I’ve been a Quilt shop owner for twelve years. I have seen many customers walk into the shop and I have also seen many outside of my shop. Having been through so many experiences, and closing up the shop, I had many goodbye lunches and dinners with my quilting friends and customers. They’ve all asked me to share a few of my stories and through all the conversations many replied that there should be a Quilt Shop Etiquette guide to help people figure out the does and don’ts with quilt shop owners.
My shop has now been closed for a few months and I am on new endeavors meeting bloggers and designers, sharing experiences. Surprisingly enough my Quilt Shop Etiquette Guide was brought up in many conversations and everyone seems to agree that there should be one. I know for a fact that anyone who presently has a quilt shop would never dare write about it so I thought I should start and perhaps more would join in the conversation.
Let’s start by the guidelines when you’re out of the shop:
If you happen to meet a quilt shop owner outside of their shop, or outside of a quilt show, they are probably in the middle of something private. Keep in mind that this is their day off. I am not saying to ignore them and pretend that you don’t know them. A simple smile and Hello! Is good etiquette. And I am sure they will do the same.
I have learned to always smile when a stranger looks at me whether I am out shopping or hiking, as I am never sure if they know me or not. I was told once that I crossed path with a customer that I didn’t see nor smile to, so she decided to never set foot back in my shop. The fact is that I have three hyper active boys and they go with me wherever I go…. Yes I tend to look mad and mean most of the time… But that’s to scare them into good behavior. So I have learned to be more careful when I am out and about.
Interacting with quilt shop owners outside of the quilt shop
Another well-known quilt shop owner told me once that her worst moment was waiting in line to use a public restroom. Sure enough someone recognized her and said “I know you from your Tutorials”. She smiled and said “Yes… and this is not one of them!” hoping that the other person would understand.
I’ve once had a women rushing over to see me at the end of a PT meeting while pulling out the latest issue of Quilter’s World and screaming “I just read your last article and loved it!’’. And she started telling everyone that I was a quilting guru … now that really made me feel very uncomfortable. But I guess this is OK and is still acceptable in Quilt Shop Etiquette. I wanted to hide under the table and thought my son would never forgive me. But that’s my problem. As we were about to leave she grabbed my hand and asked if I could just answer one question… Of course I could… But the question was: “How do I finish the binding on my quilt?” NO… Definitely bad quilting etiquette… That is not a simple two minutes answer.
Another example of bad etiquette?
My family and I were returning from a holiday in the Caribbean’s. My sister and I had just convinced my husband to watch the boys while we went to look in the duty free shop and my dad decided to come along. So we were having our last moments alone and that’s when we hear ‘’Oh my God! it’s Claire’’… I see my sister’s eye roll over and she winks at me saying ‘’I will see you later’’. That’s when I turned around and greeted a fellow quilter that I hadn’t seen in years. Of course, I was happy to see her, don’t get me wrong. It is humbling and I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t want to be recognized. I asked how her quilting projects were progressing and she started explaining the many reasons why she had not been at my shop and how bad she felt about it. It lasted over half an hour and needless to say I still didn’t see her back in my shop.
Now let’s talk about quilt shop etiquette when in the shop:
Let’s start with the obvious: Your time is precious and so is the quilt shops’ owner. Having a quilt shop means we are passionate about quilting and love to share our knowledge and help you in the making of your quilt. But keep in mind that we also have rent and bills to pay.
I had read in American Quilt Retailer that most quilt shop owners will only get to keep between 1 to 3% of a sale. And I remember thinking that it was about right in my situation. So think how many hours we spend with you to design a queen size quilt, choose the fabrics and threads and ensure that you understand the whole process to make it… I’d say at least 2-3 hours. Total sale if you buy all the fabrics for a queen size quilt: approximately $350? That means the quilt shop owner will have made between $3,50 to $10,50 on that sale. Which translates into about $1 to 3$ hourly pay.
Yet most of the time the customer will complain about how expensive it is and won’t recognize how helpful the quilt shop owner was! It wasn’t that obvious at first when I opened my shop. But in the last years I did notice that customers would come in and expect me to design quilts for them and give them the sketches without having to buy any fabrics. I had to state a rule that you would get my sketches and instructions only if you bought the fabrics. I had customers complain that this policy was ridiculous so I started charging $30 for a custom design. You wouldn’t accept to work for free yet you expect a quilt shop owner to.
I can guarantee you that if someone has opened a quilt shop, it’s to share the passion of quilting with others and be part of the process.
My quilt shop was the equivalent of Cheers but we would be talking around fabrics instead of beer. I made it a point to remember all my customers name, whether they came once a week or once a year. knowing my store inside and out was mandatory, could date any fabric from 2004. Could say if a fabric had been bought in my shop or not and could tell you in less than 10 minutes if I could match the fabric you had in your stash with something in my shop. So it was really annoying when someone would walk in and totally ignore me. You are not in a chain store… you can trust that we will help you if we have what you’re looking for.
A quilt shop owner is always happy to see a fellow quilter and chat about their projects.
But at the end of the day, they have to pay for the employees that were on hand (that you probably didn’t want to talk to either cause you wanted to speak to the owner), the electricity, the phone , the insurance and lots of other little things you don’t think of when you’re not an business owner. So if you feel that you need some motivation or cheering up… do go to your local quilt shop… but please buy a few fat quarter before you head out. Don’t leave empty handed. I had a customer that once said: “you make me feel better than a shrink and they cost more than a fat quarter bundle”.
A delicate subject!
Here’s another delicate subject. How many times do you go out to buy a coffee? You don’t think twice paying $5 for a coffee which actually costs around $4 but you leave the change as a tip to that student behind the counter. Yet how many times have you left a tip to the quilt shop employee or owner who has spent hours designing a quilt for you? In my 12 years as a quilt shop owner… I have had ONE customer leave a tip. But I have also had several customers come into my shop with a fresh coffee and muffin, or homemade jams… Now that is just as sweet and ranks very high in my Quilt Shop Etiquette guide.
One last quit shop etiquette rule!
If you are looking for a fabric and the quilt shop is sold out of it. Do not expect them to re-order it should you only be wanting a fat quarter. When a quilt shop owner buys a fabric, the minimum order for a bolt is 10-15 yards… they need to ensure that they sell at least half of it before being able to pay for it. So don’t get mad if they say “no”. If you really want it, than commit to at least 4 yards.
I am hoping that this will help us start a conversation and help quilters and shop owners better understand each other. And this can also become a much wider quilting etiquette conversation as I haven’t even talked about the pattern designers and how much works goes into a pattern that most quilter’s will prefer photocopying rather than buy. But that’s a whole other blog.