Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes

I'm fuming today. And so I'll write a rant. This is big, the first rant I've typed on this blog since I started.

It's show organizers. Basically they don't get how hard this is for us on the other end and have no respect for the artists in their show. They are just bodies and/or booth fees and completely replaceable by the vast, huge quantity of schlock sellers out there. Or at least that's the version I've made up for them.

The story is that I'm trying desperately to finalize my show schedule for this summer. And the delay is delaying my getting the newsletter finished, printed and mailed out. Which delays any order money coming in. And makes me scared about what the summer finances will be, etc. But basically, all the notifications are late this year and I've been making dozens of calls to get answers.

Since the little vacation was timed smack in the middle of all this, I called one show a couple of days before I left to see if I could get the scoop -- in or out. They were supposed to be mailing letters the following day, and I would miss the mail while I was gone, so I thought I could just get someone on the phone with the final list. I mean it was done already, right? So they finally return the call over a week later, two days after I get back. I had gotten the letter (yay, good) in the mail by then. But when I explained the reason for my call -- newsletter, calendar, promotion, good for everybody, vacation, printer, just one day before letters went out, blah, blah -- you'd think I had asked for some royal pardon for a heinous crime. And to tack on a question about whether I could expect the same spot I've had in that show for the last 7 years? Aghast! They just couldn't possibly say. Whatever. I'm in the show, and I don't even care where the hell they put me. But I'm thinking it's my last year. The sweet old gal who used to run that show and turned it over to these rules and regulations folks would be astonished.

Then the other show that's got me even more steamed. Again, new organizers this year who have no idea how things have been handled before, only that they obviously want to turn it upside and start over. Truthfully, the show had been taking a decided downturn the last couple of years, so it needed a little fixing. But tossing out virtually all the artists who had so loyally stuck with it when times were getting bad and you couldn't fill the booths? Dumb. The show artist world is small and we like to talk to each other. Ahem, a bad reputation sticks with you forever. So to email out a slew of rude, abrupt and dismissive messages to dump out said artists? Bad. But here's the thing. I didn't get one. I'd heard all the angry rumors, waited a few days, and then left a message. No reply. Emailed. After almost a week, the gal calls me to "go over" my application. Apparently the brochure I sent along with all my contact info, my whole list of products and prices, the description of my process etc, was just too much paper to hold onto and they tossed it. So could we talk it all through by phone. We did. I gave her the web site too, for more photos and information. It would be a few days before she could run it all past the committee and let me know the middle of the following week. During vacation of course.

I got home, nothing. I called. Nothing. I called again a couple of days later. Nothing. I emailed. Nothing. The messages were getting more anxious and desperate. This is not a little summer side cash money maker. This is one of my best shows of the summer. And it's on a weekend of a million other shows that I could have done instead, but all those deadlines are long gone, the juries finished and the shows full. I know because I've called virtually every one of them. And yes, I'm still waiting several days later for some of them to call me back. Because apparently returning phone calls is something that a show organizer just doesn't think is that important. Sheesh. Isn't this a business? I can't possibly imagine delaying a phone or email response that long in my own business.

The upshot is this. I'm fuming because I heard her description of the vendors sound like a band of carnival gypsies who descend on the virtuous little town and steal all the hard-working citizen's money by selling snake oil (commercial crap). And apparently they put us all in that same pot - assumed guilty until proven innocent. No respect for full-time craftspeople. Complete disregard for how we make a living. Her version is that if you can just work these festivals for 3 months a year and make enough money for the year, why not? Um, because it's impossible. I don't know a soul who can possibly do that. Every single one of us works the entire freaking year, more than anyone with a real job, and still makes barely subsistence money. They have no clue.

The rub? I can't seem to find a replacement show. It's one of my better shows and many of my customers head over there each year especially to see me and stock up. What to do? Wait another day? Delay the whole thing further?

So I'm fuming. And writing about it. And I can guarantee that there will be show changes this year, and more next year. I'll have it tied up by tomorrow, one way or the other. The newsletter is going to the printer this week. And the mailing is going out early next week. I guess if they aren't willing to work with me, and respect my participation, loyalty, promotion and money, then we ain't doing business again. Phooooooey.