This morning I went to turn on my beat up old laptop (which I was just using last night) and... you guessed it... no workie. : ( Part of me is frustrated only because all of my book marks and websites that I visit are all saved on there.
There is one thing I really can't stand and that's excuses. I have received lots of feedback about how some sales are using excuses rather than manning up and admitting they made a mistake. Let's face it, we all make mistakes. I made a mistake on someones check recently. She emailed me and asked me to look into it and sure enough, I screwed up... big time. So I called her, apologized (profusely I might add), told her she was correct, and I was cutting her a new check as I was speaking to her.
But as I have been learning lately, it seems that excuses are the preferred route to go. People don't want your excuses. They don't care how many checks you had to write, they don't care that the credit card company held your payments. They want you to man up and say you were wrong and fix the situation IMMEDIATELY!
When you make excuses you are treating your consignors like they are not important to you. Perhaps you didn't notice, but without consignors, you can't have a sale. Why would you treat them like that? Without your consignors, you have no inventory, and for those of you who are starting a consignment sale, or are a seasoned sale veteran looking back... do you remember fretting over not having any inventory? Why not try being honest with them? Why not try treating them with the same respect that you would expect them to treat you? You are not the all knowing, all powerful Consignment Queen. You work for your consignors. And if you want to continue to have a sale, you need to remember that the next time you think about offering up excuses instead of manning up to your mistakes.
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!"
Last week, I forgot to remove the ability to allow people to comment on my blog. I don't mind if people comment, however, when I first started this blog, it was frequently commented on by spammers hoping to get a link to their site. As a result, I usually try to remove the ability to make comments before I publish the post.
But before I realized I forgot to disable comments, I had two really good comments pop up. One of them was about how frequently, sales tend to not make their expectations and rules clear and when consignors show up for drop off, consignors leave angry because they spent time preparing items that were not accepted for the sale.
As a sale organizer, I must admit I tend to assume people know how to read my mind. It's something my team has been very good to stay on top of me about, and it's also the reason there are 32 pages of content on my website. I try to make it perfectly clear what I expect you to know about my sale.
No two sales are the same. What I accept at my sale, may not be the same as what you may accept at your sale. Here in Nashville, we have 100+ sales. I accept school appropriate shorts and short sleeves at my Fall/Winter sale. I also accept jeans and long pants at my Spring/Summer sale. Some other sales do the same, some do not. It's frustrating when a sale organizer doesn't give clear information about what types of items they accept at their sale. Consignors are perfectly happy when they know the parameters of your sale. It lets them plan accordingly. If sale A, B and C accept shorts and sales D, E and F don't, then they can make sure ahead of time that they are bringing the correct merchandise to the correct sale.
No one wants to prepare and have to go through inventory at drop off. Likewise, as a sale organizer, you don't want to have lines backed up at check in because you did not state your intentions clearly enough. Consignors can't read your mind and what's Fall/Winter to you, may not be the same as Fall/Winter to me.
When I first started my sale, my husband would read through my website and write page after page of notes because he didn't understand what the heck I was talking about. I would get very angry with him and say "All of these women know how to do this!" And he would respond with "do they?" That got me to thinking. Most people don't know how to prepare, how to tag, what to expect, so it fell to me to explain it to them. I assumed there was a level of familiarity, but there actually wasn't.
Be clear and concise when it comes to expressing your sale. What you accept and what you expect as a sale organizer should be clearly expressed to your consignors so they can properly prepare for your sale. It sounds simple, but as I am learning this season... too many sale organizers forgo necessary information. As you think about starting a consignment sale, be sure to view your website through the eyes of those who know nothing about consignment sales. It will help your consignors tremendously.