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

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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.”

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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.”

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“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?”

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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.”

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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.

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