much. And there’s the customer who was a classmate of mine, who found me on Facebook and has been a loyal and adoring fan for many years now. Though we barely knew each other in high school, I get regular orders and lots of great feedback on Facebook from him.
And then there’s this little guy in the photo. He belongs to a friend of my daughter’s. His mom sent me the picture with this explanation: her soaps were in a bag tucked away in a corner, but her baby kept going to the bag and taking the soap out to smell it. She would put them up, and before she knew it, he had gotten the soap out again. His little face says it all: words are unnecessary. Yep, he’s my greatest customer ever.