Friday, January 31, 2014

More Flea Market Follies

Oh my goodness, I feel like I have walked back into middle school with the drama that has been happening in the past couple weeks.

So where did we leave off????  We were doing well.  Having a hard time getting product from the manufacturer since Christmas and our biggest worry was do we have enough product to last the whole weekend???

Then two weekends ago a woman about 10 booths up from us on Aisle C decided to get her hands on our product and start selling it in the market.  She had the same price point as us and has about 5 different flavors.  She already had a table where she was selling scarves and candles.  She moved the scarves to the middle and started selling beef jerky.  It was a strange sight to see scarves and beef jerky on the same table but it was more shocking to see how many other vendors came up to us "excited" to tell us that she was selling the exact same product as us.  We have an exclusive agreement with the manufacturer to not sell product to any person in about a 50 mile radius of us.  But they can't do anything to keep other people from getting their hands on the product and selling it in the same place as us.  So now we have competition.  We didn't see any drop in our sales on that aisle even though she was there, which was interesting.  We think she sold a few but can't be sure exactly how much she sold.  Later in the weekend we found out that she had moved the scarves off the table completely and was using the table completely for jerky.  Then on Sunday of that weekend she brought in a second table and made the table twice as wide in her space to display her jerky.  Again, while we were angry that someone would come in and sell the same product there wasn't much we could do.  We contacted the manufacturer on Monday and let our rep know that someone else was selling the jerky in our area and he basically told us that he would talk to the other distributor in the Orlando area who knew people in our market and we had heard that was where she got it from, but other than that there wasn't much he could do.  Fine.  So now we have competition.

Last weekend she continued to sell but again there wasn't much change in our numbers so she wasn't affecting us much.  We have already established a clientele and they were still buying from us.  Also last weekend we bought a new booth.  It is on the produce aisle. This is a highly sought after aisle and it is the only aisle that they sell produce.  Everyone goes there to get their produce so you get a highly visible spot for the locals and regulars to the market.  Many people shop on produce and don't go to any other aisle. We rocked on that aisle, however, the market management decided that we can't sell eggs without a license from the Florida Dept of Agriculture.  However, when we contacted the FDA they said that we didn't need a license from them and that our vendor's license was enough.  The market didn't believe us and they asked us not to sell the eggs until we had documentation or a license.  So we shut down eggs completely.  It was becoming too hard anyway with having to keep them cool and we weren't selling enough each weekend to warrant much more effort on our part.

Then today we find out that a booth just two booths away (we are supposed to have a 5 booth buffer) is selling the exact same jerky as us.  They also sell honeys, jams, and salsas.  They do a nice business with their honeys, etc.  So why they want to sell jerky, I don't know.  But I went over to "check things out".  I go up and the guy asks if he can help me.  I say I am looking for a strawberry jam and I was also interested in his jerky.  His wife pops around from the back of the booth, recognizes me and immediately goes up to her husband close up and tells him something.  I know she is telling him that I am the lady with the jerky on the other booth.  Good he needs to know.  Yes, I am going to confront him.  I am also going to be nice and I also want to get rid of all the extra eggs we have that we can't sell any longer.  So I ask his wife "how did you like the eggs you bought from us last week?" Nervously, she answers, "they were good." So I tell her, "I am glad.  We have a bunch of extra eggs and I would like go give you a dozen eggs completely for free. No strings attached. I ask for nothing in return." I tell her to come see me on aisle A later and I will give them to her.  Her husband then says, "you are the one with the jerky, right?"  "Yes I am." He then goes on to say, with a guilty tone in his voice. "please know that us bringing jerky to our booth was already in the making before you came on our aisle.  We were already in the process of getting it and we don't want you to think that we were trying to be vindictive in any way towards you all."  :?  yeah right.  But I say, "I am sure you weren't.  We moved to this aisle just last week and I am sure we cause quite a stir around here.  We are just a family trying to make a living here at the market.  This is our only income and our only job.  There is enough business in this market for everyone."  We go on to talk about strawberry jam and I tell him that I usually make ours but we are living in a trailer right now and I have 6 inches of space and not enough room to do any kind of canning or I would make my own (total truth). We talk a few more minutes about that and he comes back to the jerky.  He says that the other jerky guy in the market got it for him and that he really wanted us to know that it was not vindictive at all.  I tell him that I am sure he wasn't doing that and again reassure him that we are good honest folks just trying to make a living and that we have specific principles that we live by and one is that we aren't going to try to hurt his honey business and that we respect the rules of the market and respect other vendors and their products.  These are our values and it is surprising to us that others think that if they bring in the same exact product that they will do well with it in the same space as another vendor who already had it first.  When that happens the vendor is only hurting not only the original vendor's business but their own at the same time.  They can't expect to have the same success with the exact same product as what they witnessed the first vendor have.  We choose not to do that to our neighbors but can't control the actions of others.  So then I tell him I will be back later in the weekend to buy the jam as I don't have the cash right now.  I start to walk away and he says, "please let your husband know that we weren't trying to undermine him or his business."  I told him, "I will tell him but it would be good in you told him yourself as well."  He says, "well, I am not able to get away from my booth much to do that."  :?  Whatever, dude, you have a wife who can watch your stand while you go over and introduce yourself to my husband and try to grovel your way through this.

I did notice that he sounded like he had gotten caught and that he sounded like he was feeling guilty about what he had done.  I also noticed that many vendors don't have the guts to confront one another with a problem or issue like I am willing to do.  I also noticed that he had taken his six bags of jerky off his booth by the end of the day.  Hmm....... My husband said that he didn't come over and talk to him at all and that it didn't appear that he had samples of his jerky out or that he didn't appear to sell any.

Now, over on aisle C my son said he didn't notice anyone walking by with bags of jerky that they had bought from the other lady on his aisle.  But as we were packing up on that aisle this afternoon I heard the lady who sells jerky tell someone else that she wanted the table and something else moved to aisle F.  The guy said he would do it.  So I wonder if she is going to move her jerky business to another aisle this weekend or next. I would be in full support of that.  I think Aisle F would be a great spot to have jerky.  But we don't have the man power to man a booth over there.

Back when we started with the jerky, there was another guy in the market selling it.  He was selling it on aisle B.  We moved to another aisle and began selling it.  There is enough business in this market for the both of us.  But not on the same aisle.  I still stand by that.  We knew the other guy already had a following and that people came to find him on aisle B.  We didn't want to take that away from him.  We didn't want to confuse his customers by having a booth on the same aisle as him.  That wouldn't make good business sense nor would it make a good business practice.  We would hurt his business as well as ours and look stupid in opening up a booth on the same aisle.  So we opened on another aisle.  We would establish our own customers and be at another location in the market.  The only people we would confuse are the visitors/tourists but they wouldn't really be confused as they wouldn't know of the other guy.  Any of his regulars would know where to find him. Period. We weren't hurting his business.  But to think that by bringing in a product on the same aisle as us would be suicide for them.  What makes people think that this is a smart move?  Basically, they aren't thinking.

As for us, we will defend our product and our brand.  We will guide people to us and give them the facts.  1.  We are the ONLY manufacturer authorized dealer of this product in this area.  2. We don't know where they are getting their product from. 3.  If our customers have any issue with the product we have direct contact with the factory, they don't. We can call the factory directly and get resolution.  They can't.

Oh the honey lady never came this afternoon for her free eggs.

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