Trade Show TalesBlog

A Trade Show Exhibitor Walks into a Bar

June 21st, 2023 COMMENTS
An Exhibitor Walks into a Bar

A Trade Show Exhibitor walks into a bar and says to the bartender, “I’ve never been in a bar before, but a friend suggested I try the 20 x 20 Booth Space.”

“That’s a very popular drink,” says the bartender, “especially with my regular customers. The 20 x 20 Booth Space costs $34,000. If you are interested, I have some questions.”

“That seems very expensive,” the Exhibitor replies, “but I’m new to this so why not. What questions do you have?”

“First of all, do you want the Top Shelf liquor or the Bottom Shelf liquor for your 20 x 20 Booth Space?”

“What’s the difference?” asks the Exhibitor.

“Alcohol does the heavy-lifting or work in a drink, and the Booth Space requires several liquors. It’s not optional, but you do have choices on the quality. Top Shelf liquor has the most experience, having aged from 10-20 years. The quality is exceptional and the taste predictable. My best customers always ask for their favorite brand by name. The Bottom Shelf liquor can be cheaper, but it’s also raw, unfiltered, and unpredictable. I’ve received Bottom Shelf liquor aged less than a day, which is a little scary.”

“OK, I’ll have the Top Shelf then,” says the Exhibitor. “I don’t want surprises.”

“That will be an additional $8,000,” the bartender replies.

 “What? The Booth Space drink doesn’t include the liquor?” asks the Exhibitor.

“Oh no, it’s extra. You’ll also need to decide on the mixers — like grenadine, club soda, vermouth — along with the fruit juice and slices, the straw, and an umbrella. Those prices are a la carte and will need to be purchased from the bar. You’re not allowed bring any of those in here.”

“How much are those?”

“Prices range from $1000 to over $10,000. Here’s something you’ll find amusing. Sometimes, I don’t know the prices when I’m mixing the drink, so I charge you after you’ve already finished it.”

“Anything else?” says the Exhibitor.

“You’ll be happy to know that we don’t charge for the glass. That’s included, but we do charge for the weight of the glass, bringing you the glass, taking it away, and then bringing it back to you.”

“Well, that shouldn’t be too expensive, right?”

“Actually” says the bartender sheepishly, “It’s not cheap, and the price can vary from week-to-week and depends on the size of the glass. Cocktail glasses are less expensive than highball glasses. Margarita glasses are the most expensive.”

“So, what are we talking about pricewise and why does the glass fee cost so much?”

“For the 20 x 20 Booth Space drink, I would estimate $12,000 to $15,000. Maybe more. Honestly, the glass fee isn’t really about the glass or my bringing it to you. It covers the building rent, the furnishings, my salary and benefits, the carpet, the other employees you don’t see, and even our annual Holiday Party. It’s really a slush fund for everything else.”

“I had no idea a drink could be so expensive,” the Exhibitor replies. “It seems like a complicated way to run a bar. I’d still like a drink, however. Are there any cheaper options?

“Of course! You might be interested in the Show Rental Special. It comes in multiple sizes and flavors, and you don’t pay for all the extras we discussed before.”

“That’s great!” exclaims the Exhibitor. “Tell me more.”

“OK, do you see those tables over there? Earlier today, we had a large crowd that drank for hours. They were a rough bunch and did considerable damage. However, they left a lot of unfinished drinks. You can have any of those drinks for a reduced price but don’t mix them together. We don’t know how to charge for anything other than standard drinks.”

“Is that really an option? Who would want that?”

“Oh, you would be surprised. People come to bars for lots of reasons. Many come because they don’t know where else to go so they order whatever is the cheapest. They’re looking for the fastest, easiest, and simplest choice, even if it means drinking a Show Rental Special that someone ordered a few days ago. Honestly, we don’t even bother to clean the glasses anymore. Fortunately, we make lots of money on those customers so we’re not complaining.”

“My head is spinning,” says the Exhibitor. “Please tell me there’s a drink for someone like me who wants to come to a bar, drink from a clean glass, and pay one or two of the charges you’ve previously mentioned.”

“There is,” said the bartender. “We have customers who order the Portable/Modular. Generally, it’s a straightforward drink, although there are creative options for those with more sophisticated tastes. The other drinkers in the bar may turn up their nose when you order a Portable/Modular, but I run a no judgement bar so those customers are always welcome. I’ve learned they often order the more expensive drinks when they come back, if I treat them right.”

“I’ll have one of those,” the Exhibitor replied. “Is there one that doesn’t require a glass and comes in its own container?”

“Yes, but now you’re killing me financially. Next, you’ll be saying you’ll want to bring it into the bar from the outside. How’s that going to work?”

“Hey, I appreciate all the helpful advice. I don’t fully understand the business model, but you seem to be doing well. Does anyone ever complain? And who do they complain to?”

“That’s the beauty of this business model,” says the bartender. “They bitch and moan all the time, and I smile, pretend to care, and go about my business. Fortunately, they rarely speak to the right people because those people are somewhat invisible. They’re in charge of all this, but they don’t ask too many questions or seek advice.”  

“One last question. Does anyone ever come in the bar, chat with your customers, and never order a drink?”

“Yes, my customers are good about telling me when that happens, and I escort him or her out of the bar. They usually come back, and I must be more persuasive, if you know what I mean. Sadly, there’s always someone who wants to hang out in a bar, pester my customers about their life, and not buy anything.”


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including Symphony Portable Displays. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


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