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  • catherine stemper

The Cost of Convenience

I had another booth blow over this weekend. That makes three this year. I have been a vendor for 29 years, outdoors almost every weekend. I have never had this many booths blow over in one year. I am experiencing a learning curve for my new venue. Weather can never be overestimated.


I am pretty discouraged, booths are expensive, two were destroyed, one was repaired. I lost two selling days, losses that are hard to quantify, yet losses just the same. I am trying to balance these losses with the success I have had generally this year. My business life is very unpredictable. In 29 years, I have learned to take the ups and downs in stride, mostly. My husband marvels at my ability to persevere. Sometimes I have wondered if I am strong or stupid.


I try to stay on the strong side. Life, like design, needs review now and then. I let myself have time to reflect, not judge, not decide, not act. Another rule in design is "The first solution is not always the best." Time is needed to consider, take in other opinions, let experience reveal answers or problems.


When I first started vending, I bought a pole booth that takes about 20 minutes to set up. Pop up booths had just started coming on the market. They were more expensive than my pole style booth, but much easier to set up, about 5 minutes. I was young, and able, and a penny pincher, so I chose the pole booth. Plus, I could see that the pole booth was very strong, easily maintained and repaired, could even adapt to different sizes and heights by using different poles, which were readily available at any hardware store. Pop up booths were fragile and not easily repaired, and one size not be changed. However, many vendors use the pop up style booth, in fact they are considered the standard, and required at some venues. My pole booth has gotten me through any weather but not into shows. One jury panelist told me my booth looked like a garage sale. I was alarmed, offended, and didn't believe her at first. But it was my booth and not my product that was keeping me out of the best shows.


So what has time and experience taught me? That I am still learning, and good design isn't always popular. My priority may not be your priority. I like a booth that can be repaired because nature will destroy it. She likes the pop up booth that sets up fast because she sets it up every weekend. The shows like pop up booths because they all look the same. Why can't I have a booth that is easy to set up and repair and that show promoters like? It seems to me that greed has entered the picture. The guy who is selling the booth that sets up fast but breaks in a windstorm is making a lot of money on convenience. I paid less for my pole booth than any pop up and it has lasted me for 29 years, with an occasional pole being replaced. I have bought 3 pop up booths, 2 destroyed, in one year. The pole booth I have is not made anymore. So which is the best? In my mind it is the booth that can be repaired, yet in everyone else's mind, it seems to be the one that sets up fast. How expensive is convenience? In my ledger it is at least $1000.


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