It occurs to me that I have been doing....whatever it is I have been doing for quite a while now. I won't say I'm just a Rennie, or just a salesman. I am, I guess some kind of strange hybrid. I'm okay with that. More people than you think fall outside the traditional job definition box. The point being I can look back now on a number of years at working at assorted Ren Faires, Sci-Fi conventions, fetish shows, celtic doo-dah's, SCA shindigs and what have you.
I have done the job because its been a pretty fun job as jobs go. I'd never deny that. But with the passage of time comes the inevitable bullshit that comes to pollute whatever it is that one does for fun and/or profit. They aren't huge things. Well sometimes they are. But mostly they are a thousand paper cuts that slowly bleed away your joy and enthusiasm. Maybe two years ago, while unloading the van after some mediocre show or other in the blistering sun I looked at my wife and asked "Have we reached the 'fuck it" stage yet?".
She looked at me for a moment, thinking. Then she looked around at the tubs of stock, the mannequins, the tents, tables, rolls of fabric and dozens of boxed of heavy crap that is required for us to do what we do and sighed. "No, not yet.".
And thus was born both a quirky ritual and an honest gauge of things. Time is ever fleeting. Someday I know I'll likely give up what I do for one reason or other. There is no set date for this. It might be thirty years from now, or it might be tomorrow. Until recently, that second possibility had never even entered my mind. But it has. I'm just being realistic here.
But I didn't think I'd reach an actual "fuck it" stage. Not for a while at least. But I did last weekend. We arrived at Michigan Ren and set up. As always, people come, people go. It's the nature of the business. But right off the bat I could feel things had changed, and not for the better. For instance, the bakery across from out booth was empty.
It turns out the festival, smelling money, jacked up the rent astronomically and demanded a hefty share of their profits. The bakery pulled out, leaving the space empty, until this weekend when the festival brought in a cooler and started selling about 60% of what bakery used to. The festival has a right to do this. It's their show. But really? These guys had been there forever. They were friendly and they actually baked things there.
I haven't bought anything from the 'new' bakery. No small feat considering my sweet tooth. But the move seemed just dickish.
Fiona's Fineries moved into a shop not far away. They now carry corsets. Of course. I was told for years that I couldn't expand beyond 1 shirt and 1 skirt design because the show "had too many clothing shops". Over the past five years four other clothing shops started carrying corsets of varying quality. I complained. I got blown off.
The festival opened a new area in the back of the festival. It's been given several unflattering nicknames. Here, local "artists" bring in modern pop up tents and with 1 or 2 exceptions sell pretty much whatever crap they want. It looks pretty low rent over there.
I wandered around, getting angrier and angrier. I followed the rules. I did what they asked and played fair. What did I get for that? Nothing. Last year when I showed the craft coordinator our new feather bras (after carefully submitting written updates to our list of approved sellable items) she nodded and said "they look great, of course next year five or six people will be selling 'em here." What the fuck? The reason you HAVE craft directors is to make sure Ren Faires don't turn into crap filled flea markets or have gluts in one thing or another. I'm not going to drop multiple thousands of dollars of a booth for my product if there are going to be 5 other people selling the same thing.
But this year, the craft coordinator has retired and I realized the festival seems keen only to fill empty booths. And then I felt a kind of snap in the middle of my chest. And suddenly I felt lighter. Free. I realized that I had ACTUALLY reached the "fuck it" stage. Michigan Ren didn't care about the quality of the food being served to their customers, they just wanted all the bakery's action. No one was looking out to make sure crap wasn't flowing in. No one was trying to keep any kind of balance. And if they didn't give a fuck, why should I?
So last weekend I brought more shirts to the show, more skirts. I pulled out the scarves I personally brought back from Istanbul. I pulled out some dresses I only carry at conventions. Hell I brought out my own steampunk goggles. We're in the middle on the worse economy since the depression and here I am tying my own arm behind my back. Fuck that.
Maybe someone will come in and start getting a grip on all this. I'd be happy with that. Maybe they won't. It doesn't really matter to me anymore. And that feeling is actually quite liberating. Rather than agonizing over things I cannot change I can focus on just doing my job, which is separating you from large sums of money in exchange for things that give you great joy.
The Fuck It stage feel pretty good at the moment.
Monday, August 30, 2010
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So where you successful with your "contraband" merchandise? I hope so - you have some great stuff (and my son wants much of it)
You sir, are an honest idealist. In a perfect world that would be commendable. Alas that this is not so.
Free market natural selection favors the thinking and morality of the creature from the movie Aliens.
- Insert appropriate moral of the story here -
I'd work on selling the booth at Michican, starting now. Keep your sales up through what you described, and put as positive a face on it as you can. Don't sell for a loss, and maybe work to reverse the situation with the other vendors. I always thought that a guild of RennFair Merchants would be a good idea.
But if the owners of the fair have stopped paying attention to the quality of the experience for the patron and participatron's, attendence will drop, sales will drop and the fair will either close or they will start associating the experience with the bottom line, and change things. Most people never learn the lesson of long term gain.
So sad to hear, I liked that fair.
Are you seeing similar things at your other fair's?
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