As reported elsewhere on this blog, I had a great time at the 2016 Brampton Model Railway Show. I did have one issue with the show, however… or rather, with some of the exhibitors.
(What are they doing over there?!?)
While I really, really enjoyed the show, I was disappointed to see a number of vendors and exhibitors packing up early on Sunday afternoon – even though there were still members of the paying public in the show.
What gives with that?
I don’t blame the show organizers for what happened – not one bit. This happens at every show I’ve been to and it’s hard to police. The organizers asked on Sunday morning – over the PA system, no less – that people NOT pack up early. Yet people did it anyway.
I know, from talking to some of the organizers at the end of the day, that they too were frustrated by the early shut-down. And in talking to others who organize shows, I get the same reaction: It’s frustrating, but organizers don’t know what would work to stop it. Everyone could use some ideas.
The Sunday afternoon visitors were not as numerous as the punters who showed up on Saturday morning. But they still made the effort. It was probably the only time they could attend the show on the weekend – and those who packed up early let them down.
Maybe they won’t bother coming back next year – and maybe they’ll tell their friends “Don’t bother”. The bad reviews will spread – particularly outside the hobby community. And then – at some point – hobbyists will be whining, “There are no good shows anymore”.
I get it – we’re all tired at the end of two days of standing on concrete floors, running trains or making sales. But when I signed up to appear at the show, I signed up for the full two days – not 1.75 days’ worth. Yet, some layouts started packing up around 2:30.
My friends and I in The S Scale Workshop ran right until the organizers announced at 4:00 pm that the show was closed. And we had visitors to our layout right until the closing.
One mother and son looked at a layout next to us and the mom said, “Oh, they’re not running trains anymore”. I called out “We are still running over here” and the two of them came over. The boy – three to four years old – looked at the 2-6-0 I was running and said, “Mogul”. His mom said, “He knows all the wheel arrangements.”
That kid was there to see trains. He could become a serious hobbyist, with time and encouragement. Those who packed up early let him down.
Our group still managed to pack up a large layout and get out of the hall by 6:00 pm. After two full days, I’m not sure how packing up at 2:30 instead of 4:00 makes a difference.
Since this happens at almost every show I’ve attended, the question is this:
What combination of carrot and stick should show organizers use to keep people exhibiting/selling until the show closes? Should early packers not be invited back? Should those who exhibit to the end get a gift card for coffee? What would work?
Frankly, unless you’re having a health emergency there’s just no excuse for shutting down early.