Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Best Price

Warning, gentle readers - This post will most likely turn out to be a massive rant which includes the kind of swearing a Russian stevedore would blush at. It may or may not also include jibes at Barbour jackets, tourists, overpriced coffee and of course, Uggs. Look away NOW if you think you'll be offended. 

Things around here have been fairly hectic recently, which is why I haven't posted much. I've had a semi-permanent spot at the Tea Rooms since the end of October, and I enjoy being there a lot more than most of the other craft fairs I've done this year, so it is fairly likely I will return there next year.

However, the one thing that puts a damper on it, are the customers. Well, the non-customers, actually. What really pisses me off is that fact that, because the Tea Rooms is billed as a 'Brick Lane market', the people who shop there often expect ridiculous discounts, or just want things for stupidly cheap prices. I've tried to grow a thick skin and just brush it all off, but a couple of experiences this past Sunday really got to me, and I figure if I let it all out into the interwubs, then I can let go of my rage and behave in a civilised manner next weekend. 

Anyway, incident one - Home Counties* family look at a shawl I have on sale (but not SALE!) for £10. I'm hiding behind my display stand, keeping a surreptitious eye/ ear on them. Teenage daughter is trying on the shawl, tying it various ways. I don't expect them to actually buy it, because, let's face it, they're just here for the 'Brick Lane Experience'. Then, I heard Daddy saying to darling daughter 'Ask her what her best price is, go on, ask her what her best price is'. 

Seriously, What. The. Fuck?! My best price is a fucking knuckle sandwich to your teeth, how about that? I'll throw in a set of knuckle-dusters to the groin for free! 

Darling daughter ended up deciding against the shawl, which left me both relieved and disappointed. Relieved, because I didn't have to yell in public, and disappointed, because I wanted to tell them that my 'best price' was the price on the tag, no more, definitely no less.

They then proceeded to browse the stall across from me, Daddy picked up a globe costing £8, and of course, used his favourite pick-up line on the stallowner. He, of course, has been dealing with these idiots for a lot longer, and told Daddy in bored manner '£5'. That's a huge percentage off, and you'd think Daddy would be pleased with that. Guess what happened? 

'How about £4 for it instead?'

How about a bull crushes your two Land Rovers and shits all over your Barbour jackets instead, darling Daddy?

*Barbour jackets (on both Mummy and Daddy), public school accent, puffy hair, puffed out chest, general smug demeanour. 

Incident two - similar incidents have occurred before, but, this just joined forces with everything else to help turn the day into a huge turdball.

Two tourists - short shiny plastic jackets, huge-arse cameras (possibly more on that later), hyena giggle. They look around at my display, spy the Cat Power! postcards, and shriek 'Ohhmygodthisissonice!' Which of course pleases me, because I am vain and neurotic and constantly seek the approval of others. Why the fuck do you think I have this blog?

So, you'd think the fact they said 'Ohhmygodthisissonice!' is a good sign, which will lead to them buying the card and paying me with cash money for a card with a cute kitty and rainbows on it, right? You're so innocent. 

Hyena girls: 'How much is this card?'

Me (aka dark mass of seething hatred for humanity, but still with a smile on my face): 'They're £1 each.'

Hyena girls (faces fall, eyebrows rise): 'Oh' (puts card down, exit stage left).

Why does this piss me off? Because the same thing happens so often - like card, exclaim loudly, ask price, don't want to buy card anymore.

Dudes, I know £1 for a postcard is about 70 pence more than a postcard of the London Eye, and I'm not about forcing people to buy my shit (I don't even like trying to make small talk with potential customers cos I always think they'll think I'm just trying to sell them stuff. It's also why I prefer to hide behind a huge stand instead of standing in front of my stall). BUT, you obviously like it, and I know because you said to your friend 'I really like this card' or 'Ohhmygodthisissonice!' or something else very similar, with some variations. 

But come on, out of all the money you spent at Brick Lane that day, my postcard isn't worth £1 to you? How much do you expect it for? 10p? Free? It costs me about 70p to produce each one, and after paying rent on my stall and bus fares and everything else, it's not like I'm even making any sort of profit from these cards. I'm just wanna get some fucking rainbow cats out there!

Now, I know that most people associate 'buying things from a market' with 'having to haggle for the best price', probably because some guidebooks told them to. But, the Tea Rooms is quite obviously NOT a flea market/ car boot sale situation. There's quite a bit of rent to pay, plus we have to spend hours making and/or searching for the items we sell, then cleaning them, often researching their history, and ferrying them to and from the stall. Even if we do make any sort of profit at the end of a weekend, it may simply mean we're making 50p an hour. That's waaaaaayy lower than minimum wage. 

So if we ask you for £10 for that framed print, it's not like we're trying to rip you off. We're just trying to make the rent, and be able to keep doing this next week so you can gawk and bring your huge cameras here to capture some of that exciting (but not really) 'Brick Lane Atmosphere'. Will that measly £2 you've saved by haggling with us change your life in any way? Will you give it to charity, or even one of the homeless guys shambling around asking for change?

Another thing - I wonder if Home Counties Daddy dares ask the checkout chick at Waitrose what her 'best price' is when paying for his weekly groceries. Does his daughter go to H&M, pick up a blouse priced at £12.99, and then tells them she only wants to pay £7 for it? Somehow, I suspect they don't, because that would be so declassé of them. Obviously, we're not 'proper' shops though, and therefore our prices don't deserve any sort of respect. I wonder if they ask the manager at their local Barbour outlet (is there such a thing as a Barbour outlet?)  for a discount? 

If you're going to say 'But the customer is always right', then don't say it to me, because lucky you, it's very likely you've been fortunate enough never to have been on the retail front-line. If however, you want to send me stories of stupid/annoying customers you've encountered, then I'd love to hear them. Okay, rant ends, now. Thanks for putting up with this incoherent stream of rage, but I do feel slightly better now. 


  1. I've only sold my stuff at a market just the once and found this kind of stuff incredibly confronting.

    When will people get that there is no such thing as "cheap"? Bargains always, always, always come at a cost to someone (or something). In the case of "handmade" its at the expense of the maker, who misses out on being compensated for their time, design and intellectual property. Very unfair.

    Good luck for your future markets.

  2. Thanks Liesl. I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds this sort of thing hard to deal with, especially because I'm so socially awkward, and the type of person who feels uncomfortable haggling for anything.

  3. Cheap people are major turnoffs. My dad would never ever tell me to tell such things to other people. Sorry you had a shit day.

  4. Thank you, Ai. Whinge whinge whimge is all I seem to do these days

  5. If it helps (and I've been there, so it probably won't)...it's the same way here where I am..."You want $___ for ___?!" Why yes, yes, I sure do. And if you'd like to go buy or rather, find, the materials, refinish them, and make it into something new, go right ahead. Let me know how that works for you. People are so rude.

  6. Hey LP, you may not think so, but it does help to know it happens in other places too. It just feels like people don't realise how much work goes into making something, or - in the case of vintage items - searching for them, cleaning them, etc.
    I hope things go well for you too!