Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tales from the Trenches: Economic Downturn at the American Craft Gallery

I've told y'all before that I work at an art gallery. More specifically, I work at an American craft gallery. What does that mean? We sell beautifully handcrafted work made in small studios/business' throughout the nation. That said, here are things during this economic crisis that make me want to scream:

1. "Well, that's an awful lot of money."-- Ma'am, the bag you asked that I show you and let you know the price of is the size that Mary Poppins carried. It is a carpet bag just like what she had. When you purchase a fine crafted bag such as Mary's that could fit a mirror, a hat stand and a plant to outfit a nanny's room in, it's going to be pricey. We are not a big box discounter. I agree that the prices are higher, but please refrain from being snotty to me about it. I just sell the work. Oh, and we don't set the prices. The artists do.

2. "Can you just give me the artists information?"-- Um, no. I know that you want to go home, look the artist up and try to purchase direct. Here's something for you to know. Many artists are reclusive and have the galleries representing their work so that they have the time to make the work that they sell. Even if they aren't reclusive, dealing with the buying public and their insane special requests sometimes drive artists absolutely batty. Artists won't sell direct to the buying public when they are called. They will refer you back to us. You are stuck with me, sister. Sorry.

3. "How much will you sell this for?"-- I'm sorry, what does the price tag say? Oh, it says $--? Yes, that would be it. We do not haggle. We do not barter. We are not a flea market, an antique store or a yard sale. Do you go into Target and ask them if they will take less?

4. "I have 8 of these [already on Christmas discount sale] angels to buy, what price will you give me for them?"-- I'm sorry, the markdown on our Christmas items are standard. I would be happy to sell the number to you that you need, but at 1/2 off, we aren't making anything on them anyhow. And no, I'm sorry that we don't gift wrap sale items. Shocking, I realize, but true. Please know that you are saving lots of money and have found yourself some beautiful things! We are thrilled that you are buying many of one item, but we do not offer a volume discount.

5. "So, how is the Depression here?"-- [Specifically speaking of the recession.] Please don't think that I'm actually going to be honest with you and tell you the percentage that our sales have been down each month. Please don't think that I'm going to tell you that the economy has been taking a downturn for quite sometime and the fact that I haven't had a raise in 2 1/2 years is proof of that. Please don't expect for me to tell you that some staff hours have been cut. We are full well in realization that the current state of the economy dictates that people need to purchase food and pay standard bills over purchasing art. Those that work there are in that same state ourselves. We wouldn't expect and don't want people to go without the basics of life. Just please stop talking to us about the crapped out economy. We hear it every day and I don't mean to be heartless, but it is getting really old. We are concerned about it, losing sleep about it and wonder if we are going to get the axe, too.

6. Price tag announcements.-- Please don't do that. Meaning, walking through with your group of friends loudly announcing the price to everyone and making some snide remark. Again, it isn't Walmart. We are thrilled to have you there. We are thrilled to have the company. We are thrilled to take things out for you to look at and just try on. Really, we don't mind. We want you to have a good time. However, we don't need a price critique. Feel free to critique all you want when you leave, please. It makes us bummed and we then need to take part in chocolate therapy.

Internet friends, please don't think that I'm in a constant state of the crabby appleskins. We're all sweating this economy thing out together. We all need to pull together and share the love. We all need to support each other, even if it is just kind words (and you have no money to buy at our gallery.) We just all want the love. The cold is making us cranky. The gray skies are making us cranky. The news and all the funky stuff going on is making us all cranky. Being stuck inside is making us cranky.

Let's have love. Let's end this crankiness thing together, eh?


Shell said...

I work specialty retail, and I hear you on all of this! Customers really can drive a person mad!

Jamie said...

Ahh, I do haggle at Target. And anywhere I think I can get away with it. It does work.

But there is such a thing as class and respect. If someone handcrafts an item, then it is worth paying more for it and your customers should be aware of this when they are in your shop.

Rach said...

Handcrafted items are more pricey. Period. Anyone who shops an ART GALLERY should realize that. Duh! I frequent a small gallery in Greenville, NC when I visit my mom specifically because I can get one-of-a-kind, gorgeous items. And, yes, I expect to pay more.

And, most people with a brain would realize that the economy is going to have an impact on such a location since those items are not necessities. I suppose people are just trying to make conversation, but it sure is a lousy topic. Sheesh.