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9 Convention Customers Everyone Hates

March 8, 2012

One of the wonderful things about working conventions is getting to meet people.  I met some of the most amazing people I know while sitting behind a table in a dealers hall, and I treasure each and every one of them.  But not everyone who passes by the front of the table is fun to deal with.  Whether it’s a gaming convention, a renaissance festival, or a local craft show, there a certain types of people who will always show up and will always be harder to handle.

The Lingerer

The Lingerer will stand in front of the booth for 20 to 30 minutes, usually right in front of the vendor, blocking not only the vendor’s view of other potential customers, but also preventing other customers from approaching the table. The Lingerer will usually ramble on about everything from the detailed and fascinating back story of their D&D character to why Fantasy shouldn’t be lumped in with Sci-Fi to why X artist/director/writer/actor has completely ruined their favorite franchise.  The Lingerer honestly believes that their topic of choice is utterly fascinating to the person behind the table and will ramble on endlessly about their topic of choice.

How To Handle Them:

If you’re not willing to tell them to go the fuck away, make an obvious point of being helpful to someone else. Trying to engage another customer will either remind The Lingerer that, oh yeah, you’re there to sell stuff, not listen to them ramble on, or they’ll get annoyed with you for ignoring them and wander off.

The Haggler

The Haggler is under the mistaken impression that since the vendor isn’t a “real store,” that it’s okay to demand a discount. Usually an insultingly obnoxious one. The Haggler will dismiss any attempts to explain things like labor and overhead.  The Haggler also tends to assume that all materials which look similar should cost similar amounts and may demand the hand crafted item for the cost of the mass produced one, or try to compare the product prices to something they saw at Wal-mart.  Hagglers may morph into The DIY-er

How To Handle Them

Hold your ground. If you have a standard discount you offer, bring that up. Unless it’s honestly something you’re trying to get rid of, don’t let the Haggler annoy you into selling your product for less than it’s worth. Eventually The Haggler will either buy whatever it is at the price you’re asking, or they’ll give up and go away.

The DIY-er

The DIY-er thinks that because they have a certain skill set and can make things themselves for free, that other people shouldn’t charge for labor either. X amount of fabric at Y price costs Z, therefore, that’s how much a made to order trench coat should cost. The DIY-er will pick up the products and loudly declare that it’s too expensive, critique the craftmanship, and then declare that they won’t be buying it because they could make it themselves. Truly obnoxious DIY-ers will either take pictures without asking permission, or will ask permission and then get upset if told no.

How To Handle Them

Get a sign reading “Sure you could make it, but will you?” Attempting to reason with a DIY-er is occasionally successful, but usually leads to frustration and headaches. Help someone else. Eventually the DIY-er will either purchase something or give up and go be an asshole somewhere else.

The Expert

Here, let me tell you why you're wrong.

The Expert knows everything about everything.  Especially about your product.  The Expert has been making/selling/buying whatever product it is you’ve got for much longer than you have and would like to take this time to give you the gift of explaining to you how you are Doing It Wrong.  The Expert will accept no credentials to prove your own worthiness, as his are always better.  The Expert may take the time to loudly declare how awful your products are before moving on to another booth.

How To Handle Them

Smile.  Nod.  Glean what little advice you can and feel free to attempt to point out your qualifications, but understand that The Expert never actually wants to hear what you have to say.  If you’re being particularly brave or The Expert is being particularly annoying, point out very quietly that they are being rude and should cheerfully move the fuck on to someone else’s table.

The Fondler

The Fondler likes to touch things. All the things. Nothing that The Fondler touches ever goes back the same way. They are incapable of refolding fabric, putting hanging items back where they found them, or putting items back down in the stack that it came from. Children are frequently guilty of of this activity and if they don’t have an adult to tell them to knock it off, they grow up to be Fondlers. Fondlers are also sometimes shoplifters in disguise.

How To Handle Them

Keep your eye on them, and try to tidy up after them as they go. If the Fondler is a child, ask them nicely, but loud enough for a parent to overhear, to please be careful with the products. Ask them if you can help them find anything in particular. Often a Fondler just needs someone to help them narrow their focus, and your directed assistance will keep them from rearranging your whole space in an attempt to find the thing they want.

The Blockade

The Blockade usually involves two or more people who have decided to stop right in the middle of the traffic flow to have a conversation. Eventually, the press of people around them will force them to one side of the aisle or the other, making them a wall of bodies effectively blocking whichever booth they are standing in front of. The Blockage seems to have completely forgotten that they are in the vendor space and are usually unaware that they are causing a problem.

How To Handle Them

Say something to them. Either ask them to shuffle down a ways, interject a comment to their conversation, or wedge your sales pitch into a lull. The Blockage usually just needs someone to remind them of where they are. A more stubborn Blockade may need a pointed request that they find somewhere else to talk.

The Pupil

The Pupil likes to stand around in front of the booth asking questions about how things are made, where the vendor gets their supplies, and what sort of tools are needed. The Pupil doesn’t want to buy anything, they just want to be taught how to do the thing that the vendor is doing, so they can do it themselves or start up a similar business. The Pupil is distinct from the DIY-er in that they’re willing to admit they don’t know what they’re doing, but they would dearly love it if the vendor would drop everything to pass on the sum total of their years of experience.

How To Handle Them

Encourage creativity, but don’t let The Pupil monopolize your time. If The Pupil is serious about starting up their own business, they’ll find someone willing to give them The Talk and some sound financial advice. Preferably a tax accountant with experience in helping small businesses get going. Beware The Competing Vendor trying to pass as The Pupil.

The Competing Vendor

The Competing Vendor roams the hall looking for anyone who is selling something similar to their product, and then does their best to either a) pump the other vendor for their supply sources, b) discourage the other vendor with “helpful” advice, or c) all of the above. The Competing Vendor may also make disparaging remarks about other vendors’ products to customers and vendors whose products are not directly in competition to theirs. Remarks may include comments on the quality of materials, the absurdness of the prices, and implications that goods advertised as handmade are actually imported.

How To Handle Them

Kill them with kindness. To everyone else. Customers and fellow vendors are not dumb, they’ll recognize who has genuine critiques and who is being disingenuous.  If The Competing Vendor is being truly obnoxious, talk to the Vendor Coordinator.  A good Vendor Coordinator will investigate the complaint and have a quiet word with the offending party.

The Cloud

I don't need to shower, I use Axe!

Whether it’s someone wearing an obnoxious amount of perfume, someone who recently had a cigarette or 10, or someone who really, really need to get friendly with a sponge and a bar of soap, The Cloud can sometimes appear to be completely independent of the person causing it.  The Cloud often shows up in con spaces well before any actual person, and lingers long after.  Sadly, the bearer of The Cloud is all too often completely oblivious of their invisible escort and if made aware of the problem, may become hostile.

How To Deal With Them

In the case of over applied scented products, I find that an apologetic remark about being allergic to whatever it is they are wearing tends to make the bearer of The Cloud back up a bit.  In the case of The Cloud consisting of considerable quantities of con funk, it’s best to just keep a spray can of Febreeze near by and hope they move on quickly.


As a final note, please understand that these categories are not directed at anyone specific.  But if you happen to recognize yourself in any of these categories?  Feel free to adjust your behavior accordingly.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Piratestan permalink
    March 12, 2012 2:44 am

    The Lingerer can be especially obnoxious if you’re a vendor at a sci-fi con and are a woman of even moderate appearance (or downright sexy as my GF is). These shy, clueless virgins will stand there talking to a purty gurl with no intention whatsoever of buying what she’s actually selling.

    And they’ll do this even when I’m at the booth! And, believe me, I can be a pretty intimidating guy a lot of the time. Doesn’t faze them in the least. She’s smiling and actually talking to them. Buy something or go away; make room for a real customer!

    • March 12, 2012 6:40 am

      The Lingerer may have a different motivation when it comes to a pretty woman at the booth, but believe me, the tactic is the same. If he doesn’t get the clue after being ignored in favor of other customers, then *she* needs to be the one to ask him to leave. Having you do it casts you in his mind as the Big Bad Jealous Boyfriend who is butting in on their conversation. Unfortunately in this sort of case, anything she says to him is going to viewed as rude, either by him or by outside observers. So it is best for her to be polite, but firm, and then ignore him completely from there. Any behavior he exhibits after that will determine if the intervention of a convention security person is required. In my experience, there is no One True Way of dealing with this particular subset of Lingerer behavior, because it’s hard to judge in advance if what you have is the “Socially Inept” Lingerer or the “Potential Stalker” Lingerer.

      Huh. Maybe I need to do a “9 Convention Attendees Every Woman Hates.”

  2. NicHolland08 permalink
    March 12, 2012 10:58 am

    As a fellow artist and convention booth vendor, I’ve seen each and every one of these folks, many times. I find, at least that this works for me, that pointedly ignoring most folks that annoy you works the best. I’m female, married, and work several conventions a year. I’m the artist of the trade, my husband plays the role of cashier and helps me keep an eye on the table. I greet people, exchange a few polite words, and then it’s head down, back to working on art. Most “Lingerers” , “Experts” and the like will move on after they realize I’m no longer paying them any attention. I also find that a polite “I’m sorry, I would love to chat, but I am working here. Sorry!” usually helps as well.

  3. Lady TulleSlayer permalink
    March 12, 2012 5:49 pm

    Oh GOD it is so true.

    I have a repeat offender in the “Competing Vendor” category who’s practically an ambulance chaser.

    The MINUTE I advertise something, BOOM! I get a private message asking where I get them, how much I paid for them, or if I’m willing to sell to them for peanuts so they can turn around and charge 200% more.

    And they think I’m their friend so I would totally help them out, totally.


    • March 13, 2012 8:22 am

      I may have to crowbar the ambulance chaser comment into the next one, because I find that image hilarious.

  4. Erick permalink
    March 13, 2012 7:28 am

    Well done m’dear! As someone who has managed vendor spaces for over a decade, and as someone who currently manages a “big name”, I have to say that I have run across every single one of these descriptions.
    Now, I’m a guy; 6’3″ white and 230lbs. I don’t consider myself as intimidating as people claim I can be. So with that I don’t have some of the problem the “cute girls” do at cons. But I will say this, I do get to handle some of the more belligerent customers, or problem children as we like to call them.
    My response, to steal from Jenni, kill them with kindness. Smile. A Lot. And then sell to them. A Lot. Be firm, Be nice, laugh politely at their jokes, be sympathetic to their stories, and always always always turn the conversation right back around to your product and how they can walk away with it after a simple transaction of paper from product.

    “Oh I so totally agree that Picard could kick Cylon ass while never spilling his Earl Grey, have you seen this thing I sell right here? It would really go with collectable something you just stood in line for hours getting. Who do I think is hotter; Psylock or Rogue? Man that’s tough, but this would really grab all the ladies’ attention I can tell you.”

    Trust me, after a minute they start to realize what is going on; you don’t care what they have to say, you just want their “hard earned cash”, and they either buy something or go away.

    Ahh but Erick, what about the two types of customers who will buy something and still stay? Well, sell them more stuff. As long as dollars are coming into your pocket, let nonsense spew forth from their lips. Right? They get the attention they so desperately need, and you get the money you want.

    However there is a customer not listed here you need to watch out for, and they can be subtle. It’s the combo Lingerer/ Fondler better known in the clothing world as the Dresser. They like to try on EVERYTHING, and they really have no intention of buying anything. They just want to see what they look like. They are attention whores, the “look at mes”. They want your opinion on how they look in your stuff. On occasion these also are Shop Lifters. My advice? Give them attention at first, and then steer them towards check out.
    I like to look at them and say “That’ll be (insert price)”. Then have them look at me and say “Oh I wasn’t going to buy it.” Normally they get a clue at that point.

    Well I’ve gone on enough.

    Jenni, lovely post! I’m going to spread it around!


    • March 13, 2012 8:21 am

      The Dress-up Doll is a customer I don’t have a whole lot of experience with, so you’ve got a leg up on me there. And personally, I don’t consider shoplifters customers. I consider them criminals. 😀

  5. March 17, 2012 6:38 pm

    Thank you SO much for making this list, these are spot on. I’ve run into every one of them while selling at shows, events and cons.

    Would be interesting to see it turned around, though, with a list of “Convention VENDORS everyone hates.” Such as The TMI-er who tells you about their pets/operations/etc while you’re browsing, who can also turn into The Sob Story who tells you all their financial woes and practically begs for a sale, or The Hard-Sell who insists you need their product no matter what you say, and who might also be The Stalker who accosts you right in the middle of the dealer room, even when you’re no where near their booth. Or The Hermit who completely ignores you, even when you’re asking for help. Or The Eater who always seems to be in the middle of a giant plate of food that is sitting in the middle of their table and filling it with the stench of stale onions… I could go on… After all, I’m not always a vendor! lol

    • March 17, 2012 6:39 pm

      LOL just saw your link to “9 Convention Vendors…” Going to go read it now!!!


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