Friday, July 15, 2011
Ramblings And Musings About An Online Phenomenon That I Dont Like
Its getting to be time to be preparing for Burning Man!I kind of want to go again., but I want to go in comfort. Its just turned into that for me - gotta be comfortable. Gotta be clean before climbing into my sleeping bag. Dont want to be sunburned!
For those who don't sew, I have lots of little vests, a pair of Leg Ruffles, and some cute Sampants up for grabs in my Etsy Store!They would be perfect for the Playa!
Ive got a few more custom orders of Fluffie Rufflie's and then I'm done. Yes, thanks to this new thankless economy, the orders have slowed to barely a trickle and Ive been forced to take on other kinds of work. I was really sad at first, but everything has its' season and now Im happy again. These Fluffie pants and pantaloons are taking way too long to make for some folks, and the stress of juggling isn't worth it for me. If you REALLY want a pair and are prepared to wait as long as it takes me to find the materials and make them just the way I need to while juggling projects, then I'm more than happy to make you a pair. I still love them. I still love how they look, how they feel, how they make you feel...............but you can buy my pattern and either have them made or make them yourselves. Its a win/win situation for both of us! And PLEASE send me photos of what you make! I REALLY want to see them!!! I feel like they are my grandchildren!!!
I'm going back to my roots. The roots of making special wedding dresses and costumes custom fit for you and back to the art of making your clothing look like it was made for you - even if it wasn't. I think it is especially important in this day and age to keep your already purchased clothing in good condition. And if you bought something new and it doesn't look right, chances are that a tweak here - a dart there will make it fit beautifully. And this is what I like to do!
My new client , Nirmala, and I agreed today that finding a good seamstress is like finding a good hairdresser - you don't want to let either one go............and I like that kind of thinking. She's my kind of gal!
Which leads me to something that has been bothering me this year. Ive been mulling it over and over in my mind for months and trying to make sense of what is going on with people. Since the economy collapsed last year, Ive tried to go with the flow..........Etsy pushes and tries to convince its sellers that having sales on our merchandise and goods is a GOOD thing. I don't really think that having a sale on handmade goods is a good thing UNLESS you are sick of it being around and you just want to clear it out. But Etsy is trying to convince us to behave like a retail store in a retail market. Of course, this is all left up to the individual seller and I resisted for a while. But with sales down and this being my only means of financial support, I eventually caved to see what would happen.
I actually think its fun to have a sale now and then. The whole process is kind of a kick when people sit up and take notice. I actually enjoy taking a few bucks off now and then if it helps someone purchase something that they might not otherwise have justified. It makes me feel like I'm giving back in a small way. So I tried a variety of tactics. Sometimes just a few things were marked down. Sometimes just my particular custom goods; sometimes everything. I tried different price points or discounts for different reasons. At first it seemed to be a good thing. And while my profit went down the tubes on occasion, I was making a few more sales that might not have been made, and my name was getting passed around.
And then the abuse started. I could not figure out what was happening for the longest time! People were not reading all the info on my custom listings all of a sudden. They were expecting custom goods to be made in a few days or a few weeks - while I specifically state that this is never the case with my process. I had one or two people cause me so much grief at Christmastime that I was ready to throw in the towel. I was forced by Paypal to return money at a time when I could ill afford to while custom projects were in the works. (it completely ruined my Christmas - there were no gifts for anyone.) I could have and should have fought these people. I would have won, but it would have taken time. Paypal froze my account. Certain people complained to Etsy about me for taking too long. One woman's package was in the mail when she complained to Etsy before consulting with me. I was confused and in hell.
I NEVER and clearly state this - give money back when in the middle of custom work. I was in tears. I had a customer accuse me of taking the public's money and waiting til the last minute to work on projects. Another accused me of stealing.
WTF. I wondered if this was what selling online is like for other sellers and I wondered what I was doing to deserve this (yeah - I know that was wrong of me - but I'm only human and make mistakes now and then)
I heard from two other vendors that they were also getting bullied from customers all of a sudden.It seemed to be happening all at once.
I was flummoxed. Totally and utterly bewildered. Never in the 20 or so years of making custom goods have I ever been treated this way. Sure, Ive had the bride who lost her mind during the wedding. Who hasn't! The stress alone from a wedding can kill you! Nobody can ever be 100% perfect with everything they do. I only do my best and I think that I've developed a pretty good reputation with that - I have 99% of the time always been treated with respect. And I do admit when Im wrong. But this new phenomenon really blew my mind. If this is business, then I didn't want any part of it. But I knew that something was going on and it wasn't personal (even though I couldn't help taking it that way). I'm growing as a business person and trying on all sorts of hats just to get the right fit.............so I decided to try the Etsy sales thing.
I was talking about this with the owner of Fool Proof Studio the other day and she made a comment about how she thinks that sales on handmade goods cheapen the product.
And the bright incandescent light bulb about to be discontinued turned on full blast over my head - and ta da - there was my answer to this dilemma. But it is actually a two-fold problem. By putting my handmade wares - esp. my custom made to measure garments on sale periodically - these garments were cheapened and made less special in the buyers' mind. And wrong as some of these people are, it gave them permission to treat me terribly - to bully me - to literally sometimes make my life a living hell. I suppose I knew the answer to this this subconsciously already. It never felt right. It felt like I was coming off as desperate to make a sale - and maybe I was at times. This is a tough world to try to be self employed in without any backing or financial support. Most of us who are making it on a shoestring are having a rough time and the shoestring is now very frayed.........this is simply a fact................. but by cheapening our art, or designs, or whatever you want to call our craft, we can be putting ourselves in harm way. Because not everyone understands the difference between handmade and stuff you buy from an assembly line in a retail store. It is up to us to educate those who don't know. And those who don't know or respect this should not be our customers.
Also, being online can be very impersonal. As best as we make our little smiley faces and XXX's in our emails, this cannot be a face to face relationship where we actually KNOW each other. It is far easier to abuse a character in print than to a real live face. I am quite sure that none of these people would have treated me this way in real life. And this has confirmed in me the value of someone actually coming into my studio, forming a relationship with me, and getting something special made to their standards with my creative process, and getting an experience that they would not get anywhere else.
I think that Etsy is a wonderful platform for the creative who wants to sell his or her wares. If things are not selling, maybe Etsy should be used as kind of an online portfolio. And if it sells, all the better! I'll continue to sell there while its working for me, but for those who really put a lot of effort into their craft, mark down sales may not really be the answer. Everyone is looking for a bargain these days, but should your hard work and effort go unpaid and disrespected? Maybe it depends on what the item is and how it was made, but to me, handmade items, if they are made well and are special, should by their very being, be a higher price point. The customer who will never buy unless the item is marked down substantially should never be your target customer. I know that not everyone is self employed and that maybe their crafts are just made for fun only - and I do understand that - but if the crafted items are unique and the effort taken to buy the technology and learn the skills to make them look nice in real life and online are applied - should not these items be treated as the gems they are?
Ive learned a valuable lesson. I'll be conducting business differently from now on and treating my work with more respect and I'll be expecting the same respect in return. Oh sure, I'll probably have a sale now and then on ready to wear and pre-made merchandise, but its got to be fun for me as well. No more sales on the custom goods. No more abuse. I'll be sending out info that must be read first for custom work to commence. Perhaps this is part of working with the public from behind a computer, but if I wont treat you this way, I should not be treated this way. NONONONONONONONO. I DO take things personally. I put a lot of ME into my clothing. Even if I'm making 10 pairs of Sampants. I made them! With my own two hands! I think a lot of us feel that way. Not everyone, but a lot of us.
And as most of my customers are fabulous and "get" it, this dilemma in no way reflects you!!!! I just now have to protect myself from the bad eggs out there. I got a little sucker punched from my own naivete. I would be very interested to hear from anyone else who has noticed this happening. I was previously blaming it on the economy and maybe people being tighter and more sensitive to where their money is going.. Maybe feeling less secure and perhaps feeling guilty about how the money is being spent and therefore getting punchy and more abusive...........all of the above?
Artists, fellow craftsmen/women - protect yourselves! Value your goods!!! No Abuse allowed!