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Archive for February, 2013

Guest post by Michael Bailey

Veronica is busy in the studio this week with some much-needed stock-building for her very active spring season (CTRF’s Robin Hood Springtime Faire, Mutton and Mead, and ConnectiCon are within weeks of one another), so I’m filling in on blogging duty this week. 

Fortunately, I had ready inspiration for a topic, based on some headaches experienced by my wife and one of her fellow Etsy vendors due to some less-than-pleasant customer issues.

Veronica had it easy: she only had a customer complain about a late order (which showed up today, as it happened). Her friend, however, got an unreasonably hard time from a customer who was apparently unhappy with the fact she had a medical issue that laid her up for several days and left her unable to work. The customer actually went so far as to accuse her of faking the illness.

That’s thankfully a rare and extreme example, but it’s nevertheless an unavoidable fact that rude customers are out there. No matter what kind of business you run or work for, they’re out there and they will eventually find you.

The challenge for owners of very small businesses — I’ll call them “micro-businesses” — when dealing with rude customers is much greater than for big companies, which can better afford to lose a patron here and there; small businesses don’t have the luxury of shrugging off the loss of even one customer, so customer service is paramount, and more numerous and generous concessions have to be made in the name of the greater good that is customer retention.

That said, this does not mean “the customer is always right,” because they aren’t, not always.

Fun fact: the phrase “the customer is always right” is credited to two men, American Marshall Field and Brit Harry Gordon Selfridge, who used the motto at their respective department stores to motivate their staffs into providing top-notch customer service. In other words, it was meant as a guide for employees, not as a law for customers.

Yet during my retail monkey days I encountered many a customer who expected their every request, no matter how unreasonable, to be honored, no questions asked, no resistance given. In the context of a micro-business I’m not going to chalk this sort of behavior up to an entitlement attitude or extreme frugality or basic rudeness; I’m going to chalk it up to the fact they honestly have no idea what they’re dealing with.

They don’t know that the person waiting on them, answering their questions, ringing up their purchases, and yeah, on occasion responding to outrageous demands and insulting comments with as much good cheer as they can muster is also the owner and, in many cases, the only full-time employee.

They don’t know that the goods they’re looking at are not mass-produced in China for pennies on the dollar and then marked up outrageously, but created from materials purchased at retail prices — because wholesalers don’t much care to do business with these kinds of one-man band outfits — and assembled by hand by one person.

They don’t understand that when they try to haggle the price down, they’re essentially asking the business owner to sacrifice the money they need for their daily living expenses — rent, food, car payments, gas, health insurance, et cetera — in addition to the overhead costs of running their business.

They don’t understand that there are things beyond the business owner’s control, like whether the US Postal Service is going to deliver the order on time, or at all, or whether a winter storm is going to take out the power, rendering the business owner incapable of making his or her goods or checking e-mail for orders.

They don’t understand that life happens to micro-business owners, just like life happens to everyone else, and that life can effectively cripple a micro-business for hours, days, weeks, or longer because it’s taken out the only person who does all the work.

Running a micro-business is hard, sometimes thankless, frequently scary stuff, and as much as they need customers in quantity, they could also use customers of quality, people who support the person behind the business not just with their spending, but with their patience and understanding and empathy on those occasions when things don’t run perfectly.

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Pinterest Interest

Last year I added Pinterest to my online marketing venues, and it’s been interesting to see which of my creations gets attention over others.

Every time I post a new item, it goes on Pinterest as well as on Facebook and Twitter, all of which allow other users to share the post. Pinterest conveniently keeps track of how many direct re-pins each item gets, and the other week I decided to look through my pins to see which items got the most circulation. Surprisingly, none of my top ten best-selling patches were also among my top ten most re-pinned patches!

Image10 ) Agent Coulson – You Lack Conviction and Platform 9 ¾. Two of my simpler designs, the former honoring Clark Gregg’s beloved character from the Marvel movie series, the latter referring to the Hogwarts Express train platform.

9 ) So Say We All. This was an easy design that used a piece of clip art showing a fist raised in triumph. Nice to see that Battlestar Galactica still has a following even though it’s been off the air for a few years.

Image8 ) Bowties are Cool. This design for the Eleventh Doctor’s catchphrase, on the other hand, was surprisingly difficult to come up with! It took several attempts to get the bowtie looking like, well, a bowtie and not some weird hourglassy blob.

7 ) Star Trek: The Next Generation – Not a Merry Man. This patch started out as a joke. I was planning to do a Merry Man Merit Badge for my big spring show, the Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s Robin Hood Springtime Festival, and then I got the idea of doing one based on Worf’s classic line.

Image6 ) Mr. Boddy’s Body! It’s Gone! This is one of only three Clue-inspired patches. I say only three because Clue is one of my all-time favorite movies, and if I had my way every line in the movie would have its own patch.

5 ) Hello, Sweetie. Another patch design that eluded me for the longest time. I knew I wanted a silhouette to suggest River Song, but finding one that worked for me was a challenge.

 

Image4 ) Riders of Rohan. This started out as a custom patch for a customer, and it turned into my first LotR-inspired designs.

3 ) Messrs. Moony Wormtail Padfoot and Prongs. A simple design with no graphics, but this Harry Potter-inspired design has been re-pinned 67 times!

 

Image2 ) You Remind Me of the Babe. My first Labyrinth-based design, text on a subtle maze background, but probably not my last.

1 ) Lots of Planets Have a North. One of the first brilliant (or should I say, fantastic) lines uttered by Christopher Eccelston in the first episode of the Doctor Who re-launch, and this patch has been re-pinned a mind-blowing 141 times – nearly twice as many times as the You Remind Me of the Babe patch!

 

 

ImageSpeaking of staggering numbers, my most re-pinned non-patch item is the Bag of Holding messenger bag, which as been passed around Pinterest 116 times. The TARDIS stocking is next with 31 re-pins, followed by the Loki’s Army bag with 29 re-pins, the Crack in Amy Pond’s Wall bag with 26, the Loki scarf with 25, the Doctor’s Name scarf with 23.

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Hiddlestoner patch, aesthetically inspired by Unicef’s own logo.

For the last week and a half or so, I’ve been running a donation campaign through my Etsy shop. And for the next 5 days, I’d like to really ramp it up, and get some good money collected!

Here’s the deal — from now until Saturday, February 9 every Loki (or other Tom Hiddleston-related) purchase from my shop will have 30% of the purchase price donated to Unicef UK through the Hiddlestoners Have Heart campaign.

I know, questions. Why Tom Hiddleston? Why Unicef UK? Why Feb 9? All really good questions.

Loki's Army messenger bag.

Loki’s Army messenger bag.

Tom Hiddleston is the most selfish answer — I just really like him. I think he’s a good actor, I like looking at him (duh), and in interviews he just seems like a genuinely good and nice guy.  The rest stems from there.

Unicef (and UnicefUK in particular) is an organization that Hiddleston himself strongly believes in.  He recently even traveled to Guinea with Unicef UK to observe the work they do, and kept a wonderful travel blog while he was there, showing a first hand perspective not only of the hardships suffered by the Guineans, but of the many ways Unicef is able to help alleviate them. (There are six entries to the blog in total. Well worth the read, if you have the time.)

Henry V patches definitely count as Hiddleston purchases!

Henry V patches definitely count as Hiddleston purchases!

The Hiddlestoners Have Heart campaign began some 6 months ago, aiming to raise money for the organization on his behalf from his fans around the world. Their original goal was an impressive £14,000 by his birthday on February 9.  As of this writing, they have nearly doubled that goal, through personal donations, auctions, promotions like mine, and other efforts on the part of Hiddlestoners everywhere. Right now, they have raised £24,734!

 

 

Our newest item -- Loki ties!

Our newest item — Loki ties!

And we’d like to do our part to help. So far, we’ve raised approximately £20 through Etsy sales, and it would be great to double that amount before Saturday! So, if you’ve been wanting some patches or a bag or a scarf or one of our new ties — now it the perfect time to purchase it! You get the exact same fantastic item, and you will know that a portion of that money will go to a really good cause.

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