There are things that every convention attendee should consider or keep in mind when you go to conventions and browse through vendors. You’re going to find some decent items, but you can also find exquisite brilliantly crafted items, and even cheap poor quality things too. You’re going to see decent prices and then expensive prices, perhaps even some things over priced. No matter what you find, the biggest thing you need is respect. Whether it’s well-crafted or whether you think it’s cheap and crappy, you’ll find that vendors typically put a lot of work and love into what they do. You may not fully understand what really goes into handcrafting or making the things you see on the tables. Some vendors do this for a living, which means they have to make a profit. So, no matter what you see on a vending table, don’t call it “junk”, “crappy”, “ugly” or spend time at the table telling them their stuff is over priced and how you could do it better. Don’t toss merchandise around because you don’t like the price. After all, you buy what you break.
With that in mind, if you are respectful and appreciative of the work that goes into the craft, you may find that people are happy to tell you how to do it yourself. In our Steampunk community, we like to share. We want to see what you can do. We like the ability to bounce ideas off each other and teach each other. If you don’t have the time and energy to make your own, you can buy what’s on the table or commission a piece. That’s right! You’ll find that most (if not all) crafters will take commissions. If you don’t see what you want on the table, or wished it was another color, or wanted a Bunny instead of a Jackalope, just ask and be sure to take a business card.
Another thing you may not have realized is that a lot of vendors will haggle… unless you’re being rude or insulting about the merchandise or pricing. If you are respectful but can’t do the price, offer a better price. Especially if you are going to buy more than one thing, you might get a discount. Some vendors like to haggle. Besides, it’s sometimes (not always) better to sell something at a discount than not sell it at all! Please keep in mind that there is a limit to discounts. There is a hard cost for making items, and you have to make more than that cost in order to make a profit. A vendor has to make a living.
Something we like to do when we are browsing vendors, is to only look on Friday so we can get a good look at everything and really think about what we want to buy. Then we usually go on the buying spree on Saturday. However, there is an exception. There are lots of people who don’t want until Saturday, so there is always an equal chance that it won’t be there tomorrow. So, if we find something truly awesome or one of kind (there is usually a lot of unique items around), we snatch it up before it’s gone. Don’t be afraid to browse everything before buying, but don’t pass up something you really love! Don’t skip the tables on Sunday either, because anything that’s left will be easier to barter for.
Some vendors, like ourselves, will hold an item for someone so that no one buys it while they are going to get money or find their spouse or parent. However, don’t expect vendors to hold items for the whole day. Most vendors will assume you aren’t coming back if you are gone more than an hour. So, if you ask someone to hold something, make sure to come back within the hour or let them know you’ve changed your mind.
Most vendors will post “Do Not Touch” signs, but if you are seriously considering buying, most vendors are happy to let you pick it up for a closer inspection. If you know you won’t be buying, it’s better not to touch the merchandise. Also, out courtesy for the vendors and potential buyers, don’t block the table for long periods of time.
Another thing to mind is children. Please remember that if your children break or damage something, you’re expected to pay for damages. While most vendors will not allow kids to touch merchandise without parental supervision, that doesn’t stop kids from just picking up stuff when the vendor isn’t looking. Always talk to your children about not touching without asking first, to help minimize accidents. If the kids ask first, a vendor can supervise the handling.
In general, it’s really all about respect and handling with care.