Connect with us

A Groomer Leaves and Takes All His Customers With Him. How Can a Shocked Business Owner Respond?

mm

Published

on

Sadie waved goodbye to the last customer of the day, an older woman with a perfectly groomed Pomeranian. The dog’s coat looked soft and fluffy, and bounced with every step it took. Sadie smiled to herself. Billy, her groomer had done a great good job over the last few months turning the dog’s matted coat into show material. She locked the front door, and started cashing out.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LINDA LIEBRAND is a former marketing manager for a successful doggie spa and boutique who is now helping others promote their local pet businesses. She writes about pet biz marketing at mybrandbuddy.com and can be reached at linda@ mybrandbuddy.com

“Sadie, do you have a minute?” Sadie looked up and saw Billy wrapped up warm and ready to leave the shop. He’d pushed his hands deep into his pockets and he looked a little sheepish, standing there like a shy kid. “Sure, Billy, what’s up?” She took her glasses off, and put them down. “Thing is”, he started, but then his voice trailed off and he looked away. “I’m leaving,” he mumbled.

“But why? I thought you liked it here? The customers love you,” Sadie replied.

“I know, but,” he hesitated again for a moment, and then sped up, “I’m starting my own business and I’ve rented some space in the new pet shop in the mall. I’m sorry Sadie, but I’ve always wanted my own salon.” Sadie knew the feeling of wanting your own business very well, and although she felt sad to lose Billy, she hugged him and wished him the best of luck on his way out.

Advertisement

A few weeks later Sadie ran into Janet, one of her regulars. Janet’s Yorkie, Ruby, squealed with delight when she saw Sadie, and Sadie couldn’t help but notice the dog’s tidy coat. She must have been groomed recently, she thought. I wonder who might have done it? “Nice to see you Janet. I haven’t seen you and Ruby in the shop for a while.” she said, and decided not to mention Ruby’s haircut.

“Yes it’s been a while. We went to see the lovely boy from your shop at the mall for Ruby’s haircut this time. He was as good with her at yours, so when he emailed me a coupon we decided to try out his new salon.”

“He emailed you?” Sadie asked, feeling the beginnings of suspicion stir in her stomach.

“Yes, he told me he was leaving last time I took Ruby to your shop and when he asked for my email address I didn’t think anything of it. I’m so sorry — I thought you knew?”

Sadie, didn’t reply. She rushed back to her shop and picked up her grooming calendar. After flicking through the pages it was clear that several of her regulars were late with their grooms, and none of them had made new appointments. They hadn’t all gone to Billy, had they?

She picked up her mobile phone and Googled Billy the dog barber. A flashy website popped up and she did a double-take. Was this some sort of a joke? From top to bottom, her entire shop menu with grooming treatments was copied almost word by word! Even the heart-shaped “mutt stamps” she had invented and always sprayed on all her groomed dogs was in there. Sadie couldn’t believe her eyes. Billy had seemed like such a nice kid. Had he just worked with her to steal clients and copy her business? Or did he not realize what he’d done? Sadie’s sighed and put her phone down, what was she going to do?

Advertisement

The Big Questions

  • What can Sadie do right now about the awkward situation with Billy?
  • How can Sadie win back her clients?
  • How can Sally protect her business from this ever happening again?

 

Real Deal Responses: Expanded Online Version

Jim R. Eau Claire, WI

For client theft prevention we have our groomers sign a no solicitation of our private client list. We put a dollar value on each client that if they wish to purchase our list they must pay us for each client’s value. Family and friends agreed upon prior to the start of providing service are exempt on a written list. This gives you leverage in a court of law, whereas a non-compete does not.

Sylvia T.Adamsville, TN

I have been grooming 55 years and have been through this sabotage repeatedly. After investing time and money to train or bring a groomer’s work up to pro standards they have left to start their own business, and without conscience have tried to take customers with them. The wages paid here are better than they could hope to clear operating on their own. The shop has all the best equipment and products available for their use. They are always treated respectfully, their taxes are legally paid, they have benefits … and yet the desire to operate their own business prevails. The best advice I can offer is have new hires sign a no-compete contract and vigorously enforce it. Since generally they will also apply for unemployment benefits when leaving, let them know you will report they are self-employed not unemployed. And the best deterrent: Tell them you will report their status to the various governmental agencies so they can be tax-paying citizens, as are all legitimate businesses.

Pam A. Cleveland, OH

This has happened to me several times. Sometime customers have stayed with me because they thought that it wasn’t ethical what the groomer did. I think that it is just the nature of the beast.

Dawn T. Vero Beach, FL

Sadie should approach Billy on a professional level to see why he did it. Also, to let him know it was unethical of him, but maybe they could work something out so maybe they both can be happy. She could run an awesome special for returning clients. To protect her business, she should have her business trademarked and sole proprietorship with legal documentation to protect it from anyone from stealing her designs/website and such from competitors and employees. Have the employees sign confidentiality agreements.

Advertisement
Clayton B.Simsbury, CT

I would sue him. That is disgusting.

Patricia B.Charlottesville, VA

I actually had this happen to me, and I found out when five new grooming tables were delivered to my store instead of hers. She lied and said they were for “home use.” (She had one Boxer.) I took her to court for defamation of character and theft of corporate identity and property. And won. Now, I have the most lock-tight, non-compete contract that includes my clients, a 5-mile radius and all my corporate marketing materials and website are legally protected from copying. Even nice people put themselves first when it comes to a business that takes time and money to develop.

Paul L.
Webster, NY

Legally, I’m not sure Sadie can do anything about Billy taking her customers. Billy saw the opportunity and ran with it. I had an employee who offered to board a regular customer’s bird for him, a bird that regularly boarded with us. He did it one time felt bad about it, told me what she had done and I treated it as if she had stolen product from me. She was terminated.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

I always want to assume the best in people, but be prepared for the worst: Did he realize this was wrong or not? The results are the same: There is damage to Sadie’s business. There are legal means to stop the use of the website that Billy copied, the use of the stamp Sadie invented and a simple cease-and-desist letter might get the job done. Some states allow non-compete clauses for employees to prevent stealing trade secrets and client lists, so she should consult an attorney to prevent this from happening again. But to maintain her clients, she needs to remember that she trained Billy, she is the original groomer they liked, and by offering superior service and contacting them directly, she can salvage the relationship by offering bounce-back coupons and referral bonuses if the client refers a friend. Price is not the only thing she can offer; quality service and products and appreciation for their business go a long way.

Raymond P.Alamogordo, NM

Just recently I have found myself in a similar situation. I have an aquarium maintenance service. Recently, I fired an employee and who was doing 75 of my accounts. He ended up taking five of my accounts (mostly just family and friends) and is now also starting his own business. When he started he knew nothing about the business. I am curious to see how Sadie handles this.

Christine D.Harrisburg, NC

Sadie can meet with Billy or even set an appointment to drop by his shop to say “hello” and broach the conversation after seeing for herself. She can attempt to win back her customers by emailing them personally and offering welcome-back specials. Another option is to be honest and open about the situation and let clients just choose for themselves. She should require all employees sign a non-compete form as a part of her hiring packet and keep it on file. This will allow her to protect herself. It won’t stop someone from doing this, but it allows her recourse against the offender.

Kristina R.Falls Church, VA

Ouch! Sadie, you earned your stripes in reality with this fellow. It happens, and it happens a lot. I own a grooming spa and a dog-walking company. For the last 27 years, I have had my folks sign non-compete agreements, tried the lawyer act (where I would say if you do end up breaking the contract, I will have my lawyer contact you), and I even sent an email out to all my clients letting them know that should their groomer or pet sitter contact them about leaving, please let me know. But none of the attempts to stop someone from starting their own company worked. Here is the thing, (I believe) if a client loves the groomer who loves their dog and the dog loves them back … I don’t care if you offer free grooms for life (well, that may work), they will follow that groomer. It is about the bond.

Pennye J.
Washington, DC

She needs to have her attorney contact him and let him know they will file suit for copyright infringement on her website. She should then contact all of her customers and offer them a special coupon to return to her salon.

Bonnie B. Chicago IL

This happened to me. Thankfully my loyal clients stayed with me. The employee who left sent out letters to my clients that he opened up his own place and that he had worked for me. I had my lawyer send a letter to the former employee telling him if he didn’t stop recruiting my clients that we would sue. As for winning back her clients, Sadie can send them notices for discount washes, grooming, etc. If they are loyal they will come back.

Jan G. Cary, IL

Never give your groomers your clients’ phone numbers or addresses — only first names. And be sure you always call your clients when their dog is ready to pick up. Make all your appointments yourself also. Maintain a relationship with your clients.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Advertisement

FEATURED VIDEO

Pet Sustainability Coalition

Pet Sustainability Coalition Presents: Critical Sustainability Strategies for Retailers

This webinar, held on November 7, 2019, is the second in a series from PSC discussing how retailers can establish sustainable practices in their business. Moderated by PSC’s Andrea Czobor, the webinar unveils data behind the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, what retailers have to gain from connecting with these purpose driven consumers, and a new PSC program that makes finding these products easier for retailers.

Promoted Headlines

Real Deal

When a Marketing Consultant Under-Delivers, What’s a Business Owner to Do?

The case of the over-promising marketer.

mm

Published

on

KATIE JUST OPENED her first business, a dog café, before the holidays, and the reception was better than she expected. But marketing is not her area of expertise, nor has she found the time to do it while running the café. One of her new year’s goals was to hire someone to increase their social presence and email marketing.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Before opening the café one morning, Katie was answering emails, and posting to her Facebook page about the specials at the café that day. An ad popped up for a marketing guru — exactly what she was looking for. She clicked on the ad, and it said they specialize in marketing, social media, email marketing and advertising.

“This is too good to be true,” she thought and she continued to look at their website. It seemed like they had a decent track record of clients. So, she filled out the “contact us” form.

About an hour later, she received a phone call from the founder of the company.

“Hi Katie, this is Ronald Smith with Town B Marketing getting back to you about your email inquiry. Do you have a moment to chat?”

“Wow … um … thank you for getting back to me so quickly,” she said. “I actually don’t have time at the moment — do you want to come to the café to meet?”

Before she could finish Ronald said, “Yes. How is 2 p.m. today?”

She was kind of shocked at how quickly he wanted to meet, but she agreed, as that was a slower time at the café.

Katie really hit it off with Ronald, and she was impressed with his knowledge of marketing and his incredible claims of helping clients get a following on social. Ronald followed up quickly with a contract, for three months of work for $10,000, with a third up front. Katie thought it was high, and she consulted with a good friend Jacqueline, who had her own clothing boutique down the street.

“It looks like a good company based on their clients,” Jacqueline said. “We paid almost the same amount for an independent contractor to do similar work.”

After four weeks of work, and already paying $3,300 up front, Ronald did provide some social posts for her platforms, created an email marketing campaign and was working on a series of Facebook ads. Katie thought the progress would be faster, especially with his supposed track record and how much money she already gave him that she agreed to in the contract.

Katie was frustrated, though, when she noticed that her social posts looked very similar to other posts for other pet care companies. She let out a sigh said to herself, “I told him I wanted to stand out, to be different — not lumped I with every other pet business! Ugh!” And while the café’s Facebook and Instagram pages had growing followings, it didn’t seem any faster than when she was trying to do them herself.

She sent Ronald an email, asking what the status of the Facebook campaign was, and she expressed her disappointment in the social posts and growth.

There was no response for four days from him, and it just seemed filled with excuses. Moreover, at the end, he had the audacity to remind her that the next payment was due on Friday for him to continue working. Flabbergasted, she called Jacqueline for advice, “I am stunned ….

What … how … I signed a binding contract with him. Now I don’t know what to do!”

The Big Questions

  • How would you handle a company that you hired to do a project but was not delivering on what it agreed to in the contract?
  • What would you say to someone who is a new business owner in reference to hiring outside companies?
  • If you have no budget for a lawyer, how would you dispute this situation?
Angela P.
Stratford, CT

Contracts are broken all the time. It could be scary at first for a new business owner to think about defaulting on a contract, but if there’s dissatisfaction with the service and not an acceptable response, then there’s no reason that payments should be made. As owners we cannot do it all, but trusting our gut leads us in the right direction. Katie should remember what made her take the leap into becoming a business owner anyway: guts, bravery and nervousness … not fright! The marketing guy should be afraid of her!
Katie should take the lead and suggest how this could be worked out reasonably without outside interference from legal. She can intelligently negotiate to get what she wants, and she can be unwavering. The marketing guy should want to keep a good reputation and, in doing so, work to please the customer, not his own pocket. I trust that this scenario would in the end work out just fine.

John C.
Bronx, NY

As a leading marketing and sales consultancy, I would offer the following advice for hiring a marketing agency:

1. Sometimes expectations are subjective. Outline expectations and objectives upfront and in writing. Try to negotiate with the company to recoup some of the money paid. No agency wants an unhappy client. Try to negotiate with the agency for future work without pay until expectations are met. Most people are reasonable and don’t want negative feedback.

2. Check references and see examples of work before getting started. It’s always good to get a perspective from an agency’s past and present clients to see how they feel about their work.

3. You can usually find a law student or firm willing to do some small business work pro bono. Sometimes a letter from a lawyer is enough to get a dialogue started.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

To handle a company that you hired to do a project but was not delivering on what was agreed to in the contract, it depends on the wording in the contract. If she specifically stated in the contract that she wanted to “stand out and not be similar to other pet businesses,” she would be able to do something such as hold the next payment until he changes the ads to stand out. Of course, she needs to save the examples of hers and the other ads for proof and reference. I would say to someone who is a new business owner: Ask for references, call those references, do research on the company, verify the sources, and in this case check out his other marketing sites, and she would have seen the similarities. Having no budget for a lawyer, I would dispute this situation by requesting a meeting with Ronald before next payment is paid and try to discuss the situation.

Liz Barnes M.
Lawrenceburg, KY

I would never sign a contract of this nature with out a 90-day money-back guarantee. Pay for 90 days. If things improve by 20 to 30 percent, go with them. If not, time to resume your search.

Jim A.
South Jordan, UT

I am one of those marketing consultants, and this kind of thing embarrasses me, but I see it far too often. To avoid such frustration, you must realize that you are your company’s chief marketing officer, and while you can delegate, you cannot abdicate that responsibility. You must educate yourself on marketing as the primary function of your business — to bring in buyers. You’re going to have to remain involved pretty constantly, especially in the beginning, if for no other reason than to bring your vendors up to speed about your business. If you hire help, you must be both realistic and clear on expectations and particularly on frequency of communication. (I insist on at least weekly meetings with my clients.) There should be a performance “out” in your agreement. If you’re not happy, you should be able to terminate the arrangement, for reasonable cause.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Continue Reading

Real Deal

At a Holiday Photo Event, a Dog Plays Naughty with Santa, 
Putting the Boutique Owners in a Difficult Situation

Read the case of Santa’s dog bite.

mm

Published

on

A’S PET BOUTIQUE was just coming up on its first year of business, and owner Aaron was excited to be hosting the business’s first Santa Paws photo event — where pet parents could bring in their pets for pictures with Santa. In addition, the store planned hot chocolate and nibbles for the humans, special Santa dog treats and discounts on holiday merchandise. A lot of marketing and pre-promotion were going into the event and seemed to be creating a buzz both online and in the community.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

“Hey, it looks like we are up to 115 people who plan on coming to the event, but only about 25 people have actually pre-scheduled their appointments,” said store manager Anita, who has 15 years pet retail experience. “Do you think we should cap it at 50, 25 each day just for the photos?”

“Let’s just let anyone come,” said Aaron, still a relative newbie to the pet space. “If they want to wait or get squeezed into a photo session, let them.”

“OK, but it could get out of control if all those people actually show up,” Anita warned.

“A problem I would love to have,” quipped Aaron as he flashed a big smile. Anita frowned: This weekend could be amazing or a nightmare.

As the Santa Paws weekend drew closer, they were close to 50 paid-for and scheduled photo appointments. They hired a professional to play Santa and a pet photographer to take the photos.

Advertisement

Two hours into the event, everything was going seamlessly, people were having their pets’ photos taken with Santa and sticking around for some holiday cheer while the photos were printed and sent to their phones. As the holiday music played in the background, the sounds of laughter, dogs barking and the cha-ching of the register were music to Aaron’s ears.

This is exactly what he was envisioning when they were planning the event, until suddenly he heard a very loud, “Oooowwwww!” and then the growls and yap of a small dog.

“Your dog … your dog just bit me!” exclaimed Santa to the dog’s parent.

Aaron ran over to see what was happening, and just then Santa pulled off his glove to reveal a punctured bloody hand. There was an audible gasp from people nearby. “Anita, get the first aid kit! Can you guys give us some room?” Aaron then turned to Santa: “Joe, are you OK?”

Advertisement

“Well, no! I was just bit!” Joe said. “I have been doing these gigs a long time, never have been bitten this bad before.”

Aaron handed him paper towels. “Let’s go into the bathroom and wash off your hand to see how bad it is.”

“I am so sorry.She has never done anything like that before!” the dog’s owner said.

Anita asked everyone to be patient, and she would let them know what would be happening the rest of the day soon — but to stay and enjoy themselves.

Aaron, said to Anita, “It doesn’t look that bad — but he is shaken up. Did you get the information from the dog owner?”

“Yes, the dog is up to date on all shots,” Anita said, “and we already have all her contact info from her consent form. I feel terrible for Joe.”

“He doesn’t know if he will stay,” Aaron said. “He may go to urgent care. We have all these people, appointments lined up. If he leaves, to go to the ER or urgent care, I understand completely, but what are we going to do about the rest of the event?”

The Big Questions

  • What would you do without a backup Santa?
  • How would you handle all those pre-paid appointments for photos with Santa?
  • Should the dog owner be responsible for the medical expenses, or the store, or both?
Pattie B.
Charlottesville, VA

We’ve had Santa before — he got piddled on, but never bitten! My ex was Santa, and he left and went home. So I got to be Santa for a day! When we have photo sessions, it’s by appointment in our indoor photo area, or if it’s by drop-in, we have a tent with panels outside the front door. This helps to reduce stress in a crowded situation. If we have outside people come in to help with an in-store event where dogs are welcome, they sign a release. But if there was a bite, we would pay for the medical expenses. Most owners whose dogs bite never really think it’s their fault and take no responsibility for bad training. They’re the ones who would be most likely to complain about the situation online, which takes too much time and effort on my part to diffuse.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

First, never schedule such an event without a backup Santa. Considering they don’t have one, see if the Santa suit will fit the owner or possibly the other employee in the store. To handle all the prepaid appointments for photos with Santa, Aaron could reschedule the appointments or offer a refund. It is an unfortunate circumstance that the dog bit the Santa. However, dogs are dogs. The dog owner she should offer to pay — or at least split — the cost with the store for the responsibility for any medical expenses.

Frank F.
Farmingdale, NJ

We’ve been holding a pictures-with-Santa event for 26 years. (Last year, we had more than 600 dogs have their pictures taken with Santa, with the proceeds going to local rescue groups.) Knock on wood, we’ve never had an incident where Santa was bitten (especially since I’m Santa …). We do not book prepaid appointments for pictures. We have a backup plan for Santa should I get sick/lame/lazy or die! We have a dog trainer/behaviorist on-site during the event to help set up the dogs for their pictures. Last, my business insurance would be on the hook for the liability, since it is a company event.

Debbie K.
St. Augustine, FL

Get an employee to get on the costume and continue on. If not, refund the appointments along with a free bag of food or something else. Unfortunately, the store is responsible. Maybe split the cost with the dog owner if they feel an obligation.

Advertisement
Angela P.
Stratford, CT

The health and safety of Santa is of most importance, so of course he should go to urgent care. I would quickly compose a text or email message to all of the participants: “An overeager elf pup showed Santa his displeasure by giving him a little nip. Santa is OK, but needs to get some first aid. We will be continuing to take photos with our fun backdrop and have Santa’s costume here should you as an owner want to use it with your dog. While we’re sure the photos will still come out cute, if you’d like to reschedule, we will let you know when Santa is available! Thanks for understanding!” Honesty, willingness to still show that the event and store are open and ready for celebration, as well as offering an alternative, will still gain points with customers. Most reasonable people would be fine with this.

Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

We do free Santa photos every Saturday in December (we suggest a donation to the shelters we sponsor), and it’s my biggest nightmare scenario. One year our Santa who did this for 10 years was ill and went into the hospital after one Saturday. We chose our backup based more on personality than anything else, and it worked just fine. There were people who expected our regular Santa, but they were more concerned about his health than their photo. I would hope that by having a photographer setting this up, that they would have language in their form explaining that there could be an emergency like this and how they would compensate those paying for photos. I would also think they would have a backup plan. The store insurance should cover Santa’s injuries, and our state does hold pet owners responsible for bites.

Greg G.
Cody, WY

Do you have workmans comp? I do on everybody! I would be out of business if I didn’t. Had an employee fall, hurt her shoulder. She had $57,000 in medical bills. Worth every penny to have coverage. No comp? Split the bills between customer and store. Replay video if you have to see what actually happened.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Continue Reading

Real Deal

When a Vendor Doesn’t Like His Booth Location at a Local Pet Festival, Its Organizers Are Left Trying to Calm Him

What would you have done? Here are your answers.

mm

Published

on

FOR THE FIFTH YEAR, in a row, Erika and Janelle have hosted the Ruff Ruff Harvest Fest in Minneapolis. At this year’s fest, they were excited to bring in a few new types of vendors. The Fest is normally just pet vendors, but had many inquiries from area businesses that were not pet specific and wanted in on the large crowd the annual fest draws.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy E. Hassel is founder and president of American Pet Professionals (APP), an award-winning networking and educational organization dedicated to helping pet entrepreneurs, businesses and animal rescues to grow, work together and unite the pet industry. Contact her at . nancy@americanpetprofessionals.com

Two days before the event, as Erika and Janelle were finalizing last-minute preparations, Janelle said, “We’re taking a bit of a risk bringing in these vendors that are not pet-related.”

“Well, Carl basically begged us to be part of it — I mean you were there,” Erika laughed. Carl is a well-known fixture in the community with a successful home-remodeling business.

“Yeah, you’re right,” Janelle agreed. “It will be fine — it’s only a few non-pet vendors.”

Saturday morning, 7 a.m., the day of the fest: It was the perfect fall day, cool and crisp, and the sun was shining bright. The majority of the vendors set up the night before, and the early morning gave way to the bustle of tents popping up, people rushing around, and dogs barking with excitement.

At 9:45 a.m., Janelle was walking the grounds and noticed a few vendors still not there or set up. One empty vendor space was a 10-by-20 space at the front, but they just texted her that they were a few minutes away. Local vendors were frantically setting up — knowing they were late — and Carl was one of them who arrived to set up just minutes ago.

The gate to the fest opened at 10 a.m. to a flood of pet parents with their dogs in tow, heading onto the grounds. Janelle was smiling, saying hello to them and greeting each dog. Just then Carl came over and said in a frustrated tone, “No one has come by our booth, or to that area of the fest yet.”

“What do you mean?” Janelle said, puzzled, looking down at her phone, “It is 10 after 10 — the fest just opened?”

“We want to move our location! No one is going to see us where we are!” Carl said loudly, “What about that spot right there?”

Shocked at Carl’s tone and attitude, Janelle said calmly, “Carl, they are on their way, and they paid premium for that space.”

“We would never have been part of this if we knew we were going to be in back!” Carl said.

Janelle tried to walk Carl away from the entrance to avoid making a scene and said, “You asked us to be part of this fest, and you picked the space for your booth. I am not sure why you are so upset — again the fest just started.”

“Yes but that spot in the front is empty! I demand that you give us that space!” Carl nearly shouted. “I am not happy!”

With that, many people had turned and looked to see what the commotion was, and Janelle quietly said, “You need to lower your voice. This is a family friendly event. I will be right back.”

Erika saw Janelle walking over to her rather quickly and said, “What is going on over there?”

“Carl is causing a huge scene,” Janelle said, explaining the problem to Erika. “What should we do?”

The Big Questions

  • What could be done to alleviate the situation so it doesn’t escalate?
  • What should Janelle and Erika say to Carl to maintain a professional working relationship, for the fest and beyond?
  • Is there anything Janelle and Erika could have done to prevent this?
Ramie G.
Evanston, IL

Maps detailing what space each vendor is in, sent out before the event, would stop this before it started. If Carl had a problem, it would be known prior to the event, and the option to not attend would be his. We have all been to events that are not as well organized as we would like; that’s life. Offer to do something during the event to promote those who are there, but maybe didn’t get a good location — a shout out “thank you” over the PA system, etc. Don’t let anyone feel your event isn’t worth doing again next year!

Wendy M.
Emerald Isle, NC

I would use the feel-felt-found method with Carl: “Carl, I understand how you must feel. When I have been a participant of these kind of events, I felt that way too when no one came to my booth, especially after spending time and money to set up. But here is what I have found: Since this is a pet-related event, attendees will go to those booths first. Then they will explore the other options.” I would then give him the option to either stay, and remind him he knew exactly what the event was about and that it would draw in families that may need his service, or to pack up his booth and leave. Under absolutely no circumstances would I allow him to bully his way into the prime spot. If he continued disturbing the peace, I would also remind him that he could either leave peaceably or with the help of local law enforcement — his choice.

Vicki G.
Moline, IL

I would calmly tell Carl that you are sorry he is disappointed, but “As I said before, it is early. People will be coming by as the day progresses. The front space is already reserved and paid for, and the people are on their way.” I might offer a partial refund if at the end of the show, he feels he had no traffic. If he continues to berate you, I would say, “I am sorry, sir, there is nothing I can do.” And walk away.

Karen C.
Delavan, WI

We’ve been to many of these fests and have hosted them as well. We were never guaranteed a particular spot, but as a paid sponsor for many years, we did get great placement. When we hosted, our featured guest — typically a rescue — would get first dibs, and others were free to set up where they chose. These types of scenarios can almost always be avoided by having a clear and concise policy. Whether the space is free or fee-based, have a policy! A great event planner will make sure the flow around an event like this draws people all the way through. Food or interesting demos are great for this. The vendor needs to be a great presence and attract folks to them. I would not hesitate to remove a vendor who threatened the event with the antics described, and I would certainly not invite them back.

Dawn T.
Vero Beach, FL

To alleviate the situation so it doesn’t escalate, ask Carl to calm down. Text the vendor who is running late to see if it is possible, because they are late, that another vendor, who is there, have the spot. Then ask them to “sneak” in the back to set up, so not to disturb the front entrance. See what they say. If the vendor agrees, have them switch, and if not, offer a partial refund and a guaranteed entrance spot next event. Janelle and Erika could have prevented this by having a vendor meeting to confirm the times and locations. If vendors are late, then in the contract state that they would be moved to the back of the festival.

Cathy E.
Des Moines, Indianapolis, Kansas City

It’s pretty obvious the event isn’t the problem; Carl is the problem. If he begged to be in the show and selected his location, then he didn’t know how to manage his own expectations. I would say to Carl that he needs to give the crowd a chance to filter throughout. When people attend an event, they walk the entire site, they will get to his booth. But if by noon he is still uncomfortable with his location, then you will revisit it and see if there is another location that will work better. Hopefully, this will give him a chance to settle down, begin interacting with the crowd and rethink his position. Don’t ignore him, check back every couple hours, knowing that something is bothering him that probably has nothing to do with the event. Use phrases like “we want this to work for you” and “your business is important to us.”

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and you’ll get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

Continue Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

Get the most important news
and business ideas from PETS+.

Instagram

This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

Error: API requests are being delayed for this account. New posts will not be retrieved.

There may be an issue with the Instagram Access Token that you are using. Your server might also be unable to connect to Instagram at this time.

Error: No posts found.

Make sure this account has posts available on instagram.com.

Most Popular