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A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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Buyers' Horror Stories

Vendors: Here's what NOT to do at trade shows.

by "Benny Da Buyer" (January, 2004)

(Note: "Benny" is the pseudonym for various chain-store buyers – all of whom need to remain anonymous. Since major trade shows will soon be upon us, this seemed an appropriate time to remember past shows – and some rude, goofy exhibitors.)

Here it comes again. It’s that time of year for all buyers: trade shows. Trade shows can be quite an interesting experience, sometimes exciting and sometimes just annoying. As a buyer, I can’t put myself in the shoes of a vendor, but I can put you into our shoes.

Here are some of the great stories that I have compiled from my fellow buyers.

Vendor Booth Etiquette.

I can remember scheduling a vendor meeting at a show and having the meeting not go as planned. We were sitting in the booth discussing current business when a new vendor who was seeking my business interrupted the entire meeting to introduce me to the president of his company. It was quite rude to the people in the meeting with me, not to mention embarrassing to me.

It is also embarrassing to be a buyer in a booth having a meeting and the vendor ignores you to greet someone else from another company. It does not sit well with the original buyer no matter how big or small.

The Stalker…

You know who you are. The stalker. I walked a show with someone from my company who was not a buyer (hearing and seeing his perspective was quite interesting). He caught on to the fact that someone was stalking us. The stalker/vendor would hide behind other people and try and get lost in the crowd. It wasn’t working. Every corner we turned, there he was. Finally we were forced into his booth. I didn’t buy any product from that particular vendor – and never will.

One time while I was walking a show with my boss, a vendor jumped into the aisle and grabbed us. The vendor accosted me in front of my boss for not returning a phone call that was made from the show floor to my office line. It was not a good moment.

Stalking becomes a daily issue. I have traded badges with someone else so that I'm not recognized. I have flipped my badge around. It can be overwhelming for a buyer. I even know of someone who was followed into the ladies room by a vendor who just wanted a few minutes of her time. We realize that you are trying to sell us something, but we are people too.

Lack of Follow Up.

The most surprising thing to a buyer is the general lack of follow up. After a vendor has taken the time to stalk you through the crowd, or run through the aisles to chase you down, there is only a slight chance that you may actually have follow up from a new vendor. As shocking as it sounds, some vendors have a hard time following up with topics that are discussed at trade shows.


by Mike Hartnett

"Benny" isn't the only one who's been accosted by someone in a rest room. I was in a trade show rest room once and witnessed a trade magazine publisher trying to sell an ad to a manufacturer – while the poor guy was trying to use the facilities.

Once, I was walking briskly down an aisle on the way to the rest room when a vendor jumped out of his booth, stopped me, and started talking. And talking. And talking. Meanwhile, the call of nature was calling more loudly, and periodically I would say, "I really have to leave; I'm late for a meeting."

The vendor kept talking. And talking. And talking. Finally I was getting desperate and shouted, "I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!"

Many exhibitors who are new to the world of chain store buyers and trade shows believe a show is the one-and-only chance to make a sale. Consequently, they often act in ways that just turn off the buyers.

(Note: To read previous thoughts by "Benny," click on the titles in the right-hand column.)



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