How Show Dealers Got That Way
I studied the "surly show dealer" syndrome and think that, after doing several hundred shows myself, they are made surly by the constant criticism of their stamps and prices, which is a natural effect of bourse markets where competitors rub shoulders.

Nothing worse than having some guy you've never seen come in and denigrate your stamps loudly in front of the whole crowd, especially since he almost never knows what he's talking about. Or you
get two guys who start making deals at your table after one finds out the other has what he wants -- for less than yours. Or you have some guy come in with a nice collection and he goes around the room, soliciting bids. That's OK, but it usually causes the dealers to end the day arguing with each other about how cheap the others' bids were. Or you get home and a 1" stack of cards with $3,000 of stamps are missing. Or you see a highly respected community member shove something into his pocket -- "was that a stamp?" you wonder.

And here comes the guy who's owed you $190 for nine months, looking to get more specialized items and extend his credit while tying up your capital. But mostly, the rudeness is because a dealer must maintain control over his selling situation or he will get run over by the customers, and only a few dealers handle this aspect well. Most had plenty of patience at one time, but years of grinding away by customers and other dealers make many of them morose, cynical, and rude.

The most successful show dealers are usually, but not always, people with very good public contact
and diplomacy skills. They can hide their unpleasant feelings and "say the right thing." I'm not so good at hiding my feelings. I've blown my stack any number of times at shows, because I will not put up with some of the games some customers play. I must look easy, because people often mark me as a target to push around, and they quickly find out otherwise.

You get a guy who occupies a table for five hours, looking for mathematically perfect centering on stamps from Upper Slobovia with absolutely perfect NH gum, and he picks out three stamps for 35c each, telling you that none of your better stamps are well-centered enough or the gum is not absolutely perfect in his opinion. Or you get a guy who says your DM 150.- imperf Hungary souvenir sheet is really worth only $2, "even the imperf", and he says, "forget what the catalog says" and when you disagree, he turns beet red, calls you a horribly obscene name in front of elderly  couples sitting at your table, and goes to another.

Or a guy sits down with a Linn's, a sack, or some other possible concealment item like a briefcase, and every move he makes you gotta worry: you can't leave. People throw stamps into catalogs, albums, down their sleeves, and into their shirt pockets. They rip covers and postcards off like magicians by sleight of hand. I've seen it all from people who were caught. Everyone LOVES to see some guy get caught ripping off stamps, because it's usually a big surprise who it turns out to be. It's usually someone everyone knows, has been selling to for years, and of course, who has been ripping
them off for years.

About 10% of all customers WILL try to steal from you if given an opportunity. I keep my eyes open and have had very little shoplifting at my table, but secure stamp dealing at shows takes energy and vigilance, and shoplifters definitely pick on the less-vigilant. Bending over to unreasonable customers is  something I won't waste too much energy on.

Herman Herst once wrote an article titled "Once a Chiseler, Always a Chiseler" and it was some of the best stamp sales advice I ever heard. Who needs a guy around who wants to pay face for a $5 Columbian? Well, guys put bids like that in every unreserved auction -- a  waste of everyone's time.

True, show dealers are surly and rude in general. But there is a big difference between mail order customers and show customers. Mail order customers are much more polite overall, extremely polite actually, and also respect the dealer's prices. Show customers are looking for bargains in most smaller shows, and top quality at larger shows; they tend to be more sophisticated buyers and also know how to work the dealers for better prices in many cases.

The top quality buyers drive dealers nuts with their obsessive perfectionism. All those who come to my table looking for XF NH U.S. are told I don't have any, whether I do or not. I don't want those kind of people near me. Stamp collecting is not about perfectionism, and to underscore that I will remind all condition fanatics that most of the ten most valuable stamps in the world are DAMAGED, all or almost all USED, and those that were, were described as such when sold.
I NEVER saw a completely NH collection which impressed me in the least: always too many blank spots!! So, I would suggest to stamp show customers that the best way to make a show dealer comfortable with you is to allow him to control the transaction as much as you can, respect his knowledge as far as it goes, and don't chisel. You can always ask if there's a volume discount -- most dealers like that approach very much. They need cash flow more than gross profit in most cases. The chiselers don't get to see the best material, and that has always been true: every dealer keeps special things for good customers and no one else.

 - Posted on eBay Stamps Board by tomloweculturalanthropology (114)  on 07/30/99 at 05:50:46 PDT