Mar 27, 2016

Stamping Destroyed My Life: Chapter 17

To start this story at the beginning, please go here and follow the links. And thanks for reading! Sorry for the delays.  I get distracted by stamping!

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When we last saw M, her friend, Francie had emailed M asking her if she wanted to go to CHA...

Chapter 17:  "This hobby was a goldmine."



As soon as I saw Francie's email, I picked up the phone and called her.

"Francie, what's CHA?"

"You don't know what CHA is?," Francie asked.  "Guess!"

I hate when people ask me to guess.  I never get it right and it just makes the conversation longer than it needs to be.

"Dance lessons?

"No, silly.  It's the Craft and Hobby Association's trade show!

"What's that?"

"Well, craft companies set up booths displaying products that they will be selling later that year.  It's not open to customers.  It's only open to people who work in the industry."

"Well," I said, last time I checked neither of us work in the industry."

"I know.  But, I know the owner of a stamp store, and she's willing to get us in by letting us represent her store at the show.  All we have to do is pay for our travel and then take notes and photos of products we think she should order.  It's totally legit."

"You mean we'll see new products before anyone else?"

"YES!, and I think we might get some free stuff!" Francie squealed.

I started jumping up and down. There is nothing better than seeing a stamp set before anyone else. Nothing.  John doesn't understand this.  I don't understand this.  But, it's true. Add in free stuff and this was good enough to make me cry.

"I'm in.  Where and when?"

Francie explained, "It's next month in Los Angeles."

My heart sunk.  I couldn't just fly off to LA without making arrangements for the kids.  And after Vermont, I wasn't sure how John would react.

"California?  I'm not sure I can do that."

Francie said, "M, you have to find a way.  It's CHA!!  Talk to John and let me know, ok?  And should I ask Susan too?"

"Definitely.  I'll deal with John.  I'm sure I can work it out.  I'll be in touch.  And Francie?"

"What?"

"Thank you!!"

And we both started screaming.

*****

My mother in law agreed to come and stay with the kids and John went along with the idea.  It was almost free, particularly since I would pay for my plane and hotel with the money from the MAN.

Stamping rocked.  I had two friends.  I had money from being a demo and from the MAN.  We no longer had to pay for Christmas or birthday or National Donut (or Doughnut) Day cards. I was going to California, and was representing a stamp store.

This was going to be fantastic.

****

Our tickets to CHA came with a map of the floor of the convention, indicating the location of each vendor.  The night before, huddled in our hotel room with a giant bag of Twizzlers, Francie, Susan, and I spread out the map and discussed how to divide up all the work.

Susan piped up first, "If it's all right with you, I'd like to check out the booths with bling and white cardstock. I'm really not interested in anything else."

Who flies all the way to LA to look at white cardstock?

"Um, I'm not so sure about that," I said.  "This place is huge and we have a lot of ground to cover. Why don't we divide it up by thirds?  We'll each take one third of the aisles and take notes and pictures of whatever is on those aisles?"

Francie weighed in. "Well, I think Susan is making a good point. It will be hard for her to recommend products she doesn't care about. But you make a good point too.  How about we divvy it up this way?  Susan will take all the bling, the adhesives, solid color paper, and one third of the stamps.  I'll take another third of the stamps, ribbons and twines, patterned papers, and paints and inks and other coloring mediums.  You get the last of the stamps and all the tools.  My understanding is that there will be a lot of new tools this year.  With your experience with the MAN, that seems logical. Is everyone ok with this?"

As usual, Francie made a lot of sense.

The next morning, after breakfast of chocolate waffles, we hit the show.  It was HUGE. Bright lights, booths decorated with bright colors, and women running around in bedazzled jeans and pastel sweatshirts with sayings like "Hug me, I'm a stamper" or "Does this stamp make me look fat?"  I wondered where I could get one of those.

Every few minutes a pack of women would run up to one another pack and start screeching and hugging.  Smiles everywhere, group photo shots, laughter.  I started to feel bad for anyone who wasn't at CHA.

The first booth I visited had paper trimmers.  Who cares about paper trimmers?  Apparently everyone, because the booth was packed and every once in a while someone let out a big whoop.  I was curious so I made my way up to the front. 

A big sign read "The CROP - The Last Trimmer You'll Ever Buy".  The suggested retail price was $399.  That seemed like an awful lot for something to cut paper, but it was turquoise aqua and everyone knows that anything aqua bumps up the price by at least $50.  That was fair; plus, it was electronic!

The CROP, which stood for Cut Reams Of Paper, looked like a printer with a screen on the side. You plugged it in, hit one of two buttons and the machine cut the paper.  No more dragging a blade over cardstock.  You had two choices for cut size, 4.25"  x 11" or 8.5" x 5.5".   Oh, this was Posh Pink Perfect - it would cut card bases!!!  It only cut one sheet at a time, but you could put 25 sheets of cardstock in the feeder, and it would cut them all in only 15 minutes.  This would be perfect for Get Down demonstrators!  I was hooked.  I took a picture of the CROP, got a card from the company, and managed to chat with one of the company reps.

"What's the minimum a store can order?"

"There's no minimum.  However, we provide a discount for bulk purchases.  The wholesale price for one CROP is $200, but if you purchase at least 10, we'll give them to you for $180 a piece."

Hmm, I did some quick math.  Ten CROPS would cost $1800 to buy.  The store would make a profit of $2200 if it sold them for $400 each.  But I could undercut stores by selling them for $300 each and still make $120 profit on each one.  If I bought 10, I could make $1200 for doing almost nothing! If I used $18K from the MAN money and bought 100, I could make $120K in profits! Why is everyone always whining about how much it costs to stamp?  This hobby was a goldmine.

I was tempted to order 10 to begin with and have them shipped directly to me, but I decided to wait. This was the first product I had seen.  I might see something better later on.

Next on my map was a new stamp company, Clearly Superior.  Not many people were stopping at the booth, so I walked right up to the front.  The designs were beautiful, but the stamps were made out of something called photopolymer. The stamps felt like soft plastic and were clear so that you could see where you were stamping.  The owner kept telling me that clear stamps would take the market by storm and that I should get in on the ground floor.  Um, no thanks.  I took a brochure to be nice, but got out of there right away.  I didn't see any future in clear stamps. Did these people think I was born yesterday?

The next booth on my map was packed.  I could hear all sorts of oohs and ahs, so of course I had to stop and get a closer look.  I fought my way to the front and what I saw next blew me away -- The Automatic Glitter Applicator.

It was small, only the size of a pencil case, and it did exactly what the name said it would do.  The AGA was like a tiny reverse vacuum cleaner.  It came with a can of adhesive spray.  All you had to do was spray an item, turn on the AGA, and poof, a tiny hose on the AGA would spray glitter wherever you pointed it.  Obviously, you needed to put the item in a box so that the glitter wouldn't fly everywhere.

The best part was that it was only $24.95 (wholesale $10). There was a special starter kit that came with a 3 containers of glitter, 2 cans of spray adhesive, 8 size D batteries, and an aqua pouch to hold everything.  The kit was $299 (wholesale $30).

I was writing down information and taking a picture when one of the AGA reps asked for a volunteer.

I raised my hand and shouted, "Ooh, I will!"

"Come on up."

This was fun.  I went up on a little stage, next to this gigantic glass booth.

"What's your name, honey?"

"M," I replied.

"And where are you from?"

"Fairfax, Virginia.  It's a suburb of Washington DC."

"Ooh, you came far.  Let's give M a big hand."

And the crowd clapped and cheered.  I hadn't done a thing, but I took a bow and everyone laughed. I was thinking that maybe I should look into acting for our local theater when the rep interrupted my thoughts.

She shouted, "Listen everyone.  Let's calm down and get on with the show.  I know your customers are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE the AGA.  Now, see this machine here?  This is not the actual AGA that is for sale.  This is a very, very, large prototype.  We know better than to try and sell you something the size of a generator.  Ha Ha.  But, we wanted to use this so that we could demonstrate it to a big crowd."

Then the rep motioned to the table stacked with boxes containing the real AGAs and said, "Here are the ones actually available to order.  You can see that they are the size of a large pencil case.  Very portable.  After the demonstration, you can come up and, one by one, try out the real AGA.  For now, though, we'll have M get ready and then step into our special see through booth."

I felt like a scientist.  I put on a hairnet, smock, shoe coverings, and goggles.  That seemed strange. But I was game.

The rep told me to get into the booth.  She explained that she would hand me an item, shut the door and have me spray adhesive over it. Then I would use a super large AGA to cover the item with glitter. Sounded easy.

I got in and the rep handed me a large poster board.  I covered it with spray adhesive and then, just as she showed me, I turned on the giant AGA and pointed the hose towards the board.  Poof!  Out came glitter and within about 10 seconds, the poster board was covered with glitter.  The rep motioned me to come outside with the board.  I stepped outside and she asked me to shake the poster board. Sure enough, no glitter came off.  The audience erupted in cheers!  Then the rep handed me an empty gallon milk jug.  I went back in the booth and came out with a perfectly glittered plastic milk jug. The audience went crazy.  I took another bow.

As much as I would have loved to stand there all day spraying glitter, I needed to move on.  I had a long list of places to check out, so I took off my AGA gear and started to leave.  As I was walking away, the rep hit my hair with a burst of glitter and everyone started to laugh.  I ended up with glitter over my hair and a free AGA kit for being a good sport!! I wrote down the info and told the rep that I would recommend that the store purchase several.

Next up were more stamp booths.  I saw a ton of flowers, owls, bears, and clowns.  And Santas. Santa on a motorcycle, Santa on the moon, Santa in a marching band; Santa everywhere, except the North Pole.  I saw background stamps and solid squares and circles, and enough sentiments with the word "bliss" to fill a bathtub.  Eh, nothing special.  But I got a bunch of free samples, took pictures, grabbed cards or brochures, and kept walking. I was getting tired and wanted to concentrate on tools.

I found mini staplers, maxi staplers, scissors that cut wiggly lines, circle cutters, gigantic paper clips, a heat gun with multiple settings for different types of paper, a machine that made any paper glow in the dark, a tool that claimed to extend the life of an ink pad by subjecting it to some type of special ion rays.  I tried out a tool that punched a hole in anything, like leather or felt, but I didn't know to many people who wanted to punch holes in leather or felt, so I wasn't too impressed. There were a ton of other punches, including a set of circles in different sizes with coordinating scallop punches.  Some of them were enormous.  And there were hundreds of border punches, including ones that spelled out words.  Some of them were kind of fun and I took pictures.  It was fun, but nothing amazing.

Then, I turned the corner and saw a booth with something called the Big MoMo. The booth was crowded and, since I was a little tired, I just stood there and listened.  I couldn't see much, but I could feel the buzz.  It turned out that the Big MoMo was something called an affordable, portable, die cutter.  No clue.

Eventually I made my way up to the front of the MoMo booth.  Now this was something!  There were these flat metal things in square and other shapes that were called dies.  Put the die on top of your paper and place the die and the paper between these heavy metal plates called "sandwiches." Crank a handle back and forth, and in a few seconds the sandwich came out the other side.  Remove the paper and die, and you had a perfectly cut square!! And the MoMo was only $99.99.  

The MoMo's crank handle caused the plates to kind of jerk back and forth.  If you didn't hold onto to the plates, they kind of shot out of the MoMo, so it was important to be careful. I decided to wait around and see if I could get more information. Maybe I would buy a bunch of these and sell them on my own!

Eventually the crowd thinned out and I managed to talk with the rep, Gail.  Her sweatshirt said "I'm not cranky, I'm MoMo."  After a few minutes, Gail confided that her feet were killing her and she really needed a break. Would I be willing to work the booth for a half hour while she rested and got a bite to eat?  In exchange, she would send me a Big MoMo.  Well, of course I agreed! She gave me a MoMo sweatshirt to put on and I got to work.

The first few minutes went by just fine.  Another crowd started to gather and I demonstrated how to die cut using the MoMo.  This was so fun and easy and it worked!  I loved demonstrating the thing and at one point had the whole crowd laughing and taking brochures.

But, as I was cranking through another piece of cardstock and set of dies, the crowd at the next booth started to shout and that startled me.  I forgot to hold on to the MoMo sandwich, and boom, the heavy plates flew out of the machine.  Luckily, the MoMo plates were pointed at the back of the booth, so none of my audience got hurt. However, apparently the plates shot right through the back curtain of my booth and into the AGA booth behind me!

The rest seemed to happen in slow motion.

source:  tumblr.com
I heard a big crack and then a gigantic blast.  I looked up and a HUUGE mushroom-shaped cloud of glitter shot up into the air and slowly spread until it was suspended over the entire convention floor. There was total silence for just a moment.  Then the cloud burst, raining glitter.  It coated everyone and everything. Every booth in the convention center had a thick layer of glitter. There was so much glitter that the lighting turned purple.  The floor had at least 6 inches of glitter coating it.

People began to cough, and then hysteria set in.  Some folks started yelling for their inhalers.  Others were crying.  A few took their tote bags and started shoveling glitter into them.  I saw one guy calmly walk over to the MoMo display and shove a MoMo down his baggy pants!  One woman appeared to be having a good time.

source:  unknown
Then I heard the fire alarm go off. The sound of the alarm took me back to Vermont and I panicked.  I was afraid someone would blame me when all I had done was demo the MoMo.  I ran towards the exit, but before I could escape, I bumped into Susan, who was freaking out.

Susan yelled, "This is a disaster!  It's so messy!! And, all the white cardstock is some freakish orchid color!"

"Susan," I yelled. "Pull yourself together.  The cardstock isn't orchid, It's purple."

"Oh, thank goodness. I was living a nightmare there for a moment."

"Besides," I said. "It's the lights. Everything looks purple because the glitter is covering the lights."

Then Susan asked, "M, have you seen Francie?  We have to find her and get out of here."

So we took off and started to look for Francie but we couldn't find her among the chaos.

"Susan," I pleaded.  "I have to get out of here.  This place is freaking me out!"  The alarm had stopped and dozens of firemen were flooding the place.  I was terrified.  It was deja vu all over again. What if they tried to make me pay for the damage?  I might have to give up stamping!

"Ok," Susan said. "You go back to the hotel.  I'll find Francie and meet you back there."

You can always count on Susan.

****

I had already taken a shower, and was trying to relax in the hotel room, sipping a Diet Coke with my Twizzler straw, when Francie and Susan came back.

Francie said, "M, I think the fire department may be giving you a call."

Next:  Chapter 18






13 comments:

  1. I'm so enjoying this tale of stamping disasters! It's so funny!

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  2. So funny - can't wait for the next chapter :1)

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  3. O.O Dang it Joan, you're good at cliffhangers! Love it!

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  4. Somehow I don't think M will get her Big MoMo... What a hoot!

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  5. OMG Joan that was so great.. I really want a shirt that says "I'm not cranky, I'm MoMo" now. And the lady doing a glitter snow angel? LOL

    I was beginning to have withdrawals, so glad to see the next chapter up!

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  6. Poor M just can't seem to stay out of trouble! I'm enjoying her misadventures.

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  7. oh my goodness, this just gets better and better
    I love all the tools you have invented too!

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  8. Leave it to M! Good grief, what next? Can't wait to find out!

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  9. Too too funny! Though DH thinks my sudden outbursts of laughter are not.

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  10. This is hysterical! I need a MoMo and an AGA! Perfect read for a Friday afternoon after school!

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