First outdoor show - no elec! no phone!

Folks, Well, I’ve finally gotten accepted to an outdoor show (juried!
wahoo!), but there’s a small engineering glitch – no electrical
access. I’m curious as to how you’ve solved this problem, which I’d
imagine is fairly prevalent with outdoor shows. Do you use a
gas-powered generator (isn’t that really noisy?)? Run without
electrical? Some other alternative? How do you handle lighting?

The other shows I’ve done have all been indoors, with access to
phone and electric for credit card processing, as well. In this type
of venue, how do you usually handle the credit aspect of things?
Have you found a problem with taking the imprints and IDs, then
running the batch when you get home?

Any advice you’re willing to share would be great!

Thank you,
Karen Goeller
Handcrafted and Unique Artisan Jewelry

I have my credit system set up to call in by cell phone (or land
line if I have it). I was initially concerned about doing it on a
cell phone, but they assured me it was safe. It is - you don’t "say"
anything - just punch in numbers. It takes some time, but so far
none of my customers has minded. I can take all the major and some
minor cards this way.

Beth in SC

For the credit card aspect I have always used an old Motorola Analog
Cell Phone connected to a small “black box” that generates a
dial-tone. The cc machine is then connected to the “black box” and
it thinks it has a normal phone line. (Yes, it dials the cell phone
automatically.) I use a battery system that was made for
jump-starting a car battery to power the cell phone directly and an
inverter to generate the 110 volts for the printer and cc machine.

I even use this setup at all my indoor shows! The only problem
around here was trying to find a wireless provider that would still
let you signup with an old analog cell phone…

Dwain Coufal
D.C. Designs

Most of the time, extra light isn’t needed outdoors. But my solution
is a marine battery and a power inverter. You’ll also need a battery
charger at home. This is silent, but the power is limited, and the
battery is unbelievably heavy. On the other hand, it’s a great tent
weight! Cost I think $100-$150 to get started. I use mine mostly to
run a fan at hot summer shows. Unfortunately, the smart thing is to
point the fan at the customers, not yourself. HTH


Karen, Congradulations on your show! I did an unpowered outdoor show
a few years ago and I used a car battery and low watt halogen bulbs.
Some people use a larger marine battery. I had about 100 watts of
light (20 watts per case (4) plus 20 watts by the mirror). My
battery lasted for a full day but I had to take it home and recharge
it at night for the next day.

As for credit cards, I used a cell phone to dial in the
authorization. I used a headset so it was easier to listen and punch
the numbers. Actually, I mostly had my partner do the authorizations
while I dealt with the customers. It worked out fine.

good luck!

Amy O’Connell
Amy O’Connell Jewelry

Karen, I have done outdoor shows with no lights in the cases and the
outdoor light has been ok. I’ve looked into buying a generator but
the noise would be a problem and they seem pretty expensive and so
far I’ve thought things went well enough without.

I use a hand machine to imprint credit cards and then use a cell
phone to call the approval in. Sometimes my cell phone won’t work or
dies and I then have to ask them for info as if it were a check
(address and phone #). At this point some people just write a check.
I have not had trouble going home or back to the hotel and calling
the approval in later. The credit card companies seem to be open
24hours for this service. One time the credit card didn’t work so I
called the customers phone number and they gave me another card
number and that worked. This is why you MUST get their phone number.
I’d be glad to answer any further questions you may have. Annette

I just did an indoor show with a new credit card machine which will
also work well for outside shows. It’s nicknamed a “blackberry” and
is approximately 4" x 5", on wireless service, has a swiper and
dials for approval number and at midnight, it batches out
automatically. It is a ComStar Rim unit.I still have to run a ticket
with the card and charge slips because I didn’t want to pay extra
right now for the printer. My unit cost $300 and the wireless
service is around $18 per month. Donna in VA

Hello Annette Make sure what your credit card agreement states as
mine states that I cannot get their phone number or other personal
I was also warned about this verbally. The way I get
around this is by keeping a notebook of “customer contacts” on
customers who charge, write checks, or otherwise buy large ticket

Keep on Selling! May you have a Great year in spite of the

Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady)
K.I.S. Creations
May your gems always sparkle.

Hi Karen, Most outdoor shows don’t provide electricity unless the
hours go into the evening. That being the case, jewelers are often at
a disadvantage. My case lights definitely bring out the best in my
pieces… especially the opals. Occasionally I have been able to
“help myself” to an outdoor electrical connection that was nearby on
a street light or outdoor landscape lighting. You can’t count on it,

My case lights (Dynamic Displays) are low voltage, DC halogen
lights. I think it was Kathy Palochek who suggested I clip off the
transformer connector a few inches from the end and attach
male/female crimp on connectors to the loose wire ends. This way I
can use the AC transformer packs when I have 110 power, or use a DC
power source (i.e., battery) when I don’t. Some artists actually have
a set of marine 12 volt batteries on wheels that they take back with
them every night to recharge for the next day’s duty. I lug along a
set of six volt lantern batteries (one per light strip), but haven’t
ever actually used them. I don’t know how long they will last. A
whole day? A weekend?

There are some new, very small and quiet generators that are ideal
if you’ve got the cash to invest, and don’t mind handling the
gasoline. I looked into them and found that they were running in the
few-hundred-dollar range. I know a jeweler who won a cash award at a
show and used the windfall to buy himself one. He actually has a flex
shaft and small buffer in his booth! Some shows specify in the rules
that no generators are allowed. I don’t know if this is a throwback
to the days of old industrial generators, or if the rule would be
strictly enforced if one was discreet about it.

As far as the credit card issue, and not having a phone line…
that’s tough. My CC processing system is (was) software on a notebook
PC that dials up through the modem. I spent lots of time and energy
trying to make my cell phone work as the dialer, but it seems the
cell phone companies want to sell you their Web services, not have
your modem cut them out of the loop.

I ended up buying a LinkPoint 9000 wireless credit card machine.
Check with your service provider before you buy a machine to make
sure it is compatible with their system. I bought the machine on
eBay, and it has worked pretty well. Until that time I manually did
an imprint and ran the batch when I back at the end of the day. I was
always very nervous about fraud, but thankfully never got burned.

Let me know if you need me to elaborate on any of this!

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Karen,

 Do you use a gas-powered generator (isn't that really noisy?)? 
Run without electrical? Some other alternative?  How do you handle

Well I handle it the simplest way i could find!

my system is composed of: 
2 12 volt solar panels 
2 12 volt car batteries 
10 12 volt halogen mini lights on wire tracking.

These lights are the same ones used in the home that come on tracks
with a transformer . All I have done is take off the transformer and
wire a small fused junction box off of a motorcyle in line with the

the principle is that the lights run off of the car batteries and the
Solar panels keep the batteries topped up! clean, safe, quiet and
reasonably cheap (the whole outfit was built for just under =A3100 )

Out doors I have managed to run this set up for almost the entirety
of a 3 day show before the batteries were to exhausted to power the
bulbs anymore.

If anyone wants more info or a basic wiring diagram E-Mail me off
list and I will be happy to send details.

with regards
Wayne Danewood
Dain studio

There are a number of shows where I have seen rules forbidding
generators, I would check before spending any money on one. Also, I
would guess it would be rather loud and emit fumes that would annoy
all of the neighbors and make conversation with clients difficult.


I have a “ulti-function power center”, sort of like a battery in a
box, equipped with jumper cables and a slot to plug into. I hook
the jumper cables up to a marine battery – the power center by
itself will not last the entire day. If you’re doing a 2 day show,
you can recharge the power center and marine battery overnight by
plugging in the power center and recharging and using a batter
charger for the battery.

I run my credit card charges when I get home and have not been
burned yet. However, my prices run mostly under $25 and I rarely
get but 1 or 2 credit card charges a show.

Cathy Holleman

Hi Karen You can build your own battery system using RV batteries
(rechargeable) and an inverter to change the electricity to AC. Then
you can use standard lights. Or you can use DC lights directly off
the batteries.

For Credit Cards check out your local banks about a mobile credit
card machine that works like a cell phone. Charge overnight and use
during the day like a cell phone. Automatically approves so I can
even accept Debit Cards remotely. I also take Visa and MasterCard. If
I had more call I could also accept American Express and Diners Card.

You can also check out your limit and do a hand written charge, you
do need to get the zipper thing to imprint into the slips though, and
either run them through a land phone nightly or straight deposit
them into your bank account. This is a little more risky especially
if you happen to have High ticket items as most limits for no
approval are around $75.

Karen Bahr “the Rocklady” (@Rocklady) K.I.S. Creations
May your gems always sparkle.

    Folks, Well, I've finally gotten accepted to an outdoor show
(juried! wahoo!), but there's a small engineering glitch -- no
electrical access.  How do you handle lighting? 

Karen (and others in the same “boat”):

I see two questions or problems here. I will try to adress both.
First the ‘no electricity’ situation. Another hobby of interest to
me thrives low-power/no-power conditions. A supplier for that
activity is Connecticut Solar ( which makes and
supplies solar panels in a variety of sizes for different needs.
Place the panesl(s) on the top of the tent or shelter over your
display and use low voltage lighting connected to one or more deep
cycle batteries charged by the solar panels.

    The other shows I've done have all been indoors, with access
to phone and electric for credit card processing, as well.  In this
type of venue, how do you usually handle the credit aspect of
things? Have you found a problem with taking the imprints and IDs,
then running the batch when you get home? 

Another lead I found at a local (for me) business supply company is
from or through Axeus and at One of the
products/services offered is a wireless credit card system. You
would have to check the company’s site to find if the coverage or
service is offered in the area of the show.

    Any advice you're willing to share would be great! 

Good luck in the show.
Jim Good

I believe that in California, at least, State Law prohibits a
merchant from asking for a driver’s license and/or writing it on the
charge slip. Not so with checks. David Barzilay, Lord of the Rings

I know of several vendors that I associate with that have had
problems with the units that using what is basically the digital
two-way paging system - they say it rarely works in smaller towns
and large steel buildings. (I’ve actually watched them walk outside
during an indoor store to run the cc and then walk back in to
complete the sale… Not really professional looking.)

Dwain Coufal
D.C. Designs

The other shows I’ve done have all been indoors, with access to phone
and electric for credit card processing, as well. In this type of
venue, how do you usually handle the credit aspect of things?

I’ve only been taking credit cards since last October, but I took a
chance and signed up with a fairly new company (2001) that uses
wireless PDAs to process transactions. I’ve had about a 50/50 success
reate at shows as far as whether I could get a good enough signal to
complete the transaction (these were indoor shows). As a result I
would store the transaction and print receipts for myself and the
customer. When I DO send through the transaction, I print the
confirmation slip and attach it with the previous, signed slip.
Haven’t had any problems yet (crossed fingers) with bad transactions.
Additionally, transactions batch every night automatically, so that’s
one less worry for me during a show! The money comes through in about
3 days

The best aspect, what led me to go with it in the first place is the
low cost to get set up. All the hardware/software ran me only $500,
and I’m not leasing. There was no application fee, no long term
contract and no cancellation fee, partly because they don’t pay
referrals. Visit for more info.

Standard disclaimer,
Donna Hawk