• Bill Petrie

When Criticism Isn't Constructive

If you're not offering solutions when complaining, you're part of the problem.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the brand-new Promotions East show in the crown jewel of the east coast, Atlantic City, NJ. Both the location and the show have always held a warm spot in my heart as it was the first actual industry event I attended when I started my promotional products journey over 20 years ago. I've walked the show at the old Bally's, attended cocktail hours at the timeless Claridge, and have been bewitched (and bewildered) by the flying fish at the Atlantic City Convention Center – but this show was quite different than the ones I've become accustomed to in the past:

  • A new location at Harrah's Hotel and Convention Center

  • Everything was under one roof, which made it much more convenient to have those "accidental collisions" that forge bonds

  • Experiences like tailgate merchandise, casino game lessons, and quick-hitting education sessions created a festival-like atmosphere

I could go on and on, but you likely get the point: the SAAGNY Board and Promotions East Planning Committee went out of their way to reimagine the show experience and did so during an Executive Director change. For many who have become accustomed to the traditional Promotions East experience, some changes were met with understandable resistance. After all, we humans tend to be creatures of habit. However, by the show's end, the vast majority of concerns were eased, and everyone agreed the show was a resounding success.

Everyone but one.

As the first show day was ending, someone felt the need to go to the Promotional Products Professionals page on Facebook to share his opinion that the show was underwhelming, under-attended, and had a poor selection of suppliers. This is the part of the blog where I'd either share the post or quote from it but, predictably, it was deleted in a cowardly fashion after many commented on his inaccurate post to defend the show. Heck, even the Executive Director of SAAGNY, John Cudahy, publicly posted his cell phone number in an attempt to engage in a dialog but, also predictably, was rebuffed.

Here's the interesting thing about our protagonist – let's call him Negative Ned: he is not a member of SAAGNY or any regional association, according to his published posts in the group. In fact, he's apparently never been to any regional association trade shows and openly requested a badge to attend, which he received at zero cost. In other words, he based his uninformed negative opinion on one trade show, in one city, put on by one regional association. That's not exactly a large pool of data to form a worldview.

It's easy to complain when others are doing the work, the planning, the heavy lifting, and are held accountable. I suppose this is my point: if you don't like how a regional show is executed, step up and get involved. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, broadcasting an ill-informed and incorrect one on social media is very poor form. Frankly, that poor form is compounded when you factor in the free entry for a non-member, the ignoring of overt attempts of people who did put on the show to communicate and comprehend, and deleting the post as if it never happened.

If you're not offering a solution when lodging a complaint, you're part of the problem. So, Negative Ned (and those like you), I'd like to suggest the industry and world would be a much better place if you use your voice as a force of progress and improvement rather than divisiveness and shock-value statements that have no merit. Get involved, volunteer for your regional association, or burn some calories by planning an event. People will be much more inclined to take your comments seriously when you have skins on the wall.

As for Promotions East, it was a great show. Are there things that might need changing here or there? Of course there are, but I know from experience that the crew from SAAGNY will listen to the candid feedback they've requested and implement suggested changes for an enhanced experience moving forward.

I, for one, can't wait to return to Atlantic City in 2023.

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