How To Buy a T-Shirt Without Angering the Merch Guy
Buying band merchandise is not a complicated matter. Nor is there any need for it to be a slow endeavor. But talk to merch people the world over and you'll hear the same thing repeatedly: Merch is a really nice job -- except for all the stupid idiots you have to deal with. Here's how to avoid being one of those annoying customers who transforms merch folk from happy-go-lucky cotton slingers to sullen and frowning road dogs who can barely hide their disdain for the world. (BTW: The journalist writing this is an ex-merch person, so you know we've done our research.)
Don't Insist on Trying Everything On.
You're not at the Gap, you're at a goddamn show. Hey, gamble a little. The very most you should be doing is asking for a shirt, holding it up against you, switching it a size up or down based on loose approximations that are decided in two seconds flat, paying, and getting the hell out of there. There are 25 people behind you and they don't care if the shirt in question is flattening your boobs or emphasizing your beer belly. They just want you to get out of the way so they can all go home.
Don't Ask to Borrow Their Sharpie. Ever.
To you, it's a pen. For them, it labels boxes and makes signs and must be duct-taped to their key-ring at all times for safekeeping. When you ask to borrow it -- especially toward the end of a tour when there are no spares left -- you might as well be walking up tocomplete strangers in the street and asking to hold their baby. They don't want to give it to you, so quit asking. The people at the bar will be far more accommodating.
Don't Ask Female Merch People Who They're "with"
It's remarkable how many people at shows see a female merch person and instantly assume she must be in a relationship with someone in the band, or at the very least humping one of them. This assumption is beyond insulting for the merch girl in question, who has likely spent all afternoon crawling through a trailer on her hands and knees, counting out shirts and moving heavy boxes from one place to another. When you assume she's there because she's putting out, it belittles all the hard work she does and makes you look like a jackass who hasn't grasped the fact that women function just as well on the road as men do. Go home.
Do Not Ask Them for Water During Festivals (Unless You're Dying)
Let's take the Warped Tour, for example. Your lovely merch people have been up since the crack of dawn, building their tents, sitting in 110-degree heat all day long, and trying not to die of heat exhaustion. Yes, you're hot, too. And yes, the water is probably hideously overpriced at this thing, but if the merch folk gave their water to every kid who asked for it, it'd all be gone within an hour and they'd be passed out shortly after that. You know what you're getting into when you buy the ticket to the festival. Now, sadly, you must deal with the consequences, without dehydrating folks who are working.
Don't Ask About the Last Merch Guy This Band Toured With
Here's the thing. Current merch people couldn't give a flying Frisbee who the last merch guy was, and they certainly don't need to hear five anecdotes about what a great relationship you had with them because you've been following this band around for X years. The conversation is null and void. It's like cornering a complete stranger in a bar and telling them all about this great vacation you once took with your old roommate in college. No one cares except for you (and possibly the old roommate).
If You're Going to Be a Pain in the Ass, Take Them Healthy Snacks
Cereal bars, smoothies, and fruit that counts as superfood (including avocados and bananas) will be gratefully received by your merch person, on account of the fact that most venues don't know how to feed bands and their crews healthily and all anyone on tour is trying to do is to not get sick. Taking them little pieces of health will buy you some time.