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There are several phases of an art and antique show or fair beginning with set up and ending with the break down for the show. What falls in between is quite interesting and often disturbing. In light of the forthcoming season of Shows and Fairs, I take this opportunity to present some first hand knowledge about the behavior of some dealers i've come acorss, during my career so far.

Set Up

1. There are usually specific times for your set up. Ignoring those times and pushing yourself ahead of others or having your truck ahead of the trucks who should be ahead of you is the most selfish behavior.

2. Borrowing at a show from other dealers is common and we all do not mind sharing when someone forgets their ladder, the glass cleaner, paper towels among other things. What is most irritating is not asking a dealer and Breaking and Entering a booth to "borrow" when a dealer is not in their booth. How horrible to come back the next day and find a ladder "borrowed" and never seen again. Or more irritating when this activity is done in your presence with your permission and the ladder or object lent never gets returned without a confrontation. Why are some dealers so special?

3. Comrades at dinner. It is always fun to go out as a group and have a bit of fun during a show. We are all on budgets even during the good times we all watched our show expenses. There always seems to be a mooch at every show and believe me these mooches are well known. Now the mooch always manages to invite his/her self among a group and sit with hands glued to the lap when the bill comes. Now the most common mooch I know is a female mooch who is well known for this activity and she loves the best places. Remember the saying burn me once shame on you and burn me twice shame on me? I have been burned twice so the mooch no longer will have my company anywhere.

4. Being rude and demanding to the show staff is outrageous. If you find yourself without the proper electrical equipment (happens often), the booth is not completely built out, your sign seems to never come and so on it does not pay off to have tantrums to a staff member. Calmly find out how it happened and determine how long it will take to fix the problem. Threats and grumbling are not the right course of action. Remember, you are being graded mentally by the staff and if you are too much trouble (or unreasonable) you will not be asked back. Believe me, the people in charge are not trying to deliberately make you mad.

5. Please tip the helpers who huff and puff with your load of inventory. These temporary workers are breaking their backs for you and a kind word along with a reward at the end is appreciated.


Screen Shot 2015 10 05 at 05.52.59Ooh La la...

1. If the vetting rules ask you to leave the booth please abide by those rules so the vetters may be comfortable without you hovering waiting to pick a fight is something is found wrong.

2. If you are a vetter please do not practice the "initiation gimmick" by trying to find something or anything in a competitors' booth just to get even or teach them who is boss. I have seen this nasty practice way too much when a show is vetted by other dealers participating in the show.

3. Do not penalize a dealer just because the "bully" of the committee is trying to have something, you know in your own heart is right, thrown off the floor. The herd mentality is not fair at this point. Speak up and prove why you feel that a piece is good and save the exhibitor the anguish.

4. If you are left with a notice to remove something or alter the language of your description you have a right to an appeal. You do not have the right to a major fight. Get your facts together and appeal like a lady or a gentleman. If you are still asked to do what the vetters say then remove the piece or change the description. You can certainly call in an expert/experts during the show and try to negotiate something. (Only in the case where you are almost 100 percent certain you are correct) Name calling and arguments are bad for the trade and in the end make for bad feelings on the floor.

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1. Be on time in your booth.

2. Stay in or nearby your booth to see the traffic coming and going. Always greet the person or persons entering your booth.

3. Standing in front of another dealer's booth watching the sales or eyeing what is going on with a mad face is being a spoiled sport.

4. Fairs are long and we often need to sit down. If a bench is provided in front of your booth by all means use that instead of sitting in the booth. If not, then sit in the booth to rest your feet but when a person walks in be sure to stand and greet them.

5. Always greet everyone that walks in the booth. Sitting there reading, eating or talking to another dealer is unacceptable as long as anyone is in the booth.

6. I personally do not like to see people eat in a booth. Most shows have a dealer lounge or a lunch area. Have a staff member of the show watch your booth while you eat.

7. Do not judge a potential client by the clothes they are wearing. I was exhibiting at Palm Beach! America's International Fine Art And Antiques Fair several years ago and a very nice couple entered my booth dressed in jeans. They were a bit older and looked like they were the type of people just enjoying the day looking around except they were not. They were on a mission to find a nice French commode. A very "important" French dealer told them he did not have anything they could afford. They told me this after I kindly took the time to answer a few questions for them as I would anyone interested in my things. They not only bought a commode in the booth but a couple of paintings and some jewelry from other dealers.  "Ordinary people?" no way!

8. Attire at a show has always been a pet peeve with me. I feel out of respect for ourselves as dealers we should look as professional as possible. Coats and ties for the men and dresses, pantsuits or suits for the ladies. Shoes are another subject and can certainly be comfortable but never sloppy. If the show is a casual relaxed summer show that is another situation however at the big shows or fairs please dress accordingly. Ladies, please do not wear revealing clothes.

9. Never chew gum in your booth.

10. The booth is not the place to polish fingernails, put on all your makeup, put in contact lenses or any other act best performed in the ladies room.

11. It is so rude to stand in front of another dealer's booth with a client just to have conversation about what is in the booth. I have always felt that when this happens there is a motive. If the dealer is kind enough to bring the person in to meet you then that is fine.

12. We all love our Interior design clients, many of them place our things in lovely homes and we are most grateful. It is ridiculous to chase a designer around the floor of a show and/or pull them out of another booth away from a dealer.

13. If a designer is engaged with a dealer in another both, NEVER interrupt the conversation to make your presence known and say "come see me I am in booth number so and so". You have just entered a home uninvited and interrupted a guest!

I had the pleasure of visiting with Mario Buatta for about 30 minutes at The Spring Show NYC last April. No sale was being transacted. We were sitting around a table where he was offered a cold drink of water, resting his feet and talking with us in general. He was there as a friendly acquaintance. We were interrupted three times by three different dealers in order to make their presence known. We laughed about this behavior.

14. NEVER interrupt a dealer when they are in a presentation or talking to a potential client in their booth. If the person is someone you know and they have bought from you stay in your booth and wait for them. Do not stand and stalk the dealer's booth in order to get the person's attention.  I have had this happen many times and by people I know and love and it has disgusted me. They have literally taken a person by the arm while saying something like "I want to show you MY things" or "I have something I would like to show you." The person usually leaves never to be seen again. There are actually a few dealers I have become aware of who do this sort of thing and they may not realize it but they are not going to get by with this forever.


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1. Many of the rules for setting up apply here mainly remember to be kind to your neighbor. Return anything borrowed from your fellow dealers or staff.

2. Do not begin to pack up before the show has closed. This is rude to anyone left on the floor particularly if your neighbor is closing a deal. It is most distracting and a potential buyer may be looking for an easy out. Do not let your eagerness give anyone the idea that they have to go now. I was closing a huge deal at The Fall International Fine Art and Antiques Fair held in New York in 2008 with a designer who was present and her client whom I knew on the phone. The show had closed and not only did Anna Haughton instruct the fair staff not to even touch the carpet in the aisles she stood there as an assurance to my designer and to me to allow the transaction to take place. We were "guarded" if you will as if nothing was going on around us. Not all fair organizers will do this sort of thing so be on your toes and be aware if your neighbor is selling.

3. Wait your turn for leaving applies as arriving.

These are just a few of the many things dealers can do to both annoy each other, the staff and the show attendees. The most important thing to remember is that we should all make for a pleasant and welcoming environment to the public. If the people attending are there for an outing so be it. We are the entertainment and we will never know when someone from a crowd from years before will return because we were kind and helpful to actually make a purchase.

Respectfully submitted.

About the Author

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy

Mary Helen McCoy is a woman with a mission – that is, to deliver to her clients the ultimate in period furniture and decorative arts. Her firm is considered one of the nation’s premier sou...