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HATERS GONNA HATE: The Unhappy BAD Baby in Action.

by Luann Udell on 9/9/2017 5:48:18 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...."  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.



A problem shopper is a problem for EVERYBODY. And it isn’t about you.


This weekend I went thrifting. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s hitting as many thrift shops as I can before my husband wants the car back. (We are managing with one car since we’ve moved to California, and so far we’ve also managed to actually stay married.)


Some people would never consider shopping at a thrift store, and some people can’t afford to shop anywhere else. In between are those of us who love the thrill of the chase, and the lure of the bargain. It’s hit-or-miss, of course, especially if you are looking for a specific item. But if you have an open mind and a small budget, it’s almost as much fun as a yard sale or a flea market, and there’s usually air conditioning, too.


So far, I’ve become (in)famous with a small group of photographers, who gave a workshop on how to photograph your own artwork. They highly recommended a tripod. I used to have one in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut during the Big Move. Now I realized it’s critical to getting a crisp, clear image.


So on our lunch break, I ran out to a nearby thrift shop—and found a very nice tripod for under $10. (Actually, I found TWO, and bought them both for $13, total.)


The facilitators (mostly men) were gob-smacked. And very impressed! “We never thought of that!” they exclaimed. “And you just went out and did it and came back with TRIPODS!” (I AM good at thrifting. I has skills, people.)


So there I am at Salvation Army, in the mood for t-shirts and open to the idea of great pair of new dress pants, with the original sales tag, for $6, when I hear an angry voice at the cash register.


A large, older man is venting his frustration at the elderly woman at the counter.




He continued, “I don’t want a RED shirt, I want a LARGE shirt! And I shouldn’t have to check out every shirt on the rack to find one!”


The clerk looked nervous, but calmly apologized. She said their policy was not to sort clothing by size. “WELL, THEN, YOU SHOULD ALL BE SHOT!” he yelled. A few more similar remarks, and he finally left the building, fuming that his perfect shopping experience had been spoiled.


When I was ready to check out, I spoke to the clerk, telling her she had my sympathy. And that I love when items are sorted by color, because I was looking for specific colors and it saved ME a lot of time to find what I was looking for.  She was relieved. We chatted cheerfully, and I left with my new purchases.


Does this man have a point? Of course he does! If he really doesn’t care what color his shirt is, it can be frustrating to have to look at every shirt to find his size. He wants to go to one spot, find all the shirts that meet his criteria, and get outta there.


Except…..There are plenty of places you can do that. In fact, EVERYWHERE else. If you still can’t afford the big bucks, you can try Kmart, Walmart, Costco, or some of the other thrift shops in the area.


So is he justified to have this attitude towards the one place he chose to shop that day? Not really. And you want to suggest a change in a productive way, why would you go off on a person (who probably was a volunteer) at the one thrift shop that doesn’t do things “your way”?


Because you can.


Because you feel entitled. “This is what I want, and I expect to get it, cheap! Now!” And the thrift store is not accommodating you.


Because you are frustrated you are big, and the world isn’t accommodating you. Because you don’t want to spend money (why else would you be in a thrift shop?) but you want a great selection, and you also don’t want to spend a lot of time. (Remember the three kinds of printing available—good, fast, or cheap? And you can get any two, but rarely three? That applies to shopping, too.)


Because you are a big, loud, angry man, and the clerk is petite, and elderly, and frightened, you can blow your stack and since it looks like there’s nobody around who’s going to stop you, you can get away with it. She’s a captive audience—she can’t walk away, she has to mind the store. And you’re the “customer”, and she has to listen.


Sometimes, that’s the damaged, angry, entitled person who comes into your creative space, and trashes you, your work, your display, your aesthetic, and in the process, maybe your soul.


It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your work. It isn’t about your color choices, your prices, your artist statement.


It’s all about them, and you are simply available. You can’t leave your space, and they are the customer.


Except….they’re not!


As I write this, I’m trying to think if ANY of the truly difficult people I’ve encountered while selling my work…the REALLY rude, patronizing, insulting, angry people….have actually bought a piece of my work.


And the answer, I realize, is no. They have not.


They aren’t really my customers at all. Just people taking advantage of the fact that I’ve (figuratively) invited them into my space, and I can’t leave. I am their captive audience, they figure, and they are entitled to your attention, and your hope, and your dreams.


If any of you are still harboring thoughts about people/family/customers saying hurtful things, about whether there is a grain of truth in their statements, about how to defend yourself, here is the living, walking, shouting truth:


There is no way to make this person happy. And you don’t even have to try.


All you have to do is smile, apologize, walk him out, and count your blessings.


Because these are not the droids you’re looking for.


Because YOU made all this wonderful, wonderful work. The making of it brought you happiness. Putting it out into the world built your courage.


Your TRUE customers--the people who love it, and the people who buy it, will be happy, too.


And all it took was for you to stay in your happy place and move the unhappy baby…er…person…out of your space.  And for your real customers to cross your path today. Or maybe tomorrow. Soon!


Oh, and you have some pretty good responses and answers to their comments and questions. But we’ve got you covered there, too. 


You’ve got this!





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Related Posts:

SHAKE IT OFF! Haters gonna hate, but just shake it off!

HATERS GONNA HATE: Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

HATERS GONNA HATE: And Lovers Gonna Love

Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art collectors | art criticism | FineArtViews | inspiration | Luann Udell 

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Mark Brockman
You can't please all the people all the time. Whether sorted by size or color, someone will complain.

I have never dealt with rude people when selling but have when giving a demo or group critiques. For other reasons I'll not go into here I unconsciously (or not) developed a smile that is non-committal. It works with rude people and when asked to do something I don't want to do. Somehow, I'm not sure how it works, I smile and people don't bother me again. Just ask my wife.

I know this article isn't about photographing art, but I have found that my smart phone works great for most photographic needs in terms of art. Much better then my $700 camera does. Also by putting the art on the floor and photographing it from above works great and so easy.

Geoff Musseau
Nice article . if i put my work out there and if you do not like don't buy it and if your to rude , i won't sell it to you even if i loose a sale . twice i have shown a couple of customers the door ,

L. B.
I like the way you worked thrift shops into your art topic,...very clever!
But can I share a pet peeve about this issue in thrift shops?
First, I would never yell and absolutely never abuse a poor clerk! But you have to understand, if you're not one the popular standard sizes 8-14 (and I'm not), it's so daunting to view 30+ feet on a stuffed clothing rack that if you're lucky might have a scant few in your size! Actually, I'd say 7 out of 10 thrifts sort by size, not color,...the smart ones!
I don't yell, but I let my feet do the talking and can't help but think what an idiot management would sort by color!!!
Thank you for the "soapbox"!

Nancy omHorwick
I have been reading and enjoying your articles for awhile now. I just wanted to let you know - it's nice to hear of similar struggles and problems from other artists! And of course, the solutions.
Thanks for sharing your point of view.

Andrea Jeris
"these are not the droids you're looking for"
Love your writings.

Carol Middlekauff
What if those stores, including the "regular" stores sorted by size AND color? What if that might apply to artwork, too? Folks who are looking for that over-the-sofa piece would have a spot to look, and those who want that piece for over the lamp would have a spot, too. That's crazy. But I'm also one of those irregular sizes who has to look through the whole store to find the 2 in my size.

Love your writing!

Walter Paul Bebirian
well - I have only been in thrift shops recently with my wife to make some hefty donations - in fact I have so many clothes - shirts - shoes - pants coats that I can open up a thrift shop myself and do pretty well but I won't -

the thing is that no one need be rude to anyone anywhere - and I am sure you just might be willing to agree with me there - but it is always a curious thing to perhaps discover what - if anything is really troubling anyone - it might be sometimes something - a different perspective or thought or idea - that you just may be able to help them with - ?

Bev Shankey
I find back handed compliments the hardest to take, but I just smile and work my way thru the conversation. No need to ever bully snyone, and never a volunteer elderly woman stuck lustening to bluster.

What a delight to read your vivid post - to see the colors, the big man, and my own emotions. Write On!

Arlen Madole
That rude person must be a member of the "ugly Americans" that one meets around the world. Fortunately, we don't meet many. Your writing is excellent and always enjoy your articles.

Mark Brockman
Off subject: When I try on jeans I always take two or more pairs, all listed as the same size, into the changing room, inevitably they are not the same size. Then again in some weird way maybe this isn't off subject.

Andrea Edwards
Thank you Luann, I really enjoyed this post this morning. I have some exhibition situations coming up soon and your post is an on-point and timely reminder to stay balanced and calm!

Thank you again sincerely.

Andrea Edwards - Abstract Artist, Sydney, Australia

Luann Udell
Mark, re: your smile, have you filed your teeth lately? If it stops rude comments, I'd consider it myself! :^D

And the photography thing, yes, smartphones make it easier, especially for 2D work. But for 3D work, and for jury slides, we want a very steady shot, especially with smartphones not having a lot of shutter speed choices. Plus despite my best intentions, I'm just not very steady. Hence (HENCE) the tripod.

Luann Udell
Geoff, yes, sometimes we have to resort to that. The trick is to stay on the high road even as we walk them out.

Luann Udell
Nancy, one of the greatest gifts I believe I offer artists is the reassurance that, if you're having a frustrating experience, you are (usually) not alone! :^D

And having a strategy in place that helps us stay in our happy place is key.

Be sure to share what works for YOU, too, because I certainly have not thought of everything. :^)

Luann Udell
Andrea, yes, Star Wars has so much to teach us....!! :^D

Luann Udell
Carol (and L.B.), I get it, I really do. I'm right there with you!

But I could have used so many more examples, even without having just witnessed that scene at the thrift shop.

It's not really about how things are arranged, or why. It makes sense for SOMEBODY, and works for SOME PEOPLE.

It's the people who use that as an excuse to verbally abuse the innocent clerk. It's a metaphor for the deeply unhappy/disturbed/abusive people who believe they have a right to treat US the same way.

Some people feel entitled to their right to create misery, spread distress, dump anger on the most-available target. If that happens to be us, in our booth, our studio, our gallery opening, then they are doing that in our sacred, creative space.

That's not okay. There is no reason to accomodate someone who stoops to this very low level. You don't have to worry that you're losing a sale, because there was not going to be a sale anyway.

OTOH, engaging them, challenging them, can backfire--because OTHER PEOPLE may be watching. If we respond with anger, it destroys the beautiful space we've created with our work, and with our powerful presence. It rattles US, too, for a long time after.

Responding firmly, but with restraint and courtesy, leaves us knowing we stand on solid ground, and helps us get back to our happy place quickly.

Luann Udell
Walter, your last paragraph--YES, SOMETIMES the wisdom we've gathered along the way on our artistic growth and development may help someone else start their own healing journey.

But whenever I go into a situation with the ASSUMPTION I can "fix" people, it usually ends...well, not BADLY, but not well, either.

YES, sometimes a deep breath, getting centered, and inquiring gently, can work small miracles. And that is definitely another aspect of the healing power of art.

Luann Udell
Bev, you got it! No excuse for rudeness. And there's a difference between being rude (with the intention to be hurtful) and standing our ground (with the intention of maintaining our integrity.)

Luann Udell
Lillian, thank you!
I do love finding the insight in odd encounters. If something "tugs" at me long after it's over, there's usually a little life lesson for me in there somewhere.

Luann Udell
Arlen, yes, there are a few! :^D
I used to think there was good in EVERYONE. Now I think, "Well, MAYBE, but I don't have the strength to look for it in you today." :^D

Luann Udell
Mark, I'll let you in on a little secret:

Every single woman on this planet knows that already.


Luann Udell
Andrea, I'm delighted this wisdom landed in your mailbox on the other side of the world, just in time for your next events!

It helps to practice a few phrases ahead of time:
"I know my work isn't for everyone...."
"I have to get back to these other folks, thank you for coming!"
"Let me refer you to another artist down the aisle, I think you'll enjoy THEIR work!"

Karen Lockert
No, you don't have to apologize, though you can say "I am sorry you are having such a bad day", or "maybe this isn't the right place for you" - but an apology assumes "you" have done something wrong....

Luann Udell
Karen, you're right, of course. Sometimes "I'm sorry..." means "I feel your pain, I know it's hard." But the angry "bad baby" won't hear that.

The trick is saying any "apologetic" phrase with a different, deeply-held attitude. As in "My work isn't for everyone." It may be viewed as 'apologetic'. But when I say it, I say it with pride. As in, "I'm not a Walmart, I'm an artist! MY WORK ISN'T FOR EVERYONE...(it's for the people who truly appreciate what is unique and powerful in it."


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