Monday, September 14, 2015



When I owned my retail store in Phoenix I would get certain people who would walk in my door; look around at all the colorful, exotic and unusual (not mutually exclusive terms) merchandise; and come up to me and ask, “Do you need anyone to help you on buying trips?”  The person who would ask this was usually a yoga-poised, upper-middle-class, white woman tending toward middle age.  If you have ever lived in Phoenix, the typical “buying trip” questioner usually hailed from North Scottsdale or some other tony area of “The Valley.”  Their questions were sincere, and so were my replies.
            “Do you speak Spanish or Portuguese?” I would begin.
            The expression on their faces always would start to change with that first question.
            “Have you had any experience in Mexico or other parts of Latin America outside of the touristy or beach resorts?”  I would continue.
            By the second question the light was usually out of people’s faces.  What I was asking was going counter to their image of a buying trip.  I’m not sure if Cost Plus or Pier One commercials have anything to do with it, but I can only imagine what these women were thinking what buying for my store was actually like.  I can only assume that they pictured themselves in some sort of khaki-colored safari outfit complete with pith helmet and white silk scarf, standing beside a truck with a clipboard in hand, watching other people load that truck, and having a translator close at hand so that nothing would be missed.
            Can I tell you that I have never had a buying trip like that?
            Most of the times I go buying, I do go to the remotest places to find the best stuff.  I chuckled when I received a Yelp review back in 2006 that called me “The Indiana Jones of Latin American Arts and Crafts.”  While I do occasionally get lazy and buy stuff from trade shows, most of my merchandise comes from the small towns throughout the hemisphere, from the unsung folk artists working from home with their families and friends in some of the most desolate areas.  Going to the “untrodden” places myself ensures a constant flow of fresh, unusual items to delight my customers.
            And buying trips usually are a TON of work and fraught with many difficulties.  So, you’ve heard of a magical town in the mountains where its inhabitants make the best stuff?  Well, the bus might not show up to take you there, or it will break down on the road, or if you hire a driver the driver’s car’s axle will become so choked with sand that you can’t make it to the destination (all have happened to me).  Are you short-handed for loading the truck?  YOU load the truck.  Did your favorite crafter forget to put “Hecho en Mexico” stickers on your merchandise?  Tough luck.  It looks like you will be staying up until 3:00 in the morning in your marginal hotel room putting stickers on all of your colorful finds, hoping that the hotel doesn’t turn off the electricity for the evening before you are finished.
            I have to say that physical fitness is a key component of a successful buying trip and I hadn’t realized it until my last buying trip of 2 months ago.  Being in good physical form never even crossed my mind in years past.  I just got up and went and did what I needed to do.  I took my body for granted.  Well, this July 2015 buying trip really kicked my butt because I have never been so out of shape in my life.  The previous July I had an accident and couldn’t walk (or walk properly) for a good 9 months.  I couldn’t exercise much and I put on weight.  I didn’t think much of it until I took this buying trip.  It was 100% urban – no jungles, mountain, deserts, etc. – and it kicked my butt!  I had never been so sore and in so much pain, and I really didn’t do much.  Sure, I was on the go for 100% of the time, because you can’t relax and ALWAYS have to maximize your time on buying trips, but it really shouldn’t have affected me the way it did.  That last buying trip was a wake-up call and I am making the changes that I need to so that all future buying trips will be easy, at least when it comes to anything to do with the physical aspect.
            Even now, while I am 100% online, I get the buying trip requests.  I don’t mind the company and sometimes I have gone with other people on these purchasing adventures.  If your passport is handy and you fit the buying trip criteria I would welcome an extra pair of hands and someone to talk to.  Another person can be of great help, no doubt about it.  Just leave the pith helmet and the clipboard at home.

1 comment:

  1. Hola Roberto. (Well that's about the extent of my ESPAÑOL!) Good post. I know you've always knocked yourself out on the buying trips. Just wanted to stop by and send you some love! Miss our talks. Cassie