Engaging customers on TV

   Believe it or not, I do sometimes engage customers in conversation. And more often than I think is acceptable for seemingly rational humans, it turns, at their behest I can assure you, to the telly. Once we've agreed Versailles is poor, and none of us watch soaps, they move onto the shows they call Antique.  
   Antiques Roadshow remains top of the tree for mentions, but I think that's only because they think they are talking to a proper antiques dealer. Looks can be deceptive. For me, it has fallen foul of so much TV these days, as has Countryfile, the CBeebies/Blue Peter effect. Promoting the Kid's TV presenters and chasing ratings is having but one effect: killing intelligence and quality. 
   Flog It seems to be well thought of too. Bargain Hunt is dismissed as crackers and, surprisingly to me, few seem to follow it. Drew Pritchard Salvage thing comes up occasionally, and that one with the lock-up garages almost never. It has been mentioned twice in my whole life I'd say, and on both occasions in terms I can't (well I could, but won't) repeat here. Seems the English version “cast” are not well, er, appreciated.
   Another, oft mentioned, is Antiques Road Trip, or ART. I would venture that's the favourite of the antique buying public. Well, in my highly scientific survey it is. 
   ART has crossed my path a few times. I was invited on it once, to buy from (sensibly now an escapee) Jonty Hearndon, but I turned down this wonderful opportunity. I was working the tills when Charlie Ross filmed at a centre, and I had an engaging off-camera chat with him. 
   I've been present when the manager of a large centre told the dealers who agreed to appear on ART that he'll make good their ticket prices. I've experienced their crews when selling at fairs, and filming at auctions. And I have to say it would be hard to find a ruder, more self-absorbed group of people.  And I've seen the faxed images that the ART dealer sent in in advance of the items he had for sale with price expectations noted next to them.
   I've heard, at long long length, from another centre manager where one of the dealers came in and reserved their purchases several (I want to say nine, but maybe three, it was a long time, anyway) months, so that when they walked in with a TV crew all those weeks later they already knew what they were after and how much it was to be.
   I've had them running straight across my display at Newbury Antiques Fair to get a coffee to Kate Bliss. I've been locked out of viewing at an antiques auction that I drove 200 miles to view, because they were “running a bit behind”. I've seen them on viewing days filming that bit on Bargain Hunt when they show the assembled buyers the item. You know the bit when the poor porter holds the item aloft and shows it to 'the room'? They are showing it to the film crew and, er, an empty room.
   So we chew this proverbial bone, my customers and I, and I get their views and experiences. I try to correct misconceptions if I find them but, in reality, they are pretty few and far between. Most people understand how manipulative TV has become as it sacrifices everything genuine in the pursuit of 'entertainment'. They know that the horrendous discounts are only offered because the centre or dealer knows that five mins on ART can increase footfall for weeks (someone who'd appeared recently tweeted the stats once: quite staggering. Something like a 1200% increase in visitors over the next five days). I think most of the Gen Public have worked out for themselves that it's all a fix.  
   But there is one universal question that crops up when Telly comes into the conversation. You are, of course, ahead of me, but it's the same question: has telly “ruined trade”? Well, no, but it has done some damage and I'll launch into that in a future post.
   I'm sure you, and you, yes you too, have got your own stories about the TV antiques shows. Care to share? I'd love to hear your tales too - comments box below.

Anyway, I must dash. Flog It is on.

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