Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trains at Christmas Model Trains Show & Sale -- the bad

Yesterday I talked about all the things that were right about the  "Trains at Christmas" Model Train Show and Sale in Fredericksburg, VA my novice friend and I attended. There were a few things I didn't like that I think are worth talking about. First, because it may help others putting on similar events, and second because it may help folks attending to better know what they're getting into.

Aggressive marketing

There weren't many vendors in the small hall, and that was fine. My friend had brought me along to help explain what he was seeing and to put things into context. A few of the vendors let us browse, but most wouldn't.

I was often interrupted with an irrelevant -- and hard sell -- pitch. As I  was trying to tell my friend a little history behind the piece we were looking at, the vendor would come on with how it was a great deal, we should buy it at once, it was a rare collector's item, etc.

There were some sketchy items further down this aisle
-- if you knew what you were looking at.
Well, if either of us had asked about the piece, that kind of talk would have been appropriate. But to have it interjected into what was actually a private conversation was neither warranted nor appropriate (and let me be clear -- we were close to, but not next to the table, and neither of us touched the items for sale).

Novice pricing

The mix of stuff offered by most of the vendors was the odd-lot sort of stuff you see in flea markets and antique stores -- and priced about the same.

My impression was that the sellers were hoping the visitors would have no idea of the value of their offerings actually were, and presented everything as a "collector's item."

And that's something I had a problem with. I saw locomotives with poorly retouched paint being sold with no indication that they were not in original condition (and yes, that does affect value). There were items with replacement parts that were priced as original, items with parts missing priced as if they were complete, and stuff thrown together and called a "set" (and priced accordingly).

It's the kind of stuff that wouldn't get past the Train Collector's Association Standards Committee at a TCA meet, but here it was buyer beware. And if the aim of the show is to get people interested in the hobby of model railroading, starting off by cheating them doesn't seem to be the best course of action.

You could make that case that if both parties were happy with the transaction, then there's no harm -- but eventually the buyer will find out the real value of what he has. And when that happens, one party won't be happy, and the other will be long gone.

To be fair, there were other vendors there who had items that were reasonably priced and were perfectly willing to let us browse unmolested. If they had been in the majority, then I wouldn't have written this post at all.

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