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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Mixed feelings about the TES Christmas Market

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Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman
For detailed biographical information, please check the very first article of this blog. Thanks!

As I had previously announced, in my capacity as a food vendor I finally participated for the first time in a big event, a Christmas market organized by the Taipei European School (TES) on December 10th, 2022.

During the preparations for this official activity, a logistic challenge for a newcomer, I realized the limitations that I currently face regarding the amount of food that I can prepare in a reasonable period of time and, even more so, store appropriately.

Luckily, thanks to my two helpers and the owner of the vegetable shop nearby where I bought 20 kilos of potatoes and twelve of onions, I was able to manage every hurdle.

Despite one crew member being late again, we still arrived at the TES campus as I had planned, which meant that we were among the early birds to prepare their stands.

The taxi ride didn’t take as long as I had expected. Although initially I thought the driver was kind of unprofessional, he turned out to be an old fox and I took his name card to rely on him again in the future. Specially, as on the way back we bumped into a rather impertinent chauffeur!

After the TES had insisted that the three of us would have to get a police criminal record certificate to be able to join the party, it surprised me that the two security guards at the entrance never bothered to ask us about it and just waved as through with all our stuff.

The many things we brought along actually also included six big folded cardboard boxes, as we were supposed to protect the floor of our booth, and which took me some time to collect in different stores.

Though I quickly discovered that nobody except us seemed to have the plan to follow that alleged stipulation, not even those parents running a pizza and burger stall at the premises.

Slightly irritated, as it had been a hassle to get such bulky objects into the car, I heard from the person responsible that it was merely an option and that I could discard them at the main door to be recycled… Great!

So, it turned out to be another outdated formality, like the vaccination proof that was dropped in the middle of the whole organizational process due to the new relaxed health regulations.

From my point of view, another mistake made by the organizers was to put side by side both joints selling German delicacies, a decision which definitely didn’t benefit me.

Of course, part of this very valuable, but also sobering episode was my lack of experience. I never took into consideration that kids don’t like the same things as adults and prefer sausages over meatballs. Not having a banner announcing what we had to offer didn’t help either.

The TES staff kept repeating the mantra of 4,000 visitors until the show was over, when I went into the building to hand over the many different vouchers we were using instead of money to avoid fraud and possibly even tax evasion.

Well, 3,000 may have registered, but at the end of the day it felt more like 2,000. Or even only 1,500, like my disappointed other neighbour noted before leaving, adding that she had made hardly any profit.

For me, it was certainly a losing deal as I had a lot of leftovers. For hours I kept thinking that I would sell out, though ultimately I had to face reality and admit defeat.

Speaking of money, as we sellers didn’t have to pay any rent, 15% of our total sales would directly be deducted by the TES administration to cover its costs.

I really enjoyed the little kids singing festive tunes until noon with great dedication, all wearing red and white hats perfectly suitable for the festive season.

At the same time, some of them were covering their mouths with surgical masks, which was probably due to the pandemic hysteria that gripped Taiwan at the beginning of 2022.

Unfortunately, after lunch the performance of those teens playing cover versions of famous Heavy Metal songs from bands like Metallica was quite annoying, above all due to the lack of talent of most singers.

The “music” was so loud that I felt like being in a night club. I had to yell into my friend’s ear while he was standing just next to me in an open space! This was indeed an inappropriate choice for the occasion.

In the late afternoon we left, carrying home way too many portions of salad, which fortunately I was able to either sell at my usual location at the beginning of this week, or give out as strategic gifts.

All in all, last weekend I was taught a priceless lesson regarding my future in the gastronomy sector, learning of what I’m able to handle alone or as part of a little team.

Despite the financial loss, I wasn’t sad for long and did the best out of it. I had good friends over for dinner the same day which helped to reduce the stock. Next time I will be just much better prepared!

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