Tensions mounted during an after-hours seminar last month at the Chicago Pen Show.
The Pen Addict, Brad Dowdy, and long-time pen collector and publisher Paul Erano held a discussion that was intended to help new pen collectors learn how to navigate their first pen show. It was a brilliant idea and an honest effort to welcome more so-called pen newbies into the fold of pen collectors.
Yet, sparks flew when several “newbies” expressed some serious complaints about “veteran” vendors treating them with disdain to outright ripping them off. Some of newer attendees found the pen show experience to be more of a bruising contact sport than a pleasurable gathering of like-minded pen lovers–not with all veteran vendors but with more than many newbies would have liked.
Several veteran vendors in the audience pushed back with a litany of problems they had with the new generation of pen collectors who often grabbed their pens without permission, accidentally broke their pens and generally asked too many questions without ever buying anything.
Everybody was civil, and many veterans and newbies were trying to ease tensions more than stir them, but, personally, I felt this was a conversation that is desperately needed in the pen community. It actually made me happy to see the two sides talking to each other and trying to come to a better understanding. And they were getting a great opportunity to do just that.
However, as entrenched as some members of each “side” were in their position, I think each had a really hard time fully expressing their point of view and getting it fairly addressed.
Over the course of the next week or two, I hope to address both sides of this discussion with helpful tips on how to navigate a pen show as both a buyer and a vendor. It is a role I feel uniquely qualified for.
I didn’t go to my first pen show until I was 31 years old…9 years ago. It was a remarkably overwhelming experience that was severely bruising. I was overjoyed to have finally found “my people” only to find that they really didn’t seem to want me to be a part of them. I was frequently treated poorly and ripped off mercilessly. Yet, I’d never seen that many pens before and loved finding them and learning about them. Now, at 40, I’m still one of the youngest vendors in the room, and I’ve made friends with many of the veterans and totally get their perspective as a vendor, myself.
It is my goal to bridge the generational divide of expectations at a pen show. In my next post, I take a look at some of the differences and cultivate a better understanding of who the two generations of pen collectors are. In the post after that, I hope to help acclimate new attendees to the joys and benefits of shopping at a show. In the following post, I hope to teach a few of the “old dogs” new tricks to maximizing the growing youthful turnout at pen shows in a way that rings up more sales and brings many more to come at future shows.