Saturday, February 09, 2008

Small shows

This week there have been two small shows here at the convention facility where I work. Usually I write about the big shows, and put up lots of photos to show you what it looked like, but for some reason the smaller ones are ignored. Walking down the corridor this morning I realized that some of the most interesting bits come from the smaller shows.

One of the small shows is for people that run day spas. I assume that these are the little places located in outside shopping malls where women can go and spend a few hours getting a manicure and hairstyle and massage and sit around drinking tea and reading magazines. At least I get this impression from walking around the booths in the big hall. There are about a hundred booths, most of them rather small. Each booth is rented by a supplier trying to obtain more customers. There are booths with machines that electronically remove unwanted hair, booths with machines that play soothing music, booths full of soothing music on tape and Cd to be played by the machines in the other booths, tables full of small fountains to provide a soothing environment and perhaps drown out the music being played by the machines in the other booth. Down at one end was a large covered booth (boy, I sure can type booth a lot, but I don’t know what other word to use) filled with massage tables and chairs that you sit in while getting a neck rub. There are vendors with soothing lotions and oils, shampoos that either invigorate the scalp or calm the senses, vendors with incense and ones selling magazines to read while sitting waiting for your turn to be massaged or shampooed. Tables full of nail polish, and implements for polishing and trimming the nails. Tables full of shiny earrings on little display stands, to put next to the cash register so that the owner can get just a little more money out of customers.

There are also booths with massage tables and machines that vibrate and sooth. Some of these tables have women dressed in skin tight white outfits that are getting massaged and vibrated and soothed. This being Las Vegas I assumed that the young women being worked upon would be some of the ones we see in short (very short) skirts at other shows giving out literature, displaying their slim limbs and silicone enhanced wares at yet another venue. But these massagees were different, these women (yes, all women) were larger and softer and older, probably more like the women that would go to these day spas, totally unlike the young women that probably would like to get the money the more enhanced ones get at other facilities men go to. These white lumpy women were happily laying on the massage tables, while little groups stood around and watched them getting handled and vibrated while their handlers continually were talking about the benefits of the tables and machines and soothing oils and how the show attendees could make lots of money by purchasing their brand and making lots of their customers happy so that they would part with their money, to keep the whole chain moving along. The chain stretching from the women who drop those noisy kids off for the day and go enjoy a few quiet hours being pampered and massaged and oiled to the people that applied the oils to the owners of the spas to the truck drivers that deliver that stuff to the suppliers that ship it out to the people that put on shows like this to let people show off their stuff to facilities like ours that rent space to hold these shows down to people like me that work here to keep the place going.

This show uses some of our meeting rooms in addition to the large hall where the booths are located. These rooms are used to put on seminars, where spa owners can better learn about tax laws and audits, how to hire good massage therapists (this is a big thing here in Vegas, where many of our massage therapists provide extra special massages using body parts other than the hands and are being investigated by our good police department, where the investigators I assume spend many hours getting massages and trying to get ‘massages’), and how to ‘name brand’ your spa so that you can sell your customers your own brand of shampoo and crème which is packaged by the same company that puts the other spa’s name on very similar packages which probably buys them from the same place in China that puts on T@rget’s label to very similar packages. And yes, this is how I think, in long run on sentences filled with lots of ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ and distracting thoughts and ooh look at the pretty butterfly and oh, where was I? Yes, spas.

The other small show is for owners of places that rent storage lockers. I don’t know how popular these places are in other countries or in other parts of the US, but here in Vegas and other south western cities storage locker rental is big business. At least I hope it is big business in colder areas, as why else have a show about it in Vegas in February just for locals who live here and enjoy the sunshine when we could fly out people from two feet of snow and ten below so that they could enjoy it also. And spend their money here, thereby keeping people like me employed and places like the big hotel next door looking so pretty. Most storage locker facilities have a few larger ‘lockers’ that look like one or two car garages with big roll up metal doors where you can drive your car up to and just empty out the trunk. The rest of the place is usually corridors lined with doors leading into closets, ranging in size from a small hall closet to something bigger than your bedroom. These small spaces are used by people that have apartments or houses that are filled to capacity and so people rent these spaces in order to have a place to put their stuff that doesn’t fit in their house. I don’t rent one, but the few I have been into with friends just look like junk piles. I don’t know why people keep that stuff – just to know you have it and visit every few months when you add to the pile? My son was renting one, it was like $100 a month, and filled with stuff he just couldn’t throw away. When it was time to move it he ended up throwing over half of the pile into the dumpster wondering why he kept it. Broken table? As if it would ever get fixed and used. Old clothes? As if they would ever fit again or come back in style. That battered old tool? He replaced it years ago with a fancy new one. Big tires and rims? The truck they fit on was sold years ago.

But again I digress. I wandered through the hall yesterday while getting lunch. One of the benefits of working here is that we get tickets we exchange for a free meal every day there is a show here. For the small shows that just means a sandwich or a cold salad, for the larger shows it could be a full soup and salad bar or carved roast beef and turkey or a taco bar or something different. After being here a year we have gotten fairly used to the selections, but still anticipate FREE FOOD!!!! So I picked up a packaged chef salad, noticing that they have moved from slices of cheese to using the pre shredded cheese. Well, anything that saves a few pennies is good for the company. (have to keep our big owner at number six). The food is available at what we call the ‘block house’, one of two cinder block structures that are located in the center of the hall that hold the serving counter (one on each side), a small kitchen, and stairs down to the restrooms on a central level and more stairs from that down to the lower hall. I went up from my basement office into the light (well, more electric lights, there are no windows up there either) and traded in my ticket for the salad and a sugar free Red Bull, and then wandered the aisles a bit. This show also was limited to about half of an upper divided hall. The room upstairs is large – about 650,000 square feet. There are panels that slide along the ceiling and divide this up into four long rooms, and different configurations are used depending on how large the show is. For the shows this week the panels were all in place, cutting the space up, and each show was in one room, but only filling about half the room. That still means there were 100,000 square feet for each show to fill, so there is room for several hundred booths.

The displays here were much different, and more varied than I had anticipated. There were companies that put up buildings, out of steel or concrete or blocks, there were companies that sold the fences that went around the buildings, that sold the electric gates that closed off these fenced areas, that sold the computers and programs that kept track of who came and went and who owed rental. There were booths filled with different kinds of locks to sell so people could secure their little parts, booths with light bulbs to brighten up the spaces, booths with metal roll up doors to close off the closets, and cleaning equipment to get out the gunk when renters left. Booths with trash barrels to put unwanted stuff in, booths with key making machines so owners could sell extra keys, booths with snack machines to provide sustenance to locker renters while they filled their spaces, and even booths with nothing but big numbers to stick on the doors so renters could find their space. There is much variety up there.

The spa show closed yesterday, and today the hall is empty (I am impressed with how fast those spaces can be cleared, one night and it’s down to bare concrete floor) but the storage show continues today (yes, another day of free food). Downstairs was unused, but next week comes the semi annual big clothing shows. The big convention center is filled with most of the big show, but we have three of the upstairs halls filled with overflow, in addition to ‘off price’ merchandise downstairs, accessories in the remaining hall upstairs, and shoes in the big and small rooms next door. So for the past few days the downstairs hall is slowly being filled, today the carpet is almost all down and the curtains are up and vendors are starting to show up to take their stuff out of the shipping boxes and spread them around.

The fashion stuff upstairs is ‘edgy’ and ‘cutting edge’, the last one filled with lots of torn denim and sparkles. It’s mostly a younger crowd, with clothes I did not wear when I was younger, the hall is filled with loud music and spotlights and mirrors and people on cell phones. The carpet was white (at least the first day) and the dividers were plastic, decorations in black and white and silver, but clothes in bright colors as well as the ‘traditional’ black. Most of the booths are small, with stuff hand made, the owners trying to get a big contract so that they could ship production off to China and make loads of money. I guess all you need is a contract with The G@p or some trendy chain with a store in each mall across the country, and be rolling in the big bucks. All of the stuff gets packed up and taken back home.

Downstairs is mostly wholesalers, and distributors from China, with crates and boxes full of the stuff you find in W@lmart and T@rget and little off stores in those run down malls that every city seems to have. Most of this stuff is sold on the last day, as it’s usually cheaper to throw it away and make more than to pay the shipping costs. So the employees like this show, and spend time downstairs, working out deals on what to get and what is available. I picked up a neat bunny backpack for E last time. Stuff is sometimes sold at the accessories show, if you want purses and earrings and things. Vendors only bring the left shoes to the shoe show so nothing to buy at that one.

OK, that was a long rambling post when I know VG the only thing you came by for was a photo of E, so note to self: when you get home be sure to dig out a link to one of those E pics and insert it here in place of this comment to keep VG happy.

Here she is looking at dad, doing a video conference on the computer:

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