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Appallingly Bad Booth Manners at CES 2013

Get your noses out of your mobile phones, stop texting for five seconds, and maybe you'll meet your next big customer or generate the next big story about your company.

I wrote about the bad manners at the NuVision/Apex/TMAX booth during CES 2013 but they were not alone in their trade-show apathy.

If you’re going to invest all that money on a booth, why do you ignore people that are obviously interested in learning something about your company?

And then you probably go back to the trade show producers and tell them what a bad show it was.

If your booth is not busy, and you see someone staring at your stuff, perhaps you should at the very least look up from your cell phone, and at most ask if you can answer any questions.

Another offender was Samsung. They had a rather large room dedicated to the company’s activities in hospitality and I was eager to gather information for our sister publication, Commercial Integrator. There were two guys in the space who never looked up from their phones, as I walked around snapping pictures, reading the signage and looking puzzled.

Finally, after five minutes of this (I was the only guest in the room at noon on the final day of the show), I asked if they could please tell me about their hospitality initiatives. Begrudgingly, one of them got off the stool and sleepily started showing me some stuff. When I began to take notes, he asked if I was a reporter.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, I can’t talk to you,” he said. “I’m not certified to talk to the press.”

“So can you get me someone who can?”

View more CE Pro coverage of CES 2013 at

So he grabs another guy, who (again begrudgingly) started showing me around and then decided that he too was not able to speak with the press, but he would look for someone who was authorized.

I asked, “Can you please just give me a brief overview? I’m in a hurry.”

“No, you’ll quote everything I say.”

At the same booth, I asked where the “smart home” demo was, because I saw it in some signage. Everyone I asked pointed me to the Samsung smart appliances, which was not what I meant. The smart-appliance guys had no idea what I was talking about until I pointed them to the signage. They suggested I ask at the front desk. I did. The two ladies at the front desk had no idea what I was talking about, nor did they offer to find out. (Apparently, there were some tablets showing GUIs of Samsung’s home automation initiatives in Korea.)

Again, by this time, there was practically no one in the booth.

Compare this to Winston Cheng at Aeon Labs, manning the Sonte/Opulis booth in the jam-packed Eureka Park exhibit at the Venetian. While he was speaking with another customer, he saw me struggling to take pics and get a glimpse of the “smart film” demo.

He didn’t know who I was, but when I finally gave up and walked away, he chased me down a minute later and asked if he could help me with anything ….

And he got a pretty good story out of it (CES 2013 Eureka: ‘Smart Film’ Replaces Curtains, Goes Light to Dark via Wi-Fi)

I get it, you’re tired and cranky and half the people kicking the tires at your booth aren’t worth your time.

But do you want to risk missing the next big customer or next big story?

I learned everything I know about customer service at TGI Fridays, where I waited tables for a few months. People are willing to wait if you acknowledge them. Just a brief, “I’ll be with you in a moment” goes a long way if you’re serving other customers. The guy at NuVision could have simply apologized that he was in the middle of an important text message and could he get with me in just a couple of minutes ....

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Article Topics

Blogs · Events · CES · Ces · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson. [More by Julie Jacobson]

19 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Petro Shimonishi  on  01/14  at  12:57 PM

I am so glad someone else noticed this. I was apalled to get the same reaction from employees at other booths / suites even on the first day of the show! This type of attitude starts at the top—if top management is too good to talk with customers, then the underlings notice it….

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/14  at  01:00 PM

Obviously, this behavior isn’t limited to CES. You’ll find it at every trade show (although less so in Europe, I’ve found). Back when we were producing EHX, you could pinpoint every exhibitor that was going to complain. They were the ones sitting behind the booths talking on their phones and never looking up.

Posted by Lisa Montgomery  on  01/14  at  01:50 PM

I visited a booth (will go unnamed) where the people in front of me (men) received a very nice explanation of the technolgy. When it was my turn, the spokesperson lazily glossd over the details and seemed truly annoyed to be speaking technology to a woman ... who also happened to be a reporter. The best, friendliest service I received was from Linksys! They know how to treat people right.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/14  at  01:58 PM

Ditto with Belkin, Lisa (I meant like Linksys—they were enthusiastic, not patronizing, etc.)

It’s nonsense to tell booth personnel they can’t talk to the press. I overheard someone at the Samsung smart appliance area telling some random person they’d sold 20,000 units of their $3,500 smart fridge/freezer since it began shipping last year. Yet they can’t tell a reporter about the feature sets?

Posted by jason  on  01/14  at  02:24 PM

Amen!  The way I see it is similar.  I spend a great deal of money and time to come to these shows and it’s sad to see these reps or booth attendants not get off their stools. 
I have shown in a few trade shows, and something I did to my staff, they hated and loved.  I took away the stools and literally put my finger in their back to push the to the edge of the booth.  Even to break the ice to say “have you heard of our brand before?”
Bottom line:  If you want to sell your products to us retailers, show some interest, give support, or go away!

Posted by Steve  on  01/14  at  03:00 PM

I was going to say it’s probably because of your gender, and then Lisa mentioned her own experience in the comments. This industry is so male-centric they ignore women.

Of course another aspect is a lot of companies aren’t at the show for press but for meetings, so unless you have a pre-scheduled meeting they don’t really care about you. I’ve seen booths at some shows with absolutely nobody manning them as they were always in meetings.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/14  at  03:12 PM

Steve, I don’t begrudge them that strategy—it’s a perfectly good one—but if someone wanders into the booth, and there’s someone standing around ... acknowledge that person and suggest someone get back to them. Otherwise ... get out of the booth!

(Like at TGI Friday’s, if we were on break, we had to cover up our uniforms)

Posted by Fred P  on  01/14  at  03:13 PM

Hi all,

This is not limited to trade shows, this is just a reflection on our bad behavior in general when it comes to engaging someone. It is just easier to gaze into the smartphone and half heartedley find out what someone needs or wants rather than give 100% focus on them and LEARN about their needs.

Fred Paradis, Elite Media Solutions

Posted by JohnA  on  01/14  at  03:28 PM

@ Julie…I guess you didn’t stop by the Dayton Audio booth, you would have had a very warm reception.  smile

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/14  at  03:34 PM

I have no doubt, JohnA ... the Venetian guys are a whole different animal.

Posted by Kathy Gornik  on  01/15  at  08:03 AM

How important a free press is! I am sure this article is being shared amongst a lot of companies, some of whom will actually change their behavior for the better.

Posted by Jw  on  01/15  at  03:30 PM

Funny this reminds me,  I had been to my very 1st CEDIA show in 2000 and standing in Channel Vision’s booth (whose products I had already been using for years owning my own Custom Install company) I was waiting with about 20 others for their structured panel demo they were going to be giving. And in the middle of the demo in some deeper technical jargon, he purposely looked over at me and said in front of everyone…“you know, stuff YOU probably don’t understand anyway…”. Which then gave me prime opportunity to embarass him before moving swiftly to the next booth.

Ya Julie… alot of it is because you were the opposite sex.  I went away from that show thinking the only thing good about it was I didn’t have to stand in line to go to the bathroom. Of which these days now you have to, because of the women the manufacturers now employ for their booths to capture male attendees attention… away from their phones.

Thanx for saying it out loud Julie!

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  01/15  at  03:43 PM

JW, are you a chick too? Funny, the gender angle never even occurred to me until these comments came in ... it certainly was not the reason for my being overlooked at NuVision (everyone was), but possibly at Samsung.

I’m just as guilty. My second CEDIA, I was watching this extremely hot woman give a presentation on a new AMX platform. At the end of it, someone asks a technical question and I rolled my eyes thinking: Don’t you know, she’s just a booth babe? Well, as it happened, Cat Fowler was not just a booth babe!

Posted by Alan Guyes  on  01/16  at  09:14 AM

Julie - spot on.  1st time that I ever was stood up on several CES appointments ... with no apology.  Amazing the number of booths that I wandered through and was completely ignored.  CEA charges a small fortune for booth space and although I understand tired, I also understand that it’s their job.

Posted by Bjørn Jensen  on  01/18  at  03:34 PM

Hey Julie, this is a bit off topic BUT, you wouldn’t happen to know the recipe for the JD Glaze sauce at TGI Fridays would you?  A friend of mine used to work there and brought it to me by the pint.  I love that stuff!  Worth a shot….

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