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Suitcasing – what’s to do?
Exhibitor Rights Council -- formerly Trade Show Council Exhibitor Rights Council -- formerly Trade Show Council
Washington, DC
Sunday, July 1, 2018


The Trade Show Code

The Trade Show Code newsletter explores what to do when the law, the contract, the rules, your ethics and honor are all intertwined.

Volume 1.1, July 1, 2018  ---   Suitcasing – what's to do?   

The Shot Show Trade show says: ""Suitcasing" refers to the practice of companies or persons who come to the Show as attendees but "work the aisles" from their suitcase (briefcase), soliciting business from other attendees and exhibitors"

The nice thing about this issue is that both show managers and exhibitors agree that suitcasing is bad.  .    I've used the Twitter hashtag #Suitcasing and it brings up a dozen citations of articles that I reviewed to write this edition of our Trade Show Code editorial.  

There seem to be a few basic responses to suitcasing:

  • Most say: "Throw the bums out," with variations of blocking future shows.
  • A few consider it an opportunity to prompt the offender to upgrade to a paid position.
  1. One talked about creating a networking event for the violators that cost less than a booth.
  2. Some said once they informed the suitcaser what was not to be done, the perpetrators bought a booth.
  • A third category says it's trespassing and that's a crime, and these people should be arrested.

Should there be a standardized code?  A policy that exhibitors and show managers can agree on:

Here are four internet stories that have ideas:

Michael Hart: https://twitter.com/ShowCouncil/status/1013314699050520576

Mark Anderson:  https://twitter.com/ShowCouncil/status/1013318057425604609

Exhibitor Magazine:  https://twitter.com/ShowCouncil/status/1013270888739991552

Traci Brown:  Who re-tweeted this: http://www.internationalmeetingsreview.com/meetings-events/industry-pros-discuss-suitcasing-and-outboarding-96701

Our suggestion of "The Code" is that suitcasing should be considered an opportunity and those apprehended should be given the opportunity to come clean and buy in.   They need tough-love and their act of suitcasing is a "tell" you can use to bring them into the fold.  They need to be shamed and fear that their companies will be blacklisted in their industry by their unethical cheating. There is money to be made here and an opportunity to not have "a distraction event" on the show flow with a confrontation.

I see that if a show is fully infected with suitcasing, a one-off actual police arrest and the perpetrator getting walked off the floor could put the fear of god into those remaining, and they just maybe: 

  1. a) Will stop, and
  2. b) Be more receptive to becoming paid participants.

The arrest ploy will have to be carefully done and have:

  1. Clear and prominent entry door signage,
  2. Clear agreement to the contract for entry to the show floor.
  3. Your show manager's general counsel's agreement
  4. Buy-in from the local Convention & Visitors Bureau.
  5. Pre-planned tweet to gain control of social media, and maybe a front-page story and pictures in the show daily

I've reached out to sources citrated above and will add comments to this The Code editorial if received.


Comment from Jim Kabbani -- Tortilla Industry Association: "The way our show handled suitcasers is by creating a special registration category called Non-exhibiting Vendor, and it is rather expensive (fee almost half of the cost of a booth). If they pay it we don't bother them. If they object on the basis that they are coming to evaluate the show and decide whether or not to buy a booth next year, I have my sales manager escort them for free and then they leave. If they try to sneak in as an attendee then suitcase they are escorted out by security"


The Trade Show Council was created by Mitchell P. Davis after 20 years of exhibiting for his Expert Referral business www.ExpertClick.com.

Our goal to help both exhibtors and show managers grow their business with mutual respect and standardization of the tems of practice -- we are working a document to be called The Trade Show Code.

Mitchell P. Davis, President,Broadcast Interview Source, Inc. 2500 Wisconsin Ave.,NW  Washington, DC 20007

Phone:  (202) 333-5000

Email:  Mitchell.Davis@ExpertClick.com

The Trade Show Council is not associated with: 1) Printing Association of Florida Trade Show Council, 2) NYC & Co’s Trade Show Council, 3) ABM's Trade Show Council, 4) the GOA Trade Show Council, or 5) Meetings, Incentives and Trade Show Council.

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Name: Mitchell Davis
Group: Trade Show Council
Dateline: Washington, DC United States
Direct Phone: 202-333-5000
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