Sunday, 15 August 2010

Congratulations! You've won a holiday!

You've met them, these canvassers. At a show... in the high street...

They work on commission and their sole purpose is to get phone numbers. The owners of these numbers are then harangued into buying time-shares or similar - 'holiday clubs' seem to be the flavour of the month.

The process of getting that all-important phone number has evolved into something quite sophisticated. The target might find that a free holiday has been won by just being there at the right time (what amazing luck!). Marginally more tediously, the target might tear open a coupon to discover - surprise, surprise! - the three symbols line up and they've won a holiday. Whichever, the target gives up their contact details and is then phoned incessantly until they agree to attend a two-hour 'presentation' to receive their prize. At the same 'presentation' they will also be pressurised into buying a time-share or 'holiday club' membership.

The free holiday, by the way, will be next to useless. It's accommodation-only (ie, excludes the cost of flights) and at a place and a time of year that are completely unsuitable. These sales people aren't stupid, you know.

In their single-minded quest for phone numbers - and commission - the canvassers have absolutely no respect for anyone or anything, invading the space of both traders and visitors in an effort to chase down unsuspecting victims. ('Chase' being the operative word - I've seen targets actually being chased down aisles for that all-important phone number!) Of course, many visitors already know the score and see the canvassers on the prowl with their clip-boards. In an attempt to avoid them the visitors speed up and take a wide detour, or perhaps even turn around. Adjacent traders have an altogether miserable time. Ask the canvassers to show a degree of restraint and you'll be met with, at best, blank looks and, at worst, abuse.

Many of the more responsible shows are now recognising the nuisance and distress caused to both traders and the public and are banning time-share/holiday club exhibitors.


Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Oh, that's sooo amusing! (Not.)

You'll recognise the paw-things stand at a show - it's the one with a dog (mannequin) in a life jacket suspended from the roof.

"Aw, mum, look! Can we get a life jacket for Fido?" (There's a thought: when did you last hear of a dog called 'Fido'?)

However, the suspended pooch is also widely commented on by passing humorists (which is almost always the senior male in a group*) to demonstrate their ready wit. Although the witticism - which almost certainly will be one of a limited number of derivations of the same basic comment - is addressed to his party, the humorist will always cast an eye towards me, presumably to assess from my reaction how amazingly witty he's just been.

If I'm feeling chippy (which is generally the case if I've taken a reasonable amount of money, and always the case if the party in question has contributed to it) then I'll respond positively and may even join in with a little easy banter; on a poor day and/or when the party clearly has no intention of buying anything from me I'll just vacantly gaze into the mid-distance and pretend I haven't heard; that way no-one ends up getting hurt.

Of course, each humorist thinks he's the first person to have thought of the line. Be assured he most certainly is not. For the record, here is the line:

"That's the best sort of dog to have -" followed by any one of the following appendages:

"...doesn't cost much to keep",

"...doesn't need feeding",

"...doesn't need walking"

etcetera, etcetera.

Less frequent (and addressed to me although it's for the benefit of the children in tow) but worth recording here is the rather more challenging:

"I'm going to report you to the RSPCA."

I know it's for the kids (who, of course, never understand it), but there's something vaguely uncomfortable about that one; it rarely gets a response.

So, if you want to see me roaring with laughter at a line which I've heard thousands of times before, here's a tip: spend some money first!

I'm a misery, aren't I.

* Sometimes it's subsequently developed upon by one of the kids, straggling behind after their group has wandered on and not understanding the social nuances of such adult/adult adult/child situations. It's often all I can do not to give them a clip to help them on their way.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Gosh, it was cold!

The Beale Park Country Fair last weekend was our first show of the new season - and, boy, was this early-March weekend cold.

Being so early in the year - and being a completely new show - I didn't have great expectations of soaring sales (although we did OK, thanks for asking), rather it was an opportunity to discover all the things temporarily borrowed over the winter from the travelling kit and not returned. (Just scissors, tape measure and packing tape, as it turned out; not bad!)

This show opened at 10.00am each day and closed at 6.00pm. The 10am start is sensible enough but 6pm closing is crazily late; most visitors will have arrived back home and had their tea by that time! The trade stand avenues become like ghost towns; I would hate to be an event in the main ring during those last couple of hours. By that time the 'real' audience has dwindled down to two or three people, perhaps augmented by a gaggle of traders (with little else to do) looking on from a distance.

This is my third season of working around these shows; with each event I make a few more friends - usually the adjacent stand holders. And you never know who'll be next door. From this show my new friends are a hatter (is that different from a milliner?) and a man who breeds birds of prey. Who else have I made friends with? Well, there's a chap who sells health-promoting bangles (hmmm), a lady who sells gorgeous ladies' shirts, a man selling his boat (run your hand over the lacquer -  like velvet), a couple selling bags and aprons, another couple selling the stuff you put in your tyres to stop them deflating (I bought some; it works!), a lady selling mops, a couple selling garlic crushers (I like garlic as much as the next person but, believe me, eight hours a day breathing in garlic fumes is no fun) an elderly gent selling more varieties of home-made liquorice than I knew existed (neither did I realise that liquorice was still so popular - he was doing an amazing amount of business), a group of enthusiasts who spent all day tying fishing flies... as the 'News of the World' used to say - All Human Life Is Here. Occasionally a name sticks, but usually future greetings are of the "Hi, how are you? Where've you been since...?"

At Beale Park I was opposite a couple (selling rabbiting equipment) who last season had bought a doggie backpack from me for Ajax, their little Border terrier cross. I could see why they'd bought it - Ajax's regular load (see the photo at the head of this blog) was a can of lager in each pannier! The training was clearly benefiting little Ajax - leaping a 30 inch fence from a standing start was no problem at all!

If you haven't been before to a country fair, or county show, or boat show, or garden show, or whatever kind of show advertised pop along; you'll be surprised at what you'll find there.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Calm down!

You know that feeling?

You've got something you want to share with the world - but you don't know the right time to share it.

So it is with new products. Most of what I sell just isn't available anywhere else, so when I'm waiting for a delivery it's hard, so hard, to avoid making it available whilst the consignment is still chugging across the oceans towards me.

And so it specifically has been with the consignment of dog Bak-Paks which - after all kinds of problems with the snow last week - finally arrived with me today.

I've had the red-over-black colour combinations previously - the big excitement for me is the brand spanking new black-over-black Bak-Paks, my first consignment of this colour combination.

Unable to restrain myself I made them available towards the end of last week - and kept my fingers crossed that the transport company would finally deliver today. (28 days to travel half way around the world; 10 days to travel 200 miles across the UK!)

They've arrived. Phew!