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Bad Table Manners

I just finished two events this week for independent comics, and I would like to tell buyers something that they may or may not already know.

1. Don't just stand there talking to the artist at their table! They can't run away and you block their display from other con-goers who could potentially be customers if you weren't blocking their way.

I had this happen twice, both from older men. One talked to me for thirty minutes and blocked the way when a visitor stood next to the table for ten minutes, waiting for him to leave, before finally giving up. I just lost a sale, and possibly others, but I visibly lost THAT sale. The second time, the guy talked with me for an HOUR... He showed me vacation trips on his iPad! If you want to talk to an artist, talk to them about them or their work, not about your trip to Paris in the spring.

2. If you do take up a portion of their time, for the love of all things, buy something!

One man I talked to bought a $12 book, but the other man who took up my time didn't buy anything. Something similar happened with another client, who pulled out a $100 bill when I didn't quite have enough change for him yet ($100 for a $12 book? Carry smaller bills!) and it was rather frustrating.

3. Don't hassle other con-goers to buy the artists stuff. You are not their private promoter!

I had a man grab a girl walking by, shove one of my books in front of her, and he forced her to read it, talking about how amazing it was and how funny the story was (he hadn't even read it yet). She looked scared and confused, and wouldn't you know, when he left the girl didn't buy anything. I apologized to her but she was clearly shaken.

For artists: How do you deal with customers with bad table manners, so to speak? Do you ask them to move along, or do you just chalk it up to part of the con experience? I absolutely could not get the man showing me his vacation photos to leave through hints and body language, but he bought something and I didn't want him to feel like now that his money was mine he was of no use to me...
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( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
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Sep. 1st, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
Uuuugh oh god this @_@

I mean, obviously polite conversation is cool! But the campers just get old. I'm friendly as all getout, very genial, but at the end of the day my patoot is in that chair to make money so we can chat but then either move along or come back later!

What I try and do, is for customers that have commissioned something, but are then camping, I try and project a time frame that would be really unreasonable to wait through. Once money starts changing hands, I'm still as genial as ever, but I enter business talk mode and they hear, "Alright and thanks so much, I really appreciate the patronage, I've got some guys ahead of you so be sure to check back in a few hours - if it's sooner than that I'll be sure to contact you!" If they're purchasing premade wares, I still essentially thank them for the business and do my best to "wrap it up," and they generally get the hint. "Okay thank you I really appreciate it" almost has a "bye" dangling at the end of it, and if you're afraid it won't get the point across, I feel like a "see you later" isn't even out of line.

For customers just hovering and idly chatting, taking up tablespace, I bury my nose in my work, and more than once I've politely said, "Oh man I'm sorry, I just have a really hard time listening to others and trying to work. This is on a deadline, mind if we meet up later?" If that doesn't tactfully communicate "go away", I've politely said, "Hey, why not let others get a shot to see my table, eh? I promise I'm not going anywhere", or things to that effect.

Sometimes people don't really realize what they're doing, and that the artist is essentially trapped there. A polite "hey we can talk later I need the front of my table open for others" is perfectly acceptable, as is a "haha thanks for the commission, we'll meet back up in a bit but I really gotta work right now, okaythanksbye!"
Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:47 am (UTC)
I like that term "campers!" I'll have to use it, haha.

I'm still pretty new at doing events, even though I've done online transactions for years now. I love to talk, and I will very happily chat with someone for a little bit, but this was a bit... excessive... I did a lot of "Gee, thanks for coming by, I hope you enjoy the rest of the tables here!" and the guys managed to change that into discussing what they thought about the other tables, or how they don't normally come to these events, etc. Very frustrating.

I do really like your idea of using work as an excuse. I never bring a sketchpad but I might bring something to work on just so I have an excuse! Good idea.
Sep. 1st, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
I've not felt too badly about holding up a finger and saying, "Hold on - paying customer!" and very pointedly leaning around the camper and saying, "Yes, what can I do for you?" It almost always gets the point across, and if it doesn't, after the second time there's nothing wrong with a polite, "Um, I'm having a lot of fun talking, but I need to get back to work now."
Sep. 1st, 2011 12:44 am (UTC)
Something like that works better, as it's not a complete blow-off. I just had the opposite experience at Gencon when my brother was buying an rpg book, paid, then wanted to ask some questions. The guy kinda blew him off and walked off because he was scouting for more customers (this was a less than 5 min convo). Excusing themselves from the convo is fine, but just walking off is rude. It's almost like he should have held off buying until he had all his questions answered.

Part of the selling point for indie comics/games is in being a smaller company with more attention to the fan base, so when creators can't take a few minutes to discuss with their fans, it really impacts peoples views of their product. Maybe in that case they should have more staff so they can fully promote their product.

Of course in the case above, 30 min +vacay talk is nuts and excessive. Just wanted to vent bc the whole gencon thing annoyed me and felt like it was embarrassing to my bro! :p
(no subject) - crssafox - Sep. 1st, 2011 05:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ogawaburukku - Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 1st, 2011 12:28 am (UTC)
I take it you're probably an attractive, single younger female? It sounds like the guys were hitting on you, in a dopey, fannish way. The only way to avoid this is to bring a boyfriend, or in lieu of a boyfriend, a heterosexual looking male friend who can pretend to be a boyfriend. That is the *only* way you'll get rid of these guys, unless you can suck it up and just be rude and tell them to get lost.

(if you're not a young woman and are an ugly guy instead, then the men in question were probably just lonely and desperate to talk with someone. In which case you'll still need to tell them to leave, or just put up with it.)

My main problem at conventions are people standing in front of the table, reading the entire comic, then wandering away without buying it. If I don't say something, I will have people doing that all the time. I hate being rude and making some comment to the effect of "The rest of the comic looks just like the first 10 pages." But I've been left no choice.
Sep. 1st, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
Ah but that sends the message that this sort of behavior is okay if said younger single female actually appears to be single. I don't think there's anything rude about telling someone they need to respect your boundaries if they're trying to flirt with you over a con table. People like that really need to learn the difference between business and a bar, or business and friendship. And being firm (but you can still be polite about it!) those boundaries is the only way people like this are going to learn that this sort of behavior is not okay...as opposed to just using a boyfriend/male friend as a shield.

Plus, people can be overly friendly and socially inappropriate or take up too much of someone's time even when not lonely and desperate. If they're a fan, they may just really want to "befriend" their favorite artist. In which case pretending to have a boyfriend isn't going to make a difference.
(no subject) - jadinerhine - Sep. 1st, 2011 03:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - houndofloki - Sep. 1st, 2011 03:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martes - Sep. 1st, 2011 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ogawaburukku - Sep. 2nd, 2011 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
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Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)
I'm in Japan, and people are a little more timid here than they are in other countries. I did the first suggestion... and people smiled before running away, or stepping back a bit from the booth and waiting. Maybe they wanted to talk to me too, I don't know, but they won't interrupt conversations much. Also, the tables at cons here are teeny tiny... if one person is standing in front of my table, it blocks a large majority of the table. We only get like 45 x 45 cm at events.
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Sep. 1st, 2011 01:25 am (UTC)
Thank you for posting this. It is a reminder to myself and for my talkative husband as we will be attending MFM this weekend.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:06 am (UTC)
Haha XD If things slow down and there aren't many people passing by, talking is probably not a big deal. But keeping it under five minutes is probably the best way to go. Have fun at the con!
Sep. 1st, 2011 01:28 am (UTC)
You need to learn how to tell them to leave, simply put. This happens often, and is kind of common sense. They will stick around, and hang out for hours if you are not upfront and firm with them.

I used to be a push over, but after doing tradeshows for a long time you learn to get more of a backbone and say "I'm sorry but you're blocking my table from potential customers." You have to be able to tell them to leave, or that you're busy.

I realize it can be hard, but this will only continue to happen until you flat out tell them to go away.
Sep. 1st, 2011 05:50 am (UTC)
This. This all the way around.
(no subject) - ogawaburukku - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:07 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - neolucky - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 1st, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Sucks that so many people (men) act that way towards artists (young women) at conventions, but you'll have to put your foot down and do what Kage said-- take control of the situation and take the paying customer/other interested party.

Being too nice to tell those guys to step aside is also being rude to the poor customers probably wishing the artist would acknowledge them. If it helps to think of it that way; lesser evils, etc.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:08 am (UTC)
Yeah, good way of thinking right there. Lesser of two evils, haha.
Sep. 1st, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
I don't know about this. I'm one of those 'awkward people', though on the end of not talking to the artist at all rather than taking up their time.

On the rare occasion I do talk to an artist I try not to take up all their time, even if I do love their art, but where does the 'taking up too much time' border come in? I've had artists stop and talk with me for a half hour or more about their art/comic series, and I've had artists not even look my way without me even saying anything to them.
Sep. 1st, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
And since I can't edit posts, I'm asking this question without gender even being involved since it really seems unfair to judge someone by such.
(no subject) - spiritlobo - Sep. 1st, 2011 01:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keeperofdreams - Sep. 1st, 2011 01:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - crssafox - Sep. 1st, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ogawaburukku - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 1st, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Personally, I've learned, after running dealer tables for several years now, how to politely brush people off. It also helps to learn how to spot the difference between people just being friendly and the creepers that just want ANY attention.

What I do (and my husband as well, since he sits with me most of the time) is greet potential clients as they walk up with a friendly smile and ask how they're doing or how their con is going so far, and tell them to let me know if they have any questions about anything I'm selling. Usually that puts them in the right mind frame- they're here to buy, and I'm here to sell, not to chat. I'll answer questions happily and promptly as possible.

When the transaction is finished, I thank them profusely for their purchase and support, and put my head back down to continue working. For the folks that hover, I'll ask if they need anything else, and if not, I thank them again and apologize that I can't chat, but I do have work to do, and then proceed to obviously progress on said work. Normally, folks get the hint and move on, but neither myself or my husband have any issues with politely asking someone to move on, as I don't work well when people hover.

I find that after having a bit of friendly chatter with any transaction and then going right back into working generally solves the problem of the folks that want to camp out. I will actually ignore someone who's just hovering after I've finished speaking with them. They usually get the idea that they won't get any more of my attention, because I'm busy, and move along, but my husband has had to politely ask that a particular person hovering to try and watch me draw only disturbs me, and would they please mind coming back later if they have any more questions.

You really do have to grow a bit of a backbone. While I do care about my clients and want to keep them happy so that I will continue to have their support, I also have no issues about ignoring potential troublemakers. Many campers, when they realize they're not going to get any more attention or conversation from you, will move on.
Sep. 1st, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
This is what my husband and I do as well. I can attest that this is a GREAT way to handle things.
(no subject) - ogawaburukku - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - minimalismo - Sep. 2nd, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 1st, 2011 03:21 am (UTC)
The first day and half of the second day of Anime Iowa, lots of people would stand in front of my table (which was at THE ENTRANCE) and always blocked my table. Apparently the area where my table was, was the unwritten designated table for "people participating in photoshoots meet-up" XD

Heck, even relatives of the table next to me would stand in front of my table when they saw potential customers and talk to them. First time, I let it go because their booth was full, but the other times they clearly had space in the booth --it was a clothing shop, specialized in corsets and coats-- so I told them, "excuse me, but you're blocking my table's view". They apologized but quickly went back to doing it a few hours later. It was never the seller herself but her relatives...Even my mother told them off and she wasn't the one selling XD

So yeah, I learned to be firm first time in an AA XD I think words work better. Body language clearly doesn't...

I also had the problem of people talking to me for a while but never buying anything. Granted, very few customers passed by but even then the ones that did stay and chat for a few minutes, I thought they might buy at least one thing. After all, they seemed interested, yes? No. No, they didn't. :\

Wow, this became long XD But yeah, maybe this kind of thing should really be mentioned in cons. Not that we expect congoers to be robots following rules but courtesy and manners with artists do go a long way :)
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
They actually have really strict rules about people blocking other booths at the events I go to. I watched several security people ask friends of the sellers to stop blocking traffic or to not block other booths. But there isn't much you can expect them to do when someone is blocking your own table by talking to you, haha.
Sep. 1st, 2011 03:43 am (UTC)
A few bad experiences I've had:

the con I frequent is notorious for being very very bad to artists alley. they cramped us all into hotel rooms last year... yes, hotel rooms! and my neighbor last year brought so much stuff to sell, plus just to display and/or work on that she was actually overflowing into my space. when i arrived i actually had to push my table away from the wall just to SQUEEZE behind my table cause she had spread herself out so much- and i was super tiny last year (like 80pounds, 5foot tall... since then I've filled out to 110pounds and I get so many positive comments about it, teehee!). so a lot of my stuff people had to stand at the very edge of her stuff and teeter over just to see or grab.

so it should go without saying artists- be courteous to your neighbors! >:( especially when the con itself isn't being courteous to you guys.

since we are shoved into these tiny hotel rooms (seriously, cramped does not even begin to describe the conditions) don't even get me started on the people 'just passing through' who are SWORD FIGHTING or ROUGH HOUSING! common @#$%ing sense, people- don't do that! more than once i and the person opposite of me had our displays knocked off the tables and the rude people just ran off without apologies.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:23 am (UTC)
Rooms?? You are selling inside of individual ROOMS? That is nuts! I wouldn't bother with a con like that. My events that I frequent are in large exhibition centers, so even if the table space is limited you never feel too cramped.

Yay on gaining weight! I bet you look a LOT better. Even at 5 foot, 80 lbs sounds a little underweight. I think short girls look pretty good when they have a little plump to them, anyway. Maybe that's just me, haha.
(no subject) - grygon - Sep. 3rd, 2011 05:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 1st, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
This is one of the reasons when I do a table I like to sit by friends. If someone starts to awkwardly camp at your table and isn't buying anything and keep talking to me, I wait for a break in the subject turn to my friend and start talking about inside jokes. Eventually annoying table shark gets tired of trying to follow a conversation they are not following and wanders off. I'm also not above just getting really enraptured in my art, and telling someone who is bothering me that I'm trying to concentrate. If they keep talking to me, then I tell them I'm not listening right now because I have to focus on what I'm doing, but if they are interested in buying a badge I can take a break with what I'm doing. that's my all not to subtle approach but it has worked.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:24 am (UTC)
Ah, I have met a few people at these events, maybe I will try that next time.
Sep. 1st, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
I didn't spend much time in the artists' alley at indyFurCon, but when I was in there, I didn't really encounter too many campers. DraconicKnight had a goofy fanboy hanging around her table, but it was late in the day, and Ifus had left by then, so he stood on the other end of the table while I talked to Draconic (and he gave me a back scratch with his clawed paws, which was fabulous). But other than that, I didn't see it too much.

Although I did have one artist hold me at her table for, like, a half hour, since she ran the local fur group for my town. I couldn't escape, and that was a little weird.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
Wow, you had the reverse experience of what I had! How strange. I have called people over to talk about their shirt or something before, but I normally don't let the conversation go too long. A minute or something XD
(no subject) - dodger_greywing - Sep. 4th, 2011 01:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - supershycritter - Sep. 3rd, 2011 07:00 am (UTC) - Expand
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Sep. 1st, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
Uh gotta love con-goers you get the geeks who don't know bounderies....:\ didn't get many of those maybe 1 or 2 at Supanova. The best thing you can do is try and be polite and if you do see someone looking and waiting just say to the person talking to you "excuse me I have another customer" and move on. Don't FEEL preasured to stand/sit there and talk on length with people your don't know.

But normally if you just ask people to move away from your stall if they are hovering most people will move :)

My friend Helen whom I help at con's has done a lot of reaserch with having stalls. She said it's better to stand (obviously have a chair there to have a break...cos really standing from like 8am-whenever you finish) isn't fun. But she finds with some people the act of of standing up (because you lean forward normally) can be agressive to some people.
Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:28 am (UTC)
Wow, nobody ever stands at the shows I do, unless they are super busy or greeting a friend. I could see how going from standing to sitting could show that you no longer are as interested in the conversation, though. Like "Okay, I need a break from your yammering!" or something.
(no subject) - frazzled_niya - Sep. 2nd, 2011 07:41 am (UTC) - Expand
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Sep. 1st, 2011 09:41 am (UTC)
I would LOVE how you tell people to stop taking photos of prints, I have a really big problem with this at my tables, and I just can't seem to think of a good way to tell people to stop.
(no subject) - jadinerhine - Sep. 1st, 2011 09:57 am (UTC) - Expand
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