Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Generation Gap and The Youth in Our Hobby

Start 'em young! (And adorable!)

The thing about a hobby arising from a toy company is that, shockingly, there are children in it. I think most people forget this, even to the point that they forget that they once played with their Breyers on Christmas morning or displayed them proudly on desks, shelves or beds when their biggest worry was getting a cootie shot.

I have noticed lately a certain amount of friction between the youth making themselves heard in the hobby and the older, more well-traveled and seasoned hobbyists. It's a subject that goes through phases, but I think it's one that needs to be addressed.

Let me just say that neither the younger or older folks here are completely innocent. The kids are learning (and forgetting) how to be socially acceptable and learn correct etiquette while the adults build preconceived notions and lose patience.

Example #1:

14 year old Madison wants to buy a model from 36 year old Miranda. Madison writes Miranda the following email:
hi, i wud like 2 buy ur model. will you take $30. i can do time pays of $5 a week.

Miranda writes back the following email:
Hello. I'm sorry, but this model is worth much more than that. It is a Breyerfest special run with only 1000 made and I can't take any less than $100. I'm sorry, but thank you for your interest.

Madison writes back:
how bot $40

You think I'm exaggerating... however this is a similar conversation I have seen before in response to a model I was trying to sell a while ago. But it's not just the kids who cause problems...

Example #2: Using Madison and Miranda again, Madison asks someone for help with some live showing tips.
hey can ne1 tell me wut breed i shud use for my Smart N' Shiney?

Miranda, who wants to help, responds:
I think that will only do well as a Quarter Horse. He's too type-y for much else.

Madison, who knows that the Quarter Horse classes are generally very large, asks again
ne thing else?

Miranda, annoyed that she didn't take her advice for something so obvious, snaps.

Uh, I don't think so, it's pretty much just a Quarter Horse. It's pretty obvious, he can't be much of anything else. Please stop asking already, it's getting annoying! 

Basically, it can get very frustrating. And the internet in general makes things a little bit harder since we don't have 1-on-1 eye contact and voice tone to help express ourselves. Also, most kids are trusted to navigate the internet on their own, while most adults have been on it since it first began. There are certain ways people need to conduct themselves online that either everyone forgets about or just plain doesn't know.

I'm going to address both the youth and the adults in the hobby to try an help the understand how each feels and to also give some good tips to make sure you present yourself as a responsible, encouraging, helpful person who earns respect!

My message to the Youth of the Hobby:

There are some points that is very important to practice to make sure that you create a non-drama environment wherever you go online. Just remember: you are young and don't know everything. You know a lot already, and you may know some stuff the adults don't, but there is a lot you don't yet understand. BUT! You are also the future of our hobby! We want you to like what you do and where you go to interact with fellow hobbyists. They can totally be your friends!

Some of these people who answer your questions have had YEARS (perhaps even DECADES!) of experience both in the hobby or even with real horses. Most know what they are talking about so it is good to respect their authority and LISTEN to what they have to say. Even if you don't like what they're saying. It is NOTHING personal, it's just the truth or correct answer. They want to help, don't insult their good deed by treating them poorly.

That said, do not pester people. Questions are good, it's how you learn, but don't ask a million questions, especially to just one person or all at once. Perhaps if you have multiple questions, try to ask them in the same post instead of several individual posts, taking up a lot of space. If you have several questions about a subject, try to ask a larger group of people to get multiple opinions rather than bugging one person. Try not to ask the same question over and over.

If you are learning to paint or sculpt, this is especially important. Be open to constructive criticism  No one hates you. No one hates what you are doing. They WANT to help you. Yes, it may mean what you are doing is not considered very good by live show quality standards, but NO ONE started off being perfect. Listen to what they have to say and follow their directions. It will help you become really, REALLY good! This is something I learned as a kid in the hobby. At first, I would get defensive every time someone told me something was not right with a custom and I would constantly let my pride take over and try to explain it away and then not fix it. DON'T DO THIS. Swallow your pride, LISTEN and act on what people tell you. They know more than you and really just want to help you be awesome! If it makes you angry, take a step back, take a deep breath, and maybe wait a couple hours before responding so you can think about what they said. If you respond because you're angry or hurt at what someone said, you could look like you don't care, which makes them not want to help you.

Please use proper grammar when typing online. You have an entire keyboard in front of you, YOU ARE NOT TEXTING ON YOUR PHONE. And even if you are using your phone, please try to use whole words and proper punctuation (use those commas and periods!) It makes you look educated and mature. My 14-year-old nephew does this and it drives everyone crazy when they try to read his Facebook status. No one can understand what he is saying! If no one can understand what you're saying, or think you are dumb, they are less likely to want to talk to you.

When bargaining (asking to come lower on a price or figuring a trade), please try to be reasonable. Learn how to properly haggle. You can ask for a lower price, but never less than half of what an item is worth. You CAN ask "what is the best price you can do for me?" Whatever they say is what they can do and that's it. Don't try to push it. That is a sure way to annoy someone.

Do not try to manipulate change people's minds with sob stories. You don't get special treatment because you are a kid who REALLY wants something, had a bad day at school, your brothers broke your stuff, or your mom is sick in the hospital. Adults deal with these personal problems and don't let it effect professional situations. Please do the same. These personal problems have nothing to do with the person who is selling to you or giving you advice. Nor is it any reason to treat people like crap.

Just because you are online, doesn't mean you are invisible. If you've heard anything about cyber bullying, it is the same thing. But being in the hobby means you have a name in this hobby that requires a GOOD reputation! Be nice and reasonable to everyone you talk to and deal with, and everyone should be nice to you! People who have a bad reputation tend to get "blacklisted" meaning NO ONE will want to work with them! If you want to buy or sell to anyone, be polite and humble where you need to be. Reputation means a lot!

If trying to complete a transaction (buying or trading) with someone, please offer that one of your parents approve and help with the transaction, especially if a seller asks. Some people just plain don't trust kids because they don't have experience or are less than trustworthy. If you agree to something, DO IT! Pay what you said you will when you said you will. Try NOT to forget about deals and trades because it will make you look really bad and will upset the person you are dealing with. You wouldn't want them to forget about YOU! These people are giving you a chance to prove yourself, don't let them down!

Finally... learn all that you can! Feel free to learn on your own by seeking good books and researching online. Yes, you can totally ask people questions, but the most valuable tool you can do for yourself is to develop your own eye for breeds, genders, anatomy, conformation and bio-mechanics. Try to notice differences and features. Memorize what colors certain breeds can be. That way you aren't always asking the same questions.

My message to the Adults of the Hobby:

We all start somewhere. Some of us started in this hobby as kids. I myself entered the hobby when I was 14, was a regular on a couple message boards during my teenage years and also maintained a 100% positive eBay account. Not everyone did though and there sure are plenty of kids out there who don't hold themselves accountable, BUT remember... Everyone starts somewhere.

First off, remember that the Model Horse Hobby originated from Breyer TOY horses. For kids.And it only makes sense that Breyer as a company aims at least some or most of their product line at the 12-and-under age set. There's two main reasons for this: Breyer is a toy company first, collectible company second. And getting the kids hooked early on the brand early means that they create brand loyalty (in the form of memories and taste) and they'll be more likely to move on into the collectiblity side once they've outgrown actually playing with their Breyers.

Because of this, there comes a time when these children become teens and their parents allow them to spend time on the internet by themselves. At that point, they start to look up what interests them. Ergo: kids in the hobby. They find our message boards, Facebook groups, and even model horse shows near them and they go and throw themselves headfirst. They may not know about most unspoken rules and etiquette that we spent decades establishing. That is why if a kid commits a faux pas, to gently correct them and explain why. Be polite and reasonable. Do not rise to anger, no matter how rude.

If you find out a kid is trying to buy or trade for a model, ask that their mother or father contact you so they know about the transaction and can help if needed. This helps protect you as much as it does the kid. Kids do tend to forget things, or may even feel they can just ignore something and it will go away. Having a parent involved will help teach the kid a lesson if they don't follow through with their end of the deal.

If a kid presents a custom and asks how they did, they may just be asking for approval. If they hear anything other than "Wow, amazing!" they may get angry and very defensive. Try to point out any flaws gently and nicely. ALWAYS add in something positive about the piece. Remind them you just want to help them improve because the piece has so much potential. As I mentioned in the Youth section, I was very bad about being defensive as a kid and can still be. That's why encouraging them to take their time to think about what you suggest will help.

Always be diplomatic and empathizing. I'm not saying parenting is generally bad these days. Honestly, it's probably been as bad as its always been. But kids are FULL of emotion. Keep that in mind when explaining anything to them and use a lot of tact and appeal to their interest. Sometimes, reasonable explanation doesn't work. But it sure can go a long way to many kids. After playing an online video game for 6 years, I've seen it all. And sadly, most of those people were probably full grown adults who used the anonymity of the internet to act as much like a jerk as possible. Some kids think the same way. Just try to stay patient and reasonable. You are the adult, act like it!

Give the kids a chance. Yes, some people immediately dismiss a kid when they see them asking an "obvious" question or asking to buy something. Just answer any questions they have, be firm in your sales policies and explain them well but don't be afraid to point them to other resources. NEVER tell them to "just go google" it. That is not why they asked a question.

Like it or not, we NEED kids in this hobby so there will be hobbyists in the future! With older hobbyists retiring, leaving, or even dying (this hobby HAS been around since the 1960's...), in order to keep the hobby alive, we need the bright young minds and fresh perspective the younger crowd gives us. I can't imagine what would have happened if I had been pushed away as I'e seen some kids. I do my best to be patient and to explain things, to the point where I actually enjoy it! But I do have my limits. That is why I wrote this blog article. Hopefully people of all ages will look it over and understand!

Adding in something here that was brought to my attention: Do NOT take advantage of kids. This means don't offer them less on a deal, troll them, or otherwise do something despicable that you think you can get away with because they're gullible. I have accidentally overheard deals at Breyerfest of people trading for a kid's Surprise model (CC Shuffle for instance) with someone else that obviously isn't worth as much (though they may have been bought from Breyer for the same price, CC Shuffle had the obvious after-market collectibility value and sold up to triple what the original price was) These kids will learn sooner or later what you have done (they have memories...) and feel very bitter... or worse, thinks that how things work in our hobby and follow example. Also, seriously? You just cheated a CHILD. How low can you get??? They genuinely love their models, they aren't doing it for the dollar signs.

In short, treat them with the same respect that you would an adult and you may be surprised that's exactly how they respond. There are many well-behaved, intelligent, and mature kids out there (some more mature than some adults I know!) and they deserve to be treated well and civilly.

The Last Word

What it all comes down to however, is that this hobby is aimed to help everyone INCLUDING youth under 18, I feel we can benefit from the message: Treat everyone with respect and be open to learning, and I'm sure we can all get along and create some AMAZING friendships and share an education we can be proud of. After all, this hobby keeps us young as we share the common bond of a love for horses that has been with us since before we can remember. This hobby is entirely accessible to anyone of any age and that's one reason I love it so much.


Schleich Lover 135 said...

This is a great post. I'm around that age, and, as you can see, I'm pretty careful about how I word my messages. I even get annoyed with people my age when they completely neglect grammar and spelling. I have purchased models from older sellers and on MH$P and because of my willingness to agree to reasonable prices, have not been called out as an immature child. There are some smart kids on here!

Sara Kucharski said...

I completely agree whole hardheartedly with the proper grammar and not using text language when dealing in this hobby. I won't lie, when I get emails with incomplete words or obvious text lingo I pass over the person. It makes them look ignorant. I'm willing to give kids a chance, I provide helpful hints when they ask about tack making. But definitely don't come to me asking about bridles with text lingo!

BluelineGoddess said...

"Learn how to properly haggle. You can ask for a lower price, but never more than half of what an item is worth"

Do you mean never less than half? :)

Great article! There were several young showers at the last Breyer only live show I went to and while it took a couple hours for us to warm up to each other I spent the rest of the show talking with them and seeing just how much they knew and wanted to know. It was a great thing.

Recycled Booty Bags said...

I have been collecting since I was 8 and in the hobby for about 10 years now. I love performance showing, sculpting and customizing. I have judged several fun shows for kids and also kids classes in NAN'Q shows. Your article says what Ive been saying for years - you have to support the kids! Gentleness, kindness and honesty go a long way to making the hobby people we ALL want to have. I judge kids classes but I teach as I go. I bring them all to the table and tell them why I placed the way I did, encouraging every step of the way. The hobby is supposed to be fun, but we get so wrapped up in the quest for cards we forget how much fun it can be. Right on Cindy!

Cindy said...

BluelineGoddess you are right, duh! Absolutely a mistake on my part and it's been rectified!

Devon Comstock said...

I am also in the teenager range and I try very hard to not act my age, but above my age and I have some pretty good friendships with some of the more experienced hobbyists. Unless I've come out and said that I'm a teen, no one seems to have suspected it. In fact, I've had multiple people say that I'm very mature for my age. Normally I only get upset with criticizing if it's someone else picking on a younger and less experienced hobbyist.

Thank you for writing this post, I've learned quite a bit from this and now know how the other side feels when someone is rude, ignorant, or just doesn't care.

Elizabeth said...

I started live-showing in the hobby when I was less than 12, so I know very well what the challenges are.

The biggest mistake that senior hobbyists make is certainly a lack of patience, but at the other pole, there is another that you also failed to emphasize: if the young person is going to be expected to observe social conventions, you need to be willing to step up and gently identify when those conventions have been breached. It does the young person no good to simply permit an online conversation to take one inappropriate turn after another.

I personally have not observed a conversation like your second example. I can think of a few similar exchanges that could be construed that way, but only if you didn't have trouble with extreme deviations from the truth. ;-)

Charlotte Page said...

I'm fifteen, and I can't stand text message language. I know a lot of people who use it but even on my phone I type whole words!
When I went to my first live show, I was really nervous but everyone was really encouraging and one of the judges very kindly explained why my models were in the wrong class.
I DID have the most dreadful performance entry ever, but hopefully what I do now will make up for that!!
I know what you are saying and I have had a little bit of rudeness from an adult at a show, but I just let it go. It didn't matter.

Panda said...

I really couldn't agree more with everything that's written here. I am 14, so sometimes I feel like I have to hide my age from some people because they might not take me seriously or might dub me as "just a kid" and walk out. I know that I have never given anyone problems and I've never gotten anything but sparkling green lights as a seller and as a buyer, but I still feel like I have to hide behind a facade because of my age. Hobbyists that know me from shows and from general mingling are not concerned about my age and I have never been asked to have a parent deal with something, even from people that don't know me. I'm unsure of whether or not this is because I'm a reputable and honest person, or that they just don't know if I'm a kid.
Regardless, I do agree that us kids are the future of the hobby, and to continue it, we all have to unite, not separate! I do think that times are changing and that we are getting closer to a sort of age coexistence. Thank goodness!

Adair likesdogs said...

This post does make a lot of sense. It bothers me so much when 12-year-olds type incorrectly, or have inpropper grammar. Being grammatically correct is an easy way to instantly gain respect from someone, because they will think higher of you as smarter, etc.

I can understand if they don't now better - it's not their fault.

But it still bothers me, haha.

I'm 12 years old. And I do not type like "hay wot u doin? can I bi dat model fur $25 cuz that is how much I hav in my allowance".

But I kind of have to "hide" my age from the hobby, or else people will think lower of me. Ah well, it's just a stereotype. :)

Bronwyn A said...

I hate it when someone is like that, and often they turn out to be older than me. I am 12 and it really bugs me when someone who is older than me offers $10 for a saddle.