Sunday, November 27, 2011

Questionable Ethics

I would like to start out by giving a frame of reference, a little insight into me personally.

When I was growing up I had an extremely creative mom and sister.  My mom could knit, sew, quilt, paint, ceramics, wreaths, decorate, stage, throw parties you name it this woman could do it and do it VERY well.  My sister was the same way, she would come home from school with beautiful pieces to show my mom from art class.  Now my dad really couldn't barely draw a stick person LOL  My dad was on the more analytic side, he loved to build things and was very good at drawing up plans.  My point is I grew up thinking I was not creative at all compared to my mom and sister, that I took after my dad.  It was only in the last 6 or so years of my life that I discovered my creative side through jewelry.

It is one of the ONLY things I can say in my entire life that I truly feel creative, and absolute love doing.  So with this history I take a huge amount of pride in my work.  I strive to create truly unique items.  With all of this said, I know that in jewelry just about anything and everything that can be done has been done at some point in time... and that we all get inspired by one another at times.
But I strive to put my own personal touches on each piece, and to create my own niche in the market, and feel that is the ethical way to handle any craft or business. 

So the drama from yesterdays craft show actually started an entire year ago.  These 2 older women selling jewelry (a vendor at the same show) came to my booth wanting to know if they could buy the pattern for some of my bracelets.  I told them the patterns were not for sale, that I didn't want them or other vendors selling my creations.  They continued to pick up each piece and put their glasses on and examine them very very closely.  Later that day I had someone buy 4 of my bracelets, I was thrilled until I saw them later at the booth with these 2 women.  They had sent a friend in to buy the bracelets from me since I told them NO.  These things happen quite often but usually it isn't done in such a blatant manner.  I bet this happens at most shows but we just don't know about it because most people have a little more sense about them, that this is WRONG to do so don't be obvious if you are going to do it!   I tried to not get too upset, but decided I would talk to the event organizer.  I have been a vendor at this show for 5 years now and felt strongly this wouldn't be the type of vendor they would want to have if they knew the things they were doing.  The organizer said she wasn't happy with them either, there were other problems apparently and she wouldn't be inviting them back.

Flash forward to this past Friday at the same show just a year later and these 2 older women were back at the show!  Not only were they back but they had a prime location near the entrance, AND they had EXACT copies of my bracelets!  I was furious and immediately went to the organizer to complain.  It is bad enough they are copying but to now sell it at the SAME show and for me to not have a better spot in the show as a long standing vendor was upsetting too.  The organizer said I needed to talk to the copycats myself and make it clear that I wasn't happy with this, but I should wait until the end of the show so that it doesn't cause a problem.  I agreed to wait to the end of the show to handle it.

So the show starts and these 2 women immediately come to my booth and start examining more bracelets.  They want to know where I get my displays from, where my bracelet trays came from... Of course I just said ONLINE!  Where else do you think I got them from?  LOL
They walked away finally.  All day Friday I had customers who have come to this show for years to see me.... come up to my booth to warn me that someone has copied me.  I have some loyal customers which I love them all dearly for. 

Near lunch time on Friday my mom and dad came up to let me use the bathroom and get a drink and they brought me lunch.  As soon as I walked away from my booth these 2 women came flying over to examine more of my items.  I guess they thought my booth was unmanned, but my parents were there!  These 2 women made VERY bold and blatant moves the entire day Friday wanting more and more information on my pieces in order to copy not only my jewelry but my displays too!

Saturday comes around and I am really started to get worked up, this has been going on since the previous year, it is becoming more disruptive where I feel I can't even leave my booth.  Friday night into Saturday I had to put my entire display away because I knew they would come in early or stay late to stare at my booth!  Throughout the day Saturday more customers were noticing the copycats and saying more and more too.  Other vendors around me starting commenting, as I was talking to one of my neighbors the copycats came running up behind me trying to look again... until the my neighbor pointed it out to me.  One of the other vendors actually went up to these 2 ladies and asked them, so who is copying who, you copying that girl in there or is she copying you?  Apparently the lady refused to answer and just changed the subject to explain their designs. 

My mom and grandmother came up Saturday to shop around and they gave me a short break again.  Again as soon as I walked away these 2 women came flying up to my booth.  My mom told me they were whispering and pointing at everything, picking up more bracelets and looking and then she heard one of the ladies say those button necklaces would sell great we can do those!  So now the bracelets weren't enough, trying to figure out my display isn't enough let's rip off ALL her designs.  I am a person of principal and this to me is so very wrong, I was fuming inside.  But I wanted to try to maintain my image and reputation at this show and with my customers so I just kept waiting for the end of the day to talk to the copycats.

Finally around 4pm on Saturday I was with a customer who was buying earrings from me when the taller of these copycat ladies came up to my booth.  She had her hands on her hips and this stern look I quickly glanced up to make eye contact and say HI, and she started screaming at me.  I honestly don't know what she said because I was so concerned about my customer, that I just looked up at her and said can this wait I have a customer and she yelled NO it can not wait.  I took my customers money and slowly packaged up her item and tried to keep a smile and be as calm as I could as to not scare my customer away.  And as soon as I gave her the item this woman was screaming.  She said how dare you tell others we are copying you.  Honestly I don't know what triggered this I had been biting my tongue the ENTIRE day to wait for an appropriate time to confront these women.  My only guess is the combination of my customers giving her a hard time and the other vendor at one point flat out asking who is copying set her off.  None of which is my fault, I didn't copy, I didn't ask people to do these things, and really don't know what was done or said.

It got really bad, to the point where the woman was leaning over my table with her finger in my face and I said I am not talking to you about this now.  I just kept repeating as calmly as I could I am not doing this in the middle of the show.  I said can we handle this later, she yelled you better believe we will handle this later, I will handle you.  I said is that a threat, she said you better believe it.  Mind you this woman is at least in her 60's!!  Finally my neighbor vendor came over, and chest bumped the copycat and said that is enough walk away.  So the woman left.  Now any customer that was in our aisle has gone RUNNING, it is a ghost town in here.  I asked my one neighbor to please go get the organizer, that this had crossed a line and was not acceptable.  She came back to tell me the organizer was busy but would be over shortly.

I just tried to calm down at this point and keep a smile for any customers nearby and to regroup.  15-20 minutes went by and I had another customer at my table when the 2nd shorter copycat lady came to my table SCREAMING.  She talked about how if she had the jewelry they had bought with her she would return them, honestly I don't know what she was saying.  I tried for about a 1/2 second to talk and it was obvious they weren't reasonable and weren't going to listen.  So when I couldn't even say one word, I dug my heels in and said I won't talk about this now.  I am not going to discuss this now.... finally I said please leave.  She said NO.  I said leave my booth, she said no.  I repeated myself at least 10 more times, she refused.  So I felt I had no choice at this moment but to call the police.  The organizer had not made it over to me yet and this woman was scaring away my business and I had been threatened and she would NOT leave..... I told her if she didn't leave I would call the police, she said go ahead and call.  I got my phone out, not really wanting to call, because I did not want a bigger scene then this had already become... so I warned her one last time, I am calling now if you don't leave and she stood there.  So I had to call the police.   The entire time I was on the phone she was yelling in the background. I could barely hear the guy on the other end.  WHAT A DISASTER!  The police hung around to escort me to my car at the end of the show and these women didn't say another word after that.

****  So the bottomline to me.  These are experienced women, and I don't just say that because of their age.  These are women who have clearly made a living out of doing this.  In my personal opinion people do not get that bold, and don't have such an elaborate system in place by accident.  It is from years of doing these things, and literally being BULLIES to other small crafters.  I bet most crafters ignore their antics, most crafters don't know what they can do, what they should do, and these women are so dominating in their actions that I bet most don't stand up to them.  These women have been able to get away with this behavior for so long that it has become more and more aggressive.  I let them get away with it for over a year myself because I didn't think there was much I could do, these things happen in the craft world etc. etc.

But these women will continue to do these things until something is done about it, obviously.  Even with the idea of the cops coming they wouldn't leave my booth.  That woman just flat out did not care.  And I am positive it is NO coincidence that each time they came to throw a fit was when I had customers.  They realized at this particular venue the GIG WAS UP for them and they were pissed and trying to do as much damage as they could on their way out.  That is my honest opinion, when they realized that there were other vendors and so many customers protective of me and commenting to them, and that they weren't getting away with it they threw a temper tantrum!

They did do a lot of damage, but probably not like they had hoped.   They succeeded in making themselves look like complete asses.  They were able to flaunt their selfishness and their unethical behavior to my entire customer base, and to all these other vendors.  They were banned from this venue again in the future, and my customers clearly know me and my work and wouldn't give them the time of day and certainly never will now either!

And they have been successful in motivating me to take the next step with my business.  If this is something I deeply care about, and treasure my creations and my hard work and time then I have to do more to protect them.  I have contacted a lawyer, and I have copyrights, trademarks you name it, all in the works for my company.  So I should be thanking them to a certain extent because my business will be elevated now due to their unethical behaviors. 

In all the years of doing craft shows I have never even seen a conflict let alone been involved in one.  And I hope for the rest of my years doing craft shows I won't have to deal with something this ridiculous again.

Thanks for reading my book.

 And I really want to thank all the other vendors who were supportive to me, protected me, and all of my very loyal customers :)

Trinkets N Whatnots - Crystal and Button Jewelry


  1. You are an amazing artist. I'm so proud of you for standing your ground, and maintaining your professionalism. You only made those ladies look like bigger idiots. I mean, who has ever heard of the cops coming to a craft show at a church?? They look like utter fools. You are right about the trademarks and copyrights. Its something we have talked about for awhile, and this only proves how very important it is.

  2. That is atrocious behavior. I hope you talk to the organizer and discuss what happened. You stood up and that's terrific. Protect yourself.

  3. Good for you! You didn't let those two cretins get away with their bullying!!! It might not hurt to get in contact with the organizer to make sure she would never give out your address or phone number ...

  4. This story was so long I didn't even include everything that happened but these women were a pain in many other ways. Like taking the very first space in front of the door we should be loading at. The organizer had a cone there so no one would park there but they did and when asked to move their car they wouldn't. I mean they are really off their rocker IMHO.

    Thanks Jill that is a good idea. And brings up another point that these women have a business card with just a phone # and e-mail, no website or mailing address at all. SCAMMERS

  5. In the first place, the Organizers caved in by letting these people come back after last year's problem and then letting them muscle in to the prime spot and even worse... letting them stay. Then, they didn't speak to them when you complained the first time. If the organizers are folding under pressure...well, the rest is history.

    You exercised great restraint. Did the police hear any threats or see any threatening behavior?

    This is incredible. I'm so sorry you had to deal with it as it escalated during the whole day. Those women should be horse-whipped and the organizers should be given spine transplants!

  6. WOW!Is all I can say! What gall! They should have been arrested for disturbing the peace at least! Among other things!

  7. Calliope: I 100% agree with you on all you said. I didn't want to get too much into the organizer and what was or wasn't done since I have been going there 5 years and it has always been a good show to me until this.
    But I completely agree. It wouldn't have escalated if they weren't invited back, if things had been intervened on earlier etc.

    I love this, "Horse-whipped" and "spine transplants!" LOL

    The thing that made me stay calm and feel so much better about all of this is just how supportive the patrons and other vendors were to me. It helped that I was recognizable after 5 years of going there. Most people knew me, my product and what I am like as a person and that gave me a lot of support. Which was greatly needed :)

  8. OMG!!! Hugs..i have been going through similar things here in this town. i do hope with a relocation and better manners of the area country I will do better.

    Not only have I been bullied business wise, I have been bullied proffessionally and personally in the area I live. I have had many people come forward to try to help me and overcome these obscales. Unfortunately, this community is known for its bullying/rumors. I didn't know about it until I moved here.

    If I come over, have a big cry then a hug with you I would. I am a person of intergity as well.

  9. Thanks Rosella :) I lost sales for the entire last 2 hours over this ordeal too!!

  10. Wow. What a story! I'm so sorry that you were put in that situation. I agree that it wouldn't have been a problem if they were not allowed to come back after last year. At least now maybe they are banned for good. It's such a shame that people can't come up with their own ideas. If you're not creative enough to be original, find another business.

  11. There is too much of that copying going on. I've said in the past that I pity people who can't create anything original, but that pity changes to disgust and anger when they are obnoxious like these two women. Good for you, you handled this very well.

    I've got the deoderant, peroxide and bleach out and it still doesn't seem like enough to cleanse the stench of this.

  12. Omg I am so sorry to hear this. I think these women need to take Business Professionalism 101 over again! I hate that your customers had to be in the mix of it all, but glad that you stood up for what was right!

  13. WOW!! What an adventure. I am very impressed how you kept your cool despite the obvious sabotage these women were trying to inflict. I'm glad you called the cops and got them banned, I would also ask for a refund/sue them for damages ie trying to drive away customers. And of course, I'm glad you're working on patents and copyrights. Your work is beautiful and you deserve to keep the credit and related business

  14. Janet... so sorry this happened to you but so proud of how you handled it!!

    You should be very proud of your creations and they are yours!!!

    Great idea to get them copy righted!!

  15. Janet, sorry about your bad experience... And I am very proud of you that you stood up to those abnoxious bullies! You GO girl! Enough is enough ...

    Good luck!

  16. O.M.G.

    Janet! What a couple of lunatics! I am glad, thought, that you contacted an attorney and are proceeding with protecting the designs of your work. In this age of intellectual property, a girl's gotta fight off copycats -- plus, that opens up the door to crush them, should they ever think about trying to sell online.

    Go you!

  17. I am gob-smacked (sorry - a New Zealand expression) Basically cannot believe these ladies! I am so proud of the way you handles them. How dare they steal from our Galla!

  18. My mouth is just hanging open and all I can say is "WOW!" I applaud you for showing the restraint that you did, not sure I could have done as well. Hopefully you have seen the end of those two women and good for you for calling the lawyer and starting the process for copyrights. In all my years of doing craft shows I have never heard anything like this one.... wow.

  19. Oh boy, quite a story! I feel sick and dizzy.. no one should have to put up with such things at these shows... incredibly disappointing:( Glad they didn't intimidate you!

  20. OMG Janet! What an awful, horrid experience and here's another NZ'er who's utterly gobsmacked....I have never sold at craft shows and fortunately have been very happy online only. The good news, though - copycats are a form of of my very best button customers after a year of buying my every new design, has bought a kiln and started making her own :) I did stop helping, though, when she wanted recipes of my glazes - enough was enough! Janet darling, you make beautiful pieces and every one of them wearable art - I am so, so sorry that you had to experience this. Light and love, Sharry