How I ended up selling merch for my childhood idol

A few years ago, a very popular pop singer I loved as a kid announced a concert at the “big city” nearest to my small town, a few hours away. He’s sort of a mess now, certainly not the cute kid he was when he was popular, but my friend asked me to go with her for nostalgia’s sake, and we sprung for meet-and-greet and photo passes for after the show.

The night before, [Friend] saw an offer on the tour website that, for an additional cost, we could go to the show early and have a pizza party while [Singer] performed his soundcheck. It was a ridiculously cheap deal, so we signed up. We were told further instructions would be given to us on the day of the show.

On our drive down to the city, we received texts informing us of our meeting time. Cool. Then, not long after, I got a very strange phone call from the same phone number that had texted us. The woman on the phone informed me that she was some kind of manager for [Singer]. Whoever was supposed to run the merchandise table at the show, selling sweatshirts, had bailed, and because I had purchased a pizza party ticket and would be there early, would I be interested in running the merch table? Not only would [Singer] personally get me set up, but I would be allowed to take home a portion of the profits of what I sold.

Um… what?!

I asked a few questions, because this all sounded weird and too good to be true. Finally satisfied that I wasn’t being scammed, I said that it sounded like a great deal, but I was coming with a friend - could she help, too? I was told that was fine, as long as I didn’t mind splitting my profits with her. Of course, that was just peachy for me!

We arrived at the arranged time at the venue, a dark little hole-in-the-wall bar with a stage and a dance floor. It was the most disorganized mess I’ve ever seen. Throughout the evening, we would only ever communicate with the lady on the phone via text message. Another manager for [Singer] sat us down at a folding table in a corner near the bathrooms and asked us to wait.

After a while, [Singer] showed up and asked us to help unload the merch. We followed him out to a pickup truck parked out front and unloaded several cardboard boxes full of sweatshirts. He told us pricing for the sweatshirts and told us we could accept cash or payments to his personal Venmo. He suggested we make some kind of sign to put up over the merch table. Then, he thanked us and disappeared.

The manager who was present eventually brought us a cash box and some money. When we asked if he had any materials for making signs or anything like that, he said we’d have to ask the bar manager. We were given a few pieces of standard-sized printer paper, two sharpies (one black, one green and very old), and some scotch tape. We cobbled together some signs that explained the prices and payment options, and with a lot of patience and a LOT of tape, we managed to attach them and one sweatshirt to the wall behind us. (The wall was carpeted. Do you know how much tape it takes to attach a sweatshirt to a carpeted wall? It’s… so much.)

Eventually, a few more people trickled in for the pizza party. At some point while we were setting our table up, someone from [Singer]'s team came in with a couple of pizzas and dropped them off at the far side of the bar. We weren’t sure we should leave the table (especially the cash box), it was impossible to flag anyone down to ask about it, and being a couple of socially awkward weirdos, we ended up just staying at our station and never getting any pizza.

Before the concert, [Singer] came by the table and burned a piece of Palo Santo (wood) over the table to dispel bad energies and evil spirits, thanked us again, and went back to work.

Throughout the show, people approached us to buy merch. They were confused and disappointed to discover that we were selling precisely one design of sweatshirt in a handful of sizes, and even more confused, and reasonably skeptical, when we told them that we couldn’t take cards but they could pay directly to [Singer]'s Venmo. I started keeping track of all our sales on a notepad on my phone because no one seemed to be concerned about a couple of strange fans handling their cash and merch!

Our table was set up against the wall next to the stage, so we couldn’t actually see the concert from where we were standing. My friend and I took turns edging out to the front side of the table to watch when there weren’t people buying. We were becoming more and more disillusioned as the evening progressed.

The concert ran late, as [Singer] unexpectedly decided to debut a handful of new projects he was working on. Then, he handled meet-and-greet photos. The line was fairly long, and as we were still responsible for a cash box and the merchandise, we basically had to wait until the line was done.

FINALLY, [Singer] approached our table and asked how things went. I showed him my notes on how much we’d sold and handed him the cash box. He ultimately decided to let us each have a free sweatshirt and a portion of the sales, around $100 total, if I recall correctly. We thanked him, got our photos taken with him, and sprinted for the car; we were parked in an area where we’d be ticketed after a certain time because of street sweepers, and we had never dreamed things would go this late.

We got a parking ticket. It cost us nearly all the money we had earned.

Ultimately, we came out of this experience with about ten bucks each, a couple of free sweatshirts, and one heck of a story to tell! But no pizza. And I still can’t believe they just handed two random strangers a box full of cash and then left us alone.

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It’s a huge shame you didn’t get a decent slice of the action

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My sister has a completely opposite experience.

When she was in college, she was a reporter for the school paper. This was a major university in a major city, and we had big names for our concerts.

One evening, she was set to interview a big name singer. It was after the performance. He and sis were sitting backstage when a young woman walked by. She told him she had been taking tickets, so had not been able to hear much, but she was a huge fan.

He asked her to name her favorite song, which she did. He turn to my sis, excused himself, took the fan by the hand and led her over to another part of the backstage area. He sat next to her and played the song, just for her.

Then he came back and finished the interview.

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That’s so cool! It’s so neat to hear about celebrities making time to make us “little people” feel special.

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He’s sort of a mess now

Well, how organized this all was just supports this :sweat_smile:

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“OFFICIAL MERCHANDISE vendor didn’t show up”

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