Wrap up of 2011

This is a couple of weeks late, but I am still a work in progress when it comes to blogging!

I first want to graciously thank everyone that made 2011 a fantastic year for me! I’ve had the opportunity to be part of some of the most heart touching events I’ve ever seen (to date!)

There have been some new experiences and unique ideas for future events, which I look forward to implementing, thanks to my client’s forward thinking :-). I’ve had the opportunity to finally work with Joanne Bartone and Karen Wainwright of Joanne Bartone Photography, and also Leeann Marie Golish of Leeann Marie Photography. Both whom I really admire. This year has also given me the pleasure of working with David and Sara Frye of Magic Your Way Weddings, whom I hope to work with again! They did a fantastic write up of me in their blog, I really appreciate that. I cannot forget the other entertainers that have sent me referrals, namely Kelli Burns, and Jonathan Mihellis, they have sent me countless client referrals, with no reservations about my commitment and ability to perform well. And not asking for anything but reciprocation in return, that is gold to me.

Of the many venues I’ve worked this year, 3 stand out as my favorites. Simply because they didn’t treat me as just another guy passing through. Suzi Hawkins of the Mayernik Center, Tony Lee of the Renaissance Pittsburgh, and Tawnya Rockwell of the Youghiogheny Country Club. It always makes my day to know when I am working with someone that takes just a little time to be attentive and respectful, thank you all!! Not at all least, one of my favorite people on the planet, Erin Calvimontes of Divine Celebrations , planner extraordinaire, always a pleasure to work with you!

And finally to my Nameless family, whom there are too many to mention:
You have brought me into your lives, if but for a moment, to be part of some of your most memorable events. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for allowing me to do what I love, I cannot describe how awesome that makes me feel…. BRING ON 2012!!



Lost in translation, misunderstanding, what did you say?!?!

In no way is this intended to be a rant, but a shared experience, because good or bad, I believe all situations have potential for teaching something. When met with an unpleasant experience, I find it therapeutic to get a sense of closure.

I was recently contacted by a young woman inquiring about my services, and the following transpired:

Hello Jane (not real name),
Thank you for considering Nameless Entertainment for your big day!
How may I be of service?

I need a price and a break down for the times needed. Thank you Jane

If I may ask, how did you hear about me? Also, without sounding too forward, what is your projected entertainment budget?
I have a great deal of respect for mine, and other people’s time, and I truly do not want to waste yours, if I do not match what you were expecting.

ABC photography. And honestly wasting time is sending e-mails back and forth. Just please give me a price sheet and break down. My budget depends on that is included so I can not answer that. I believe a DJ is what makes the wedding therefore I want a good one and a RESPECTFUL one.
Thank you

My service is tailored to the requests of my clients, and the pricing is according to the amount of time needed, location, multiple set ups, and any add on services.
It is not my intention to be disrespectful, and quite honestly, when the first question is pricing, I usually do not book the event. If asking a few questions is wasting your time, I respectfully appreciate the time you have given me, and wish you well.
You may be more comfortable with someone else

Thank you.

Well maybe next time you should read my information before email me back. I said 6.5 hours. ceremony and reception. and I am not sure what you have to offer for “add on services”, so that is why I am asking. Maybe you COULD book people that as about pricings if one, you listened to what they ask for and two were respectful back. I will NOT give anyone a budget because the budget is based on the services. However, I do work for a catering business on the side and I will be sure to tell them about my experience! Being the “owner” you should know people what a break down of what each thing cost so they can add certain things in their budget. In my situation I was willing to spend the money for a great dj, instead you judge be and thought I was being a cheap ass. So I will spend my money else where.

In my defense, a lot of times, people just throw information at me with no particular knowledge of exact times, or direction of events. This one just happened to be on top of things, and I didn’t catch that. She also stated that she was in the service industry and I should know better to address people that way. But if she was in a similar line of work, I would have hoped she would understand the difficulty of selling services vs. goods. I once again explained to her in another e-mail, that out of 100 times I’ve heard that question, 99 will not reply back, once I’ve given a price. She just happened to be #100.

After our exchange, I really felt no party was at particular fault, the unwillingness for either of us to bend, shows what happens when two strong willed forces oppose each other. In this ever growing industry, things are not so cut and dry as “what’s your price?”

I ask specific questions to not only see if I fit a prospective clients needs and budget, but also to get an idea of how receptive they are, as I don’t see them as walking dollar signs, but as people, regular people that I might want to get to know. When you trust someone with the responsibility of a lifetime memorable event, I would hope you’d want someone that isn’t all business.

I am one of the most sincere and honest people I know in this business, and I understand trust issues. I try to be as reassuring as possible, so my potential clients don’t get that car salesman feel, like if you tell me what you have to spend, I’ll take every dime.

This person thought it best to reprimand me about my approach, but she was honestly the first one I’ve encountered, that got offended when I used this line of questioning. After it was all said and done, I apologized for offending her, but I’m sure, no matter how accommodating I was, she was convinced of bad business on my part. I even went so far as to publicly apologize on Facebook, not as an admission of guilt, but rather as an acknowledgement of our misunderstanding. I realize, I cannot be an “everyman” but booked or not, I would never want anyone to walk away with a bad taste. I truly believe, had she allowed me to call her, and explain over the phone, the situation could have been settled more amicably.

The bottom line…. We both approached the situation in a manner that was not befitting each other, and the end result is us not working together. As we all know, anything written, tends to get lost in translation, when we don’t want to write out our complete thoughts.


A bad experience too hard to title

After 20 years of entertaining, I have never really run into a fellow service provider that I hate to work with. I mean, there are always some with questionable work ethics, and maybe kind of sloppy, but no one I absolutely flat out refuse to work with (well, there is a certain caterer too). Until now…..

Professional courtesy prevents me from publicly naming this particular individual, but soon enough, when any of my future prospective clients have already booked him, I will turn down the job.

This man is a great photographer, but unfortunately, is as crude as any imaginable caveman would be. He is insulting, he drinks at all his events, he call people by the wrong name (and I mean brides and grooms!) he hits on bridesmaids, and he is a perverted jerk. That all seems forgivable, because clients love his finished product, and really has nothing to do with me.
Where it gets ugly, he has referred me a few times in the past, and I have booked less than 50% of the names he has given me, but most were solid clients, and actually have ended up liking me, more than him. We had a standing agreement, that I would offer a discount for my services, as a good faith gesture for the referral. The last couple times we’ve worked together, he had mentioned the fact that I have not given him anything, and I kindly replied, “I don’t work that way, you don’t have to refer me anymore”. This most recent time, he went on to actually name other entertainers, that have given kickback, ranging between $50-$100. I once again replied “you did not have to refer me”.
It baffles me, I give your clients a discount, and then you ask me for money, I lose twice, not exactly a fair deal. What am I supposed to do, quote a higher price, pretend to give a discount, and then kick back to you?!?!?

The last nail came on 30 September 2011. He walks into the room, and the first thing he says is “are you gonna thank me for getting you this job?” First of all, you gave me a referral, I got myself the job. Second, I called and thanked you, when I booked, how soon we forget! He next went on about how other guys have given him money, where’s mine? He next mentioned how much weight I’ve gained, which I have not, besides, I have a scale, a mirror, and a doctor to tell me I’m fat, but thanks for pointing that out πŸ˜‰ Now he has done that on more than one occasion, and I’ve put my pride on a shelf, because it may or not have been good business. Where his COMPLETE lack of professional courtesy comes in, he interrupts me in the middle of my welcome speech to the wedding guests, to plug his company!! I believe photographers are really important, but to blatantly sidetrack the emcee, while he’s addressing the crowd, diminishes, and undermines the sense that I have direction of the event. He has done it before, but has at least waited until I’ve finished my welcome speech. I was able to recover, and directed ALL the attention to him, and seemingly joked with the guests, that he needed recognition. But I’m sure the damage was done, and the guests questioned my control of the event.

So, for the first time in my career, I have a DO NOT CALL list, and if anyone mentions this photographer, I will respectfully decline the event. I would hope he learns his lesson, but unfortunately, he is one of the top photographers in Pittsburgh, and he’s close to retirement, so his actions will likely go unnoticed, and unpunished.

Good isn’t cheap, and cheap isn’t good

As I strolled through Carson Street on some much needed R&R from a busy weekend, I glanced over to a tattoo shop that posted an interesting sign:

A good tattoo isn’t cheap ~ A cheap tattoo isn’t good

It got me thinking, how true this applies to anything of value. And being an entertainer, losing jobs to people that are undercutting me, and offering a lot less in the quality department, had prompted me to write my own interpretation of this insightful quote.

Yes, the old cliche, “you get what you pay for” comes to mind as well, but obviously, you can’t beat this horse enough. I have been a victim of price hunting as well, but it didn’t take me long to learn my lesson. (Short story: I bought an elliptical machine from a popular sporting goods store, simply because it was cheap, and I thought it would do the job, I broke it in 10 days. I got my money back, and went to buy one that was more expensive, but after purchasing, and owning it for over 10 years, I see where that extra money went!) Fortunately, I was lucky enough to return the item that disappointed me. Things that are not recoverable, like tattoos, and once in a lifetime events, not so much.

I’m not suggesting you break the bank when you make such decisions, no one should ever risk financial ruin when trying to obtain what is important to them. What I am saying, researching what you are shopping for to fit your needs, and really openly exploring your options, saves you a lot more than money. And quite frankly, cheap has always proven itself to never be good.

The longest thank-you letter I ever got :-)

Even I was impressed with the things they had to say about me. It’s letters like this, that make me want to do my job forever! Let’s read, shall we?…….

Dear Arron,
I’m sorry that we were not able to create a video testimonial for you after our reception. It had been a very long, hot day. However, we did want you to know how much we truly appreciated the things you did to make our wedding day so special.

From the first time we met with you, we knew you were going to be an amazing DJ. There was no question in our minds that we should book you for our wedding. We knew we had nothing to worry about in terms of the entertainment with you in charge. That was a huge relief for a bride that was worrying about everything under the sun, and the groom who had to put up with her. You understood what we wanted to see at our wedding and you made it happen on our special day. During the planning stage, you were very open and honest. You shared our opinions and experience, but you never said, “This is how I do it.” Even when we considered goofy ideas that were obviously not your personal style, like boy band medleys, you were on board. You wanted us to be happy.

On the day of the wedding, you took the lead. You made sure everything ran smoothly and it did. Despite the diversity of our crowd, you managed to get them all up and dancing at one point or another. You played as many requests as you could while still respecting the atmosphere that Steve and I wanted to create.

We were so excited to be the first couple to use the personalized light. It was absolutely beautiful! It really added to the dΓ©cor in the room. We would definitely recommend this extra personal touch to other couples. It made a very nice background for our wedding photos.

Your props brought even more fun to the night. The little kids [and a few of the big ones too] loved the glow necklaces. The leis and straw hats really brought the conga to life. I think our personal favorites were the headlight and the football used during the garter/bouquet toss. It was nice to have a few things that were even surprises to us on that day.

Even when the night was cut a little short, you kept things moving smoothly. You kept the party going until the very end. I don’t think anybody left feeling like something had been missed.

Even several month later, people still talk about how much fun they had at our wedding. That was thanks to you! You brought the party to life and made our wedding reception a truly memorable one! Our guests have done nothing but rave about what a phenomenal job you did. We will certainly be recommending you to anyone who is planning a special event. we cannot thank you enough for making our wedding more wonderful than we could have imagined.

Thank you again!
Stephen and Lauren Kofchak
July 24, 2010

A matter of courtesy: It’s alright to say no

The most difficult part of writing about this particular subject, without sounding bitter, or like I’m owed something, was trying to not make this personal.
Please understand, that is not the case, but I believe it is a subject that should be addressed. This is not a pricing issue (although it seems it could be), it is a matter of manners and reciprocal courtesy. I am speaking on behalf of other vendors that I have discussed this with as well.

Let me first begin by saying, no, I DO NOT expect every prospective client that calls, to book my services!

I’ve noticed an unfortunate growing trend amongst new prospects. After initiating first contact, they aren’t even courteous enough to return correspondence, once their prospective vendor has done their part in replying to a request. This is a strange thing to me, after attending a few focus groups, and reading different chatboards, one of the things most of the brides complained about, was the vendor they were interested in, did not reply quickly enough, if at all. So, why isn’t your prospective vendor entitled to the same courtesy?
The main question I would like to pose, if after you’ve made an inquiry, your vendor has promptly replied, and you are no longer interested, do you feel the next appropriate action is to ignore them? A lot of vendors in my industry are independent operators, which means you are dealing real people, not callous corporate entities, that will forget you the moment you hang up. This of course, is not everyone, but the number is growing.

The cyber world allows people to be even more distant than ever before, and making it more difficult to be personal in a situation that requires one to be personable. It is very misleading when speaking to a prospective client, everything seems to be going well, so you decide to call or e-mail back to follow up, and suddenly, they are impossible to get a hold of. I understand being busy, we all are when planning important events, but the time you could have taken to tell them you are not interested, is probably a lot shorter than the time it took to ask the numerous questions, that you were given all the answers to, before you decided to reject their services. You have basically told them that their time has no value to you. Would you like for your chosen vendor to not contact you, after they’ve found someone to fill your date? I’m sure that would not be a very pleasant surprise.

For some reason, it seems rudeness is the new standard of communication, and it is a one way street. Could you imagine if vendors took the same route as some of their prospective clients? The chatboards would be on fire with horrible reviews, and we would all be out of business!

Just remember, being polite is like having insurance, you never know when you may end up needing it (because that same person you ignored, might be the only one available in case something happens), but it’s always nice to have. Believe me, unlike the Alison Krauss song, it’s better to say “no”, than to say nothing at all.


Tips for navigating bridal shows….. Just a few hints.

Brideshows, bridal fairs, bride expos, wedding productions…..
I fondly refer to them as “The Circus” Even though they are a necessary evil for me, I love doing them, because the atmosphere presents many new opportunities for me. Whatever you know them as, you can find lots of valuable information, if you are focused, and up to the challenge. These helpful hints may guide you along, so that your experience will be more pleasant, and you can get on track to planning your dream wedding.
Here goes…..

1) Wear comfortable shoes:
Although being fashionable is always good when you are out in public, this is really not the best time to be cute. Convention centers have hard floors, and even when you go to a hotel show, where the floors are carpeted, there will be lots of walking involved. If you want to last more than a half an hour, do yourself the favor.

2) Don’t go alone!:
Ever heard the term, “There’s safety in numbers”? I’m not saying you have to bring an army with you, but it does help to have one or two people to discuss important matters with you. Preferably someone that will actually be involved with your wedding, and can offer differing opinions or reinforce your decisions Your MOH, mother, and (depending on whether or not it’s football season) your groom to be, are definitely good people to consider tagging along. Some vendors can be really aggressive with their approach, and you become an easy target, which could sour your taste about attending another show.

3) It’s best not to send a proxy:
I’ll tell you why. Even someone with the best intentions, will never be as excited as you are about your big day. I’ve seen it a hundred times. Parents, siblings, friends of the bride and groom, will blow through the building as quickly as possible, and gather tons of information for you, leaving you to sift through two bags full of fliers and cards, thus putting you back at square one…. Having no idea where to start 😦

4) Try to attend more than one show:
The number of vendors available for each category is astounding. There is quite a bit of information to process, and trying to find the right fit for every possible vendor in one show, can be really overwhelming. Try to focus on 1-3 things at a time, and take each show in small doses, there is a lot to see, and with patience, you’ll get through it just fine.

And last…….

5) Try to be in a good mood πŸ™‚ :
This is also something I’ve seen a lot of. When you are in a bad mood, you make bad decisions. Come on, it’s your wedding!! What ever may be the cause of you not being happy at the moment, could really stress you out when shopping around for your vendors, and a rash decision could result in buyer’s remorse. But if you absolutely HAVE to go in a cranky disposition, remember #’s 1 & 2, comfy shoes, and lots of friends!

These are not words to live by, because I’m not telling you what you have to do, but from my experience as a vendor, and from what I’ve observed, this can definitely help, as you search for the people that will make the day of your dreams come true.

Hope this helps πŸ™‚