It's amazing that just a year and a half after our first-ever market fair, we've become experts at selling things from little stands on the street. We've participated in several different mercadillos since then, and we've learned that, like carnies, the fair- and market-going group is a small one, made up of the same tiny community of artisans. They make jewelry, and baby clothes, and leather art. They make ceramic skulls and hand-painted cookies. They make fabric purses and rocking horses, homemade soaps, jams, and candles. In our case, we make homemade pastries. We've started to get to know each other, and we all show up at the same events in town and nearby.
And just as there is a "type" of fair or market artisan (usually hippies, generally young, mostly artsy creative types), there are also specific buyers. You can spot them miles away, and they fall into five categories, which I'm fairly sure are universal, no matter what market, fair, festival, or for that matter, country you're in:
1. The Looker
The looker is actually one of two different buyers, depending on the facial expression used when Looking. The Looker never buys, but the Looker looks...a lot. This isn't the typical customer who just wants to browse and see what's at the market. The looker will approach your table, minutely scan every item, and then give a judgment, and walk away. The Lookers are divided into two groups: the How Cools and the That's Weirds. The How Cools will enthusiastically praise your items, gushing over how delicious or cool or awesome they look. And then they will walk away, without the least intention of buying something. The That's Weirds, however, will appraise each and every product you sell, turn their nose up, and mutter something under their breath as they walk away, like "That's weird" or "What the heck was that?" or "I can't believe people pay good money for that sh*t." In Galicia, The That's Weirds are almost exclusively women over 70.
2. The Free Sampler
The Free Sampler looooves free samples. And who doesn't, really? Many of us have spent a lovely Saturday morning at Costco, going up and down the food aisles, following the trail of empty paper cups and tiny crumpled napkins. But this is different. There is an unwritten rule that a free sample is one per person. You might try different foods, but you're generally limited to one of each kind. Since some of the products I make are unusual for a Spanish market, I started cutting up little bits so that people could try some of the stranger pastries (like a salted caramel brownie). In theory, the customer will try a bit of something they otherwise wouldn't experience, and will like it so much they'll purchase a full slice. When a Free Sampler comes along, however, what happens is that this person will stand in front of your table for five full minutes, slowly eating their way through your sample plate and leaving a pile of used toothpicks in their wake. They will often comment on how delicious the pastry is, and then will, without warning, abruptly leave without making a purchase. Ahem. No wonder, since they've already filled up on your delicious (and free) tiny samples.
3. The Bargainer
The Bargainer doesn't want to pay full price for anything, ever - even when it's handmade, hand-carved, hand-painted, or in any way one-of-a-kind. Your hard work and effort mean nothing to the Bargainer, who is sure you've inflated your prices by at least 20%. The Bargainer may hover around your table, eyeing the products for something they think you're desperate to sell. They bide their time, and then, like a hunting hawk, they strike. How much is a slice of pie? They ask innocently. And the whole pie? They know you'll get excited, thinking you've hit the jackpot by selling a whole pie at once. And then they drop the bomb. "That's too expensive," they'll say. "I'll give you (whatever's half of your initial price)." The Bargainer has a unique combination of haughtiness, audacity, and sheer fuck-you-ness that makes you feel angry and used, even if you accept their offer and watch them walk away with a pie at less than half the asking price. Sometimes you can tell a Bargainer to go eff themselves, but when you really are desperate to sell something, you are only left feeling dirty and a little bit ashamed. Your only consolation is imagining them being blown away by the deliciousness of your pie, while they choke on it at the same time.
4. The Storyteller
The Storyteller is a sneaky client, because the Storyteller is friendly! The Storyteller wants to chat! But the Storyteller's story is never, ever over. Are you selling cookies? Because the Storyteller has a story about her cousin's brother's wife's friend who once sold cookies in some other town. Do you have chocolate cake? Because the Storyteller once had chocolate cake, and she wants to tell you alllll about it. While a generally harmless customer (who does, on occasion, actually buy something), they can be tiring at best and, at worst, an obstacle to actual customers. The best option here is to get them talking to the Free Sampler, so they both walk away at once.
5. The Sticky Fingers
The Sticky Fingers is usually (though, incredibly, not always) limited to children. Most children have been taught not to touch things. To keep their hands to themselves. To not handle delicate objects. And yet, all children get an inexplicable thrill from doing exactly that. The Sticky Fingers will run ahead of his distracted parents, and while making direct eye contact with you, will stick his hand onto whatever pastries he can reach. The Sticky Fingers is usually followed by a halfhearted "Bobby, don't touch," from an exhausted parent, twenty seconds too late and thirty seconds after Bobby's finger was lodged deep into his nostril before swiping it onto your brownies. The parents of Sticky Fingers never offer to pay for a touched pastry. They are too busy asking Bobby to please come down from that garbage can! Garbage cans are not for climbing! They've obviously got their (sticky) hands full.
Luckily, most of our customers are just regular good people who want to buy pastries and then come back and tell us how delicious they are. Some customers drag their friends over to our table to buy things. Some buy whole boxes to bring home to their families. Some bring their own Tupperware containers and tell us to fill 'er up (true story). We can only hope that, even with the occasional difficult client, we can continue to enjoy the reactions of customers when they bite into something we made, with our own hands, for the very first time. That makes everything worth it.