At the start of the week I work in my garden and I also try and fit in some writing. I usually teach on Wednesdays and then I cram all my preserving into Thursday and Friday. On Saturday I go to The Milk Market in Limerick and sell my wares. I think that going to the market and interacting with so many people was the only thing that kept me sane whilst my kids were very young and my weekday life revolved around toilet training, alphabets and Barney the Dinosaur.
I still like going to the market on Saturday after all these years. I love the smells of the coffee, olives and spices. I love the rainbow colours of the flower stalls. I love the sweet yeastiness of cinnamon rolls or the vinegariness of our sneaky bags of hot steaming breakfast chips. I love both the rough and smooth textures of the handcrafts and I love the sounds of the market -people chatting and laughing , buskers on whistles or accordions vying for attention and the static from the odd radio, on surreptitiously so someone can keep tuned into a match.
I’m getting older however and I’m starting to creak a little on the cold mornings. I’m also getting a bit crankier and crone-like and so much less tolerant.
Here’s a little list of things that can get on your nerves as a trader at a market. They are little things and are just thoughtless and not intentional, but they accumulate and some days I ‘m pretty worn out after the market. ( Though sometimes we just laugh at some of them in disbelief). I’ve also been guilty of doing most of these but I do try and monitor myself.
This doesn’t just apply to markets but anywhere people sell stuff they made or grew themselves. I’ve been having a chat with my planty, arty and crafty friends and they have similar issues .
1 Don’t exclaim at the price and then discuss at the top of your lungs how you can get it for so much cheaper at LiDL or Tesco.
No you cant buy the same product in a Multinational store. Its not handmade and local like this is. If you must discuss it please move away and stop putting off potential customers.
2 Don’t bring big cash notes to the market.
I know, I know, it seems such a little thing but traders bring a limited size float of change and some days it seems we all spend our time chasing change. If you do only have big notes,( I know the banks seem to only give out 50 euros here ), try not to take all of someones change for a small item. ie handing over a 50 euro for a 50 cent item.
3 Don’t stand in front of a stall and discuss with your friends how easily you could make their products yourself.
Move on Lady. Sure you can make it, but the person standing next to you who was about to buy it may now feel they should attempt making it and that trader has just lost a sale. Then that potential customer will feel like a failure when they can’t make it so you’ve ruined two peoples days.
4 Don’t say how your mothers Cake /jam /craft was so much better than the one for sale.
If you do say it, back it up with evidence, for example” My mothers crabapple jelly was better because she always added cloves.”. I’m happy to get constructive advice ,in fact one of our best jelly recipes. Blackcurrant and Mint came from a French customer. If you aren’t being constructive you are just being rude.
I had one lady -not even one of my customers bring her marmalade into the market to show me how much neater her orange peel was cut than mine. Why?
5 Do not stand blocking someones stall chatting to your friends, drinking coffee, listening to music.
This is very inconsiderate. The stallholder has a limited time, maybe only 4 hours, in which to make what may be their entire weeks income and you are stopping them from being able to do so. I had a local politician stand in front of my stall for 2 hours handing out leaflets and chatting one saturday, I was young and didn’t have the nerve to whoosh her on -I would now. Needless to say she’ll never get my vote.
6 Do not try and haggle.
We aren’t in a Souk in Morocco.The prices do not have built in haggleroom. They are a fair price and what the market will bear (otherwise the seller would go out of business) Haggling makes the trader uncomfortable and you look cheap.
7 Do not stand in front of a stall and eat your own weight of samples (or let your kids)
Samples are what they say. Samples -so you can try the product and see do you like it, not something you can fill yourself up for free. They cost the trader money!
A few years ago , I was at ” Bloom” in Dublin (the food and plant festival) demonstrating for a national gardening organisation. When I said to the rest of the group I was going off to buy lunch they replied why not go and fill yourself up on samples in the food tent. They’d been doing this all day with no intention of buying anything . They figured the samples were lovely free gifts from the traders and weren’t they nice. Doh!
8 Don’t be rude.
Apparently being at a market gives some people a licence to be rude. Sometimes they think they are being funny and sometimes they are just mean. I’ve been hassled for having an American accent, told to go home to the US, told I’m a bad parent for having my kids at work with me and told that I’m a bad business woman by someone who wanted a sample from my last unopened jar of jam. This doesn’t happen often but it kind of messes up your whole day when it does. I’m not rude to people and I’m kind of shocked when people are gratuitously rude to me.
9 Do not pass the buck. Take some responsibility for your own actions.
I know when you drop something in a supermarket they don’t expect you to pay for it (although I always offer). That’s okay for big business but for small businesses, if you break it, you buy it.
If you buy a hot dog then drop it on the ground do not expect a free replacement. This happened recently to a friend who would have actually replaced the hot dog but the customer got all rude .
The trader may in fact replace a dropped item, or not expect you to pay for an item you broke, but don’t expect it.
Do not take something home, for example cheese, let it go fester for a bit and go mouldy, then bring it back and say you didn’t like it. What!!
Do not buy a plant, let it die in the pot from neglect then bring it back and complain. This does actually happen quite often.
Do not buy a cake, carry it around the market in a shopping bag, find a hole in the bag and in the cake (presumably a dog ate it as you walked around ) and then take this cake back to the trader to complain.
10 Do not explain to the seller how poorly they are running their business and this is how they could make it better.
I’ve had strangers expound at length to me on how I should be running my business. Literally- they just come up and start explaining how I’m doing it wrong. Its not just me – I’ve seen or overheard them doing it to lots of the traders- well the traders who are tolerant enough to listen.
Please go away. No one wants you to explain to them how their life’s work is all wrong and how they are foolish to continue.
There- I think I’ve bitched enough for one day. I will admit again I’ve done lots of the above items, but like I said, I try and stop myself when I find myself holding forth etc. And really -I do Like my job.
I’ll write one for 10 things not to do at a farmers market for traders next, I think.
One more point.
When you buy from a small business what you pay them literally pays for their living expenses that week. That is their salary. Its the difference between steak or beans for dinner, pays for everything from school trips for the kids , trips to the vet to new tyres for the car. People often don’t seem to make the connection but do keep that in mind next time you are at a market.