Give Them a Chance


One day years ago, I was walking though a homeschool vendor hall that was basically empty. This one vendor caught my eye because of the despair in his eyes. Since I’m good at cheering people up, I walked over to his table and let him give me his sales pitch. I had no desire to buy anything at his table, and he knew it. No matter what I said, the despair remained in his eyes. I finally couldn’t stand it any longer, and I grabbed a random product off his table and said, “How much does this cost?” He said, “Five dollars.” I took out my wallet and paid him. You should have seen the look of joy on his face. That look of joy was worth way more than five dollars to me.

You might not realize that small-time homeschool families have spent their own money to travel to your homeschool conference to be in your vendor hall. They have paid money for the vendor table, sometimes hundreds of dollars. They have a wife and kids to support (or the women need to pay back their husbands, who are now broke because of them). What will they tell their family when they get home, exhausted from the tons of work they’ve done, with less than no money to pay the bills? All because tightwad homeschoolers like you pride themselves on not spending money. You walk past their vendor table without even taking the time to listen to their sales pitch, even though they might have something super cool that you will never know about, that would make your life better. Meanwhile that poor homeschool family starves.

You know what these vendors deserve? I’ll tell you. During the homeschool workshops when there’s no one in the vendor hall, they should lock the vendor hall. The vendors could then choose between two rooms. Behind door number one would be bunk beds where they can take a power nap so that their utter fatigue and poofy feet can recuperate. The room should be pitch dark. Fifteen minutes before they need to return to their tables, the light should slowly fade on (so as not to give people a heart attack from being startled by a bright light). They can look in a mirror, comb their hair, and adjust their clothing. Fully refreshed, they can go back to work.

I bet you’re wondering what’s behind door number two. The second room should feel like a resort, with Hawaiian music and hammocks and crushed fruit drinks with little umbrellas. Dog gone it, these vendors have paid travel expenses. They deserve a vacation. Uh, huh. This is the way it should be…

You know what the funny thing is? That five dollar product that I randomly picked up was one of my children’s favorite things to do for years. That man with despair in his eyes was actually selling something good.

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20 Responses to “Give Them a Chance”

  1. I’m glad you were able to encourage the man with your purchase and that it proved valuable. Realistically however I don’t think I’ll be able to buy something from every vendor to encourage them, but if I am open to the Spirit’s leading in my life then maybe He will direct me in a similar way. Blessings!

  2. So many great products at the vendor halls… and on the internet. Us homeschoolers are definitely blessed by all of the choices that we have in curriculum these days!!! 🙂

  3. Lucy says:

    I understand the point you were attempting to make. However, just because I don’t buy something from every vendor doesn’t mean I’m not supportive or the “tightwade” you accuse me of being.
    I am very deliberate when I walk in to a vendor hall. Yes, there are so many wonderful things that would be beneficial to have in our homeschool. Yes, I understand the need of the vendor and his family.
    I walk in to that vendor hall with my list of curriculum needs, the cheapest price I have found it and I leave with those items, no more, no less.
    Why? Because most times my family and I have had to save and scrimp just to be able to attend an event and purchase our necessities.

    • Loralee says:

      That’s what I was thinking, too. As much as I feel for the vendors, I am probably on a MUCH tighter budget than even they are, and can’t afford to buy something just to cheer them up…

  4. kathy says:

    Beware of judging others. Many homeschoolers have SUPER tight budgets. Most are single-income families. Some of them have also spent a lot of money to travel, get a hotel, and gain admission to the convention before they even set foot in the vendor hall. I’d love to buy all the super cool stuff for sale but I can’t. I do enjoy seeing new things and meeting the vendors but if I avoid a booth it’s because it makes me sad that I can’t buy their product so I don’t want to hear how awesome it is.

  5. Tracy says:

    That $5 made his moment, but it takes many $5 moments to support a family.

    The fact that one family decides to take on the burden of creating a product to sell at their family’s expense does not make another family responsible for supporting that decision at “their” family’s expense.

  6. bondservant says:

    One should not support someone just because they have a family, or because they’re a good person, or homeschooler. You purchase a product because you want it or need it.

    Just like every other business should be in a free market, those that are successful financially (because that’s the ultimate goal for a business – to make money) are successful because they have met the need of enough people. And have outlasted competition.

    Let’s not get sentimental because this something we believe in – the market doesn’t prefer one over another. A bad economics lesson to teach our kids.

    • Susan says:

      Because homeschool families are on one income, it’s extremely difficult to “make it” as a homeschool business, because you don’t have the tens of thousands of dollars to market your product. These are people who want to minister to other homeschool families and have worked thousands of hours for no pay. I wrote this post in hopes that homeschoolers will give those smaller homeschool businesses a chance. Giving them a chance doesn’t mean buying from them. It means actually giving them a chance to see if it is something you might want or need.

  7. Loralee says:

    I understand feeling bad for the vendors, but what you are talking about is akin to a welfare/entitlement situation. Just because they are “needy” doesn’t mean I am required to support them – I happen to be very needy, too.

    • Susan says:

      There’s no entitlement in my post. Writing a fun post about what the ideal for a homeschool vendor would be– this causes exhausted homeschool entrepreneurs to smile, and it gives perspective to homeschool families that are walking by those tables. The fact that I gave this homeschool vendor a chance meant that my kids had something wonderful for years. I’m encouraging homeschoolers to listen to the homeschool families behind those vendor tables. They have homeschool businesses/ministries because they have a heart for homeschoolers.

  8. Amie says:

    I’m curious… What did you purchase for $5? 🙂

    • Susan says:

      It was the letters of the alphabet on different large cards, where the kid draws with marker down the large letters. (It’s like bubble letters.) I laminated them, and my kids learned to write their letters this way. I can’t remember the brand name because my kids are older now, and I got rid of them eventually.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Oh, for crying out loud… get off your high horses. We’ve been hs’ing 16 years on less than one income. I can’t even afford to GO to conference. But, I see the point Susan is trying to make– don’t ignore people. The small vendors might have something comparable to the biggies, both quality and price, and they need the sale more than, say, Abeka or BJUP does. Be an encouragement if and when you can. Don’t walk by as if they aren’t even there.

  10. Susan Marlow says:

    Howdy, Susan!
    Loved your “tell it like it is” post. All except the part about shutting the vendor hall down during workshops!! AUGH! Really, my dear, I don’t vendor at homeschool conventions to rest or take power naps. I want to present product and talk to folks, and the very best thing a convention coordinator can do for vendors is 1) Keep the hall open all the time, even during Keynotes, and 2) schedule in shopping times longer than 15-20 minutes between workshops, especially at the big halls.
    Are you going to do a Spokane convention next March? If so, I would be interested in vendoring at it, if you can manage a 2-day event. 🙂

    • Susan says:

      We haven’t booked the Spokane convention yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as we do! I would love to have you! And yes, I understand about the vendor hall being open at all times. I was just dreaming up some humor to help homeschoolers to see what the life of a homeschool vendor is like. 🙂

  11. Joanna says:

    I appreciate the reminder. I am one of those tightwads… some out of necessity and some out of pure stinginess (is that a word?)

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