Q: While on vacation, I recently scouted out one of the galleries selling my work. Yes, I was being nosy, but what I found was appalling. When I asked about my work (as a customer interested in buying the piece) the gentleman working—not the owner—told me a great story…but it wasn’t my story! How do I approach the owner about this? I’ve sent along plenty of information to accompany the pieces. I’m really disheartened.
A: First, I need to say craftspeople must be mindful of the treacherous times manufacturers and retailers are faced with today and we all need to be smart and careful. This isn’t a good time to burn any bridges. That said, it still might be wise to build a fire under this shop owner. He/she needs to be made aware of the results of inadequately training the shop’s staff. Most sales of handmade items are made by knowledgeable people who can clearly state the motivations of the maker and the features and benefits to be gained from purchasing a handmade item. Get on the phone and tell your story, explain you found the interaction totally inappropriate and listen for a solution from the owner. Be sure to talk about sales that both of you lose when the staff doesn’t know the products they are representing. Your contribution to the solution could be to send information about your work and your process directly to each employee. You might also offer to talk to them on the phone one by one. If after clearly stating your concerns you are not happy with the response you get, it may be necessary to find another venue for your work in that area. The bottom line is that you must always stand by your brand and do whatever is necessary to protect it.