It’s imperative that new reptile hobbyists have a pleasant experience at reptile expos.
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Reptile expos can be busy, but try to be approachable and polite, and don’t brush people off.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an editorial requesting that regular posters on ReptileChannel’s forums be more tolerant of beginner hobbyists who would post questions. Back then, every time newbies popped up in a forum with questions, a gaggle of self-proclaimed experts would jump all over them, denouncing their questions as stupid and ignorant, and basically telling them to buzz off and quit asking stupid questions. I found this behavior abhorrent and wrote my editorial, asking people to be tolerant and helpful. Reptile hobbyists always need to support each other and help each other, now more than ever. The old saying that there are no stupid questions lives on in the ReptileChannel forums, and happily, today’s forum participants appear to be much more tolerant. I encourage anyone reading this to lend their expertise, or at least an open mind, to anyone with questions in any ReptileChannel discussion group.
In a similar vein, I’ve recently come across comments from reptile expo attendees who were complaining about vendors that were not willing to answer their questions. Granted, I was not a witness to what may have transpired, and I don’t really know what went on. It doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility, however, that a vendor may sometimes become impatient with a hobbyist who is asking a lot of questions or otherwise taking up the vendor’s time. This may be especially troublesome at a busy reptile expo, when other customers may be gathering expectantly around a vendor’s booth, wanting service.
I simply urge vendors to always do their best to provide people with a pleasant reptile expo experience. Even if you’re busy, try to be approachable and polite, and don’t brush people off. Don’t scowl; show enthusiasm and, if possible, try not to act constantly harried. Potential customers may feel intimidated about approaching your booth, let alone try to speak to you personally, if you are a constant blur of motion. Providing care sheets is always a great idea, of course, and these give you a tool you can hand out while explaining to people that it should answer many of their questions about a specific species. Some care sheets that follow a FAQ (frequently asked questions) format are more user friendly, with questions listed in bold and short-and-to-the-point answers in regular type beneath them. These can be less daunting than large blocks of solid text, and people may be more inclined to read them on the spot and therefore not need to ask you some of the questions they had in mind.
I don’t presume to tell anybody their business by making these suggestions. I know that when it’s really busy it’s necessary to divide your attention accordingly. There may be times when someone feels slighted by you, and this may be unavoidable. Let’s face it, there are unreasonable people out there, including some who believe they are the center of the universe (who really bug me, because I AM the center of the universe). We just need to remember to take a breath now and then, and remember that we’re in business because of people who want to deal with us.
Of course, it also falls to expo attendees to observe proper etiquette, too. Vendors are human, after all, and they can get frazzled like any other humans. If you’re at an expo and you want to ask a vendor a question, try not to hover constantly, and never interrupt them. When I’m walking an expo floor and come across someone I want to talk to, if that person is busy I always move on and come back. I try not to hover. Revisit the table as necessary until you have an opportunity to chat with the vendor without interrupting business he or she may be conducting. You can usually determine whether a conversation is casual or if a sale is pending, and this should influence your hover ratio. If a vendor is in the middle of conducting a business transaction, never try to push your way to the forefront of the vendor’s attention. Be patient, and you will more than likely find yourself chatting with a more receptive, and ultimately more helpful, vendor. Of course, if you buy something, vendors can often become EXTRA friendly!
Observing these few simple rules of etiquette may seem like a no-brainer, but in the excitement of a bustling expo, people can become … well … excited. And during moments of excitement conventional rules of etiquette may sometimes be forgotten. Check yourself, and proceed accordingly. It never hurts to remember the Golden Rule, to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or something like that. The bottom line is to be friendly and treat people with courtesy and respect.
Hmmm … it might be nice to do this all the time, and not just at reptile expos. Maybe I’ll give it a shot.