Saturday, November 04, 2006

Craft Fair Blues

My Position

I have been to grocery stores with little fences around them so you can’t take your cart out into the parking lot to your car. They always say, “Don’t worry about anything. There’s someone here watching your cart. Just go get your car and you can load your groceries from here.” But I worry. I have rarely seen anyone actually watching and, even if there were someone, what would they do if I started loading someone else’s groceries? Would they even know? When I get home with all my groceries I heave a sigh of relief and try to believe in the basic honesty of human beings.

At the last craft fair I attended, there was an elderly volunteer standing under a tree in the “loading zone.” She said, “You can’t drive up to your assigned space, but you can just unload everything here and I’ll watch it. After you park, you can come back and cart it to your space.” I thought, “How is that a good idea? Everyone is unloading here and how will this woman know which pile of stuff belongs to which crafter?” But everyone seemed to be going along with her instructions, and I did too. And nothing bad happened.

So today the woman in charge of the craft fair said, “There are numerous volunteers here who will help you get your things to your car.” And a young woman I’ll call “Heather” offered to help. I said, “I’ll go get my van, you help my friend bring the things out.” There was a little mix up about which door, but that’s not the main point. My friend said, “Stay here and watch these things, I will just go get the rest of our stuff.” So she stayed. Then some woman in a van drove up and said, “Oh this is mine,” and loaded my entire inventory into her van and drove off. It isn’t “Heather’s” fault. I don’t think this has anything to do with her age (13). I think it is exactly what the elderly volunteer would have done or the grocery store clerk. It is exactly what I would have done in her place.

But now my entire inventory is gone. This isn’t a hobby; this was a business. Six months of time and creative energy gone in a flash. My very expensive gamble on a start-up business devastated. I am wiped out. And all anyone can say is, “It’s not “Heather’s” fault.” I agree. So what? My livelihood is missing. I have already paid a $200 fee for another craft fair and I don’t have any inventory. I am worse than wiped out. This is not a small thing. I gambled my family savings on this venture. And it’s gone. I have nothing to show for the last six months of work. I have no way to pay back our savings account for all the money I drained out of it. This is my own personal hurricane. I was in shock. All I heard was, ““Heather” is crying.” I was very sorry that “Heather” was crying. I wanted to go somewhere and cry, myself. I don’t think she did anything wrong. I went to “Heather” to tell her I didn’t blame her. Oddly enough, she was the first person who seemed to truly understand this terrible situation. God bless “Heather”, at least she said, “I’m so sorry, I wish there was something I could do.”

If someone took my groceries by mistake or design, I think the store would feel some responsibility. I don’t think the store would try to tell me I had been irresponsible for following their suggested procedures. (“Heather’s” mother kept shouting, “Who leaves their inventory in charge of a 13 year old girl?” The answer is, “Every other crafter who came to the show today.”) I don’t think a grocery store would try to “calm me down” by making light of the situation. (“But you have to understand that these are volunteers.”) I understand that, what I don’t understand is why the adults in charge were reluctant to help rectify the situation.

I am willing to hope that this was all a big mistake and I will see my things again. I don’t in the least blame “Heather”. But I would still like to my inventory back. I don’t really blame anyone for this. But I wish people could have expressed some dismay and concern for my loss. I understand that this is a very unusual case and that people’s inventory is not usually stolen at this or any other craft fair. All I ask is that some attempt be made to recover it. I don’t have access to the list of crafters, I understand that it is not something that the organizers would hand over to me lightly.

Thanks to my friend’s insistence, the organizers did eventually decide to call all the other crafters to see if one of them had taken home my things by mistake. I appreciate this. It seems like the first logical step. I don’t appreciate how long it took them to agree to do this or how little shock, sorrow or empathy they showed toward me.

If no attempt is actually made to contact the other crafters, or if no one is willing to admit they drove off with my inventory, I will have to file a police report. This is not a threat or an attempt to force them to do what they have already agreed to do. This is just simply facing the reality that my entire inventory was taken away by someone who was not me or in any way connected to me.

If I were in charge of a craft show (or a grocery store with a little fence) I think I’d have some kind of coat check or baggage claim system. Although I can’t remember the last time some guy asked me if the luggage I was removing from the airport after a domestic flight was indeed mine. Maybe the world is mostly trustworthy. What would you say? 80%? Higher, lower?

Okay, I know. This has been a really bad day. Not as bad as finding out your father has been murdered by drug addicts on your son’s birthday, but still, pretty bad. I’ll grieve, I’ll recover, it’ll all be better eventually. It could have been worse. It’ll all blow over and I might even see my stuff again. But still…

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