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Road Shows and customer relationships

From the beginning of June to the end of August every year my city
Edmonton, Alberta, has a succession of summer festivities - the world
class Fringe Festival of alternative theatre, Jazz Festival, an
outdoor Country music concert, a Rodeo Carnival, food fests, sidewalk
art shows, craft shows, and some more - a real fun time to meet
everyone from all over the world and learn new things.

Then comes this vendor whose craft is black ink printed designs on
plywood panels varnished over. The designs looked mechanically
reproduced by silk screening. He was a kind of lonely because hardly
anyone stopped by his booth and frankly I wouldn’t know where to
place his ‘art’ even if someone presented me one.

Okay so tried to chat him up and asked him what technique he used.
Really builds rapport with a stranger if one shows interest in the
other’s work skills. Found out immediately why he was lonely. His
attitude was that his technique is secret and I had no business

Come on. In this time and day one can get any one wants
through the Internet and by the old fashioned way of looking up
books. The 'how to technique" used by him would hardly qualify for a
half page description in any crafts book.

No one ever gets rich being a craftsperson and some of the things I
had learned from chatting up all the other vendors is that they love
their work and the lifestyle the (paying) customer acceptance of
their work affords them. From a customer’s point of view I want to
know what makes his work different from the much better stuff
produced by third world craft workers or the mass production WAL Mart
stuff. Although I may even be able to make the same piece better
than a crafts vendor the chances are that I don’t have the time,
equipment or inclination to make a “one off” that I can buy for a
reasonable price. And even if I don’t buy any I would probably bring
up the interesting points of that craft during a conversation with
friends and direct them to the stall.

All in all the 'its a secret" attitude turns everyone off. I for one
felt very miffed that he believed someone would be his competitor if
he told anyone.

Kelvin Mok

That “deep dark secrets” attitude is very annoying. Several years ago
I was walking to my local bank and I passed a newly opened tailor and
dry cleaning shop. In the window was a partially completed sport
jacket. I paused, fascinated, and studied it for a while. I’m a
sometime amateur tailor and I had a very specific question about a
detail, so I went in, introduced myself, and asked my question. You
would have thought I was trying to spy out nuclear secrets! He all
but ran me out of the store. I never went in there again, so he at
least lost a potential customer.

That incident taught me a big lesson about customer relations. I’m
always willing to talk to people about techniques. I think that being
enthusiastic and open about what you do is very important in relating
to customers. Many times being told how a piece is made makes it more
special, makes the customer look at it more closely, and enhances
their appreciation of it.

Janet Kofoed

About visibility of prices. Yesterday was walking around the Sawdust
Festival in Laguna Beach, California. Stopped adjacent to a woman to
look at the jewelry in the case.

The woman had asked about the cost of a specific piece. The seller did
not respond but took out her key to unlock the showcase. The potential
customer reacted in a manner that indicated she was uneasy that the
seller had to unlock a case to show her a piece she may not buy. It
appeared to me that the jeweler was not certain about the cost. It was
uncomfortable to me also. We both walked away.

I think it was a case of “if I have to ask, I probably can’t afford
it.” Many people really feel they are annoying the seller in this case,
and at times the seller adds to that very feeling making it bad for the
next seller. Teresa

Kelvin, In the show world where I compete secrecy is a must. If you
can figure out how to do something more unique than everyone else you
have a niche that lasts only for a little while. In that time you
must maximize your advantage. Show costs are very high, up to and
above $5000 US for a five day show. This is big business. Most
shows discourage non-buyers by making everyone register at the door.
Even inside the show designer jewelers zealously protect their
designs from the theft of other designers. I have been copied many
times and seen my designs in direct competition with me at the next
show. Ripped off. Now I do not readily show my designs to others.
First I chat with the customer to find out if they are a potential
buyer. If I find out they are not I do not remove any items from the
case to show them. Window gawkers can see well enough through the
glass. These shows are not museums. Dealers are there to sell goods,
not provide entertainment.

Gerry Galarneau

Hello Kelvin,

This is the kind of attitude I have to deal with evry time that I try
to start a conversation with german jewellers.All of there stuff is
kept in a black secret book any only some really good friends ahave
the allowens to have a peek in it.Guess why I like to deal with
american crafts people !!!“The secret” as far as I’m concerned of
calling it a secret is more related to the skills of the persons
instead of the way how to do it.There is no dought about how helpful
a formula can be,but still you have to now how to do it and even
then,some factors like time,coinsidence,luck are involved in the
procedure (I’m reffering to an article of LJ on how to make some
japanees alloy’s).The big deal of today (this is my humble opinion)is
sharing what you know and learn from others. To come back to your case
Kelvin,I think that this perticular person will be lonely for a very
long time,sticking with his wisdom and not having any benefit of
it.But YES … I understand you perfectly and I do not agree with
kind of behaviour.You came up with showing interrest in his craft,so
the blame of beeing a lonesome craftsman is all up to this person.

from Pedro,living in Germany where the rain is pooring down with

Pedro, I agree that most American craftsmen are generous with
The article you refered to in Lapidary Journal is, I
believe, the one written by Andy Cooperman on Japanese alloys. He
happens to be a very generous person. His observations about my own
work have helped me immeasurably. It really wouldn’t matter how much
he gave away about his technical “secrets” because his real gift is
in his design and I don’t think that anyone could really copy the
spirit of his work. Not all American artists are that generous but
there are many. I hope that you can spark that generousity among
your German colleagues.

Deb Karash - in midwestern USA

   The potential customer reacted in a manner that indicated she was
uneasy that the seller had to unlock a case to show her a piece she
may not buy. 

There are two issues at hand here. One is that, in a business where
security is paramount, you should always be locking your goods up.
Our store cases are always locked. This means that anytime you show a
piece to someone you will have to remove it from a locked case. The
second is that often a customer doesn’t know what a piece is really
like until they hold it. I always take pieces out of my cases for
customers to hold regardless of whether or not I know the price, so
that they can examine the piece while I tell them about it. I don’t
care if my stuff is too expensive for someone to buy but they still
want to see it. Maybe they won’t have enough money to buy it this
year, but they might next year. Haven’t you ever taken the most
expensive piece out of your cases and put it in the hands of an 11
year old girl? I do this all the time for kids (boys, too). Not
because they are going to buy it from me (obviously they are not!),
but because in 20 years they will be back in and they will buy
something just like it for even more money… On a related
note, while it might be possible for some of you to remember all your
prices and be able to rattle them off, some of us are fairly prolific.
In the 30 years of being a jeweler I have developed, with my partner,
over 500 repeatable designs and a bunch that are one of a kind. Do
you know how hard it is to keep 6-700 prices in your head, when many
are available in different metals, colors of metals and stones? Daniel
R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge,
MA 02140 @spirersomes
Original Message

All, One thing you learn in a hurry in the road shows is that everyone
that passes your booth is not a buyer. Not even a potential buyer.
Whenever I show a loose stone it is always placed upon a velvet lined
tray and the buyer is supplied with a loop and tweezers to examine
the stone. Buyers are instructed to keep the stone over the tray at
all times. Three times buyers have turned around with the stone
balanced on their fingers, bumped into someone and the stone went
flying to the concrete floor. All three stones were valuable and
damaged. These were supposedly knowledgeable buyers. Reviewing the
situation in all three cases proved that none of these buyers were
actual buyers and damaged the stones with no expectation of
purchasing. Now the stones do not come out unless I am reasonable
sure there is an expectation of buying the stone. Then I handle the
stone and show it to the customer. It is a lot of fun to show
children, but I exert the utmost in care to not let them ruin a
valuable piece. They do not get to hold them. Shows are not retail
stores. I have many repeat buyers at shows that buy each year. The
relationships we build are craftsman to buyer, not store enterpriser
to customer. Buyers either recognize the quality or they are just
not my buyer.

Gerry Galarneau