Warning: The following touches the third rail of the art business.
Just the other day I was in need of the services of a lawyer. Nothing major, mind you, just the run of the mill, everyday stuff that manslaughter sometimes on occasion you might need a lawyer for. I stumbled upon this person on the internet and went over for the free initial consultation. As I sat down in his plush leather chair beside his football field sized mahogany desk, I said, "Look, I know you want my business, right? So before we go any farther, I want at least two more free consults, and I want you to drop your fee by ten percent."
One thing I noticed right off-- Lawyers may have gone to college and learned some big words, but they know a lot of four letter ones, too.
So, as I was driving away after
It seems lawyers and mechanics know a lot of the same words.
So, anyway, I wanted to buy an expensive piece of jewelry as a Christmas gift for my beloved partner Ellen, so I limped my car over to a big department store. Bullseye, or something, I think it was. When the cashier was done ringing me up she said, "That's $26.52" I looked at her and said, "Well, what will you take for it? How about $19.50?"
She just gave me one of those cashier-type blank stares and repeated, "That's $26.52"
"C'mon, " I whispered to her, "You know and I know that even at $19.50 you still make a profit. So what do you say? We got a deal?"
Who knew big retail department stores could issue restraining orders?
When I got home, I found an email from a potential customer who wanted to buy a couple of my paintings! Except she wanted free shipping and a discount of 15%. I can't say I was in the mood to accommodate her request.
Why is it perfectly normal to haggle with artists selling their product when you wouldn't do that to a lawyer or a doctor or a big department store? The folks buying art are trying to get a deal, I understand that, but meanwhile us artists are trying to make enough money to buy either a new tube of paint-- or heating oil.
Were I to accept the deal the aforementioned customer proposed, I not only would have sold one painting for less than what I was asking, but literally thrown in the second one for free. I am no business expert, but I know two things that don't last long in this world: Dogs that chase cars, and businesses that give away their products for free. But you would have gained a collector, I can hear you say. Sure, and she would expect more discounts and freebies for the next painting she bought from me. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I want my customers to believe they got a great painting for a fair price, not that they got screwed for paying what I asked.
Look, I'm not blaming this customer. She said she gets deals from other artists and galleries all the time. So obviously the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the stars, but with ourselves. We have conditioned our prospective customers to automatically assume we'll immediately negotiate our prices. We brought this on, and my trying to singlehandedly stem the tide is a fools crusade. We all feel that the term "starving artist" is pejorative, but it's also mostly true. I just wish we hadn't gone the Monty Hall route long ago. Our art should be the grand prize, not the game piece.
After all, nobody wants to get zonked!