Sunday, November 16, 2014

Selling at the Oakland City Market Place the FIRST and LAST TIME

Yesterday was certainly a unique experience for me. I decided, since I had nothing better do this weekend, to take advantage of the cold weather and go somewhere and sell some of my scarves and hats. I had staked out a few places around town and since there was no craft fair or art's show in Atlanta this weekend, I decided to set up shop at the Oakland City Market Place.

So the Oakland City Market Place isn't in the best part of town but passing by this place each weekend for many years, I knew that it's a busy place. I found their website a week ago, sent a request for vendor requirements to set up in the lot and after three days I heard nothing. Thursday, I called and the lady over the phone told me Saturday's price is $20 cash for a normal spot or $30 for a spot near an electrical outlet and I bring my own extension cord. I knew I could keep a charge on my phone all day and I needed no electric so the $20 spot was OK. When I asked about licenses or anything like that, she said if I set up more than two days a week, I'd need a license from the city of Atlanta. I printed out tags and information for each of my items. I packed up everything that I knew would be popular in a HUGE Rubbermaid container, pulled my folding table and a folding chair from my garage Friday evening so Saturday morning would consist of Terry and I jumping in the car and heading to the market and setting everything up before 9 am when the market opened. Everything happened as planned. When we got there, he wasn't too impressed with the market place but a selling venue is a selling venue...or at least one would hope.

Right after 9 am the director, the same woman I'd spoken to on Thursday, came by to collect the day's rent. When she looked at my set up, she asked if I had a black men's scarf. I didn't have everything out because when you have 70 scarves and hats set out on a table, it looks a little too confusing and harder to focus in the eyes of a customer so I limited my table to about 35 sets. I pulled out the only black scarf I had which was super long and perfect for a man and she said she loved it. When she asked "How much?" I wanted to give her a deal so I said $12 for you. You'd thought I just slapped her, she proclaimed "THAT'S HIGH" and turned around and walked away. This woman seriously put a bad taste in my mouth but I later realized why she acted as she did which I will explain shortly.

For those of you that don't realize, knitting is not a cheap hobby. In the world of hand crafted items, we not only spend money on the tools we use and materials, we invest our time in creating the items. There are few formulas out there for people that sell their hand made items including multiplying the cost of materials by three or cost of materials plus X times Z in hours of creation. You may also just opt to create a price that you feel is fair and go with it. No matter which you choose, there will be people that with complain that you are devaluing the item by undercharging and an equal amount that will complain that you are overcharging. I've been accused of both. I'm a super fast knitter, my average time on a scarf will range between three hours and a day, depending on the thickness of the yarn. My average price for a hat and scarf set is $25.00 or a regular adult hat for $6 and a child's hat for $4.00. Some other items such as handbags and blankets are substantially more. The cost of a handmade items versus a mass produced item should not take much to understand. Most mass produced "knit" items are made using thin yarn that will not last more than a year or two. Many hand made items produced in the 70's are still being used today. Quality shows in handmade items.

My booth took about 10 minutes to get set up. I watched others around me spend an hour to get two tables of "merchandise" get set up and not wanting to sound mean, most should have just kept their merchandise in their containers and just took most of it to the Goodwill. The man to my left was really nice but his items seemed to be a mixture of mass produced lot of things ranging from knitted solid color hats, like the ones you see in Wal-Mart for $2 during the winter and marked down to 25 cents in February as well cheap earrings and boxer shorts that he claimed were made at a factory in the West End section of Atlanta. One more thing on this man's table pissed me off a great deal but I kept my feelings to myself...CD-R copies in a plastic sleeve with a black and white printed cover of the Motown Christmas CD...Pirated music. The woman next to him was selling used clothing and toys. The booth to the right of me was run by a couple from the islands...not sure which ones though. They were selling toilet paper pulled out of a pack for a dollar a roll, industrial toilet paper like the kind in public restrooms for $5 a roll and various items from closeout grocery stores that were out of date for a buck each. She also had socks priced at 50 cents a pair. The 2 booths in front of me seemed a little more respectable. To the left, a man selling brand new household items like giant containers of Gain detergent, Huggies diapers, giant packs of Scott toilet paper and paper towels as well as air freshener and soap. His items were MUCH less than what I knew as cost and I realized that he procured his items from extreme couponing. The woman to the right had various mass produced items ranging from leggings, t-shirts, throw blankets to legwarmers. Other vendors in the market featured used clothing, socks, incense, body oils, fake cologne marked with names like Hoop! (Joop!) Dolo (Polo) and Dakkar Noir.

Once the customers began to come onto the grounds, it seemed that I was definitely out of place. In a world of cheap, I was sitting there with hand made items with "Gucci" prices. It was obvious when I began to watch the people around me wheel and deal their items. The man to my left offered EVERYONE a special deal for $10, the Christmas CD, a set of earrings and a knitted hat. How was i supposed to compete with that? My hats were priced at $6 and they came by themselves. I began to feel the element of how competition worked and my items were being de-valued based on someone doing what they could just to make a sale. The toilet paper and household items booths had booming business and there I sat, with nothing to do but work on a scarf that I'd began just after the morning started. The lady next to the Pirated Christmas CD man was making some serious cash and I realized that 90% of her stock came from the Goodwill and she wasn't making a secret of it. When people asked her for a bag, they walked away with their items in a recycled Goodwill bag.

I got a few bites, when customers walked up and looked at my items, I explained that every item was handmade by me. I decided to play with the prices and let them make offers on my items. One person asked if I had anything for 50 cents, I politely started I didn't and he promptly pulled out a bag of his own knitted hats and said he sold his for 50 cents a piece. I was shocked and told him that he's devaluing his work as well as the work of others and he shot back with that's how to make money. Obviously, he didn't do any of the work on any of those hats because 50 cents wouldn't have paid for a fraction of the yarn used on the hats. The toilet paper lady mentioned to me that the people at this market are the worst people she's encountered in terms of cheapness and mentioned a few markets I'd have better luck at. My goal was to cover the $20 rent for the day and I'd write it off as a learning experience. Luckily I was able to sell a few items which made the day where it wasn't a total washout. Some of the bargaining tactics people used were baffling. A Hispanic lady walked up to me, told me she loved my scarves and hats and asked how much. When I told her I hand make everything and I usually charge $25 for a set, she said how about $15. She was looking at a set that I'd made two years ago that pretty much no one showed interest in since I made it so I said OK...She then told me that she didn't want the hat and how much without the hat. I told her I sell them as a set but without the hat, I'll knock 2 bucks off bringing it to $13...she told me she only had $10....On the inside I was all like (FUCK OFF) but what I actually said was "I'm sorry but that wouldn't cover the cost of the materials" and she walked away. Throughout the day I got requests that ranged from people wanting knitting lessons to prices on custom items. A few people asked if I would be back next week, I didn't want to be rude and say "No, this place is awful." I simply told them that I will most likely be at a craft show next week. Many people took my business card as well as I took the opportunity to give out my promotional UBER ride cards.

While I was trying to cooperate with people trying to take advantage of me, I noticed the woman across from me wearing a legwarmer around her neck like a scarf and then she put a sign in from of her her legwarmers that read "SCARF $2.00 / 2 for $3.00"...She was selling legwarmers left and right and people were walking around with them on....REALLY??? I could only just sit there and wait for it to get dark and hope for a few more sales. Terry got off work around the same time that everyone started packing up and he arrived about the time that I'd gotten all my items and table packed.

On the way home, I told him how the day went. The lesson I learned was to avoid the Oakland City Market Place if we are looking to unload anything that would cost more than $10. Though I sold a few items well below what I would have liked to have sold them for, I made sure that I didn't lose money I'd invested on the materials. The only reason I'd ever return would be to buy toilet paper, cleaning supplies or electronics that were manufactured between 1978 and 1995.

So here I am again, on a search for the right in person venue for my hand made items.

If YOU are one of those people that appreciates a handmade item check out my online shops.

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