An Ode to Vendors

I’ve been attending Days of Sharing, Cake Shows and the ICES Convention for years. I have shopped until I dropped. I have, at rare times, purchased nothing. I try to make a point of thanking the event organizers for all they do. I even try to thank volunteers. The group that I never fully appreciated until I became one, is the vendors. I am certain that I never thanked them for being there.

There is an old adage that you should never judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. I started to get a slight peek into the world after convention one year when I helped Nick Lodge and Scott Ewing load their van afterwards. There was a never ending line of vendors carrying boxes and displays and Lord knows what else out to their respective vehicles. That was when I started to pay attention.

I watched as Diego from Fiesta Cake lugged in several boxes and suitcases of goodies in CT. He was given a dolly with a nearly flat tire, but he persevered. I watch Susan Carberry weigh and reweigh her luggage to figure out what she could bring for sale. I watched Ximena from Cakes by Ximena spend hours setting up her products and all of her display pieces. I’ve watched Edward Frys from The Sugar Art come in and be pleasant and helpful to customers even though he drove all night to get to the event.

I never really thought about what it took to be a vendor. I remember a story that Scott Ewing told me once….a customer came up, pointed at an item, and said that she could get it cheaper online. She wanted Scott to lower his price. He said, I had to package and label this product, pack it, get it here, unpack it, display it and now you want me to sell it for less than I have it marked? What a huge point Scott made. The vendor is giving you the convenience of getting your item right then and there. That is worth something. It is unfair to make the vendor feel bad about what they have to charge. Remember, they didn’t have to just pay for the product. They also pay for the overhead at home and the cost of the booth there. They pay for the bag, the label, the shopping bag, the labor to price it/pack it/ unpack it. They may have paid shipping charges to receive it. They certainly had to pay to drive it or mail it to the event.

Think of it like your cake orders. Your customers rarely appreciate all the things that go into the cake on their table. Likewise, we shoppers don’t appreciate what the vendors do for us. I’ve now spent a little time walking in the shoes of a vendor and have so much appreciation for those who do it well. Beautiful booths take hard work and money. Ximena, Nick and Diane Simmons at Cake Connection always seem to go all out. It takes a day just to pack for shows sometimes…maybe even longer.

I have now taken over much of my house when it is time to pack. I spend days putting cutters and veiners into bags, making labels, filling them out and then trying to pack in an organized fashion. I’ve learned to pay for extra baggage fees and to gear up for long drives. I’ve accepted that I don’t get to shop at other booths or visit with friends as much as I used to…I need to be at the booth. So why on earth would I do this? Because my class prices are lower and my enrollment is often lower, so I may not break even if I don’t sell products.

So, since my eyes have been opened to the gifts from the vendors, I want to say Thank You. Thanks for being there when I really needed that tool, fondant or cutter. Thank you for all your hard work before, during and after the event. Thank you for supporting my addiction to sugar art and for always bringing out the latest products to inspire us. Thank you for all the free demonstrations on how to use the products. Thank you for your giveaways, for your newsletters and for your sponsorship of the events. I am grateful.

On a final note, to those of you who have shopped from me over the last year, thank you! You help me get to the locations to offer my classes, which is my true dream.



10 thoughts on “An Ode to Vendors

  1. Ruth ~ Thank you for being you, for your wonderful blogs, for your teachings, and your wonderful supplies! You are, in my book, up there with the best of them!

  2. What a great blog! You have definitely hit the nail on the head with this one. I always, at least try, to thank everyone that I come in contact with at a show and that includes the vendors. Without the vendors we wouldn’t be able to do what we LOVE to do! Thank You!!!

  3. Thank you for that Ruth, as a vendor myself I can only agree with all that you’ve written. We are currently packing the stock we have made to take to the Manchester Cake International show this weekend. We are up till 3 a.m. most nights, grab a few hours sleep and then on our feet all the next day and so it’s been for the last week. I suppose it’s a bit harder for us as we make everything that we sell and don’t buy in stock to resell. When we get to the show on Thursday after a 3 1/2 hour drive it will be many hours setting up the stand for the 3 of us. During the 3 days of the show we rarely get to the chance to leave the stand to visit the loo so it’s just as well we don’t have the time to grab a bite to eat or a drink!

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not complaining and I expect the show will be worthwhile for us financially, but the visitors sometimes don’t appreciate just how much hard work, time and money we have to invest in making an appearance. I think also they don’t appreciate that without the vendors’ fees for their trade stands and the attraction of their products to tempt visitors in there probably wouldn’t be a show at all. I do love doing the shows in spite of all the hard work, it gives me a chance to talk to our customers, some of whom are now good friends, network with the other traders, showcase new products and make new contacts. Manchester has the added attraction of being the city where Mike and I met and went to university, and we shall be seeing our son number 3, Sam who is also studying there and will be helping us on Saturday.

    Right then, back to the packing, only about 1500 moulds left now, the end is in sight!

    • Your note shows exactly what I took for granted for years. The majority of the vendors are small, family owned businesses and need the income from the sales. I am glad my eyes are open and I want to help others appreciate the vendors!

  4. Thank you Ruth for your wonderful Blog. I just came away from a weekend of being a vendor, and everything you have written is so true.
    I must say that I had the best volunteers this weekend to help me set up ( in the pouring rain storm), help me with class registrations, with sales, with the cupcake decorating area and then the take down whichwas like a nightmare with all vendors wanting to exit the doors with their wares first.
    I am proud and able to say yes, I did thank my helpers over and over again, as I just could not believe how helpful and wonderful they were. They made my weekend a huge success.
    My booth was one of the most visited and I am sure this was due to customers being able to decorate a cupcake for free while they visited and shopped at my booth. This was to promote my cake classes and to demonstrate what they could learn in just a few minutes of instruction. The smiles of accomplishment on their faces after decorating their cupcakes, made it all worthwhile being there. It was a blast (exhausting though) and I will be doing it all over again next year.

  5. I would like to think that most people who have set up a garage sale, a school fund raiser, a bake sale, etc. would realize just how much is involved in setting up a vendor booth. Just adding the stress of long distance travel to it is enough to make my head spin around backwards. A funny story to tack on here is that I never appreciated packaging before I began making cakes. Now, after buying so many boxes, boards, inserts, drums, etc. etc. I never throw away/recycle a cute bag from a consignment shop or boutique (or even a pizza box!) without thinking of how much extra it cost them to make my purchase look extra special for me. Like you said, you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand what goes on behind the scenes. This was a good article, Ruth… thanks for opening everyone’s eyes to the plight of the weary salesmen and women!

  6. I’ve thought many times that I was glad I didn’t have to do all the packing and unpacking, etc. I’ve done many DOS or Weekends of Sharing or cake shows where my car was packed to the gills. Last time I decided I just couldn’t do it any more with my breathing problems getting worse. However, I’m still in the midst when I can be! We all do what we love!

  7. Oh, I can so relate. In addition to making celebration cakes, I have a home based bakery business that sells two days a week (Thurs afternoon and Saturday morning/early afternoon) at a farmers market plus various craft fairs and food/wine expos. You can imagine how busy Fridays can be in the kitchen! Make everything I sell from scratch, put it in packaging and then into boxes/totes for transport, load all the product PLUS everything else I need for my booth display into my truck, drive to the venue, unload and schlep everything to my spot, set up, then spend hours or even days selling my wares. Then when it’s over it’s break it down, pack it up, load it again, schlep it all home, unload again and get stuff put away. Then start the process all over again, many times that very afternoon or night. Tomorrow I have a craft fair, Sunday afternoon I have a wedding cake consult, then have a huge three day event next weekend. Yes, I do it because I love to bake and make people happy with my products. What burns my butt? The people who have read an article somewhere about shopping at farmers markets, telling them to wait until the end of the market to shop so they can try talking a vendor down on price so the vendor “doesn’t have to take it home.” I refuse to encourage this practice by marking down at the end of the day – before long I know I would see more and more customers trying to take advantage of this. People who comment they can get something cheaper at the grocery store, I have lost my hesitancy to tell them I worked in a grocery store bakery years ago and was very disillusioned by the lack of actual scratch made production. You want good, fresh, from scratch baked goods? Then there is a cost. You want cheap, baked from frozen or even thawed from frozen and stuck on the shelf, then go to the grocery store.

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