Daily Wire Tip: Taking Checks at Shows

By on February 23, 2011
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


I’m about to set up a stand at my first ever arts and crafts event. Jewelry making is only a hobby for me, not a real business, as I am disabled and physically can’t put in a lot of time bent over beadwork. I would like to sell some of my work to pay for my hobby, plus no one person really needs 100 sets of rosary beads!

Some of my pieces are made of very expensive gemstones and lampwork beads as well as silver and gold. These items I am pricing between $200 – $300. This is not unreasonable, as I paid that much for a very nice rosary made of silver and amethyst years ago before I got into the craft myself.

I really can’t afford to lose that much money from a bad check, but that’s how most people pay at this event. What do you think about the risk of a check bouncing, as opposed to not selling anything at all and not even covering the cost of the stall? What recourse do I have if a check does bounce? Thanks.

-Deborah in Winter Haven, Florida


First Deborah, Congratulations!! I am always excited when I hear about someone participating in their first show – especially with what sound like really lovely works.

Now, about taking personal checks at a show or anywhere else. Speaking from experience, most of the WS Faculty agree that people will bounce a check for milk, but not for jewelry. However, there are those few that could really set an artist back.

Myself, I will always take a personal check. I always get the buyer’s current home and cell phone number (also ask for their work number if you want to be really cautious), making sure that I also see their driver’s license (write that number down on the check too), and to make sure that their mailing address is correct. First off, because I take the time to get this information, the customer knows I am serious, and if the check should bounce, I will call and hunt them down!

Now, if you do not wish to have a check bounce and have to do the “hassle/hunt” thing, you could check with another vendor who is set up close to your booth, and ask if they accept credit cards. If so, you can ask if, in the case you have to save a sale by taking a credit card, will they process it for you. Most folks will say yes and charge you a fee (like 5-7% or whatever they need to pay for the processing and sales percentage fees that they will be charged by the credit card companies). You and they can decide if they will pay you cash in full (minus the fees percentage) or pay you 50% cash at the end of the show, and after the card charges clear, they will send you the balance. Usually this works well when you know the vendor, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Another venue for your particular work, rosaries, might be to inquire about consignment sales at religious gift stores or schools. Good Luck Deborah, I hope you sell out!!

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar

    Julia Ferry

    February 24, 2011 at 8:13 am

    When I first started shows way back in the 80’s, I took checks, credit cards, and cash. I soon stopped taking checks. Because they would bounce and it just wasn’t worth it, with all the over charges.
    Now a days you can have a laptop and have them use paypal to pay or cash.

    Plus it is so easy to do layaway’s and send the piece to them once you have received full payment.

    The only time I take a check is when I know my customer.

    • avatar


      February 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Julia, thanks for suggesting a ‘layaway’ plan!

    • avatar


      September 11, 2012 at 6:49 am

      Iagree – nowadays its too much risk – I’ve been burned several times. Best solution for occasional sellers is to get a cc srvice like square up that works with your smart cell phones w/ internet access and they only charge the % no monthly fees

  2. avatar

    Cheryl Dunham

    February 24, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Hi Deborah, I’ve done craft shows for several years. My prices range from $10. to about $250. I accept credit, cash and checks. If it’s a toss up between credit and checks, I opt for the check as there are no fees. Although there is a risk of the check bouncing, I’ve been very lucky, not one check has bounced. I agree with Dale, it isn’t likely that someone will risk bouncing a check for a piece of jewelry. Good Luck. Cheryl

  3. avatar

    Gayle Knapp

    February 24, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I’m sitting here knocking on wood as I’ve never, in 7 years, had a customer give me a bad check. But, I also worry as does Dale–so I gather information from new customers. Lately most of my checks are from repeat customers at shows as I now accept credit cards.

    Another venue for Deborah to think about is to offer the sale of the rosaries to a Catholic school/church as a fundraiser. She’d decide what percentage to keep and what to donate. I’ve found that prices can be increased to compensate for the donation and customers are willing to pay extra because it’s going to a good cause. This is equivalent to selling it on consignment at the same place–but is perceived very differently.

    • avatar


      February 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Gayle, thanks for the fund raiser suggestion – great idea!

  4. avatar

    samantha graybill

    February 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I have never taken a bad check. I do post that I will charge a $30 fee for bad checks. You can accept credit cards yourself. Do some research on accepting credit cards via mobile. There are many companies out there. Shows are my full time job and I would never accept a credit card for someone else. Oh also about the check thing, go with ‘gut instinct’. Another thing to remember about doing your first show have lower price items that you can sell quickly to pay for your booth.

  5. avatar

    Attorney Angela

    February 24, 2011 at 10:25 am


    I think that Dales’ advice is good. I would also suggest that you look into the state laws so that you have the required information to allow criminal charges to be pursued. I learned the hard way (employer required me to pay for the bad check when I failed to obtain the necessary information) that if you do not have the required information then you cannot pursue criminal avenue.
    You always have the option of small claims but that requires fees upfront to the courthouse and for service. There are specific rules about where you can file the suit. Then if win, you still have to collect the money which can mean more court and an order for $20/month payments. Unfortunately small claims in many states is NOT like Judge Judy.
    You might want to look into credit card services through your cell phone.
    Good luck at the show.

    • avatar


      February 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Deborah, thanks so much for adding your valuable, legal insight for Deborah.

  6. avatar

    Mildred S.Schiff

    February 24, 2011 at 11:43 am

    There may be a slight problem with having someone else take your sale on their card. One of my friends who had done this for me was told by her accountant that there is a new law that requires credit card companies to send her sales info the the IRS, assuring that she will be taxed on all sales registered. Therefore when she took my sales for me, I not only paid her the card fee but also the equivalent of her income tax on the items she “sold” for me. It was still less than most galleries charge, but basically dropped my profit from retail to wholesale. I would love to get another ruling on the problem.

    • avatar


      February 25, 2011 at 11:23 am

      Interesting Mildred – thanks for making us aware of this situation.

  7. avatar


    February 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I always take checks and have never had a bad experience. My personal opinion is that people who purchase jewelry at art or craft show are sincere and honest. Until proven wrong, I’ll continue to take checks! I do not take credit cards at this time. There are reasonable options out there, but it is an added expense. I’m only part time, so it isn’t worthwhile…yet!

  8. avatar

    Tami Brewer

    February 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    I have been selling my jewelry for 5 years going into my 6th year and have only had one bad check. What I did was eat the cost my bank charged me and then I called the bank that the check was drawn on to see if there were funds to resubmit the check. I gave them the account number and the the amount of the check and they told me that it would clear so I redeposited it and it went through. The bank did not give me any more information than I had from the check I got, so privacy of the client was not breached.

  9. avatar

    Linda B

    February 24, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I have been doing art/craft shows for over 15 years and as a general rule the people who’s checks are no good tend to purchase clothing and jewelry.

    There are new laws on the books that limit the amount of information you can get from a customer and write down on their check to verify they are who they say they are.

    You might want to call or go to your bank and ask them what your best approach to be assured the check you are taking for your art piece is a valid piece of paper. It might be as easy as calling an 800 # to verify the check is good when the customer is still in your booth.

    • avatar


      February 25, 2011 at 11:22 am

      Another good suggestion – an 800 approval number for check verification. Thanks Linda! (Gotta love all of you!!)

  10. avatar


    February 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I have had a couple of bad checks in 7 years. They were finally made good, but it was a hassle and did not cover fees charged by my bank. I knew the people and did not expect checks to bounce in either case. It is important to collect information and taking a picture of ID & customer with your cell phone is a good idea. It lets people know you can contact them and that is good. If it is an order, always collect some or all of the money in advance. Good luck.

    • avatar


      February 25, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Cell phone photo of ID – awesome idea! Thanks Char!

  11. avatar

    Out of Hand In Nevada

    February 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I never had a bounced check but with items in that price range I would try to get a credit card account. People can change their minds in the time it takes to write a check, but it seems people are quick to pull out the card. Good luck.

  12. avatar


    February 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, ladies you are a wealth of information here based on your own experiences. Thank you so much!!!
    I have had only 1 bounced check in over 20 years of doing shows. And believe it or not, it was from a good friend for a custom knife I had done scrimshaw on. This was a $700.00 purchase and it rattled me be big time when the check came back on her. Needless to say, a phone call and a transfer of funds and she settled the overdraft refund to me, etc. But, it was still a scary thing to go through, especially with someone you knew.

  13. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 5:47 am

    I’ve taken checks at local shows where you know the people, but credit cards are easy these days,if you have a smart phone. the phone swype is free and you pay only when you use it, 2.75% of sale is taken out and they send the money directly to your bank account.Of course, you have to have phone service in the area with wifi, but usually thats not a problem. I never take checks drawn on a bank more than 30-50 miles away, and so far have had no bounced checks, but most people that have checks also have a debit card or credit card from their bank, which works with phoneswype.

  14. avatar

    William Fisher

    September 11, 2012 at 6:02 am

    This website offers a tiny attachment to your phone[must be capable of internet access] which allows cards to be swiped and finger stroke signed. Works as easily as PayPal for a laptop. Nothing to join or subscribe. Granted the 3G or 4G phone connection is not free but the convenience is incredible.

  15. avatar

    Kathy Haukos

    September 11, 2012 at 6:03 am

    Thanks for all the GOOD information! I have only been doing craft shows with my jewelry for about 2 years – and it is mostly to help pay for my “hobby addiction” although extra money is always nice. I do take checks and have not had any bad ones. I find that at the shows I have done the majority of the sales have been in cash. Each area is probably different in how people pay. The above comments though have given me a lot of “food for thought”. Thanks.

  16. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 6:04 am

    After a couple of bounced checks and loss of sale because customer only had credit cards, I got a “Square” which was free. Set up separate account, and within three days I have funds. You can either send a receipt by email or I offer to write one out if they don’t want to give out that info.

    You can also get a “Wi-Fi” card swipe, but you need a merchant account, some companies charge a fee if you don’t meet the monthly requirements.

  17. avatar

    Pat Loboda

    September 11, 2012 at 6:13 am

    I’ve been doing art fairs for over 15 years, and I have never had a bad check – in Chicago or in Michigan.

    But it’s so easy now to accept credit cards that it’s worth doing. My sales went up exponentially when I started taking credit cards. Look into “Square” or “PayPal.” Both of them have merchant credit accounts, and they only keep one small fee per transaction. The card reader fits in the headphone jack of your cell phone – Android type phone or I Phone. There are no monthly fees; no PCI compliance fees; no extra fees later because it was a “rewards” card – just the up front percentage they keep from the sale. I have Square, but I haven’t done an art fair, yet, this year to use it. From the ads, it looks like PayPal offers the same deal as Square – both provide the card reader free.

  18. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I don’t usually take a check without going through all the info Dale suggested. I personally try not to take any checks. There is a company called Square for credit cards that I use on an iPhone. It works for android network too. It has no monthly fee, just a per sale fee. It was totally worth it last show as I would have missed a $200 sale without it. I think it is something like a 3% fee for each transaction as long as you swipe the card and they send you the card reader for FREE. I was very well pleased with it. If you price your items correctly, 3% isn’t much to “loose” if it is the difference between making the $200 sale or not. I have seen some places that charge for credit card use, but I do not. I know I won’t typically buy from a stand that will charge me so I don’t want to do that to someone else either. Just something to think about.

  19. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 6:47 am

    When I first started out, I took any form of payment, I was desperate for sales and wanted to establish my customer base! MOST people are honest and their checks are good, I only had one bad check in 4 years.

    You could always establish this rule – cash only for those items costing $50.00 or more. Usually people going to shows are armed with cash anyway and most towns have ATM’s. If a person REALLY wants your product, they will be happy to go to that ATM and make a withdrawal. This from personal experience.

    But my best recommendation? Find a way to take credit cards!! Your sales will automatically increase by 30% and you will never regret it!!

  20. avatar

    Danielle M

    September 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I have been doing shows for over 10 year now and have only had one check bounce. She very soon paid the check and the fees that were incurred and became a regular customer of mine. Now I just use Intuit GoPayment for credit cards. Very cheap and it works on smart phones or tablets/laptops etc. I still take checks too, but very rarely get asked.

    Mainly, I have to do business in a state of trust, not fear. I trust that things will be fine and they usually are. The whole “Law of Attraction” thing. Whatever you focus on you bring in. So focus on great things happening. (I’ll step down off my soap box now, LOL)

    Mainly – have fun!

  21. avatar

    Dana Soderstrom

    September 11, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Hi everyone! Don’t want to burst any bubbles, but credit cards are no guarantee. We got stiffed for $45 last year by someone using an American Express card. We know now why many places don’t take it. The customer disputed the charge, and the money was taken out of our account until “resolution”. Despite the fact the transaction showed as definitely “swiped” vs “manually” entered, meaning the card was actually in our hand, and the customer never reported it as stolen, American Express still refused to pay. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I was so angry about the blatant disregard of the “little guy”… and the truth! Obviously, we no longer accept American Express.

    • avatar

      Heidi D

      May 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm

      I have had the same thing happen to me and lost over a grand. It even happened through Pay Pal. They did their best to fight the take back, but if the customer refutes the charges their bank will take their side.

      I have had good luck with checks over the last 8 years tho.

  22. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

    I accept credit cards, cash and the rare check (usually from friends). In the 18 years that I have been making and selling jewelry, I have had only one check bounce and when I called the young lady she was apologetic and replaced the amount (includng my bank fees) immediately. I got my credit card machine through my bank; you might want to check out your bank and see if they do merchant accounts. I recently updated my credit card machine so I can take a check or the person can ‘WAVE’ their card over my machine (how cool is modern technology!). I did an event out of town recently and saw someone using their IPAD to take credit cards, so there are lots of options.

  23. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Square.com….you can utilize credit card transactions through a pc or right through your mobile phone. They will send you the swiper for free and you pay a small fee for each swipe based on the amount of the sale. Good Luck!

  24. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 7:49 am

    I’d like to expand on my 2011 answer. If you have a smart phone, Iphone or Ipad, there is a service that ANYONE can use to accept credit cards (no merchant account and associated monthly fees).

    I have now been using The Square for a year now and love it. Customers love it, too. Square even credits my bank account with my show’s CC payments about 2-3 days sooner than my old merchant account provider.

    Depending on your bank, there are also Apps for these electronic devices that allow you to take a picture of a check and immediately deposit it. I DO NOT KNOW whether this also involves immdediate information about whether the customer’s check is good for the funds. But, you could check with your bank.

  25. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 9:31 am

    I must say I’ve been lucky! I’ve taken checks from the beginning.I’ve only had one bead incident where the lady in my daughters nursing day care paid me with a check thinking she had $, come to find out that her daughter drained her accountbut when she had the $ she paid me the $25 fee. In some cases I have no choice but to take checks since one of my venues doesn’t have phone service out at a gourd ranch in Knights Landing 10 miles away from I-5 here in CA. Thank You T-Mobile. I have more problems with theft at different venues throughout the year. If the check does bounce I’ll write it off as theft at tax time. Hope you have/had a sucessful show.

  26. avatar


    September 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I have been doing the same show for the last 7 or so years. I have taken checks without a problem. However trying to say away from personal checks, last year I signed up with Square. It’s safe and they have a very low fee which is per swipe, so if you only use it a few times a year you aren’t paying a huge monthly fee.

  27. avatar


    September 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    I take checks only from customers I personally know. I have been making jewelry and selling it for over 20years and I got stuck many years ago for $900.00. I now have Square card which is my preferred method of transaction or else cash. Once you get burned big time you stop taking checks.

  28. avatar

    Brenda Sigafoos

    October 16, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I have also Started using the square which is Free, I believe Paypal also has one of these cards to available and when you are ordering your card you can also down load the app and set everything up before your card comes. Personally I love this. And also there are lots that are already set up with paypal so if you are like i am you know that is also a great way to get paid,

  29. avatar


    April 30, 2013 at 5:51 am

    Hi, also now they have those Square plug-in your phone gadgets. The one for PayPal allows you to take checks and the person signs it right in your phone…I have the PayPal one and the one called square…maybe they might work for you. I pray this helps. Take care

  30. avatar


    October 21, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Hi Deborah,

    As an add on to Dales good advice, I would also suggest that if you have a smart phone (like an iPhone), you could look into getting a credit card reader like Square. In the case of Square, the reader is free, plugs into your phone’s headphone jack, and allows you to swipe credit cards. The amount is then deposited into an account of your choice, for a nominal processing fee (usually below 3%).

    This keeps the money in your pocket, you don’t have to rely on another vendor’s credit account, and you get your money as soon as the credit payment clears.

    Good luck with your first show!