Venting About Bad Market Managers

I am sick and tired of market managers that use vendors just to line their own pockets and make them look good.  What about you?

As vendors, making our display and inventory look great takes a lot of time, effort and money. We do our best to honor the commitments that we make to all market managers, but market managers need to honor their commitments to us as well.

When selling at a market, you enter into an agreement with the market usually through a representative of the market who has the role of market manager. As with any agreement, it must be mutually beneficial. The market should be able to achieve its goals and the vendor should be able to achieve their goals (like making money).

Here are some examples of the types of market managers that I try to avoid.

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Desperate Managers

Recently we traveled out-of-state to a market that is supposed to apply standards in their vendor selection. This particular market is one that is a franchise of a very well-known market circuit. They curate their vendors and do not allow duplicates of specialized categories.

In this particular case, the market managers seemed to accept anyone that applied. There were multiple duplicate category vendors and a large number of the vendors were not anywhere close to ready to participate in a market of this magnitude.

It was very clear to all the vendors that the market manager was simply trying to fill space and ignoring the standards that they had set. It reeked of desperation on the manager’s part.

In this circumstance and the money spent in vendor fees, I would have rather seen a high quality market with fewer vendors than just trying to fill space. Following the the standards that they set would have built a reputation for having a high-quality market. Instead of having a single bad show, this manager will have long-term consequences that will take a lot more time to overcome.

Political Bully Managers

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Here in Houston there is a market manager that runs a market twice a year for a charity event. We love the charity and it is usually an exceptional market with lots of people and we do very well. However, she loves to be political on her social media and her rhetoric is sometimes vulgar, hateful and violent.

She is known for “having a long memory” if someone does or says something that she doesn’t agree with or like. She fails to realize that this is our livelihood and we do not want our products or brands to be associated with hate speech and political extremism.

The unfortunate part is that I personally agree with many of the things she says, but will not tolerate hate or violence from any political spectrum. She may read this and ban me from her markets. However, she has already been banned from my application.

Self-Aggrandizing Party Managers

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These types of managers usually call themselves Event Planners. They are far more interested in having an event of some type and see vendors as a revenue opportunity. They essentially use vendor fees to fund their event. They are notorious for over-charging for vendor space simply so they can make money.

Locally there is a guy who periodically leases space for a weekend. This space costs him a few hundred dollars. He turns around to get vendors to pay $300+ for a 10×10 booth for a single evening event. The money he gets from vendors is used to pay for his event – usually a car or motorcycle show. It’s nothing more than a big party.

This type of manager is far too common but luckily they usually don’t last. They don’t understand that the money vendors spend to sell at your event is an agreement for mutual benefit. We are not here solely to pay for your party.

“Make Me Look Good” Managers

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Photo by bruce mars on

Often we get invited to participate in events because, well, we have a totally kick-butt display. I have put a lot of time and effort into building this display to make it look consistent with our brand and draw attention from shoppers. It takes a lot of effort to assemble and tear down.

When people come up to us and say “Your display would be awesome at my event”, I just want to walk away. I am not here to make you look good or enter into a one-sided agreement. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to make you look good, but there must be benefit for us as well.

It remind me of these “social media influencers” who want something for free with minimal returns.

What I want to say to this is “based on the information you just gave me, it seems that this is an event for you and you want me to be a decoration for your event. If this is what you want, I can rent my booth to you and I will provide all the transportation, setup and tear down.”

However, I think my standard response to these statements is going to become “You sound like Elle Darby!” Look her up. She is the “social media sensation” that asked for a free hotel stay so she could gain followers. The hotel’s response was epic. So was the bill the hotel sent her for all the publicity she gained.

Unfortunately, this type of manager is almost always associated with a fund-raiser for a charitable cause. They are difficult to turn down because it is a charitable cause. Yes, we are charitable people, but in order to be able to give something, we have to be able to make something first.

Sabotage Managers

This is a new one for me. I could not even believe the stupidity when this happened to us late last year. It may seem minor to many people, but I can’t believe that a manager would be so clueless to think that this would not be a problem.

There is a show in Austin that is held once a year. This is supposedly one of the hardest shows to get into and it is heavily curated. We were honored when our application was accepted. The big reason that we got in isn’t because we are better than other applicants, but because we are different from most and have established ourselves in a niche market.

When we got there, we had an outside space in their parking lot. The issue was that their layout was so poor that it put the entrance of our booth up against a curb. Yes, a curb. Instead of having the back of the booth against the curb, they had the front of our booth against it with another vendor behind us.

This seemingly small curb that people step over all the time creates a physical obstacle. Any physical obstacle is all a shopper needs to not shop. Unless the shopper is really compelled to enter your booth, they are not going to walk along a sidewalk, cross the grass and step off a curb to get to your booth. Not only that, but it creates a trip hazard.

What really got me though is that the next day they wanted the rows of booths to move away from the curb to make it ADA compliant. There was no mention of making it easier for shoppers or any regard to the inconvenience for the vendors who paid the hundreds of dollars each to be there. We complied. We moved, but we moved out.

Just because a market is “elite”, “exclusive”, “hard to get into” or “best market of the season” doesn’t mean that the people who run it aren’t clueless to the needs of the vendors.

My Message to Managers

Market managers want to think that we need them more than they need us. They can always find vendors. They are right. Finding a vendor is easy. However, finding great vendors is hard. Anything a manager does that makes a vendor’s life more difficult than it already is will result in the manager and the market being banned by the vendor. You may talk about banning vendors, but don’t forget that it works the other way too.

Good Managers

Don’t get me wrong. Most of the market managers out there I really like and respect. Here are a couple of examples.

There is a manager here in Houston that does monthly shows. His events can be difficult to get into and his rules are very specific. However, his rules help things run more smoothly.

One morning as we were setting up he was walking by and said “you aren’t following the rules!” My defenses immediately alerted as I continued to set up. However, I realized that we were not following the rules but instead doing things our way to make things easier for us. Our way only extended our unload time by a couple of minutes, but he was right. Every extra minute we take delays someone else by a minute or more.

He may be a strict manager, but he is consistently strict and this allows him to run a great market.

Another manager that I really like is one that I recently met. Last fall, she put together a show in a bad outdoor venue. The venue was not conducive to a market of this type. On top of that, it rained. And then it rained some more. The market was a total failure and I don’t think many people made any money.

The reason I like her and would do another market with her is because she tried. She did everything that she was supposed to do and then some. Her big mistake was the choice of venue. Unlike the other manager types described above, mistakes can be fixed. Stupidity, arrogance and greed can’t. She was none of these and really did what she could to try to make a bad situation better. It didn’t work, but she tried.

Brady and Chef Roy
Roy is one of my favorite market managers of all time!

Most managers that I have met are good managers. They do everything they can to make sure that vendors have everything they need. They are friendly, responsive and personable. They listen and respond to criticism. They don’t threaten or think they are doing everything right all the time. They are always looking for ways to improve the market as well as their relationships with vendors.

A good manager-vendor relationship is based on mutual benefit. A great manager-vendor relationship not only has mutual benefit, but also respect for all parties involved.

I look forward to seeing more great managers at market!


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