Need tips on logistics and avoiding scams at shows

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Forum topic by SteveMI posted 11-08-2009 06:47 PM 2134 views 3 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1124 posts in 3497 days

11-08-2009 06:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question arts and crafts craft show

I am planning to start building an inventory of products this winter for some weekend market places next spring. Internet has a lot of urban legends on being scammed at the shows and of people renegging on the payment after the fact to sell the goods at their flea markets.

So, what are the tips from the LJ that do shows?

It seems that accepting credit cards is necessary. Do I need one of the wireless electronic devices with a service or is a manual imprint with drivers licence adequate? Any benefit of each?

What about accepting checks? Have read several legends on them. One post said to only take checks if the person agreed to shipping after the check cleared.

Being a single person shop and not being able to get a commit from anyone to go with me, I need to consider how to watch the goods during loading / unloading and bathroom breaks. Have you hired any local help to staff the booth? Am I being paranoid?


17 replies so far

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4280 days

#1 posted 11-08-2009 06:57 PM

I have no idea on your questions——but just wanted to say those are all GREAT questions…to consider and you are not sounding paranoid to me…good luck!

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Dustin Ward (aka Tearen)'s profile

Dustin Ward (aka Tearen)

176 posts in 4153 days

#2 posted 11-08-2009 07:08 PM

Steve, I do the craftshow scene and can answer some of you questions from that side.

Bathroom Breaks – Most groups host craftshows will have people on hand to watch your booth for bathroom breaks.

Loading/Unload- Never had an issue with people around my stuff during this time.

Credit Cards – Unless you are sell higher priced items I would stay away from excepting them. Stick with cash and local checks only. Remember, most credit cards tack on a per-use charge or a percentage fee. If you are going to use them, make sure you state to your customers that there is a fee for using the credit cards for a purchase. (don’t take on the fee yourself, especially when most people bring cash to the shows.) An electronic system will allow for quick approval. IF you go with the old manual way, you may find out later that the card was denied and you are out the cash and the item.

View a1Jim's profile


117337 posts in 3780 days

#3 posted 11-08-2009 07:23 PM

The Credit card approach is good for assuring there are funds available but it also give the buyer a right to dispute the product the purchase. I usually take checks for 50% of the project and wait for the check to clear. In my contracting business I take installments and stay ahead of the customer until the last payments.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View bigdog72's profile


16 posts in 4012 days

#4 posted 11-08-2009 07:25 PM

I never used a credit card at a flea market. Always took cash. If they want your item they will go to an ATM. Assuming you are going to sell smaller items why bother?

As for bathroom breaks, I am sure you can work something out with your neighbors. After all, they will have to go also!

-- Geoff, Lillington, NC

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3324 days

#5 posted 11-11-2009 03:59 PM

i just started this year & I take credit cards but authorize them by phone. you call a number, punch in the details & get an authorization number. it only takes a few minutes. they also ask about a website a lot. I set 1 up but i’ve never been contacted thru it. I’m north of Detroit so we would be facing the same problem…nobody is spending. crafters i’ve talked to are down 50 to 60% from just 2 years ago. I’ll give you what they gave me…unless your items are in the $25 range stay away from other attraction type shows. if its not a craft/art show only folks aren’t there to see your stuff.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View SteveMI's profile


1124 posts in 3497 days

#6 posted 11-11-2009 06:36 PM

Bill1352 – Speaking of Michigan.

I was participating in a Juried weekly show in Ann Arbor for a couple months. It seemed that everyone was just there for something to do on the weekend and look around. I didn’t start going until school was out, so that probably hurt me. At $15 a day it wasn’t a big loss, but I never covered that small pittance of a cost.

Saw that Fankenmuth is $100 for weekend, but then I’d have to overnight there. Went in June just to look and saw quite a few people browsing and not that many sales taking place.

Ann Arbor is $650 for the four days and outside my range unless I just arbitrarily mark everything up four times. Even then, I don’t have enough stock to make that back even if it all sold.

I’ve heard that as a minimum you need to take enough stock that it would sell at five (5) times your booth rental. Does that make sense? This is also like the old paperboy business problem; want to sell all you can, not miss a sale, but don’t want to have any left over at the end of the day.


View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 4095 days

#7 posted 11-11-2009 09:07 PM

You will miss out on sales if you don’t take credit cards. Most people today prefer to use their debit card. Credit card transactions at all my shows make up about 50% of my sales. People will impulse buy more often if they see your sign in the booth. I use Propay for manual processing with a knuckle buster I bought off Ebay. Propay is real simple to use and I have never had an issue. It only costs $29 per year to sign up, then they charge a small percentage of each sale just like any other merchant account. If you get fancy and go with a wireless terminal, you get into a lot of recurring monthly fees. I process all my receipts online after the show and have never had one turned down, but you can also call a number to get authorization at the time of the sale. They also have a card reader that you can attach to a laptop and if you have wireless access at the show, you can process in real time. This service carries a monthly cost. The manual knuckle buster works fine for me.

I use PayPal for online sales. Most hosted ecommerce sites interface with them and here again, I have never had a PayPal issue in the two years that I have been selling online. I do accept checks. Few people write checks at shows. Most of the time it’s cash, credit, or debit. I have had people send me checks for online sales because they refuse to use a credit card online. I just tell them that the product will ship after the check clears. It’s no big thing, and they always understand. I refuse money orders because there are too many scams out there using this method.

I do all my shows solo. Load and unload is not an issue. Everyone is too busy setting their own booth up to mess with your stuff while you go park your vehicle. Most artists and crafters that I have met over the years are outstanding people and look after each other. This may not be the case if you are doing flea market shows. If I need to go to a portajohn, I just go and don’t waste time. I immediately make friends with all my neighbors and set a friendly tone for the show. Most of these artists will keep an eye on your booth while you go stretch your legs. I had a neighbor artist watching my booth at a show this year and sold a cutting board while I was away for a few minutes. All the reputable shows will provide security for the venue after hours. It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen, but I have never had a bad experience short of poor weather. I have heard a handful of horror stories, but considering the tens of thousands of artists in the U.S. doing shows with few problems, I think the odds are in our favor. The biggest problem I consistently have are parents bringing in their little rug rats and letting them have the run of my booth. I am normally laid back and easy going, but I have asked parents to leave and take their kids with them at a few shows. Kids have to touch and pick up everything within arms reach. When I see a four year old trying to pick up a 10 pound cutting board, I know what’s getting ready to happen if I don’t act quickly. Many parents have well behaved kids, but some don’t. Those who don’t have no intention to teach them while in my booth either.

I would worry more about hitting a hot show and not having enough inventory on hand to meet the demand. This has happened at my last four shows. Everything else is just minor annoyances.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View bill1352's profile


130 posts in 3324 days

#8 posted 11-12-2009 04:57 PM

Thats what I went thru all summer Steve. I did well at Lexington & the local craft show but the rest have been a bust. I take about 25 clocks, 1 or 2 tables and a handfull of pens, candle holder & kaleidoscopes i turn. Like Closetguy I go it alone and agree that credit cards are important but then most of my items are in the $100 range. (not the turned stuff). My first set of shelves were awful at best, really bad. so i looked at other set ups & made a set that folds, the shelves slide in. its lite and takes seconds to set up. i suggest getting a white tent if you dont have 1. some shows insist on a white tent.

-- Keep Your Stick On The Ice

View mark62's profile


2 posts in 3314 days

#9 posted 11-19-2009 06:24 AM

My wife and I, along with another couple did the craft show circuit for a few years some time back. We found that most people who frequented the shows we set up at carried a lot of cash. I am not sure if that is still the case, but most shoppers expect to have to pay with cash. The last couple of years we would take a local check with adequate ID, and only got burned twice.
The main reason we got out of it was the issue with trying to stay ahead of everyone else on unique inventory. We would come up with three or four really great items, only to return to the same show a year later and find our ideas in other people’s booths.

View lotus's profile


33 posts in 3614 days

#10 posted 11-20-2009 03:59 PM

I have observed that most people want to buy something when they visit a craft/art show, but only a few get really motivated to purchase a prime piece. Therefore, I see sucessful crafters and artisans offer a related “pocket change” product (under $10, assuming a $100+ show piece). This raises the odds of having a sucessful show and covering show costs.

View SteveMI's profile


1124 posts in 3497 days

#11 posted 11-21-2009 04:51 AM

I participated in an weekend Artisan market over the summer. It was juried and you had to prove what you were making was hand crafted by you. No resale or fleas.

One guy was making some incredible wine cabinets and a walnut dresser in shape of a cello that stood over 6 foot tall. After two months of a few gawkers he sold the cello for his $800 price. My point is that if you are in the higher market that it takes a bit of persistence and it needs to be a venue that people can find you again after thinking about it.

My offerings weren’t really “art” enough and never did sell anything. Luckily the daily fee was minimal.


View ssflyer's profile


10 posts in 3398 days

#12 posted 12-11-2009 09:49 PM

I did a craft sale in Pope Valley a couple weeks ago – didn’t do to well, but got a lot of great contacts. I’ve already had orders over $800 – not much, but the entrance fee was only $25. It is the exposure, in my mind that effects the outcome. You just have to be patient. Of course, living in Napa County alone, adds value…

I mostly make small items that anyone ca afford, but have a good reserve of higher dollar items:

-- Ron, Pope Valley CA -

View ssflyer's profile


10 posts in 3398 days

#13 posted 12-11-2009 09:50 PM

I did a craft sale in Pope Valley a couple weeks ago – didn’t do to well, but got a lot of great contacts. I’ve already had orders over $800 – not much, but the entrance fee was only $25. It is the exposure, in my mind that effects the outcome. You just have to be patient. Of course, living in Napa County alone, adds value…

I mostly make small items that anyone ca afford, but have a good reserve of higher dollar items:

-- Ron, Pope Valley CA -

View OhValleyWoodandWool's profile


970 posts in 3323 days

#14 posted 12-18-2009 07:17 PM

I’m thinking about doing a couple of craft shows this spring and summer and I really want to thank everybody for the invaluable information and advice.


-- "All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure." Mark Twain

View TheDane's profile


5552 posts in 3866 days

#15 posted 12-18-2009 07:39 PM

Steve—If possible, I would stay away from card-imprints and the like for credit card purchases. We used to deal with a card printer, it was always a hassle, and we had a number of problems getting paid. We haven’t gotten screwed once since we went electronic because our bank/credit card processor gives us an immediate approval/refusal and we get an immediate transaction receipt via email.

We use a secure terminal program and a laptop computer with wireless Internet … no special scanner, card reader, etc. Check with your bank or credit card processor to see if they have such a program available.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

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