My Opinion: The Alternative Gift Fair’s Gift Guide Does Not Benefit New Vendors


Image Credit: Michael Reese

This year, the 2022 Alternative Gift Fair will be held in Barge Commons on Friday, December 2, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. The items being sold range from sweet desserts to jewelry to portraits in which all money will be sent to a charity of the vendor’s choice. There will also be cookies, Pero’s pizza, coffee, hot chocolate, and selfies with Santa. 

However, in 2020, the annual Alternative Gift Fair was forced to be transformed into an online Gift Guide due to COVID. Although the online format was new, everyone was encouraged to become a vendor for the fair. Hartley Glass, Middle School Civic Engagement Coordinator, noted that the change felt like a challenge, but all of the vendors were very pleased by the different format after the fair was over. “I think it was a challenge in the moment,” Glass starts. “But afterwards, it went really smoothly; everybody, all of the vendors, were really happy with that method of sales, and it worked so well that now we are continuing it even though we are also back in person, so we have a dual model now of the guide and the fair.” 

However, not all of the vendors had those feelings. 

During that Alternative Gift Fair, I decided to become a vendor and sell three different sets of stickers. While juggling studying for exams the first time, completing homework, and still trying to have some free time, I created around 36 stickers that were ready for sale. However, after the Gift Guide became available to the public, I only received one order for a pack of 12 stickers. Which would have been majorly exciting if it wasn’t for the fact that my friend was the one who had ordered it—to make matters worse I had consistently asked her to order the stickers. I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, thinking about all of the ways my stickers weren’t good enough. 

Although my experience with the 2020 Alternative Gift Guide was not the greatest, in total the event ended up raising $11,812 for different charities. According to Jessica Dent, Glenn Institute Program Coordinator, the Gift Guide ended up getting 1308 reads with 660 clicks to links for order forms or more information. So, it seems that the Alternative Gift Guide was quite popular for returning vendors but not new vendors like me. 

Despite the fact that the 2022 Alternative Gift Fair has shifted back to the in-person fair format, will every new vendor be able to sell their items and raise money for their chosen charities? According to Glass, in 2021 when the fair had their first post-COVID in-person fair, all of the vendors sold at least one item. “I feel pretty confident that everybody sold at least something,” Glass states.

While my experience at the 2020 Alternative Gift Guide was not the most pleasant, how much better is the in-person format? Glass notes that either format has plenty of pros. “I think the pros of the actual fair in person is that it really builds community among the three different divisions of Westminster and kind of builds up a spirit of holiday cheer at a time when we are all getting stressed about exams,” Glass comments. “I think that the pros of the Gift Guide is that it’s definitely a time saver. It’s a lot easier to just scan a QR code and be directed straight to a website where you can give, you can do it from your phone or your tablet or whatever.” So, while the Alternative Gift Guide may not be the best choice for a new vendor participating in the fair, customer-wise either version of the fair is great for unique holiday presents. 

To browse for those unique gifts, be sure to go to Barge Commons on Friday, December 2, between 5:00 to 7:00 pm or check out the Alternative Fair Gift Guide.