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: #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:

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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… 

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Well, we did get a credit memo this morning, but we also got this scolding email:

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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! 

Katya replied: 

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I bought this awesome “Chicago ‘L’” water bottle on (also, )about a week or so ago and have been using it every single day since it’s arrival. I’ve been drinking 3-4 bottle’s worth of water daily and it has completely eliminated the need for me to get a pop from the vending machine at work. So I’m not using unnecessary amounts of plastic (even though I would have recycled it anyways) and I’m eating healthier. I could (read: should) have been doing this before, but I didn’t have this totally rad looking guy in my possession yet. I highly suggest you visit the site and take a look around. Lots of great, green products that are worth your money.

So far today has been pretty eventful. I was the first person to ever have brunch at Fritz Pastry, my hair-do from yesterday is still hanging tough, and I christened Lady Bathory (my new bike) with a spin around the city. I also saw a guy on the bike path wearing a CM Punk shirt. I had to bring guy CTA water bottle from with me as a reminder that normally in late March, I’d be on the CTA and not having fun on my bike. 

Attn Greyslater customers:

As you may or may not know, I left Greyslater early this summer to focus on writing my cookbook and my new job. I worked behind the scenes on Greyslater - writing blog posts and doing social media, it was my partner’s job to take care of order fulfillment. I was also an unpaid partner - I left the partnership without receiving a cent.

Unfortunately, I am now learning that my former partner spent the next several months accepting orders and payments from customers without shipping many of the orders out. This includes several of my close friends and her own mother-in-law.

I also learned that she didn’t pay some of our suppliers - including a very good friend of mine, and that she took a personal loan from one of my oldest friends and is now refusing to respond to his inquiries about being paid back.

The site is now down and she is not responding to emails. She is planning a trip to Japan soon, which I can only imagine is partially funded by money she owes my friends, and people whose orders never shipped.

If you have tried to contact her about your order and not received a response, please contact me - I may have a way to put you in touch. I recommend filing a PayPal claim if you still can, and possibly legal action if you can no longer file a claim.

I’m shocked, saddened and embarrassed to have had my name associated with this behavior. I’m truly sorry if you were impacted by her actions.