I thought you might enjoy the retelling of a blog I wrote from 2007. Lessons still apply!
Ever read "Blink- The power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell? Well,
read the following and find out how my snap judgement resulted in lost opportunity.
A very long time ago, as part of an OCAD class with the terrific teacher Chin Kok Tan, I was plein air painting (ie. on location) on Toronto’s Ward Island. I sat alone on my little stool (picture one of those little blue and white striped Canadian Tire folding ones) painting a watercolour of a sail boat in dry dock, the CN Tower & Toronto skyline in the background.
Three men came up from behind, and one of them politely complimented me on the painting and asked its cost. As I replied “$50” , I twisted around to look up the man asking. His fair hair was backlit by the bright sun, and I could not see his face.
Meanwhile, another of the three, yakked loudly and addressed me as "sweetheart". He made me uncomfortable, and so I dismissively ascertained all three to be “jocks”, and I was an artiste (even though I was a runner, skier & generally liked physical activity).
The polite, potential customer, continued to compliment my painting, and pulled about $30 from his pockets, stating that was all the cash he had on him. I held firm to my price due my irritation and judgement of the louder man.
The three went off, the polite, potential buyer thanking me, even though he was empty handed.
A while later the three returned. Groan. They had searched for more money (at a nearby boat?) and had come up with $38. “You don’t even have to finish it” they laughed. I proudly held my ground. It was $50 or no sale.
The three men departed, and then, when about 50 feet away, the gentleman who wanted to buy the painting, ran back to me, put his hand on my shoulder, said “Keep up the good work, dear” , and then rejoined his friends.
Immediately, I was swarmed by my classmates who had watched from afar. “What did he say ? What did he want? “
I looked at them. I hadn’t a clue what they were referring to, although by now you may have guessed.
Yes, I had turned down selling my painting to Wayne Gretzky .
Well. Lessons learned.
- Snobbery does not equal professionalism.
- Always look a customer in the face.
- Treat every one with respect. Do not prejudge. Look after your customer. Appreciate when someone has actually taken their time to stop, look, and compliment.
- Be fair to your clients by being consistent in your prices, but sometimes, it pays to compromise. At the time I could have used that $38, although I have had more than $50 in fun in recounting this story.
- paint on location with a buddy (maybe a partner might have been more observant than I)
Epilogue: A year later I sold the painting at an outdoor art show at Corbyville, Ontario. By that time I had paid for a matte and shrink wrapped it. After the woman bought it I told her the Wayne Gretzky story. She was delighted as the painting was bought as a present for her husband and he was a huge Gretzky fan. Oh… and the price the watercolor painting sold for? $25!
And with the wisdom of age and hindsight (there's that word sight again) , I mean, how cute were these guys going back to search for change to try to get the $50? What was I thinking?