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Email to market manager...HELP!

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LittleCrazyWolf

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I have a sticky situation and need some advice. I joined a farmers market that runs from June until the end of October. I signed up for every week and paid for the season in advance (saved some $ that way). The market is small, usually around 15 vendors, but I like it...the vendors near me are very friendly and the manager seems really nice.

Problem is two weeks ago another soaper was there. She was across from me and two spaces down. It seemed like we split the soap buying customers that day. This wouldn't bother me except that this is a small market like I said and I'm already just getting by. For example, I made $60 last week and $25 of that went to my sitter so I really only grossed $35. To be honest, the last three weeks we had rain and the other soaper was there one of those weeks. This weekend is supposed to be great weather wise and I was looking forward to it.

I'm trying not to panic but what the heck do I do? The market is really not big enough for two soapers. I know the manager is just trying to bring in more vendors to fill out the market and draw customers in but come on, the vendors need to make money too! I need to address this with him but don't want to go scorched earth.

My husband is almost as unhappy as I am. He thinks I should pull out of the market altogether and demand my money back. I told him I would email the manager and would make a decision based on his response. What do I say in my email?

Edited to add: Sorry, I forgot to mention the reason I'm so upset. The manager emails everyone the night before the market day to let us know where our spots are. I opened the map and saw that the other soaper is going to be there again tomorrow.
 
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The Efficacious Gentleman

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Did they suggest that there would be no other soapers? Are you the only vendor with competition in the market?

If the answer to either of these questions is 'no', then I don't know what you are expecting from the owner.
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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Hi Teg, there was a section in the market rules and regulations that says "Vendors may be required to participate on a partial basis due to duplication of similar products as determined by the Market Committee."

There are some duplicate vendors there (jewelry, crochet) and they are not scheduled on the same week as similar crafters. The jewelry lady at the space next to me is only there every other week and there is another jewelry lady there on opposite weeks. I had applied to a few other markets close by but they each let me know that they already had a soaper and their markets weren't big enough for two (and these markets are slightly larger). I was really excited to get into this market and found out that the soaper they had in previous years had retired.

My question is; would it be completely out of line of me to ask the manager how often they plan to have another soaper there? If the answer is "often" then would it be acceptable to ask to switch to every other week for a partial refund...that way we can both be there and I'm not wasting time and money on a sitter.
 

Dorymae

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First thing I would do is look at the agreement you signed. What does it say about refunds? Does it say no refunds, or does it give the guidelines as to when refunds are allowed. This would decide how I would proceed. If it states no refunds will be given, then tread lightly and realize if you leave you are out of luck. I would mention to the manager that profits have been down significantly since he allowed the other soap vendor, and I would ask if it is a temporary situation seeing as you have prepaid a full season. Hopefully he will offer you every other week with a refund. If not and he plans to keep the other vendor, I would request it.

Good luck.
 

LBussy

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If you leave, she has the whole market - this is competition. Either be in it for the long haul or be ready to leave any time competition shows up. I know which choice I'd rather you take if it was me in the stall across the way.

I mean I get your predicament, but this is the real world. Not everyone out there is as nice as they are in here.
 

TeresaT

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Who are the "Market Committee" that the contract mentions? I would (1) thoroughly read the contract/regulations for vendors at the market (2) find out who those committee members are (3) talk to the manager if the contract and/or rules are actually being broken (4) go to the committee members if there is no satisfaction with the manager. If the contract or vendor rules are not being broken, you really don't have much to go on; however, with the wording of the rules and regs, it sounds to me as though you do. Depending on which of you actually contracted with and paid in full first (you may have been at the market first, but the competition might have signed up and paid for the season before you), I would think that gives that individual the preferred place in the pecking order, and the right to request proper restitution. Restitution could be full refund, partial refund and alternate weeks or requesting the other party to be removed for the season. Now, it doesn't mean the offended party will get ANY kind of restitution; however, usually when you go in with all of the facts and a solution to the problem that is reasonable, you tend to get what you want. At least, that has been my experience. And if I don't get exactly what I want, I get either close to it, or my point across. (I usually start with something outrageous that I don't really want and "compromise" on what I wanted in the first place. I wanted to go to San Diego for a week but they also had Hawaii on the list. So, I asked my boss for a temporary assignment to Hawaii for two weeks. If he said yes, GREAT!! When he said, "Hell no," I wasn't surprised and we settled for two weeks in San Diego. True story. I got what I wanted in the first place, and an extra week to boot.)
 

shunt2011

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I'm in a similar situation. I've been at my market 4 years or so and the manager always brings in another soaker or two. Small market. She placed the new one up front and me at the end. I'm still outselling the other gal but figure there's enough for both of us.

I'm certainly not getting rich but I have my followers who look for me. I do it primarily to get out on Saturdays and meet new people. It's certainly frustrating since most other markets have a soaker and protects them. I'm on the waiting list should they drop out.
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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I decided not to email the manager tonight. I'm going to see how things go tomorrow. But I do plan to politely bring it up to the him after the market. If she is only going to be there sporadically as a filler then I can deal with it but if she is signed up for every other week then that is really going to hurt my sales over the season.

I hope my posts don't make me seem entitled or greedy because I really am not. I never decided to sell thinking it would be easy or that I would make a lot of money. I just want to bring in enough to cover my costs and help my husband with some bills. I knew I would have to work hard to make any money but was not expecting to have to compete with another soaper at such a small market.

I know this is the real world and I was taking a risk by deciding to sell but I am in a tough spot as I committed my time and money (based on the verbiage in the agreement and my interactions with other markets) and right now I feel very anxious.

Shunt, thanks for understanding. I am just starting out as a seller and was thrilled to get into a market this season. The other markets I applied to all have established soapers already and I really respected their honestly and loyalty when they called to turn me down. I thought it was really decent of them because they could have just taken my money. They did the right thing for their reputation, their soaper, and me.
 

TeresaT

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I don't think your posts make you seem entitled or greedy at all. I think they're honest concerns. I agree, those other markets were great to you and their other soapers for being straight up with you. I think you've got a legitimate concern and should talk to the manager. However, I also think you should go in there fully armed with as much info as possible, so the manager cannot hand you a line of bull. And if he does try to hand you a line, you can call him on it by having all of your facts straight before you go in. This way, if you still don't get what you consider a fair treatment, you can go to the committee that makes the decisions regarding the duplicate vendors. And if you still don't get what you consider fair, then you know you did the best you could and don't work with them in the future. But make the most of it while you are there: pass out business cards, give samples, chat people up, give your competiton the evil eye. OK. Maybe not that last one (a voodoo doll might work better :grin:).
 

not_ally

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You do not seem entitled or greedy AT ALL. Don't worry about that.

I agree with Dory. I have no experience w/farmer's markets or the like, but it seems like the structure/people would be pretty informal, and going in too aggressively would maybe just put their backs up, get you tagged on the circuit as someone who is hard to work with, for v. little gain. Maybe not, like I said, I don't know. I would just be wary of burning any bridges.

If they are unwilling to stagger you guys on eg, alternate weekends and give you a refund, maybe you should just tell them it looks like it is not working out for you w/o further elaboration unless they ask for it. I would probably think carefully over Dory and Shunt's advice since they have real world experience in this and I do not.
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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I know it is late (here anyway) but I wanted to say thank you for everyone's advice. I definitely don't want to burn bridges and the manager really does seem like a nice guy who wants to make his market a success.

I am going to stay optimistic and sell my behind off. Like TeresaT said, worst case scenario I can use my time at the market to get my name out there (and put together my voodoo doll) :wink:. I will probably bring it up to the manager just to get a feel for how often she will be there. Hopefully he says they just need her to fill out the market occassionally.

Thanks again guys and I will follow up.
 

cmzaha

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I have been doing markets for approx 5 years and I can recommend that you do not email the manager complaining. It is not easy for them either. Many times they are under contract to supply x amount of vendors or they breach contract, so they causes them to fill space with whomever they can get. Selling at Farmer Markets or Craft Fairs does not guarantee sales. My advice is, if you like the market, figure out how to get on the good side of the manager, show you will stick out the good and bad times. Trust me, getting a manager on your side can get you more than you can imagine.
If you have competition just make sure you have bigger and better. I take a min of 40 different soaps and not all the same formulas. One thing I have that none of the others in my former market had was a punch card when filled earned a free bar of soap. They get to pick out which soap they want and I always give a soap sample, lotion sample, scrub sample or soap deck depending the size of their purchase. It takes a lot of fortitude to survive the markets and it is hard work.
Our market owner lost his contract after 23 years of running the Friday market and I refused to stay with the new company. Fortunately our owner landed a contract one city over and it is looking like it will go well. I moved knowing I would not make the $300-500 per night that I had been making, but I just could not not move with him. I now have a free booth, still right in the middle of the street with 3 open sides. Believe me when I say market owners talk to each other and you want your name to be known as a great vendor to work with, not one that complains about competition. If you open a store front it does not assure someone else will not go in and open a store down the street. Since you do not live in my area I will pm you a hint that will bring people to your booth, but I do not advertise it, so would appreciate it if you do not post anything about it in the forum. LOL, it is such a little thing if your market manger will let you sell it and something I have even paid $60 (what I was paying before) booth fees selling. One other hint if you have a hubby, friend anyone male to help you sell talk them into going with you. Men sell to men and my biggest clientele is men. I carry as many scents for men as women. Just tonight one man bought himself 4 soaps and his wife did not want any...Women can be very fickle, men are loyal customers.
Hopefully you can stick it out and make it work
 

LBussy

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I don't think you sound greedy either, and your concerns are very valid. The wold just sucks sometimes though and you have to be prepared to wait for karma to make things right.
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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You guys give awesome advice and I am glad I posted this here. I did not email the manager. He really is a great guy and volunteers his time at the market. I definitely don't want to be on poor terms with him or give him a hard time.

It turns out that I didn't need to email him because he approached me today which was weird because I am careful not to give off negative vibes. He basically said he disapproves of the other soaper being there and that he told the committee that he didn't think it was a good idea to approve her. I asked if she would be there often and he said no, she doesn't have specified dates but will probably be there when she doesn't have other shows or when they need to fill spaces.

The funny thing is that the vendor next to me is on the committee! She is a really friendly, helpful lady that makes a very specific food item. She was close enough to overhear the conversation and brought it up to me later in the day in a very casual way. She eventually asked if I thought the other soaper being there was cutting into my sales and I truthfully told her yes. She said that the committee approved her because they thought her soaps were different than mine...different shapes, her's focus more on color and swirls. I use round PVC molds and I do have lovely ITP and funnel swirls but I think my labels cover them too much (I may switch to clear labels when it is time to restock).

I was careful not to sound like I was complaining to either person because I'm just not that way. I am usually a very go with the flow person and hate confrontation or being viewed as a whiner. I was very happy that they each brought it up to me so that I could respond in an unemotional, matter of fact way. It seems that she will be there once in a while (I'm hoping not more than once a month) and I can deal with that.

Now for some wins...I had a repeat customer who complimented my soaps and bought another AND a lady (and her kiddos) who came by to check out my soaps mentioned that the only reason they knew about the market was because she came across my facebook page! It really made my day to think that I was able to bring in a customer (especially being so new and unknown). She took advantage of my 5 for $20 deal and I threw in the kiddie soap that her little girl was enamoured with.

So I'm just letting it go. I'm going to focus on what I can do to succeed and present a positive vibe. It helps that the committee lady is next to me because she sees that I am on time rain or shine, that I offer my help to other vendors, that I don't speak ill of anyone, and that I stay until the market ends.

I really do thank you all for your advice. It helped me take a step back and see the situation from a business point of view. I am feeling much better about how I chose to handle things (or actually not handle things). Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease but sometimes that wheel just gets thrown into the scrap pile! :)
 

cmzaha

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That is very good news Little Crazy Wolf. A small market like yours really cannot support more than 1 soaper. My market has upwards of a hundred vendors. Before our move to the new town we would have upwards of 200 vendors. Fortunately they would be at the other end (2 blocks down), but you do not have that type of distance. Your products will speak for themselves and your customers will not consider purchasing from others.
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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Carolyn, I forgot to mention (in my wall of text above) that I cite you as the shining example of vendordom to my hubs. I told him the story of the old vs new manager and how you are following your manager to a new market. He was like "what? she's giving up how much money?" and I said "it's the right thing to do, for principle, for loyalty and honor!" You have become legend in our house! I really hope that the new market is as successful or more so then the old market.

I personally love the "manly" scents myself. I have three scents geared towards men as well as several "gender neutral" scents. I'm planning to restock my beer soaps and prominantly display them to draw in more guys. All the men in my family loved the beer soaps! So far most of my customers have been women but my "manly" soaps still definitely sell faster than my floral scents. I really would love to have more men come in to buy instead of standing back and waiting while their ladies shop.
 

not_ally

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That's great, LCW. Even if you still don't know exactly when the other soaper will be there, it sounds like it is less rather than more. Also, it is just nice to know that people there - including the manager and that committee member thought about them and shared them. It seems like you fit right in there, that people will notice that you are a good citizen, and next season/as the market hopefully grows, you will be their no. 1 soap person. I'm glad that you held off and have some time to see how things unfold.
 

cmzaha

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Carolyn, I forgot to mention (in my wall of text above) that I cite you as the shining example of vendordom to my hubs. I told him the story of the old vs new manager and how you are following your manager to a new market. He was like "what? she's giving up how much money?" and I said "it's the right thing to do, for principle, for loyalty and honor!" You have become legend in our house! I really hope that the new market is as successful or more so then the old market.

I personally love the "manly" scents myself. I have three scents geared towards men as well as several "gender neutral" scents. I'm planning to restock my beer soaps and prominantly display them to draw in more guys. All the men in my family loved the beer soaps! So far most of my customers have been women but my "manly" soaps still definitely sell faster than my floral scents. I really would love to have more men come in to buy instead of standing back and waiting while their ladies shop.
And I have the opposite problem. The women stand back and the men buy. My hubby is a great salesman. The man can sell an ice cube to an Eskimo and so can one of my daughters. I can sell okay, but not a well as them. Men can sell to men. I can sell to men when they are return customers, but very seldom do I manage to sell to a man that is new at the booth.
It is just hard to leave a company you have worked with for 5 yrs and have done all their markets. He knows he can call us if he has a really slow market and just needs vendors so he does not breach his contract. There are about a dozen of us that stick with him through thick and thin and the last 2 yrs have been quite thin for him :(. Vendors tend to not like him because he is not the sweetest in the world, but I like the grump :grin:. I do a Wednesday market that I am lucky if I sell one bar of soap, he pays everyone back by giving them half off their Friday Fee. Also you will find a bar of soap given to a vendor, etc will go a long way for goodies!
 

TeresaT

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LCW, that is awesome news! It's always scary to go and talk to someone, especially someone you don't know well, about an issue that is bothering you. You don't want to sound like you're whining and you don't want to be accusatory. Also, you never know how the other person will react. You really lucked out. It sounds like you are well on your way to a good working relationship with both the manager and the committee member. (It still might be a good idea to know who the other members are. The more you know, the better off you are with strategizing and networking.)
 

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I encountered this situation but on the opposite side. When I joined my market almost two months ago I was told upfront there was another soaped there. But when I checked out her products it was all poorly packaged M&P soaps and bottles of spray and lotions that were not even made by her. They were bar codes and commercial. I am a cp girl and proud of my recipe for silk soaps that everyone finds awesome. After my first day I noticed she left, angry. The market manager told me she was upset and wanted refunded because she sold NO soap. I however did 250.00 in 4 1/2 hrs. Anyway our market manager told the rival soaper that she cannot keep duplicate products out. If only one person sold tomatoes and one cucumbers, etc there wouldn't be much of a market. My advice to you. Presentation! I use burlap and cute chalkboard signs. Pretty tablecloths are a must! Put a lot of effort in your packaging and display, it makes a WORLD of difference. I initially spent more on display items than the inventory itself. It paid off QUICKLY! Have fun with it and treat your customers as if there will never be a new customer. You will succeed!
 
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