I bet you’re wondering why I would filth up your Tumblr feed with such disgusting, racist images. Well, let me tell you a story that ends with my small business being booted from the Randolph Street Market without a refund.
My friend Katya and I started Greyslater a few months back, and this market was our first brick and mortar sales experience with our new business. We noticed on Friday as we were dropping off our table and display items that the place was disorganized - one set of people told us to walk in the wrong door, then we got yelled at, then they told us to drive out the wrong way and we got yelled at again - but shrugged it off.
This morning after not being able to find anyone to direct us to alternative parking when the vendor lot was full, we set up shop and got ready for the market experience. Katya did her part to support the other vendors by dropping about $500 on a vintage bike, some posters, and a few pieces of furniture. I ate a lot of empanadas.
Then, since there were no market employees around to let us know when we should pack it in, we took a cue from the vendors around us, and packed up at 6 right when the market was supposed to close. First, Katya brought her bike to the car, and stopped at a poster vendor’s booth on her way back to meet me at the table. When she got back she grabbed me and said, “You have to see this, I’ve never seen anything so racist in my life.” When we got to the table, I saw a lot of vintage Disney art, some pin-ups, and then… the pictures you see here. Framed, and ready to display proudly in your living room.
Katya took a picture, and asked me what we should do. Of course, there were still no market employees to be found. In fact, other than vendors and the last few customers, there were only Chicago police officers working security.
Being a social media nerd, I said, “You should just tweet it. Tell people it’s gross, maybe the right person will see it."
So she did, from her personal account rather than our business account, tagging Randolph Street Market. It read, "Embarrassed to be a vendor @randolphmarket when these are for sale: http://ow.ly/i/EBNl #disgusting #racist”
We went and grabbed dinner, and on our way out she received a direct message on twitter from the market with the number of the organizer and the message to contact her immediately.
Assuming she was going to apologize that no one had caught the fact that horribly racist items were for sale at the same market we paid $175 to sell at, and say that those items would not be there tomorrow, Katya called her.
Instead of the perfectly reasonable scenario described above, the woman told Katya that those items would not be there tomorrow, but that since we had “embarrassed people” we were not welcome back at the market. She went on to say that we should have “told somebody” about the items. When Katya told her there was no one to tell other than the cop, the lady told her she should have told the cop.
“Excuse me, officer? That man is selling racist posters! Arrest him at once!”
For about five minutes Katya and this woman went back and forth about whether or not she should have told the cop about the posters - but never once did this lady suggest that there were market employees to tell, because she knew damn well there weren’t!
Not only that, but the fact that they are indeed asking this vendor to remove those items means that they are not *approved by the market - but, apparently, it is the responsibility of other vendors to go around and look at everyone else’s stuff to make sure no one is selling KKK memorabilia or Nazi flags, because the Randolph Street Market can’t be bothered to hire like, three people to walk around and make sure things are running smoothly.
So, tomorrow Katya and I are headed back to the market to pick up our items we have been banned from selling - although we will not be receiving a refund of our $175. We also need to pick up the pieces of furniture Katya purchased, so that will be fun explaining to those vendors we spent money with that we got kicked out for tweeting a picture of racist garbage that another vendor was selling. It should also be interesting to hear what the three African-American vendors we were selling next to think about the market’s elaborate attempt to blame us for pointing out the inappropriate items they were allowing at their event.
So, Greyslater’s first craft fair did not end the way we anticipated, but, there you have it. The Randolph Street Market is happy to keep a small business’ $175 while revoking their ability to sell, while the guy selling the gross pictures you see here will still be there tomorrow, selling other stuff and making money. Craft shows are cut-throat, man.
*After reviewing the contract we signed, we noticed that there is no language about whether or not vendors can speak negatively about the market or the vendors at the market, but it does say “All merchandise must be approved by CMI.” So either they did approve those posters, and then were embarrassed that they got called out publicly, or they were not properly staffed to enforce their own panel of review.
Either way, Katya never demanded that these posters be removed, she simply expressed her disgust at being in the same market as them, which resulted in this ridiculous scenario.
Here’s another update. An HOUR after I posted this story, Randolph Street Market tweeted this, which would have been a good place to handle the situation in the 1st place:
No update yet on whether or not we’ll get a refund, but as far as 11pm Saturday night, we are still banned from selling.
Two minutes later…
ALL HAIL SOCIAL MEDIA
Well, we did get a credit memo this morning, but we also got this scolding email:
Like I mentioned, we couldn’t find an employee to ask about parking, packing up, etc. So I don’t know where these 30 people she mentioned were, but they certainly were not in the lower level indie designer area. They were apparently also not outside with the antiques because it seems like one of them would have seen these items for sale.
So, for future reference, it is your responsibility as a vendor to police other vendors, and it is considered “cyber bullying” to tweet that you are embarrassed to vend in the same space as someone who would sell these items.
Things sure are different at the Randolph Street Market!