a 12 year old kid will never buy art from us

Got a story for ya Ags!

A long time ago when I was working at Circuit City as an Operations Manager I had days off during the week because I worked all weekend. Rachel, my wife, worked a normal job and the kids were in school with after school care so I’d get an occasional day off in the middle of the week.

I am not one to sit still so for years I drove around Houston. Hit the museums. Explored the antique stores on lower Westheimer. Wandered around parks. Read books. (ahem, there was no Internet in this fable kids. “˜cause I am old like that.) But I wasn’t just going to sit in an apartment and watch TV. Eventually I ran out of things to do so I decided since I liked Art to see if I could work at an art gallery on my two days off. Or at night after getting off work at my first job. Thus in short order I found a part-time job at an art gallery in the Galleria.

Salon AgamI had some sales experience from working at Structure (now Express for Men) in college and briefly out of college. And I had sold a few things at Circuit City although this wasn’t my primary job in Operations. I’d also worked with some of those travelling art auctions as muscle to load and unload the trucks occasionally while in college (hint ““ lots of fake bidders in the audience people). And for the record I still love the work of Yaacov Agam.

In my limited time working at the Art Gallery (they went out of business about six months later.) I found that our sales came from:

  1. Gallery openings – you have to get the buyers into the gallery. Make them feel special.
  2. The house list – “warm” calling past buyers/collectors and telling them about new art on the wall. Asking if we could set up an appointment with them, etc. Depending on the collector you might even load your car up with art and drive out there to show it.
  3. Weekend floor traffic. With enough traffic you could move some pieces. We rotated “ups” between the sales team. Mary gets the first one. Don the next. Ed the one after that. Repeat the cycle.

What didn’t work in sales was middle of the day on a Tuesday. This was dead time. You had to be at work, but you were doing your calls, dusting off the art, hanging or unhanging, packing or unpacking new work, etc. We still rotated the “ups” in theory but if it was your up and you were busy you might just say “hey Mary can you get that one.”

So this 12 year old kid walks into our art gallery shortly after I started working there in the middle of the day on a weekday. My coworkers completely ignored him. Glances were exchanged between us, or should I say I gave a  quizzical  look and was greeted with eye rolls and raised eyebrows. Think of how they portray a snobby gallery employee in the movies and you will know exactly what I was looking at.

Now, as for me, if you are in my place of business you will be treated with respect. I am sure I have made mistakes and done something wrong, but my intent is definitely to treat every client with respect. And if you spend enough time in sales you know not to judge a book by it’s cover. So I asked the young man if I could help. He was a quiet kid, but knew what he wanted. He was looking at a list $500 original film cell from an animated movie.

At the time in this gallery everything was really about double priced. So a $500 piece could be sold for $250 without talking to the gallery owner. More than that and you needed special permission. The kid busts out a small cell phone (This was the early 90s. Few had cell phones and even fewer had those tiny Nokia ones.) So he gets Dad on the phone. Hands it to me. We talk briefly and I sold my first piece of art for the gallery for $250.

He left very happy and I had my first sale. And my coworkers were dumbfounded. Because  a 12 year old kid will never buy art from us. But he did. Thank you kid.

CREDITS: Thank you to flickr userpterjan for the Yaacov Agam Creative Commons photo.