Welcome to my blog dedicated to my Elizabeth House Shop Talk Series. I have worn many hats in my life and continue to do so. One hat I wore for several years was as a shop owner. I had zero experience, zero dollars, and zero connections. The Internet and blogging were practically non-existent back then and shop owners back then were not willing to share. Books were too complicated because my questions were so basic (and almost too embarrassing to ask!). I had no clue what I was getting into and to be honest, I had some resentment that I had learned so much the hard way because I truly had no one to turn to. I swore to myself that if I ever learned a darn thing, I would pass it on to others because there is no such thing as a stupid question. I am willing to share my experiences as a store owner, consultant, buyer, vendor, stylist, and designer. Basically, we all want the same thing - to create, to learn, and be happy doing it. I hope this blog brings you a little joy in knowing that you are not alone and that there is at least one person out there that has "been there done that" who didn't have a clue and has lived to write about it. I love to talk shop and the biz of business continues to intrigue me.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Tag! You're Sold!


With the holidays upon us, I thought I would pass along some thoughts and experiences I had with my latest shopping trip (Round Top) that may be of some help to you shop owners and/or show vendors.

I would like to take a moment to remind those who may be new in joining us on Shop Talk that this blog is designed for those brand new in the business and for those who have no or very little experience with retail or being a vendor. I write to that audience, as I hope to help those who have no one to turn to who are trying to break into this fun, but challenging field. My intention is to help and not to insult anyone's retail savvy. Sometimes, I think I need to stop every few months or so, and remind new readers that my posts are written with beginners in mind, although I welcome anyone to join in!

With that in mind, I will continue with my thoughts and observations. I am almost sure this man's beard (in the photo) wasn't nearly as long or as white when he first entered this booth. If he is the vendor, then he earned his beard from the hard work in hot the sun. If he is a buyer, then he grew his beard while waiting for the vendor to notice him so he could ask about a price of an item because most likely, most things were not priced in the booth. And that is my contention!

While walking around from booth to booth, old feelings of once having been a vendor of antique markets returned. The hauling, loading, and setting up. But something that I noticed as I walked around was how so many booths had so many items not priced! That made my shopping not fun at all. And having been a vendor myself, I had little sympathy. 

My personal opinion is that all items need to be priced at a market. I become immediately suspicious if a booth is entirely unmarked. At one booth, I overheard the vendor give a woman a price for an item and when the vendor finally got to me, he gave me a different price for the exact same item (higher). I didn't buy anything from that booth. I don't even think it was intentional, I think he just didn't know his prices. 

Sometimes, maybe a vendor just runs out of time and can't get all the tags on the items. I can even understand that...if there are signs of her/him still sticking stickers on items or if I see a roll of stickers out with a marker and the vendor is interrupted. But I am not talking about that. I am talking about booths that intentionally do not price their items and then the vendor just walks up to you and tells you, "If you want to know anything about an item, just let me know." Or worse, you ARE interested, but can't find the vendor to find out a price, OR, the vendor is too busy with a customer to give you a moment to price an item for you. 

I will walk away every time without buying a thing. I am too frustrated with that booth and feel I am wasting my time. And if I feel that way, then chances are, others feel that way too.

If you are getting ready to do any holiday fairs or craft shows, I would encourage you to really take the time to make sure ALL of your items are clearly marked or signage stating the prices are clearly shown. Having items marked for craft shows (or in the store if you are having holiday open houses or big sales) are so important. Customers are rushed these days, trying to cram too much into too little time, and if they have to wait to find out a price....guess what? They won't and they will move on to the next booth.

Something as simple as a little price tag that is firmly stuck on an item or tied tightly to a product can be the difference of a customer lingering in your booth to decide on a gift for the holidays, or setting down the product and moving on to the next interesting booth or store because she got frustrated of having to look up to find you just to ask for the price. I probably did just that over a dozen times in one afternoon at Round Top.

One particular booth frustrated me to the point of my having to say something to the owner (European). I really wanted to know the prices on many, many items...mainly out of curiosity. So, I waited and waited and waited while he was busy shuffling around with what seemed like two very wealthy younger women who wanted "one of those" and "three of these" and "I  must have that" sort of thing. I know he must have been glad to have the sales , but there seemed to be other help all around who were completely ignoring me. After almost 30 minutes of wandering around the very large booth, waiting, I finally caught one of the guys and said, "Can you help me, or what?" His heavy accent mumbled something about "What do you need?" And I walked over to a section of his booth and said, "None of your items have prices." And he said, "What do you want to know?" I just stared at him and said, "Prices!" He said, "On what item?" 

And I was so frustrated at this point, I said, "So, in other words, you will walk around with me as I point and tell me the prices of everything as I shop?" He didn't understand my sarcasm. Understand, this was at the end of a long, 104 degree hot day. He seemed not too happy with me, as I with him. I pointed at some items and went down the row to get some prices and he seemed impatient with me as if I was wasting his time, as it became obvious that all I wanted to know was prices...not necessarily wanting to buy. I then told him that if he had priced all his items, he wouldn't have to do this. He got very huffy with me and I then asked him that if I came back later, would the prices be the same, or would they be different depending on his mood? He said he didn't understand, but I knew darn well he knew exactly what I meant. And that is how customers feel. They feel they are being sized up (whether they really are or not) and judged on how much they can afford before they are quoted a price...or they are being sized up for their knowledge on how much something is worth and so on. And maybe they aren't, but maybe they are.  But it starts the whole buying process on a negative level. And it is exhausting.

I just don't see why a vendor would want to go through the hassle. As a vendor, I had all my items priced before I loaded my items up in the first place. Or, I had good signage for items. I just didn't want to have to remember prices or get a price wrong, or keep people waiting. Many, many times, my booth would be so busy, I would literally have customers come up to me, interrupt my transaction with a customer, hand me cash, and hold up the item they are taking and say, "I am getting this, sorry to interrupt," and not even haggle. They wanted to move on to the next booth, but wanted to purchase my item, and because it was priced, they just pulled out cash and put it in my hand as I was helping another customer and kept on moving. Now that is selling!

But with so many booths not having any sale tags or so few items priced, I was getting a little disgruntled. And just when I was wondering if times have changed and maybe not pricing was the "new trend" and I was behind the times....I come across this little dandy in a salvage yard, Discoveries, in Gonzales, Texas, with over 40,000 sq feet of space...and yet...these people managed to have EVERY SINGLE thing priced....right down to the yard of fabric....

Now, does that make you want to just buy a yard or what....just so you can use the scissors and snip away? Who says we need bar codes or fancy tags? They are nice, but if they aren't attached to the product, they don't do a bit a good.

Happy selling....and get to pricing...your customers are wanting to buy all of your goodies....they are just busy rushing around and the quicker they can pull out their wallet and pay you...the better for the both of you!

From my house to your house,



Amen Elizabeth! That has been a pet peeve of mine for decades!


Garden Antqs Vintage said...

Wow E, I wish this bit of advice could be published in all the major mags. What I find with my things is that doing outdoor shows a lot of the time the tags fall off, or are yanked off, before set up. Also, with the Texas heat sometimes they don't stick on very well. But, I still always try to have everything priced as best I can. I found this very thing just yesterday shopping the grounds of Canton. They very seldom price things and I'm not exactly sure why? Good point.

trash talk said...

I'd love to be able to say it's just the men folk who are lazy about pricing, but sadly...I know better (although I did have a guy tell me if I had to ask..I couldn't afford it). I have two very good girl friends who have been in the biz way longer than me who are just the worst. One half-A$$ prices things and the other just doesn't bother at all. Drives me crazy.
What bothers me the most is they just don't get why it matters. If I'm interested in something, I like to see the price to see if it's even in my price range before talking to the vendor. Pricing saves so much time in so many different ways. Good reminder to those of us who have been around the block or two...not just newbies!

Sue (Vintage Rescue) said...

I firmly believe, as I think you do, that non-pricing is a tactic, and wholly agree that it leaves buyers with a negative feeling. Like you, it infuriates me, so I won't buy from them. Dealers need to recognize that they are shooting themselves in the foot, and losing many sales. Especially to those of us who buy a LOT.


à la parisienne said...


I am not a vendor, but I shop at flea markets and antique fairs quite often, and I can't stand walking through a booth without price tags! I'm a curious shopper, and I usually don't have a ton of money to spend. There's something awkward about asking a vendor over and over about a price, finding out it's too high, and then asking about the price of another item. Sometimes I swear they do it on purpose so that a customer feels obligated to really consider buying an item after she bothers him to find out the price...
I think it is only good business sense-If you want to sell an item, let your customer know what the price is-How hard is that?
I agree with you, those vendors don't deserve our business.


Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Judy!

So glad you wrote....we are "peeve sisters" on this one! :-) Just don't get it either.

Love your blog!
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


I hear you! I remember once doing a show in Boerne, Texas and it was very humid. And how do you tie a tag to a single saucer? You don't. You have to have a sticker or tape a tag...and yes, they do fall off. So, I totally get that. And for those vendors, I believe most shoppers totally get it too and can see that most items are priced and sometimes, they just fall off, get pulled off, or just mixed up...but the vendor usually knows 99.99% of all her prices when asked because she has taken the time to price them in the first place :-)

(Plus...your booth is definitely worth the wait if a tag has happened to fall off while you get to me and give me a price....but I don't think I have ever seen a missing price in your booth!)

Big hug

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Deb!!

Oh my gosh...if I had a vendor tell me that if I had to ask, I couldn't afford it....I think I wouldn't be very polite at all. I think I would end up saying something like, "If I have to ask, that means you need a lesson in selling..." or better yet.... "If I have to ask, that means you just lost a customer carrying a lot of cash and several credit cards...."

I love it when you write...always a good story :-)


Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Sue,

I am glad you wrote. I think there are some who just don't price because they don't feel like it or it is just too much trouble and I feel there are some who don't price because that is the way they operate their business.

Either way, I don't like the practice as a paying customer...which usually doesn't happen in their booths. I often wonder about the customers who buy a lot of stuff in those booths...do they feel like they are getting a good deal or taken or just don't care?

Big hug

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Mandy,

I know exactly what you mean. I will admit that one time, out of spite, (this was not at Round Top....won't say where), there was a very snooty booth vendor who didn't have one single price on anything. I asked her for a price and she didn't even get up from her chair and just craned her neck to see what I was pointing at. She wasn't sure which chandelier I was referring to and kept asking me which one without moving. She finally figured out which one and gave me a snotty answer, explaining it was from Italy (which I knew already).

Then I wanted to know the price of a box and asked her and she didn't leave her chair and leaned forward and asked which one. She couldn't see it and asked me to bring it to her! The box had all sorts of items stacked on it and I told her so. She got up in a huff and gave me a price and went and sat down again.

That made me so mad, so out of spite (and fun) I began to point out things for a price that was out of her line of site which made her get up....but I waited until she sat down again before I asked her about another item...I did this for about six items. I know, I know...but I had a good time. And she got to walk off some of her muffin and coffee that she was much more interested in than in helping me. BTW, I was the only one in her booth....and she still didn't want to help!

Big hug

Curtains In My Tree said...

Yes mam

I will get prices on everything I take out to the flea market next spring.
I am guilty as charged

I would love to buy about 10 yards of some material to cover my sofa was any grey velvet down there in that material store? LOL


I found out you know Richard Cottrell, just met him recently and his friend on the river at Clarksville Mo

Donna said...

Dear Elizabeth,

I sometimes enjoy your comments as much as your post! I loved the one with lady who didn't want to be bothered with making a sale.
I loved it that you were a nag of sorts!
Sorry, but pricing is a pet peeve of mine...I get it when the tag goes missing, I also understand how much of a hassle pricing is having done it for longer than I might be willing to admit. But honestly, I think you lose a lot of sales when people can't find a price. They don't always want to ask and in this economy...who really can afford being lazy and not pricing your merchandise.
that's just my two cents worth.
hugs from here,

Elizabeth Maxson said...


You are so funny. And YEA! So glad you are tagging.....I am nominating you for the Vendors' TAG award: Totally Awesome Gal! Just made that up....but we should start that. Vendors who know how to tag, snag and bag a sale in a snap!

There are many in this comment section who have been doing it for years and could tell you a lot of the tricks of trade...they are ALL definitely TAGs in my book.

Thanks for 'fessing up....love a good 'fesser :-)

Big hug to my official Vendor TAG ...

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Love to hear from you Donna!!!

Yes, don't you love Richard? How did you meet him? He and I go way back. MUST go visit him...miss him. So glad you wrote...and yes, sometimes, the comments are more fun because I get to talk to my buddies and they get me going.

Miss you too and don't work too hard this season!
big hug

Gretchen said...

What a great article indeed, Elizabeth. I feel like many others, that tagging should be done on all items, or in groups a very well done sign should exist. As a shopper it is so much more pleasurable to do business in a tagged area vs. trying to find someone to ask a price, etc. I too am like Mandy, and am a curious shopper and love to learn while shopping. It's even that more awesome when there is some added info. along with the pricing, but pricing alone is worth its weight in gold.
The funny thing is, I personally hate pricing and am currently postponing doing just that for my upcoming two Trunk Shows. What I find hardest is pricing earring cards with a removable tag, but yet not so distracting that it takes from the visual of the earrings, but yet no so inconspicuous and difficult that its on the back of the cards. Any suggestions?
Loved your response too about the crabby lady sitting on her chair and not wanting to help you at that event you referred to. At a recent show I participated in my vendor neighbor sat like a "Bump on a Log" the entire 3 day show. Truly amazes me that people don't get that they are there to sell and when you are selling you had best be on top of your game. Sitting while customers are shopping and/or looking for some help is a big turn off.
Thanks for being so frank and honest. I learned plenty from this recent post and hopefully it will motivate me to get going and do what I know is waiting to be done... pricing. btw, I do always price. :) Just drag my feet to get it done.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

HI Gretchen

So nice to hear from you! yes...I KNOW HOW TIME CONSUMING pricing is! Ugh! I hated it! I was really good at for shows, special events, and open houses...but not always so good at it with my store. I would price for my store of course, but at times, I just couldn't get to some items because I had so much going on and pricing take so much time. But I definitely had all items priced for a big open house or for a show because at those times, you just are too busy to answer a ton of questions.

Pricing jewelry,,.oohh, I hated that too. I once took old (vintage) postcards, and punched the jewelry through the card and sold the entire card and jewelry together. The price I put on the back where the stamp would go - on a fake stamp. Or, you could print up a card with a blank strip at the bottom with a cute border, and write in the price at the bottom and then just cut off the bottom when it is sold (as a tag) for your records.

Hope this helps some. But yeah for you for taking time to price! And I bet your customers love visiting with you too....no bump on the log in your booth!

Big hug
Elizabeth :-)

Wanda @ Just Vintage said...

Oh, you hit it with this one! It's one of my biggest pet peeves. I usually won't bother to ask because of the awkward moment when the price they quote is too high to even negotiate. And I hate it when they say "make me an offer". Wha??? Nooo! You first! There's a guy in our town who has a shop of sorts. He pulls furniture out in the shop parking lot to sell it. I've been told twice, when I balked at a price, "Look what you're driving! You can afford that!" I told him my husband paid the car payment - which isn't that new or great, just in good condition - and I bought this kind of thing and it was too much for me. I've never been back.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Wanda!

Oh my gosh! That guy in your town! Whenever someone says "Make me an offer" that right there tells me he either hasn't a clue, too lazy to price it, or is testing my savvy. I don't deal with those.

So my response is usually when they say, "Make me an offer," I will almost always say, "I am offering you a chance to decide what your own stuff is worth and then I will decide if I want it." They usually get it, or keep asking, "Make me an offer...." And I just say, "You heard my offer...come up with a price, then we will talk." I can't stand that.

And if someone were to point at my car and say, "You can afford it!!" I would just laugh and say, "Take a good look at my car! Obviously I CAN'T afford it..." And leave it at that. If I was driving a very expensive car...then I am paying a high monthly payment...and can't afford to be spending money....and if I am driving a junker....then I have no money to spend on a car...no money to spend on his shop.

People like that don't stay in business long...or if they do, the don't need the business and are living off trust funds....well, that is what I tell myself, at least :-) hahaha

Thanks for the story.
Elizabeth :-)

she dreams big! said...

I sure wish I would have found your blog last week! I am having my very first occasional sale TOMORROW and one of the first things I decided on was that every.little.thing. HAD to have a price tag on it! Tedious, time consuming and not too titillating but a necessity! Most of the time I won't even stick around to ask the owner for a price and just walk away. I sure don't want any potential customers to walk away from me!

I'm looking forward to reading all of your past posts (AND comments!) for ideas, tips and information about selling because I am such a newbie that I don't even know what I don't know! AFTER tomorrow, that is! I dream big and this sale is really a dream come true. Wish me luck and send any tips my way!

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