October 3, 2016

10 Times a Craft Show Vendor should say NO

Shoppers don’t head to a craft fair with the intention of insulting the vendor. They’re usually just asking a question they see no harm in asking. So this article is not to shame anyone who’s uttered the words below to a vendor or near them.


Rather it’s to point out to craft show vendors that just because someone asks doesn’t mean you have to cater.


Consider your business’ goals, values and message before agreeing to something. For example, if you want your work to be valued, viewed as high-end and raise awareness about the importance and costs of using ethically sourced materials, don’t hand out discounts anytime a shopper asks.


Being flexible is a perk people love in small businesses. So you don’t necessarily need to say no to the scenarios below but you do need to put your business first. If you’re going to alter your designs to suit a customer, drive across town to drop off a purchase or rush to fill an order by someone else’s deadline, put a price on the extra work.


When you’re willing to make a sale at any cost, you’re sending a message to yourself and your customers that you don’t believe your products will sell on their own. Have confidence in your business and know if you take pride and believe in your work, others will too.


Or course there are times when it is best for your business to say “yes” to the questions below. Just be sure the decision is yours and you’re happy with it, and you’re not saying “yes” to please the shopper or avoid an awkward situation. No shame if you have though, I’m guilty 😉


Handmade businesses can sometimes be too accommodating and end up losing profits to please customers. Here are 10 times a vendor should say no to shoppers.



Just to put things in perspective, think about whether a shopper would ask a mall retailer these questions and whether they would say yes or no. They keep their profits top of mind and you should too.

1) “Since you haven’t opened yet, can I get
this for half price?”

This question is often asked at street markets where there aren’t doors that stay closed until start time. I’m not sure where the logic comes in, thinking purchasing before a vendor opens warrants a discount. It’s more of an inconvenience to the vendor to stop in the middle of their setup, dig out their cash box and conduct a sale.


If the event allows vendors to and you’re willing, processing a transaction before you open is accommodating enough; you don’t need to hand out a discount as well.


A retailer would almost never open their doors early to allow a shopper to come in and shop because they’re in a rush. And if, under very special circumstances, they did allow it, they certainly wouldn’t be offering a discount.


2) “Could you make one just like this?”

Sometimes we overhear a shopper asking a friend if they can make an item you’re selling. That’s just wrong. But sometimes they’re bringing a photo of another vendor’s work to you and asking if you can replicate it. If you’re in the business of taking custom orders, this may not be a huge issue but remember you are the artist and people are interested in your designs, not how well you can copy someone else’s.


Unless you’re at a store that offers customization, you would never hear a mall shopper ask if a retailer could make the exact item another retailer carries. Why wouldn’t they purchase it from the original retailer? They’re most likely looking for it at a cheaper price. If that’s the case, they won’t be a loyal customer to the brand and their products.


3) “How did you make this?”

This question isn’t a problem if they’re genuinely interested in the process. But it becomes a problem when they’re looking for details so they can make it themselves. Determine which details are selling points and which are trade secrets and be okay telling people you unfortunately can’t share certain techniques.


Retailers would never give away their trade secrets. They put in a lot of research and manpower to turn their operation into a well-oiled machine. If someone else wants to build a business to the same level, they need to put in the hard work and find their own way.


4) “Can you make this in blue?”

Again, if you’re a vendor who’s open to taking custom orders, this question is not an issue. But do consider if the materials will cost you extra and the time it takes to source them and make alterations.


If you’re not set up to take custom orders, don’t let a simple question make you feel pressured into taking them. I strongly disliked the work customization added. It involved extra trips to the fabric store, double the communication, sometimes drafting new patterns and I was always left with materials and designs I wouldn’t use again. But I would feel guilty saying no to a customer, end up caving and then resenting the order. Had I set a strict “no custom orders” policy from the start, I would have saved myself a lot of frustration.


It’s okay to have shoppers choose from the selection you brought. They do it all the time at the mall and will understand. They may ask a retailer if an item comes in another color but if it doesn’t, they don’t expect the sales associate to whip one up.



5) “So expensive! Can you make one for less?”

Some shoppers may not understand the cost of buying handmade and how much work a vendor puts into each piece. In which case, they’ll be shocked at all the vendors’ prices.


If you happen to be selling items that are higher than the typical craft show item, explain why your prices are higher.


Use signage to state the organic and ethically sourced materials you use or share the amount of time you spend on each piece so they understand the value they’re getting. One person’s opinion of your prices does not mean they’re not worth the price you’ve set.


If they’re not willing to pay the price for your quality products then they’re more than welcome to go find another vendor. You should never feel you have to reduce your prices to accommodate a shopper’s budget. If they can’t afford it, they can’t afford it.


People don’t walk into Tiffany’s and gasp at the price tags. Tiffany & Co. has branded themselves as a high-end jeweler and educated people on their prices. Every detail right down to the little blue box and white ribbon tell customers their products are worthy of the money they’ll spend.


And if you can’t afford a piece of Tiffany’s jewelry then you leave the store. If you want one of their pieces bad enough, you’ll save your pennies and come back when you have enough. You would never ask them to make something cheaper for you.


6) “Do you deliver?”

You may consider the option of dropping an item off to save your customers shipping costs or to get it to them faster. But instead of a postal service driving across town, searching for the right address, burning gas and adding miles to their vehicle, it’s you. Be sure those costs aren’t coming out of your pocket.


I haven’t personally shopped at a retailer that has offered to deliver a product not in stock. The most they’ll do is use their computer to look up which stores in the city have my size and it’s up to me to pick it up. If a retailer does offer delivery, it’s through a postal service and I’ll be paying for any shipping, handling or custom fees.


7) “Can you make me one by Friday?”

If you’ve been a vendor at craft shows through the holidays, you’ve dealt with last minute shoppers. They need an item and they need it before Christmas. I would make myself miserable trying to take on as many orders as I could to bring in enough revenue to get me through slow times in Jan/Feb. I didn’t even allow myself time to enjoy the holidays.


The better plan is to set a sales goal for Nov/Dec and make enough stock to hit it. You’ll feel less pressured to say yes to every potential sale that comes your way, knowing you have what you need to meet your goals.


Christmas is the busiest time for retailers and they’re focused on making hay while the sun shines. Yes they want to help people complete their shopping lists but they’re not going to throw their operation out the window and neglect other shoppers to cater to one person who waited until the last minute. It’s first-come, first-served and every man for
themselves during holiday shopping 😉


8) “This is $100, I only have $80 on me. Will you take $80 for it?”


9) “I want to buy two, can I get a discount?”


10) “I see you’re closing up for the day, can I get a discount?”

If an employee at a retailer said yes to any one of these questions, they would likely be written up or fired for giving a “just because” discount. Even managers weren’t at liberty to hand out discounts in the stores I worked at. Unless an item was damaged, the price was the price and shoppers could take it or leave it.


I’m not in favor of giving discounts just because. Although I’ll admit, as a handmade vendor, I did allow myself to feel pressured into taking money off for those who asked, but I almost always regretted it.


What did work for me was setting a Friends & Family discount for people I knew. If someone I didn’t know asked for a discount and I felt it was appropriate, I would offer to give them the Friends & Family discount.


This gave me a set percentage to apply and ensured I wasn’t being talked into a discount I wasn’t comfortable with or discounting myself out of a profit.


If you define the scenarios you will and won’t discount and the percentage you’ll deduct, you’ll have an easier time responding when you’re put on the spot.



What do you get tired of hearing at craft shows & always say no to? Or say yes and regret it later? 😉 Share in the comments!





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37 thoughts on “10 Times a Craft Show Vendor should say NO”

  1. Great article and great timing with Christmas market season ahead. Be confident!!! Great reminder:)

  2. Thanks so much Michelle! And thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Great advice. I have a show in November and this will help greatly. Thank you.

  4. Thanks Gretchen! Have a great show in November 🙂

  5. I agree with all of the points in this article but would love to have some examples of polite, firm responses. I have a hard time saying no without implying that I’m sorry to do so.

  6. Thanks for reading Jenny! That’s a great idea for an article, we’ll see what we can put together 🙂

  7. Great article and great pointers on how to tackle these questions. Ive dealt with all of these questions atleast once in the 3 fairs that Ive done. Thanks for the advice!

    Also, I just stumbled across your website, and find it the most relevant as a craft business owner. Am lapping up all your articles and loving them!

  8. Thanks so much for reading Nabiha! I’m so glad to hear you’re finding all the information useful 🙂

  9. Very good points here! I have had all these questions and usually said yes, simply because I couldn’t think of a good answer to make a no sound acceptable. Do you have any good examples of saying no and not losing a potential customer?Also I have to admit that if someone offered me $80 instead of $100 at the end of a show I’d rather make $80 than not sell an item I might have had for years (as it has happened to me). I think it always depends on the situation, on how successful the fair was in general etc.

  10. Great article. I also have a hard time with saying no but have had to on several occasions. I try to explain that my ingredients are expensive because they are natural and organic and crafting each item individually by hand takes a lot of time, which you can’t compare to mass produced synthetic goods. My market prices are already reduced from my online shop which is purely because I lack confidence. But a high-end shop recently bought some of my range, charged way more than I do and sold out!
    One of my other concerns is how to get people to just use the samples and stop opening fresh products. And how to ask them not to stick their fingers into things or let their children do the same. I get such dirty looks even when I even try!

    Love the blog – great ideas – thanks for sharing them! Xx

  11. My first farmers market I had someone ask for a discount. I had already priced my items as low as possible. When I said “no” she came back with well it’s only $5 ….no it was actually $10 I said…when she walked away I questioned myself and called a friend who like your article says told me not to give discounts as my work was worth my price and more. Lesson learned…thanks for the great article.

  12. Great article My biggest problem is that I design most of my patterns and people want to take pictures. I tell them no but many sneak with their phones. One lady I asked not to take a pic and almost lost a sale. She was sending it to a friend. So what I am thinking of doing is making a sign ” $5 fee for any Unauthorized pictures”. I don’t think I would ever charge anyone but it might discourage some people. Also picking at the items until they make it broken. Example: I make mug organizers and they are hot glued, more then once I have had women pull on it to see how its make until they pull it apart. I really don’t know how to deal with that problem. Just wondering if these are issues for any one else.

  13. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Mel!

    I agree, definitely depends on the situation and some products are priced better for discounts than others. You just want to be sure you don’t build a reputation for discounting.

    As for polite responses, when it comes to saying no to a discount, you could say something along the lines of “I’m only able to offer a discount for wholesale orders” (when someone is buying your product in bulk…not just two). Or “I’ve actually already priced the product at its best price.” And if you have someone who’s persistent, I like this one I saw someone suggest in a forum “I’m actually thinking about increasing my prices as I’ve been told my work is undervalued.”

    For other types of questions, I think a “At this time I’m unable to….” make custom orders / sell before I open / deliver / rush your order etc. Or you can add on “I’m unable to without charging an extra fee” . You don’t have to give them an amount on the spot; take their contact info and details and let them know you’ll get back to them after the show.

    Hope that helps!


  14. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Kc and Sheila! Glad you’re enjoying the blog 🙂

    I’ll have to see if I can find more studies on the topic but many people have actually found they sell more when they increase their prices.

    For samples, perhaps adding bigger signage and placing stock a bit further back on your table, behind the “Sample” sign might help.


  15. Thanks Bobbi! Those are great questions. I worked for a retailer who didn’t allow people to take photos in their store either. It was a constant battle and we usually didn’t notice until the picture was taken. Even then 9 times out of 10 we’d get an eye roll 😉

    I think signage is a good idea for both scenarios. Short and sweet but also it may help to add why in there so people understand. Perhaps “Patterns are copyrighted. No photos please.”

    Maybe a “Please handle with care” sign for the mug holders.

    Hope that helps a little!


  16. I have had this a few times” can I take the chain off this necklace, and switch it with the chain on that necklace?”
    I create my one of a kind necklaces, paying attention to each ones little details and design, and yes the chain is part of the overall design, that I have spent thought and time putting into that individual piece. Switching the different styles of chains, will change the overall design of that piece, so no…..I won’t do it!

  17. I had unique knitted shawls that everyone loved, but no one bought. They were priced at $40 which was more than fair. After the first season of no sales, I increased the price to $60. It worked! I generally sold 2-4 shawls per show. The adage “if you don’t value your work, no one else will either” certainly came into play here.

  18. Wonderful article! Everyone who makes things for sale or not, should be required to read this at least once a day. I have so often undervalued my talent and skills.

  19. Great article. I think I do awesome work, as do most artists I’m sure. Why is it that building self-confidence and being your own cheerleader are so tough? A response for Kc: Perhaps packaging your products in something like sheer drawstring bags will keep people from opening them. It would take a lot more work for them to get at the product than simply opening the test container.

  20. One situation that should be added to your list involves what to do when another crafter wants to swap one of their products for yours. This is most difficult at craft shows versus online sales since you only have seconds to respond instead of having time to craft a written response. Frequently the item they want to swap with you is something you would not want to purchase at all. The single crafter or multiple crafters making this request at a craft show can definitely interfere with your show profits.

    Very good advise and responses to comments with your article. Thanks!

  21. I was asked once by someone if they could have a discount on my paintings on bricks if they purchased more than one. I said yes but later I wished that I had said no. It seemed like that might have been okay, but when I thought about all of the time and work that I had invested in creating them I realize later that I was taking a big lost. Regrets,Regrets,Regrets.

  22. Great article! Of these 10, the biggest question we get is if they get a discount for buying 2. Online, the discount comes in at 4, but I almost feel obligated to say ‘yes’ to 2 in person. I don’t know why… They have their wallet out and are ready to buy two, it’s not like I’m about to lose the sale if I say No. I know they ask because “there’s no harm in asking” and I need to remember “there’s no harm in saying No.” It’s just finding the right words to say with confidence.

  23. This is a great article. I know I’ve done this at craft shows just to make the customer happy or to make new clients.

  24. Thanks so much for reading & commenting everyone! I love seeing all the responses!

    Susan – great point! People buy products in stores the way they are and don’t ask to switch stones/pendants/chains unless they’re buying them separately.

    Elsie – that’s so amazing to hear! More proof that there are benefits to raising your prices 🙂

    OrahLee – thank you! So glad you found it helpful.

    Debbie – I wish I had that answers 😉 I believe having more confidence and believing in our work (and ourselves) would solve so many issues in life.

    Jeanne – yes, I agree! I covered that topic somewhere (just can’t remember where;) and share how I gave away some product worth a lot of cash for something I didn’t really want or need in return. Being prepared with a “I’d love to but I have a revenue goal to hit so I’ve got to stick to accepting cash for my product today” would have helped me out instead of being caught off guard 😉

    Sandra – that’s usually what I did too. Regretted it later…especially because math is not my strong suit and I’d give discounts on the spot, do the math later and wonder what I was thinking.

    Alan – I agree! I know people aren’t intending to insult the makers and are thinking there’s no harm in asking but it always boggles me why people think they should get a discount for buying two. Makers have way smaller markups than big stores and they don’t ask them 😉 Maybe you’d feel more comfortable saying no if you had a reason or alternative for them. E.g. “There isn’t a discount for buying 2 but we do occasionally run a sale through our newsletter. You can sign up here.” or “No we don’t, we’re actually only able to offer a discount when you’re buying in bulk” (more than 5/10/or whatever your minimum wholesale order would be)

    Michelle – thank you! I think we all have. Sometimes it can be worth it to say yes to gain a client but you always have to do what’s best for you and your business, which can be hard when it means saying no to someone;)

  25. I sell my lotion at $12 for 4oz and $20 for 8oz. I have people ask me all time can I buy 2/4oz lotions for $20? I politely tell them I can’t because of additional cost for jars and labeling for 2/4oz jars vs. 1 8oz jar. I then tell them I already have my lotions priced below retail and use only the best ingredients. They are usually ok with that. Same for my soap.

  26. I think the comment “If you don’t value yourself no one will”, was excellent advice!! I’m going to make a stick up note of that.

  27. This is a great article published on an awesome website! I also enjoyed reading everyone’s responses…and say, “oh yeah, that’s me!” It would irritate me to no end when someone would ask if I would take a lower price on a particular item…and I would say yes. It’s not that they asked, but that I said yes. I mean, a sale is a sale. Thanks to the responses, I too am becoming more resolute in that my work is worthy of the price I’m asking.
    I forsee a price increase before the next event!

  28. Hi! Your blog has been so helpful in my business! The comments on this article have been great, especially the positive response examples for people asking for a discount.
    I do lots of festivals and get a lot of discount requests. It makes me crazy! Something that I learned about customer relations is to never say no, at least the actual word anyway. To get around what I want to tell people (*&^% NO!) is to offer them an alternative and make the customer feel like they are getting what they want. “Here’s what I can do for you: if you pay cash, I will pay the tax.” Now that is up to the seller but since my prices have the fee for credit cards built in, I am happy to offer that little perk, which around here is almost 10 percent! There are lots of ways to get around actually using the word no, just get creative and see what can be offered to the customer instead! Thanks again for sharing all your knowledge, it really has helped improve my business in so many ways.

  29. How about this…when they ask for a discount on one item offer to throw in a free “something” If they buy 2. When they want 2 items make the same deal if they buy 3. That something would need to be small with a hefty profit margin already built in. I am a basket maker. I never discount just 1 item, especially anything under $50. When they look doubtful about my add-on offer, I like to say,”You know Christmas is not that far away” or “It’s always nice to have a birthday, graduation, housewarming (etc.) gift ready when you need it.” What do you think?

  30. That’s a great reply Lynda. Most shoppers understand once you explain but unfortunately many believe it’s common practice to ask handmade vendors for discounts…no sure who started that rumor;)

    Great idea Terri!

    That’s great to hear David! Keep us posted on how the price increase goes. Thanks for being a fan of the blog 🙂

    Hi Nancy! Really great ideas and good point on working around the word “no”. No one really likes to be told that;) But you’re right, lots of ways to get creative and make a customer happy, even if you can’t give them the discount they’re requesting. I’m so happy to hear my advice has been helpful to your business. I live to hear that 🙂

    That’s a great suggestion Cydne! I think that could definitely work for handmade vendors as long as it leaves them with a healthy profit like you say. At the end of the day, it’s really whatever feels right for your business. You know when you second guess or get a pit in your stomach after discounting that something is off;)

  31. I sell crochet items, and the comments I hear a lot are, “Oh, I could make that for a lot less,” or “Can you give me the pattern for this so I can make it myself?” It’s hard not to reply with a snarky, “Fine, go make it yourself,” or “Why the heck would I give you the pattern for something I’m trying to sell?” People really do have fewer filters dealing with artisans and crafter for some reason.

  32. One comment I get at almost every show:” Oh I can make it myself for less than that”… Depending on the customer I sometimes say:”Oh really? where are you set up, I would like to see your display”

  33. I’ve had these situations too and would feel guilty for saying no to discounts or taking less for an item. My jewelry is,all handmade and I create my items using copper and silver and feel that I offer a fair price. Thanks!!

  34. My biggest issue now is people taking pictures of my items on their phones…how do u handle this?

  35. I have tried numerous ways to respond to customers ? that drive us crazy. It got to a point that I was putting way to much time thinking about a solution. I don’t think 1 or 2 answers would work. But When one of those silly(not the work I would like to use) ? come up, I look right at the person with a nice pleasant voice and say “Really” and will you be buying 1 or 2 …….today.

  36. Several years ago when asked if I would take less from out of nowhere I said “Oh, do you think that is too much”?. It gets them every single time I have learned. I was so proud of me.

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