Farmer’s Market: Bad Customer Relations

clocktower_aw2.jpgI had an unpleasant experience at the Farmer’s Market one week ago. On Monday I faxed (the only contact method I could find) a letter of complaint. The postscript to the letter stated that it would be published here. I then proceeded to have an absurdly busy week. I never wrote up a post explaining what had happened, so I never posted the letter. I also wanted to give the Farmer’s Market until the end of the week to respond, but that shouldn’t have stopped me from putting this up — Movable Type does, after all, offer the option to schedule posts.

Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be about how lame I am. It is about the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax and why I am pissed off at them. I’ve decided to let my letter speak for me, since I outlined the problem in detail. The full text, minus my contact details, is below the cut.

To Whom It May Concern:

Once a week during the week and once a month on the weekend, I get together with several friends at the Original Farmer’s Market. We eat, drink, chat, knit, and crochet. We’re all members of Stitch & Bitch Los Angeles, which has informal non-profit get-togethers all over town at coffee shops and yarn stores as well as the Farmer’s Market.

Our West Hollywood group consists of between 15 and 30 women and men. We love the Farmer’s Market and many of us visit several times a week for meals and shopping.

Our September weekend gathering took place Saturday, September 9, 2006. We met from 10:00 to noon. Many of the ladies arrived earlier for breakfast; everyone at least had coffee; at least one woman stayed for lunch; I shopped at two vendors before leaving.

The early arrivals gathered in the large upstairs seating area above Kip’s Toys. A Farmer’s Market employee who was setting up a private party approached my friends and asked to move. They did so gladly, and when I arrived a little after 10:30 I joined them in the smaller area outside of the Community Room. There were perhaps 15 of us altogether.

At approximately 11:40 another employee approached us. She asked if we were a group. I believe someone told her that we were. She handed out Farmer’s Market magnets to everyone and then asked for our attention. What she proceeded to tell us stunned and angered me, and is the reason for this letter.

We were told that we cannot gather in the upstairs seating area because the space is needed for the tourists who arrive on the tour buses that park on Fairfax. When one of the group asked if the Farmer’s Market didn’t want the patronage of local residents, she answered that you do, but that it is not OK to gather in a large, obvious group. She offered us the option of applying to use the Community Room and strongly implied that we would not be permitted to gather elsewhere in the future, whether we were eating and shopping at the Farmer’s Market or not.

There are many problems with the situation. First and foremost, we were all paying customers. Not only did we all shop at the Farmer’s Market, we also all paid to park there (and I note that your parking fee just went up by a staggering 50%). The tourists on the tour buses do not pay for parking; I do not know whether they all make purchases at the Farmer’s Market, but surely they are not repeat customers. We were not disturbing anyone, though there were two gentlemen playing chess (not eating) who moved partway through the two hours we were seated. As the private party was staffed by Farmer’s Market employees, I posit that the Farmer’s Market was responsible for the lack of auxiliary seating. I also noted on my way out at noon that there were plenty of seats available downstairs in the main area.

I must stress that the woman who approached us was extremely polite to us (as we were to her) and certainly just doing her job. My complaint is not with her but the message she was, presumably, instructed to give us.

Does the Farmer’s Market wish to send the message that local patrons are less important than tourists? That paying customers are not welcome? I hope not. I have been a regular visitor and customer since I moved to Los Angeles more than four years ago. I would like to remain one. Please make it your policy to allow paying customers to use the seating provided.

Sincerely,

I have not heard back yet. For the record, I have been back — three times, in fact. I am not boycotting. Yet.

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9 Replies to “Farmer’s Market: Bad Customer Relations”

  1. Tough situation here – I can totally understand the Farmers Market’s policy. While I believe that Stitch N Bitch crew are financially beneficial to the Market all around, there are many other groups that probably take advantage of their property who don’t spend money and take seats away from paying patrons. The Farmers Market staff shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate and give more leeway to one group over another, unless they’re about to ask for proof that the groups have paid for services (which would be just plain silly).

    They also offered the use of a community room, which is a great service they and many other shopping centers offer, but are rarely used. I don’t know if there’s a small fee to use these, though.

  2. I have often met with a group in the same area, I believe.

    We have never had a problem, but it sounds like someone at the Farmer’s Market figured out that there was money to be made in forcing groups to rent the community room.

    They have a right to try it, but we certainly also have a right to stay away.

  3. Have you considered providing a copy of your letter to the manager of every store where you shop? Maybe the managers can talk to the Market’s management.

  4. Seems to me that if you have made purchases, you are entitled to use the seating. If everyone at S&B has bought something to eat or drink, you have a right to seat whereever you like. That you choose to sit together is your choice, n’est-ce pas??

  5. If you were not customers of FarMar businesses – i.e. took over a big space, pulled drinks and candy bars out of purses and then sat there like a bunch of squatters – I understand their POV. But your repeat local business is what makes the registers ring…and seeing a group of my fellow Angelinos stiching, bitching and hanging out at the FarMar is part of the charm and why *I* go about once/week, too. I hope you’ll keep us updated. And be sure to send them a link to this post!

  6. Wow– must be nice for that to be your biggest problem. War rages, People starve and you can’t crochet at the Farmers Market. Who gives a fuck!

  7. Go somewhere else.

    Oh, no other place gives you free seats and tables? Oh my.

    Next time invite the gang over to your apartment.

    Enjoy.

  8. Dude, it’s spelled anonYmous. Other dude, relax, there are many problems in the world, some big some small. By your reasoning, I shouldn’t get up and go to the bathroom when my bladder’s full because there’s an unjust war on. You deal with the small problems and the big problems as you can. If I see you September 25th at the Hollywood recruiting station protest, then you’ll have some cred.

    The outside area of the food court at Century City might be more conducive and parking is free for the first three hours there (although ridiculously expensive thereafter). Other options might be to check into community room spaces at the local libraries.

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