– The secret life of XMAS bazaars

Excerpt from upcoming book about my years as an Audubon Conservation chair

Every year Kalmiopsis Audubon took a table at the community Christmas bazaar where we sold many items including bird houses, baked goods, and baggies full of bird seed for $1.00. After one of these events, Al, one of our members said in an email that he saw me sell two one-dollar bags of seed to someone for $3.00. What he observed was that I told a person who walked up to the table we were having a sale on bird seed and instead of selling them one for one dollar, that for a limited time, we would sell them two for $3.00 and the person bought two, and paid $3.00. My email response discussed my views of this incident and Xmas bazaar sales techniques in general.

Subject: Re: Bazaar $$$ Date: 12/2/01 3:22 AM

To Friends:

Al said:

> special thanks to Jim for putting the polish on crowd management (3 dollars for two bags >of $1 bird seed!)

Here is my theory of Audubon Xmas Bazaar tabling.

Each person who approaches our Audubon table is unique, and comes to us NOT to decide IF they want to buy something. (they have already decided to buy something or they wouldn’t be there), but to leave us some money. So, it is the responsibility of those of us at the table to help our customers connect with their particular item. Perhaps hand it to them, or point it out. And also, of course, to help them figure out how much they want to spend for it.

Our table is best thought of as a theater where we provide improvisational counseling.

Sometimes (most times) a person merely wishes to purchase good will and only needs to take away an item for symbolic reasons. Thus paying $3.00 for a two-dollar item might be very feasible. In fact, sometimes when a person refuses an item at one price, you can counter at a higher price and they will buy it at the higher price. I suggested that very approach to someone last week and a person who refused something at one price, later agreed to it a higher one.

A person may refuse to buy something, but if given it for free, will afterwards insist on paying for it. (that happened yesterday). One woman said, “I don’t have a dollar.” So, I insisted she take it for free. She took it and then said, “I have a ten, can you change it?”

Now as to the bird seed. Did everyone who bought bird seed “need” it. In most cases, I doubt it. The attractively packaged seed served as a physical token and symbolic marker to facilitate a socially acceptable method for someone to leave a dollar or two with us. One woman verbalized it when she said to her husband who was deliberating whether or not he needed bird seed, she said, ” Just give them the two dollars dear, it’s got nothing to do with bird seed. ” If I had asked, I am sure that couple would have been happy to pay $5.00 or even $10.00 for the two bags they took away.It doesn’t really make any difference if we have bird seed for sale or earrings, books, or dog biscuits on consignment (actually we could have sold a lot more of them). Any items on our table will serve as well as any other.

People want to help and to give, and when we ask and suggest, it helps them figure out the form that help will take.

Al also said:

>The cash including the check that was taken in today at the Bazaar was $268.75

What we really did was to create a good deal of priceless “commitment” or rapport with the community. The cash, while important, is a metaphor for that commitment.

I had a great time as always and appreciate all the work that went into the booth.