Farmers markets are a wonderful place to buy in-season fruits and vegetables, eggs, bakery items, honey and more. They also provide an opportunity to meet the people who grow or make your food — and a chance for you to accidentally annoy or offend them.
Some customers may act differently at a farmers market than they would at a grocery store. Others might bring an attitude that can irritate vendors, or generally behave in a rude way.
HuffPost spoke to market managers, farmers and vendors about some frustrating things that customers do. Here are the five biggest offenses they encounter.
Haggling Over Prices
Shopping at the farmers markets lets you purchase directly from the people responsible for your food. This unique experience makes some customers feel like they can ask for discounts or negotiate the price — something you wouldn’t consider doing at the grocery store.
“All of the vendors at the markets either grow or handmake what they are selling; time, effort and money go into that. It is not a flea market,” said Erin Mann, the owner of Erin’s Elderberries and a board member of the Virginia Farmers Market Association. “By haggling a vendor on pricing for something they made with their bare hands, you are not only devaluing the item itself, but the person who spent their time doing it.”
“It’s upsetting when a customer, usually a tourist from another state, insists on negotiating a price for a wedge of cheese,” said Angela Miller, the founder and co-owner of Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont. “Our cheeses are artisanal, handmade, cave-aged and very labor intensive. We try to price them fairly, commensurate with the quality and costs.”
Farmers markets aren’t a place to haggle or ask for discounts. “Would someone argue the price of a $20 bottle of wine from a small vineyard?” Miller said.
“At busy farmers markets, the visitor who blocks a pretty display just to take multiple selfies is costing that farmer sales.”
– Catt Fields White, the director of San Diego Markets in California
Sometimes customers don’t haggle or ask for discounts but simply grumble about costs.
“When a customer gets out of their high-dollar car, walks up with a demeaning attitude and complains about the cost of the goods we are selling, this is irritating,” said Craig Schmidt, the owner of Shaded Grove Farm Market in Mississippi. “We try to overcome this by sharing about our production methods and explaining that the actual cost of cheap, commodity food is much, much higher than what you pay upfront.”
That’s not the only reason why buying directly from these farmers may seem more expensive. “Our food system often hides the true cost of food by subsidizing commodity producers with your tax dollars,” said Catt Fields White, the director of San Diego Markets in California. “Those benefits rarely extend to small farmers.”
Letting Children Run Wild
Farmers markets are a place for the whole family, but parents still need to keep an eye on their kids, just like they would anywhere else.
“We love seeing families with children at farmers markets, but please keep your children in order,” Schmidt said. He recalled an incident in which one child was touching eggs at his stall and “soon the whole carton of eggs was scrambled on the sidewalk.”
“We had to clean it up,” Schmidt said. “They didn’t pay for it, either.”
Jodie Kieliszewski, the founder of Bee Lovely Botanicals, also remembered times when parents lost track of their kids and items were damaged.
“There was a small girl who was opening multiple lip balms, which are safety-sealed,” she said. “In a matter of a few moments, she ruined about $40 to $50 worth of product, as well as wiping colored lip balm all over our display.”
Breaking Sampling Etiquette
Having the chance to sample foods before you purchase is one of the perks of shopping at a market. But if you know you have no interest in buying something or it’s not going to be part of your shopping budget that week, you may want to reconsider before enjoying all the samples on offer.
“People [are sometimes] trying multiple cheese samples and then either walking away … or saying that they would have to locate their spouse to get money, or also responding ‘Will you be here next week?’” Miller said. “These comments are disingenuous.”
There are also certain items that you should generally not sample, such as handmade soaps that shoppers may want to touch and smell.
“People bring multiple bars of soaps to their faces,” said Erin Link, the owner of EB Ranch Farmstead in Wisconsin. She suggested that shoppers first “ask permission to pick things up and touch them.”
Snapping Photos Of Products Without Buying Them
In the quest for a great Instagram photo, many people take pictures or videos of booths while others are trying to shop, which can interrupt sales. Some markets have created social media rules to thwart this.
“We have a saying: ‘You tweet it, you eat it!’” White said.
At busy farmers markets, the visitor who blocks a pretty display just to take multiple selfies is costing that farmer sales,” she added. “Farmers need to sell what they’ve harvested for the day.”
“By haggling a vendor on pricing for something they made with their bare hands, you are not only devaluing the item itself, but the person who spent their time doing it.”
– Erin Mann, the owner of Erin’s Elderberries in Virginia
Still want to snap a photo or make a reel? Ask permission from the seller to record their stall or display. If they say yes, be sure not to block other patrons from shopping.
“The considerate influencer is one that loads up a shopping bag after they use that lovely background to create an eye-catching post,” White said.
Arriving Before Opening Or After Closing
Farmers markets have set hours, just like any retail store. The difference is, there isn’t a door that locks and unlocks.
“When someone shows up early and asks to be sold to, that vendor has to stop what they are doing, find whatever that person is looking for or answer questions, and then also figure out how to promptly take payment,” Mann said. This can disrupt the setup process, which in turn may prevent vendors from attending to customers in a timely fashion once the market opens.
The same is true for coming to the market late or at closing.
“Vendors have to be off the premises by a certain time,” Mann said. “When everything is packed up and you’re asking someone to undo 30 minutes of work, it can be construed as rude.”
Your local grocer, clothing store or restaurant isn’t going to just let you come in whenever you want. So have the same respect for your vendors and allow them to put their best foot forward each week by giving them time to set up.
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