by William Ernest Waites
Stand by for prices to rise and service to deteriorate when buying Indian art in Santa Fe or from Santa Fe.
Why would we say such a thing?
First, a caveat. We love Santa Fe. We visit there every year. It clearly is the high-class capitol of Native American Indian art.
So it hurts us to be critical. It hurts even more when we consider what will cause the pain.
The City of Santa Fe just passed a regulation that will raise the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour, effective January 1. It also will now include all businesses that must have a city license, not just those with 25 or more employees.
How come higher prices? Someone has to cover the increase in wage costs. Since so many dealers in Native American art operate at very low and unreliable profitability to start with, they will not have the resources to pay the higher wage without raising their prices to customers who buy and collect art.
(It is uncertain what effect it will have on individual artists who would hire assistants or clerks in their studios.)
Nevertheless, Santa Fe, which, candidly, was never the least costly place to buy Indian art, will notch up to even higher prices.
Part two: why poorer service? Basically because, at $9.50 per hour regardless of experience or skill, one can reasonably anticipate that many small (less than 25 employees) retail galleries and stores will not be able to afford to hire the extra staff to serve the customer. Fewer people to serve customers usually means poorer in-store service.
For a link to an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican that discusses this story, click http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Local%20News/Applause_greets_wage_law_changes
Since we are not located in Santa Fe, we are able to continue to offer Native American art at low prices, made even lower by the lack of overhead with an online store. Yet we acquire work from the same artists as those Santa Fe dealers and galleries do.
We invite you to do your holiday shopping at ZuniLink, Native-JewelryLink, Native PotteryLink and our TribalWorks Navajo Gallery.
Have a happy, (low cost) holiday.