I received an email from another sale organizer who said "Jen, you have got to blog about this!" It was an email that was meant as an SOS of sorts, but it was the worst email I had ever read coming from a sale, and I've seen lots of SOS emails! To be quite honest, this email was so bad , that I thought it was a prank. I've had to mull this email over... and over... and over in my head before I could even respond.
In an effort to keep this anonymous, I'll just hit the hi-lights and set the scenario for you. This email blast was sent out to (I am assuming) everyone on their mailing list (based upon this other sale organizer receiving this email). It was an SOS WE NEED HELP! email. It was from, I am again assuming (I know, I'll get myself in trouble with assuming) a large, established sale based upon the size of the equipment trailer and knowledge of the lines at check out. The SOS email proceeded to list every day of the sale and the fact that they had ZERO or only a few volunteers. They then proceeded to describe what would happen at the sale if no one volunteered. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they also described what it would be like for their consignors and shoppers with only one or two volunteers. They basically sabotaged their sale without even knowing it.
I am a consignor and shopper too. If I get an email from a sale that says they have no help for drop off or pick up, you can bet I won't consign. If you send out an SOS because of no help for public sale days and go on to describe the long lines that are about to ensue, I won't be shopping either. You have cut your own throat when you send out a desperate plea for help and you tell people you have NO help, and expect the lines to be LONG. This is completely unnecessary. An SOS out of desperation doesn't guilt people into volunteering, it pushes them farther from your sale.
So what should you do when you have no volunteers or only a few volunteers? You should absolutely send out an email. BUT... instead of sounding desperate, you need to focus on the positive. Remember that you are responsible for running this sale, not them. If you can't get people to volunteer, you need to up the ante.
Here's what you need to do:
- Incentives. You need them and you need lots of them! Up the percentage, waive the fees, offer gift cards for the sale. Whatever you need to do, you NEED to do. Put an accent on the positive benefits for volunteering. It's not always about shopping early, it's about shopping early with a $25 gift certificate to the sale that brings them in! If you can't get them to volunteer based upon early shopping alone, you need to add incentives.
- Pay for help. If you absolutely can't get people to volunteer it's time to pay for help. Contact your local moms clubs and see if there are some moms who would like to work for $10/hr (or for gift certificates to the sale). Everyone likes to make a little extra cash on the side so contact your moms groups, church groups or youth groups and offer to pay them to help.
- Don't tell people you have ZERO volunteers! Tell them you only need 2 or 3 people to fill these shifts and then list the shifts you need help with. Potential volunteers don't want to know they will be working alone and bearing the brunt of this burden. By saying you only need 2 or 3 people (even if you really need 10) makes people think... hey, I can do that! List specific needs such as Weds 9a-1p (2 people) etc. People are more willing to round out your volunteer schedule than they are to be the first one to sign up (especially a couple of days before the sale begins).
There is never a time to panic. You must remain calm and you must remain positive. One of my sales was recently saying "I just have to remind myself that this sale is going to be, what it's going to be." And that is so true. There are always going to be hurdles and hiccups, whether you are starting a consignment sale, or have an established sale. Make the best of a bad situation by creating incentives to get people in, rather than sending out a horrible email describing how long lines are going to be at check out because "you bad people aren't volunteering!"