How to end the line?

by Gary Cole

One of the most often asked questions for a face painter is "how do I stop the line?" You know the scenario, we have all had it happen. Either you are at your one hour event where they would normally have 12 to 15 children and 45 show up. The other scenario is when you are at large public gatherings and no matter when you stop, there are 30 other kids that still want to get their faces painted. You are either going to have to work for free or learn how to cut off the line. With some practice, you too can become a pro at stopping the line on time. No matter what the condition, I can stop the line within five minutes of closing.

In the first scenario you can handle a lot of the problem by telling the mom or the person in charge of the event "As we state in our flyer", or "as I said to you on the phone, we can normally paint 12 to 15 faces per hour (or whatever your speed is)". Then ask the host: "would you like me to stop as soon as I finished the one hour or would you like me to stay until all of the children are painted?". Trust me, if you are open and honest about how many faces you can paint in an hour, then you will be able to resolve this problem real quick. To complicate matters, you might have another event to go to and you really need to get out of there on time.

If you aren't able to determine your speed per face or not able to stand up and demand fairness, you will be working for free and also be late to your next event. Be fair, be nice but be firm. There will always be the "can you do just one more face?" It is inevitable. A worker is worthy of their hire. If you are going to work for free, know it was your choice. Don't moan about how people take advantage of you, it was your decision to work for free. I always like to throw in the parallel about the gas station. If you pulled up to the pump and walked into the station and handed the employee a ten dollar bill, they would expect you to put only ten dollars in the tank. It simply is not going to go down well if you put in twelve dollars of gas and begin to drive off. In the face painting world, that two dollars is really only adding two or three children to the queue. Quid-pro-quo also works in face painting.

If you follow the following check list you will get out of there unscathed, knowing you were fair and unabused. Heck, you can learn to end the line with charm and guilt free.

1) learn exactly how many faces per hour you can do
2) when you are in a "no way I can do all of these faces" mode, make a determination on what you plan to do
3) if it is a private party at the onset, negotiate for a longer stay or state upfront, all faces will not be painted, there simply is not enough time scheduled. It is common at a church or school carnival to not hire enough face painters. Deal with it.
4) assume it is totally up to you to end on time, to do otherwise will only disappoint you
5) if it is a private party determine how flexible you are, choose for yourself. If the party is going to only be 10 minutes over in time and it does not bother you, then go for it. Personally, I decide on the 10 minutes of free time based on how I am being treated and the crowd I'm painting. You choose for yourself what you are willing to do for free.
6) most people have access to a computer and a printer. I suggest you go to the office supply store and purchase some of the 6 label per sheets. Pull up your favorite graphics or word processing software and print out some nice labels that have your logo on them that say "Sorry, but I am the last one in line". Depending on the event you might also add "We will be painting faces again next week from noon to 4pm" or "I hope to see you at the next face painting event". Put a sheet or two of these in the 3 ring binder you show your faces in. Always take it with you for these overtime situations.

Time to get serious...
7) Keep your eye on the line as you are nearing the end of your day or event. Make a mental note of how many you think are in line wanting to get their faces painted. Think of your speed-per-face and do a quick calculation. When the time left is just about the same as the number of kids in line you need to start your plan. 
8) I would err on the side of having to stay an extra five minutes. Once you have stopped the line, gear your time per face to end perfectly. If the children for some reason are only picking easy faces then those last couple faces do some extra detail to fill up the last 5 minutes. On the other hand, if they seem to be taking the harder faces either paint slightly simpler versions of that face or ask them to pick a different face since you are about to close. You also of course pick up your speed even though you are tired. Generally they do not have a problem when you say "can you pick a different face? That face takes too long and we still have other children to paint and only ten minutes left." You are only setting yourself up for disaster if you allow in more kids to get in line once you have shut down the queue. So if you even think you are going to finish the line early, you will want to slow down to finish on time. If you have multiple painters work on the other person's line.
9) Ok, you have now decided to stop the line. The calculations have been made and you are ready to start your decent. Get one of the paint brushes you have already used and load it up real quick with paint (any color you choose). Then tell the person you just sat down to please wait a moment as you need to shut down the line. Get up from your chair and put a dot you can easily see on the hand of every child currently in the line. From that point on, no-body that does not have a dot on their hand will get painted. Sometimes a child will be gone and the parent might be holding their place in line. In that case put the dot on the parents hand. Two children went to the bathroom?, no problem, put two dots on that parent's hand. Another option is to put a sticker on the hand of everyone in line. That is my personal favorite method. I have some preprinted "good for one face painting" stickers I pass out to the last ones in line. No sticker, no face painting. I also do not give out any extra stickers. You also can use some sort of token you hand out. It can be anything from a poker chip to a metal washer. As the kids come up to be painted, you collect their sticker or token.
10) On the last two parents in your line place your sticker on their back that says "sorry, I'm the last in line". I suggest you put it on two different parents (of two different families) because sometimes a parent gives up and walks off and then your end of line is jeopardized. I suggest you put it on the parents, because they GENERALLY can take the heat of those moaning about their children not getting their face painted. If there is no parent then just put it on the kid.
11) Tell the last kid in line, if they tell others "I was suppose to tell you that the line has been stopped for the day and if you don't have the pink dot (or whatever) on your hand, you will not get painted." Tell him/her, that for that you will make their face the best one of the day. If it is a particularly busy event you will need to keep a close eye on your line. They have the habit of growing if you don't watch them. Assign one of the face painters to keep tabs. If it grows at all, you might need to repeatedly say "I'm sorry but this is the last person in line and no one will be painted after this child". I have also found that if I tell the child/parent of the last one you will do an extra special job on that child then they do a better job at being the bearer of the bad news. Most of the time, the parent will do a good job for you. We you say the line has stopped, make sure you say it loud enough for all to hear. Don't be mean about it, just say it very matter of factly.
12) Some have even suggested that at that point, bend the line around and put the end right next to the start of the line. People generally won't cut in line but have no problems in getting in at the end. I find this makes things too crowded but it IS very effective. I figure... no dot, no painting. I've done this so many times, I feel like it becomes a challenge to end exactly on time. If there is some logical barrier from a rope or table or chairs, also use those to your advantage.
13) Stay firm, no dot/sticker/token, no paint. Don't accept any excuses or whining from that  point forward. Believe me you are going to hear just about every version of "can you just paint my child because it is her birthday" to "she is crying because she did not get her face painted, can't you do just one more?". It sometimes gets down right funny the excuses they can come up with for "just one more."
14) You will get the above "just one more" from the time you end the line until after you have painted the last child. Don't give in. If you start feeling bad and  let in one child in you are going to have the parents and children turn on you. It is better to say, "I'm sorry I have another event to go to and I need to leave on time" than it is to deal with the angry "HEY, You turned me down because you said the line was over and then you let THAT child in. If you can paint THAT child, then why can't you paint MY child?" AND THIS WILL HAPPEN. It is just better to calculate the best you can, moderate your speed, BE FAIR BUT BE FIRM. 
15) If you have multiple painters at the event and you have shut down multiple lines then when your line is finished and time has run out, then take those that are standing in the other line.

16) If you have a parent or child that starts to get confrontational look them in the eye and tell them that you had stopped the line XX number of minutes ago. Make sure you stay calm and very matter of fact. If you act confrontational it will all escalate. Make your short statement calmly and then turn right around and quickly keep putting your kit away with your back to the person challenging you. There is great value to speed in packing up. I can pack up my entire kit in under one minute. When you do that it is very hard for someone to argue with an empty table.
17) With some practice you can say with a smile, "sorry, the line has ended and we need to leave on time. I hope to see you again at our next event!!"

18) And as a closing comment never let them see you sweat.

If you slip up and let in another child, you are opening yourself to another line of big problems. Rightly so. Surely one parent will say "Now wait a minute. You told me no more several times and now you are letting in more kids. What is that all about?" I'm telling you are setting yourself up for the kill as all of those you have turned away are going to eat you alive. That is why you need to be firm or take the abuse you just brought upon yourself. DO NOT DO IT.

Bottom line... GOOD LUCK! You will be fine.

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