Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What a crazy week!

Last week Sandy came for a visit.. Sandy was the hurricane that hit the north east.  My place of business did not suffer any damage unless you want to count no one shopping lol.  I offered up my store for anyone that wanted to get out of their houses, watch tv, sit in warmth or surf the net.  Only one person came over and that was a friend of mine. We had both lost power at our homes, she lost it longer then we did.  We ended up spending most of the day in our store because it was just too cold to go home.  Personally we had 3 days without power, its not that bad considering tons of people are still without power over a week later!  Its tough to feel helpless when you cant cook or warm your family. We really had no where to go since we have no family in the area and only one of my husbands friends offered up his place for a shower.  We did take him up on his offer and went over twice. I cant tell you how much we spent on eating out!   We are a family of 5 and when the power goes out we cant cook, we have an electric stove, in fact everything in our house is electric. We cant do anything without power, no heat, no water, no cooking, nothing.  One of our neighbors house also caught fire and we thought that would delay us getting power back. Those poor people, cant say we really knew them, but their house is uninhabitable.

This week I also heard from a friend I had not heard from in a long time.  Looks like we will be starting over again. Im excited about it as I hope it turns out well.  Im also afraid of messing up other friendships that I have nurtured during her absence.  Im unsure how to proceed at this point. So I figured Id handle it as the days go by.

My husband has also been talking about bringing my business back home.  While we dont have the space in my living room/office right now we have an area in our house that we never use. We call it a Florida room, some people call it an enclosed porch, or a three season room.  In the past few weeks he has been cleaning up the room and 'preping' it for me.  Ive been depressed over it. I have to be honest - the foot traffic at this location is horrible and I have barley been making rent.  If it wasn't for my online business I would be drowning but I really shouldn't take from there to stay here.  His plan is for me to be able to move in before as soon as possible. I really don't want to go back home but what other choice to I have? Its been a year and thinks still look dismal. Should I try to wait it out another year? Can I break my lease? Will things improve?  Will I survive?  Maybe I need a new product?   Another things I will have to handle as the days go by.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Suggested time on your invites?

You have spent a lot of time planning your event, scheduling the DJ, the caterer, working with the venue, the flowers, make up and hair - what start time do you put on your invitations?

You've scheduled your ceremony for 4:30pm and you put 4pm on your invitations.  You know Aunt Kathy will show up at 4:45 and miss the start of the celebration, Uncle Mike will be on time as he hates to be late but will not be happy if he has to wait half hour, Cousin Mary gets lost in a blink of an eye and will be calling everyone to find out where the celebration is and Grandma has lost time and has no idea how long its taking to start.  How do you please everyone?

Well, you can't and you shouldn't make yourself too crazy about it.  Delays happen, alternate plans are considered and people have to learn how to deal with it as its YOUR day.

We still suggest putting a start time before your actual start time, even if its 15 minutes.  Why?  Because of the late arrivals, people get lost and because delays happen!  There are some planners and venues that have given brides and families a hard time for not starting at the scheduled time.  Recently at a ceremony a few key guests were not there yet and the bride and groom wanted to wait. Thats OK we started about 10 minutes later, everyone was OK with that. Even starting 10 minutes past the start time there were still late arrivals. At another ceremony the planners were harassing everyone that it was a minute past the start time and it was unacceptable! How dare they... this is YOUR day, dont let anyone bully you.

Things to consider:
Look into having a pre-ceremony cocktail hour or half hour.  This is a great idea since it gives people a chance to arrive, mingle and grab a bite.  It also gives everyone a cushion in the event that there is a delay that can not be helped.  Ex: The officiant is lost, its snowing, roads are closed, accidents on highways,...etc.

Consider having your cocktail hour BEFORE your ceremony start time. Then have your ceremony and then onto dinner and dancing.

We have seen some invitations written with 'promptly' starting at the desired time. Does it work? Yes and No.   If you not having a 'pre' event then go for it, its YOUR day.

Keep in mind a lot of this is not easily done in a place of worship.  We are making suggestions for ceremonies at venues other than places of worship.

You may irritate some people by not starting at the time indicated on your invitation and you may keep others happy that you didnt start on time since they were late.

YOU know YOUR families. Dont let anyone push into something you dont want. Look for all kinds of ideas and settle for what makes you comfortable.

Its YOUR day!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So frustrated

Having a store front is crazy expensive - no one tells you about these things you just find out for yourself.

There isnt just rent or lease payments - there is electric, gas, telephone & internet. Sometimes you have get those bundle packages. We were able to get telephone, internet and television for a lower price because we got all three. The electric/gas company is insane!  They want deposits before they hook you up and after a year they ask for more based on your usage.  Imagine my surprise when the electric bill increased our deposit by $65 it may not sound like a lot but it is.  Their reasoning is that they require double your average monthly bill. Our deposit has increased to well over $200 now.  Why do they ask for it? Because business owners are more risky they residential customers.  How crazy is that?

In order to wave the increase they want EFT which I refuse to do, a surety bond from my insurance company or a Revocable letter of credit from my bank. Seriously?  WTF?

Having a store means many people coming thru your door. Not shoppers but sales people and everyone asking for you to donate something to this fundraiser or tricky tray. You name it!  Every week some magazine, newspaper, website representative comes here telling me why I should advertise with them. Dont forget sales people wanting you to purchase their products, and the phone calls to buy my product! Argh! Its so frustrating, I wish we had that many people coming in to shop!

Im starting to think this town was not the best town to try and start a store front. It amazes me how all 8 hair salons within the two traffic lights stay open.

Talk about frustrating.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fulfillment by Amazon part 3

I am completely frustrated with the FBA program.

It seems that everyone loves Amazon Prime - the ability to purchase what you want, get it quickly, and return it just as fast.  Of all the items I submitted to Amazon for fulfillment almost all of them were returned. Just got an email today about a refund issued for a buyer for an item they purchased using Amazon prime of course and it was FBA.  They of course get all the money back, Amazon just deducts it from your account, no warning.  Look further into it, you only have half your fees back which is crazy. So this person got to try out my item at my expense.  At this point I am unsure if an Amazon Prime member pays for return shipping but Im guessing they dont.

Majority of buyers dont return things unless they really have too since who wants to spend the money on a return? If they get free returns as a member everything is risk free.  But who loses out? The seller.

I dont have many items within the FBA program since I was just testing the waters but I am sure I have lost more then I have made.  At one point I was seriously considering sending everything to Amazon, let them do all the work right?  Just sit back and make money.  Its an expense to send all the items to them, another expense monthly, more fees per item sold and if the buyer returns  the item in not exactly the same condition Amazon marks it damaged and will toss it unless you request a return. Which you have to pay for.

Is it worth the risk? Maybe if your spending a lot on overhead. Me, Im just one person doing it all and its not worth it to me.

I really dont want to ask for the rest of the items to be returned. I think I will let them sit there until they are sold and not fulfill them again. Its a tough choice but the expenses related to FBA are just not worth it to an individual.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Do you write reviews?

You can write a review for just about anything... a restaurant, hotel, park, resort, a product, a person... etc...

Let me tell you about the first time I officially wrote a review.

A few years back we were on a business trip in Ocean City, MD during November. It was our first time there and well I didn't research as much as I should have. Turns out this is a 'beach' town and during November more then half the town is closed. I think we stayed two nights, I dont remember, I actually still get updates from that hotel, lol.

It was about a 5 hour drive from NY so maybe we did stay two nights... any who.. we went to the Convention Center for an expo.  I was not crazy about the show, but what we do is attend the first day and take everything back. Then research and make decisions and return to the expo the following day.  I remember that night we struggled to locate a place to eat and thinking back now I should have asked the hotel clerk they may know.  We drove up and down the main drag and found only one place. It was a buffet type of place. We saw flashing signs outside that showed the price and it scrolled so fast all we saw was the price. So we went it and since it was empty we were seated right away.

The food was not impressive for the price posted outside but it was the only place open. When we were ready to leave they gave us the bill I almost died! It was more then the posted price outside. When I inquired I was told that price outside was for Thanksgiving and what we were charged was the going rate! The price posted outside said $18.95 PP while apparently the going rate was $29.95 PP.  Man I wanted to throw up! I tried to argue that its false advertising and all but they stood their ground and I was forced to pay, so disgusted I left and they chased me out to the parking lot!  I didnt sign the credit card slip and they said they would call the police if I didnt. Im not a confrontational person but this was horrible treatment and it was the first time I created an account on trip advisor and wrote my review.

Since then I have been writing reviews every time we go out.  Any hotel, restaurant or park I visit I write something even if its just a few lines. I am a top contributor on that site.  I have never given such a bad review since that one but this past week I had such a horrible experience I left a diner crying.  I have been contemplating writing a review for this place. Looking them up they have already accumulated quite a bit of bad reviews whats one more?

A friend of mine said I should be careful. Can they really find out who I am and try to stop me from going there? I honestly dont think I would show up there ever again anyway so what do I care?  Ill be writing a review shortly lol.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Requirements of USPS.

We have been using the USPS for sending out our packages for years now. Why? Because it does have the better rates out there. Considering majority of our packages are well under a pound it makes sense to stick with them.  Every so often I get the feeling I should just move to UPS or FedEx or something, especially when something happens. I cant tell you how many packages have gone lost!  Or lost in transit, or mis delivered.  And the USPS has this 'oh well' attitude about it. No one cares and you cant get a refund of the postage you paid or on the product unless you get insurance.  Well if we got insurance on our packages the prices would go up by a lot and for that we should just use UPS or FedEx!  So I grit my teeth and keep using the USPS.

Today I got a letter from them thanking me for using their click and ship program but... my packages are not meeting the requirements! Ok first of all I am not using the click and ship program Im using the interfaces with Amazon and eBay - is it the same thing? Maybe I don't know, and don't care. But what requirements?  Turns out, in order for my packages to be allowed to use delivery confirmation the packages need to be at least 3/4 of an inch thick! If not then I have to use Priority mail - my customers could wind up paying the difference upon arrival, there could be a delay or even the package returned to me! Believe this nonsense?

eBay says I have to use Delivery Confirmation for my packages or I could loose my discounts, USPS says my packages have to be thicker or I cant use Delivery Confirmation and/or my customers would pay the difference?!!?

Many of my products are very light, flat and small. Barely an ounce so I have doing my best already to make them thick, any thicker I would be heavier and the shipping costs would go up. I used to send a lot of these in envelopes but thats not allowed anymore.  I had someone complain about shipping costs - they paid $1.75 and said it was too much, I paid $1.64 for that and if I went in person to the post office it would cost me even more. Im thinking of just going back to envelopes and screwing the discount.

How does one continue to deal with these requirements?

Has anyone even noticed that the labels say 'USPS tracking' on them now?  But is it?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Trouble reading RSVP cards.

We’ve all dealt with horrible handwriting! Its even more of a struggle when your collecting all your RSVPs for your event and you cant read them!  One common tip that we have heard of is writing a tiny number on the back of your RSVP cards so when they return you can look at that number and check them off your official list. 

How does it work?

The common RSVP card contains the letter ‘M’ and a line where the person receiving the invite would write their name. Upon receipt of the RSVP you can understand the handwriting and great you go to your guest list and check them off as attending. The next one you get is written so horribly you cant figure out who it is. You have two options, 1: Guess 2: Wait until you are done receiving all the replies and by process of elimination you can then figure out who it was replying.  

A better choice - write your guest list and write a number beside the name! Then write that number on the back at the bottom of the RSVP card - the receiver would never notice and in the event you cant read what they write then you can turn the card over and match up the numbers to your guest list!

An even better idea?  

As creators of custom invitations have the ability to write your guests name right on the RSVP card!  How great would it be to receive that!  We think anyone getting that in the mail would be excited, and all they have to do is check the ‘attending’ or ‘not attending’ and put it back in the mail! 

This is a free service we offer our clients. Since we obtain mailing lists for addressing envelopes for our clients we already have the details, so we can also place those names directly on the RSVP cards. 

Come by and see what we are all about.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Before you use webstore by Amazon

I signed up for this program about 2 weeks ago. It says the first month was free and then I would start having to pay monthly fees. About two years ago I tried to use eBays prostores without success and closed it within the trial period.  Ive been selling on Amazon for over two years now and wanted to give it a try.

Well I signed up for it.  My first issue was that it said it would take 48-72 hours before my listings were imported. Perhaps I read it wrong but after reading it I thought all the images, descriptions and categories would automatically move over since they already existed on Amazons website.  After 3 days I go back and see nothing so I wait, 2 more days and still I cant see anything. I called Amazon - 5 days wasted here - they tell me over 700 listings were moved over. If thats the case why cant I see them? I was looking in the wrong place.  They also tell me I have to assign categories for my items. Oh man extra work.  Now I thought they would share the same categories as Amazon, so wrong there.  I create categories and start assigning listings the categories.  Well for some reason they were not being assigned. After more searching I find a report telling me what the problem is. The report just says this sku number is missing XY&Z.  Now I gotta research what items are having problems.

The skus that were referenced were items added into my Amazon store but I never added a description or images as they already existed on the website.  Imagine my surprise that since all that information was missing they would not be seen on my personal webstore! Now I have to go back to every single listing upload an image, add descriptions, weights, and more details.   Now I have wasted the past 3 days entering information and Im still not done!   I made my site live but its missing everything so its very empty!  Of course the only things that moved over without a problem are items that I created so all the details were there.  Im still having an issue with some items that are telling me Im not allowed to alter them but Im working on fixing the ones I can before I tackle the harder ones.  Another problem Im finding is issues with listings that show multiple sizes. Again something to attack once I get the bulk of the other issues fixed.

Let this be a warning to you. Before you start using Amazon webstore be sure that all your listings have all those items.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Im going to run for the board of the local Chamber of Commerce!

I dont think its going to be that hard, but  I decided to run to be on the board of the Chamber. We are in such a small town Im not sure there is much to do but we have to bring it!  There are over half dozen salons in this town alone, a few places to eat, and even less places to shop.  So why cant we hang on the coattails of Warwick?  When they are having an event we should be included for all of them. I mean Florida is party of Warwick why not?

I hope to start promoting this lovely town with monthly events. Either ladies night out, kids day, awareness months, of course any and all special events.  Now that we have the internet we should be able to do more to get our names out there.  Maybe this town will even grow more because people are getting more and more familiar with this wonderful area.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Personalized Ornaments

Back in January, over 8 months ago I went to an expo.  I saw personalized ornaments and thought I would give it a try.  I have other personalized items which I have had success with. The thing with these ornaments was that I had to write it.  I can do it right?

So 8 months go by and well I forget about it until I got the email that they were shipping my box.  I happened to be away the day the email came in. I should have called and cancelled the order.  But by the time I saw it, it was the weekend and too late.  The packages arrive on Tuesday, the display arrives two days later.  I started putting it all together and the display looks good. I listed a few on Amazon and a few on eBay.  In the past 3 weeks I sold maybe 6. The first personalized one I did was just three letters and it was easy. The next was just as easy.  The most recent one wanted three lines in various places and long details it was a lot. So I did my best creating this ornament with the tiny spaces I had.  Imagine my surprise when I get the email thanking me for sending it out so quickly but the writing is horrible and disgusting.  Man did that kill my smile today!

Im thinking of just selling them without personalizing them but what would be the point in that right?  Who wants to personalize the items themselves? Or blank ornaments?  Not sure if I can return these items. Should I even bother? I feel so defeated right now.  The invoice says 20% restocking fee and the display cost $300 so I think I am stuck with these.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Disney's D-Tech Me at World of Disney Downtown Marketplace

The last week of August we visited Disney for a short trip. It was my daughters birthday and she wanted to go to Disney. We didnt mind either. The plan was to just spend the week by the pool. It was our first time going on vacation and not going to a theme park!

We stayed at Saratoga Springs resort in a deluxe studio.  There was just three of us and with such a short stay we didnt want to go a too crazy. We drove from NY to FL in our Prius. It was the first long trip in that car, amazing too since we got some excellent gas milage for the trip.  Overall I think we spent about $200 in gas.  Its cheaper then flying of course and renting a car.  Especially since we were just going to hang around the pool.

We arrived in FL around noonish and they allowed us to check it. It was a little wet so we were concerned about rain. Hurricane Isaac had just reached Florida and was heading towards New Orleans.  It was crazy but we were not going to cancel our trip.

Any event, Saratoga springs was walking distance to downtown marketplace in Disney, one night we walked around the marketplace. The weather was sketchy and it would rain then stop then rain then stop over and over and over.  It was a pain.

We got to the World of Disney store, if you have ever been you know its very large! We took our time walking thru the store.  When we got to the side were the Boutique is my daughter gets excited and wanted to get her self done up. I was on the fence, she had it done a very long time ago and maybe it would be nice but I was stalling.  Walking around we found D-Tech me. It had just opened up they told us.

They take images of your child and put them on a figurine! All the princess were available as a choice, she wanted Cinderella of course, naturally we were intrigued.  They had two sizes available and we were really wanting the smaller one. Turned out you cant get the small one because its an 'add on' to the large one.  You can choose the hair color of the princess - she wanted the original blonde for Cinderella. The figure stands about 6 inches tall.

Well we gave in and we did it. They took a picture of my daughter, the high tech camera took an image from 8 different angles. It was amazing. We were able to choose the image we wanted to use. They took about 8 shots and we picked the best one.  They told us it would take about 5-6 weeks to get it.The order was placed on August 28, the package arrived on Sept 12. That is just over two weeks time! Pretty amazing.

The only thing I was bummed about was that the package had no note, or message or anything just the figurine inside the box.  Dunno what I was expecting but besides the nice box the delivery was boring.

Poem about princess. 

The front of the box

Other side of the box

Cinderella figurine

Final item.

Does it look like my daughter? Yes I think so! 

The large figure cost $99.95, the small on was an add on for $39.95, plus tax and shipping.  Shipping was via FedEx. There was no wait, we walked by and she got in within seconds.  Because of the wait and the fact they were not getting something right there, they gave her a charm bracelet with a heart.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trying to promote this tiny town.

Ive been in this location for a year now. We are planning to have a party and perhaps a tournament to generate interest, get people inside.  Its so quiet, maybe Florida was not the place to open my store. No one walks thru this town!  Its like deserted! How can we promote our town if the locals dont utilize its services?

We got various products with 'Florida, New York' written on them. Hats, Shirts, magnets, bookmarks, bags! Argh!

Im at a loss at what to do to generate more foot traffic.  We have a lot of neat products as well as personalized and customized items.  I keep thinking of changing the name, I even toyed with the idea of just closing up shop and sticking to being internet based.

I tried a 'back to school' section. Got backpacks, notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, cases, crayons and all that and nothing. Guess that 1 cent offers from those big box stores was a better deal that I could offer.

I was in the supermarket last night, they had Thanksgiving things out already!  I dont even have Halloween out. Am I behind? Was this something too big I cant handle?



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fulfillment by Amazon part 2

In the first post I explained how the process worked and all which I thought it was going well.  I spoke of an item I sent which they marked as oversize which increased the feesm thus increasing the price dramatically.  I was not happy about it but I didnt want to return them back to me since I already paid to send it to them so I figured Id wait it out.  After they all sold I would not use FBA for that particular item anymore.

To my surprise they sold even at the higher price. Then here is the kicker - a buyer returns an item saying its not as described! Im like what? Ive sold dozens and no one has ever said that. So now Im annoyed but whatever. The item is return by the customer and the customer was refunded, Im not involved with shipping costs so I cant see that. I, as a seller, was refunded only the commission fees charged by Amazon. All the FBA fees are not refunded at all. So now I am out all this money.  To top it off the item is returned and Amazon marked it damaged! Seriously? I contacted Amazon and they will be returning that particular item within 14 days or so, I asked about the damaged and they couldnt tell me what it meant, it could be anything. Original Packaging could me missing, dirty or really damaged. If this item is broken in anyway I am out the cost now.  So the item sold to the customer and returned, which put the whole transaction in the 'hole' you know 'in the negative'  -  if Amazon sold the item sold again it would have made everything 'even' but nows its being returned to me until I can assess the 'damage' to the item.  Still in the 'hole'.

I dont think I will be using FBA again.  I sent some toys but they can keep them there. They are in boxes and I really dont want them here.  I hope they sell soon.  I think I wasted more money trying to use FBA then I actually made. Unless your selling items that are not oversized or items that are high priced I would not recommend it because of the fees.

Oversize was $6, plus 37 cent per pound, plus storage, per item, plus commissions.
Regular was $1, plus, 37 cents per pound, plus storage, per item, plus commissions.

If your already selling on Amazon your already paying the commissions fees.  If your planning to try FBA figure an additional  $1.85 or so per item to add, which seems like no big deal.  Make sure your item is not oversized - check the Amazon website for the measurements to be sure. My item was 'oversized' because one side was 14.3 inches, that .3 shot it over. Didnt matter that it was a bag that I shipped to them folded and could be sent to a buyer folded too. It was measured flat. And how the item gained .3 inches it beyond me!  Argh so frustrated by it. Yes many people have success with it, but you need to fall within the measurements and weights,  and have a decent price to justify the additional costs.

High Shipping Prices.

Just got this message in feedback the other day...

'Really light and small charged to much for shipping'.  It was positive score but Im 'positive' they gave a low DSR for the shipping section.  So Im a little peeved because we have very low shipping rates. While many of our products offer FREE shipping, equally many of our products do have a cost. All our rates are based on weight and sometimes we use the flat rate charges instead.  When we enter 1 ounce the minimum eBay shows shipping fees is $1.95 - when we use a flat rate I use $1.75.  (This is under our settings)

A lot of the products are well under 3 ounces, so everything is light. We do get discounts for printing online labels on eBay and Amazon. Free delivery confirmation is one of those discounts but if you took this package to the post office they would charge you the same charge we pay. The lowest price I would pay for shipping is $1.64 not counting the cost of the envelope, my travel time to and from the post office, my time to pack the item and anything else you can think of. At the post office delivery confirmation is an additional fee. When someone wrote $1.75 is too much for shipping I was floored.

We used to send some of the tiny items inside envelopes and sold them like crazy and shipping costs were 50 cents.  Unfortunately because of new eBay requirements they wont let us do that.  I would save everyone a lot of money if I put these things in envelopes and used a stamp.

I thought of just including the price of shipping inside the price of the item and marking it free shipping but then my item would be 'too expensive'.

Call me crazy but if you agree to pay the posted price you shouldnt be able to complain about it.

Blue moon causing crazy online buyers?

This must be the biggest month for complainers this month.

Off the top of my head its the only thing I can think of that is causing this craziness.

Just got a neutral feedback mark on eBay today because the package was delivered two days beyond the estimated delivery date! Two days? Really? Thats a cause for complaining I am sure. I wanted to reply with - guess you have never been pregnant? And Sorry Im not perfect like you must be!  And - there are no guarantees in life only in death and taxes!  I almost wrote - guess you dont know the definition of estimate and guaranteed delivery.  I want to start a blog to post all about the stupid questions and complaints I get! It would be long lol.  I have not replied yet to their remark, I am waiting to calm down.  I may just put the standard about not having control over the post office and your package was packaged and delivered next business day.  What more can you do right?

Another crazy buyer purchased stencils for glitter tattoos.  We sell a ton of these and majority of them are professional artist that know how to use them.  We never include instructions and we sell them in lots of 5 at a time. Sometimes we get special requests when people dont want to order from multiple lots.  I offer a small discount when they do this since I can just invoice them via paypal and remove eBay from the equation.

So one buyer leaves a neutral saying ' I was under the impression it was more stencils that what had come in'  and I was like what?  The listing says lot of 5 stencils how many more were you expecting?  So I added a new line to ALL the listings saying - Lot of 5 means 5 individual stencils.  Sometimes I feel like I am dealing with infants!

Another buyer purchases stencils on Monday and says they want it for a birthday party that Friday from NY to CA. Well I make sure it was delivered the same day.  And I guess they got it since I didnt get notification that they didnt.  Instead I get an email complaining that the stencils were difficult to use and they wanted replacements or a refund!  Again I was like what?  After a few emails back and forth they seemed to back off.  We dont provide instructions on how to use them.  Nor do we refund for them because you dont know how to use them. Its like buying a piece of meat, cooking it, then asking for a refund because it tasted horrible!  Not happening this isnt a restaurant or a place where you can get something for nothing.  I have not heard back from this buyer but I am betting its not over.

A buyer on another platform (Amazon) placed an order on a Saturday and requested 2nd day air. I shipped the item on Monday and it arrived to them on Tuesday that Thursday I get an email from the buyer indicating that they wanted to return the item because they never placed that order. Here is goes, Im like what?  If you cancelled this order I would not have gotten a request to send it to you.  Not only that you have to 'select' second day air its not an automatic option.  So I let the buyer know they can return the item but shipping costs are not refundable.  The buyer became upset and says to us that they will get all their money back because the order was cancelled. About a week later a package comes in, inside was an item I had never seen before along with a letter from this buyer. Not a nice letter AND the product was not mine, it was a product I dont sell. So I called Amazon asking for guidance cause I can see this case can get out of control.  They told me I cant issue a refund if they dont return the correct item. They also told me that once an order is placed the buyer has 30 minutes to cancel the order. Beyond that they can contact the seller to request a cancellation.  Well we never got that and neither did Amazon so we are in the right so far.  I emailed the buyer saying if they want a refund they need to return the correct item to us and if they want the 'wrong' item back they will have to provide a prepaid label.  Its been a few days and we have not heard anything yet so cross your fingers lol.

Today I get an email from someone asking why they cant buy two of said item? Well turned out there is only ONE in the listing... wow really?  I replied you cant buy two cause the listing is for one.  I tell ya, that blue moon cause some crazies!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fulfillment by Amazon personal review.

I considered fulfillment  for a while, I mean how great is it to have Amazon ship your items for you!  Your products are then opened up to Amazon Prime members and you just sit back and relax and make money right?

To my disappointment its not turning out like I expected.

We sent in some of our bags that were big sellers. We kept getting notifications about the item suggested for fulfillment.   We were selling it on Amazon for just over $13, we ran calculations and it suggested that it was not a good idea but I wanted to try it out thinking we could move inventory quickly.   We are not a huge operation and we use the USPS so  our overhead is not that much, for now anyway.

We shipped 3 at first and left the price at just over $13. Within a day of them getting it, they sold all 3 of them. Then I checked the calculations, after all the fees Amazon was charging we were even, you cant run a business 'making even'. There is the cost of the item, inbound fright, outbound fright and all the fees Amazon charges.  So I increased the price by just under $3 and shipped out 3 more.  Those 3 sold quickly again so I shipped a dozen this time and within a few days of Amazon receiving it they sold 4 again. I looked again at what I was getting in and surprised to find that the fees increased and I was making even less then before! What the heck happened?

After calling them today I found out the items I sent are considered OVERSIZE by .3"... what the heck! I personally fold the bags and well they should not be OVERSIZE! Amazon is now charging me a fee for oversize so instead of fees just under $5 now fees are over $9!

Can I increase the prices of these items to $20? Should I request them to be returned?  They would charge me 60 cents per item to return them.  Im increasing the price to just under $18 lets see what happens. If they dont sell quickly I will just return lower price to sell them out and go back to selling them myself.

Ive also sent some toys I have sitting here which have not sold either. Its been a month so Im not too worried about it just yet.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Buyers leaving negative feedback.

It does not matter what platform you sell on anything they allows the buyer to leave feedback about their experience is what Im talking about.

Call me crazy but if you go to a website and purchase a widget thats marked for $12 and the shipping says $9 and you go and purchase the item, and pay, you should not be able to come back and complain that the shipping costs were too high!

Whos with me?

Seriously folks. If you agree to the amounts shown then you should not complain later. If the prices are too high for you then dont purchase the item.

We recently rec'd feedback on our Amazon store that surprised me.  The buyer states that they were never told of the prices that they would have to pay.  WHAT?   How is that even possible? I know prices are shown as well as shipping costs, not only that everyone gets an email confirmation showing them what they purchased along with the costs involved.  Both eBay and Amazon do this as well as any purchase any one makes with any program!  Nothing is a surprise or hidden from anyone and anytime.

Now this buyer was in international person. We personally do not ship first class internationally from our sales on Amazon, it just takes too long.  So all our international purchases show up as priority mail ONLY which yes it is higher priced and honestly I should just block international purchases but I dont I just jump the shipping costs to discourage buyers.   But again, you will see how much the shipping costs are BEFORE you pay.  In this case it was well over $20 but thats not my problem is it?

So the buyer also complains that they had to pay VAT charges which increased their purchase by $6 US. Now my first thought was, what the heck is a VAT charge? It stands for Value Added Tax.  This is what people have to pay when their item is over a certain amount of money.  This is a country specific rule and well sellers cant guess what it will be or pay it in advance.  Its clearly posted on Amazons website that they buyer is responsible for any taxes or duties required by their country.

I did request that Amazon remove the feedback but since the buyer says within it that he's unhappy about the shipping charges they wont remove it. It does not fall under their requirements for removal.

Im done ranting.

If you buy something you shouldnt not complain about the amount of money you spent to get it since you agreed to it!

Our first festival doing glitter tattoos!

This this past weekend was our first attempt at selling glitter tattoos at an event.

Here is the 'booth' - its hard to see but we had a very high table in the back with high chairs so we can stand and work on the tattoos.  I realize that next time this table should be on the side or towards the front as people would be looking at our backs when they walked by.    Changes for the next set up for sure.

Ignore the box of flip-flops lol.  I used to to hold up our sign that we created, the wind blew it down a few times. 
On the sign are our stencils in black and white, my lovely assistant create this for us and it was a hit!   She also helped with this wheel that had everyone flocking to our booth.

At first we were all shaking! But after a few successful tattoos we were confident in our ability.  This young boy wanted the flaming skull and I only had large ones. But I gotta say it came out fantastic!  It appeared huge on his arm.

We did give away petites when people spun the wheel and some people even upgraded. The Petites were priced at $2, standard 2x2 size were $5 and larger ones were $8, I have a few that are $10 and $15 but those are very large. One is a necklace choker which is beautiful and we also have butterfly wings. I cant wait to use those.  During the event we sold over 45 tattoos as well as local themed shirts and hats. 

Honestly I got a little apprehensive when these young girls wanted the tattoos on their bellies and while they all came out amazing I couldnt get myself to take an image. 

Please view our Facebook and Pinterest for all the tattoos we have created. We cant wait to do parties!! Please contact us for details. 

Facebook link here

Follow us on twitter

Pinterest Images here

Our Website

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Glitter Tattoo how to tutorial

Glitter Tattoo How to tutorial
First step is to decide that stencil you want and where. Glitter Tattoos placed on hands will not last as long as ones placed on shoulders, back or legs.  Be sure to remove lotion from the skin, they will not stick if you have lotion or sunscreen on! 
Remove Backing
Place Stencil

Step one:  Locate the area to place stencil, wipe down with alcohol if needed. With a triple layer stencil remove backing and place stencil. Press stencil to ensure it is completely flat.  Be sure if the subject has stretched/flexed/relaxed the location that they keep it that way or the stencil, glue and glitter will shift or crack. 

Thin layer of glue
Step two:  Place a thin layer of glue on the open parts of the stencil.  Glue entire image with a thin layer be sure NOT to place too much glue. Glue will be white when applying, allow the glue to semi dry, it will become clear.  At this point you can remove the stencil or not. It depends for me on how much details and how many colors are going into the stencil.  They can mix if not dont properly.  If its easy and one color remove it, if your not sure and need a guide leave it on.
Add glitter
Step three:  Start using your brushes and lift the glitter onto the area.  We have a variety of brushes, use what you feel comfortable with. Some times place something underneath the person to ‘catch’ falling glitter will help with clean up.  Working on a shoulder you will want to have them lift their arm so that the glitter does not fall all over the place. 

Remove Stencil
Step Four: Once all area has been covered with glitter use another brush and remove the excess, then lift the stencil off. If some of the stencil is still left on there use a pair of blunt tweezers to remove what gets left. 
Use tweezers for left pieces 

Step five:  Clean off area and your all done!

All done

Glitter Tattoos


Glitter Tattoos
A few months ago we were introduced to glitter tattoos. At one of the business expos they were giving everyone tattoos to try and sell the product. I was hooked immediately but did not place an order for a few months.   After much research we decided to purchase kits to sell in our store and online stores.   They were slow moving but they have picked up quickly especially after that informercial was viewed on TV. 

Double Heart
We have been practicing for the past few months on kids that come into our store and on each other. We now offering glitter tattoo parties in the hope to give people more options then just the usual boring same ‘ol things.

triple crescent 
August 12 is our annual town festival and we will be offering glitter tattoos for sale.  Watch out for coupons we are giving out randomly to customers and friends. 

Ive attached images of some styles we have created.

Cupcake, Lotus, Hearts, triple crescent, 'like' - 
These are standard 2x2 size and we charge $5 to create tattoo. We have 18 colors currently. We also offer larger stencils for a little more $8 and petite ones for just $2. They take about 3-5 minutes to create and can last up to 7 days.

We also offer parties starting at just $75 for the first hour. Please contact us for exact details.

Having a glitter tattoo party is so much fun! Tired of the same ol thing, try this.  They are water proof, last 3-7 days We have tons of stencils and can match your theme!  Princess, Superheroes, Young Characters like Elmo, Dora, even Perry the Platypus!

Want to do them yourself? We sell Glitter Tattoo kits that contain glitter, glue, brushes, stencils and instructions. Come by our store OR visit our ebay store.  We also sell stencils as add ons for your kits.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Accepting Credit Cards and opting to use SquareUp

Accepting Credit Cards and opting to use SquareUp
So we signed up for Square back in October 2011.  We opened a Brick and Mortar and decided it was time to accept credit cards.  We actually started looking into accepting credit cards the year before June 2010.  It was scary and all the details they provided was like being in a horror movie.  
First the explained that we needed a machine, it could be leased or purchased.  Then there was a statement fee, a monthly fee, a quarterly fee, a swipe fee,  minimum charge fee.  Talk about overwhelming!   I calculated that I would have had to swipe some where in the neighborhood of $1500 or more a month to create at the minimum requirements of $25 a month in fees.   Can I predict I would get that much in sales? No. Should I take the chance? Well I didnt want to. Since they were contracts and I would have to pay the monthly fee, plus the statement fee, plus the quarterly fee etc.  Can you take that chance?  I decided against it. 
It was a good choice as the walk in cliental was very small for my location.  After about a year and moving to a few new locations we moved to where we are now. Its rather large  location and to me its finally a real store front.  Since moving into this location we have had a number of bank representatives come by and ask me about signing up for credit cards.  We’ve turned them all down, instead I signed up for Square Up.  www.squareup.com
It was easy to do and quick.  Shortly after registering for the program we got the square device.  I didnt want to commit to a lease and getting stuck in it.  Since we are fairly new we dont get much foot traffic yet! Majority of our sales are still from our online sources. 
The very first time I used Square I was nervous but it was quick and easy.  You enter the dollar amount, sales tax was already set up which it added automatically, swipe the card in the reader.  It authorizes the charge, then asks for signature, after signature capture it has the ability to email or text a receipt. Its great when we have events outdoors.  Emails are sent to us within minutes of the amount swiped along with the amount due to us, which is the amount swiped less the 2.75%.
I personally have never had an issue with Square since using it for the past year. It may seem like the rates are high but at 2.75% it may even average out when other people are paying. With various credit cards out there, rates vary. I was told there are dozens of pages with rates. How can you calculate the rate? You really cant because there are too many variables.  With Square its just one fixed rate for EVERY card you swipe. Even American Express which many people know the rates can be extremely hard. Many businesses dont even accept Amex cards.  
They deposit nightly the amount AFTER the fees are taken which is nice, the money is in my account quickly. We have never had a large swipe where Square holds the funds. I have heard stories of people having this issue.  Unfortunately we have not had consistent enough sales to justify getting a credit card machine yet.  Like I said before we would have to have over $1500 in swipes to get a credit card merchant account.  
Over the course of the months we have been using Square we got an iPad. The screen is larger for signatures but people are still accidentally hitting the continue button while signing the pad. It also frees up my phone, I have alarms that would go off when people were signing. Or a text message would come thru and it was becoming annoying.  So I invested in an iPad to separate the two.  Because the application was on my personal phone it meant I had no credit card machine when I was unavailable. It also meant that any one I hired would have to download that app and use it on their personal phone. Do you want to give someone that kind of access on their personal?  I think it was a wise decision to get the iPad that way it can stay here when I am not here, and any staff I may hire can use the device.
Now because I have a physical store AND I occasionally head out to private events I looked into getting another Square device and instead opted getting a completely second program called GoPayment by Intuit. 
The device from GoPayment is bulky and large to me, but we are used to Square which is neat and compact.  I only used it at one location so far and I personally am not crazy about it.  The device kept giving me issues with connections, it continued to ask to raise the volume so it can work properly.  Then when I was ready it wanted me to swipe the credit cards first, then enter a dollar amount which was strange.  After entering the amount then it requested the signature. It worked fine but it seemed backwards.  They took a while before the deposit was done. Even though my ‘swipes’ were all done the same night, the deposits were split in two.  What was even more strange was that they deposited the whole amount of the swipe then took out the fee amount. Then at the end of the month they took more money out!  I was shocked and called and they explained that some cards have various rates! Imagine that!   The various rates are because of rewards cards and Amex and such. Here we are thinking GoPayment is a flat rate and its not.  So I had to call to get clarification.  They informed me that a regular swipe was 2.7%, Amex was 2.89% and reward/specialty cards are 3.7%.  The thing was they didnt know what was a reward card until the end of the month and thats why the took more money out of my account at the end of the month.  I have not used it since but I do have it just in case. 
Neither one has monthly fees so its not a bad idea to keep it even if I do ever get an actual credit card machine. 
Would I recommend it? Yes of course. Its easy, quick and a great alternative to being trapped into a lease or contract of some sort.  Its perfect to start off your business.
I think the biggest thing is that all my customers get a kick out it. LOL

We recently downloaded the Square Up cash register, while we have not tried to officially we hope too. WIll post once that happens. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Clear tile sayings

These neat products great for any occasion.

Large sizes measure 1/4" d x 1 3/4" sq.
Small sizes measure 3/4" d x 1 1/8" sq.

Some have color others do not.

Large are $9.00 Small are $7.50 and they come inside a small black box.

Beautifully displayed on a mirror. Be sure to pass by and view the various sayings we have available.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Back to school section?

Its a long shot, we have a dollar store right down the street. They sell everything, we have all been inside one before you know the deal.  School supplies is one of them. Everywhere you look they are promoting back to school already.  Its mid July!

We are starting small with school supplies. Check out our Crayola section.

You never know right?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Social Networking Sites, which ones do you use?

We have been on Facebook since I opened a physical store back in October 2011. We dont have many followers but its slowly growing.  Majority are family and friends but I hope it will eventually grow to local shoppers.   We recently, like 3 days ago, opened a twitter account!  We linked it to Facebook when when a 'tweet' goes out, it also posts on facebook. Its pretty neat to make just one post and get it on both places.  I hope that grows too.

We recently went on vacation and no one was making a post on our facebook page. The insights that Facebook provides dropped A LOT! I was pretty upset by it. There is a site out there called Hootsuite where you can post your tweets/posts and it will automatically do it for you on the days and times you choose. I personally have not used it since I found SnapRetail which is for retailers.

Our first post for SnapRetail was for a product that we have never carried.  The company says that it sends the blast out to your twitter or facebook (we have it on twitter) along with your emailing lists.  So this morning everyone got a message about the special currently going on.

If anyone purchases the item it is sent directly to my store. The buyer would have to come here to pick it up and it gives them an opportunity to view the store and hopefully make another purchase while here.  So far today no one has participated in the special but its good for a few days so lets see what happens.

I am not sure how to obtain more followers and I really dont want to pay for advertising on facebook. I mean I have family members with over 1000 friends and I cant even get myself to 100 lol. Its sad when I think about it lol.




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Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer Sales seem dismal

Is it me or is the summer pretty bad for sales. Ok I know everyone is on vacation or just staying home in the air conditioning they dont want to come out. My online sales are up and I guess that makes sense.

Marketing strategies?  Forget the newspaper Im trying SnapRetail.com. I just registered today and already set up a few various promotions. Its free for the first month so I am trying it out to see how it goes.

The program sends out promotions based on the current sale.  So one of the promotions start on Tuesday and ends on Friday. An email blast goes out promoting the sale. The customer would make their purchase and the items are sent to my store. It gives the client an opportunity to check out the store when they pick up their item. It seems pretty neat. We would make a percentage based on the item thats sold. Each item varies of course.

Its a neat way of marketing, there is a monthly fee based on the type of account you choose. Lets see how the 'free' month goes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It was hard but I managed to do it. I went on Vacation.

We had planned this trip back in May and it was a cruise so that meant no internet access.  Ok seriously we could have had it but decided against it. The ONE day we had back in the states I lost half my battery on my phone within an hour lol.

Yes I was very concerned because I tried to hire people and it didnt work out. The one gal I got is was to young in my opinion to leave at the store alone.  In the end I opted to have my sons and my mother help keep the store open during the week I was away. Was I worried? Of Course. Did everything run smoothly? It seemed to. 

Our cruise left from NY on Saturday and was to return the following Sunday with a single day in Port Canaveral, FL.  Once the ship left NY harbor that was the end of my internet access.  I had to trust my kids and my mom to run the store without my. I was concerned because my kids never came over the week  before and I didnt get a chance to really go over anything with them.  They knew how to pack and ship my products from my online store and they knew how to function the point of sale system for the physical store.  It was the customer service I was really concerned with.

When that one day in Port Canaveral arrived I turned on my phone even though my husband had suggested that I keep it off.  Within an hour the battery was half gone! I was online reviewing everything I could and then the phone calls started. It was like they could not function without calling me.   So yet again I was concerned but I could do nothing about it besides guide them over the phone. When we returned to the ship we were out of contact again for two more days.

Upon arrival everyone thought I should go to the store and see whats going on. But I actually decided against it. I did log in from home and checked emails, I replied to a few but that was it. Arriving at the store on Monday was tough. It was a long day and here I am three days later finally caught up on paperwork. From what I can tell it looks like everything worked out but I wont really know for sure for another few weeks when the buyers from last week get their items and complain. I hope it does not happen but one never knows.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Can I run a business and go on vacation?

I am usually the type of person that vacations a lot. Since I opened my store last October I have not gone anywhere.  I took a trip to California in November during the holiday so I didnt have to be closed for too many days but it may have been enough to scare people away. Thanksgiving is supposed to be biggest shopping day of the year.

Its not June and I have not been anywhere. By this time we would have traveled twice already and planning the next two trips. My spouse blames my store and how my time away is now limited. I guess in a way is is right.  Im having a hard time with just 'closing' for the time we are supposed to be away. Im having a harder time finding someone to work for me. I thought my kids would help me out and I am not having any luck with that. They want to be paid, I guess anyone would and its pass the time were they would help me out.  I tried to hire someone to work and they never called me back. So Im to assume that they dont want the job right?  Im an employer I should not be chasing people for a job.

Well now that we are even closer to our getaway Im stuck.  I have no choice but to pay my kids to work and keep my store running. I make enough online sales that it would hurt dramatically to 'close' them for a week.

Can I still take vacations?  I hope so, maybe not as long and maybe not as many but I hope to keep going away. I need to get away from my kids.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I accidentally stuck my SD card into the DVD slot on my iMAC

Yea it finally happened. I love my MAC, Ive been using them since the first tiny apple came out many moons ago.  Love my MAC.

Well I have this iMac and the spot for the SD is right next to the DVD slot. A big design flaw right. I have in the past placed the SD card in there but pulled it out quickly today I pushed it in and it was now lost in the slot! I was freaking out, how do I get this thing out?

Well I did a search on the internet and found a post from techdc dot com. It said they created an arm to pull the card out. Moving the iMac to its side wont help, the card wont fall out because of whats in there.

So I make this thing as noted from the other post.

I made it out of a piece of thin card board, I gently put it inside the DVD slot from the top and move slowly down.  The thing gets caught on something inside! Now the cardboard is stuck! Talk about freaking out right?

I shut down and again pull the Mac towards me and wiggle the cardboard some more. I got another piece of cardboard and wiggle it inside and finally I can see the SD card. So I calm down and move the pieces around and finally Im able to get the card out. But that first card board piece is still stuck.  Gently push it up and whoo hoo it comes out but its all bent outta whack! 

Afraid I messed up something? No... the SD card works fine and I put in a DVD into the player and that works fine too.

Wow just saved my butt!  Did I mention I love my MAC? 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Greater Organic Food Delivery Program Review

So sometime in 2011 I was at a local expo and signed up to win a months worth of organic food.  Well we didn't win but they called us anyway to see if we were interested in the service they offered.

We said ok come over and lets see what its about.

A gentleman came to our house and told us about the program. Basically they would deliver 6 months of food to you. All the food was either 'natural' or 'certified organic' in some way.  I never doubted the certifications that they used.  After about an hour we were convinced to try it out.  We had to purchase a freezer which they would guarantee. The products were also under 'warranty'  so had we lost power they would replace all the food that was in the freezer.  Which was neat, however,  when we went to the local stores we found out that the prices of freezers of the same size and capacity were about half the price they charged us.  So we figured it was part of the 'warranty'.  The meat were packaged individually for easy cooking or so we thought.

Our first delivery came in May 2011 - we received chicken, pork, beef, burgers, etc. The freezer was very full and we were excited.  Our first delivery was financed monthly - our payments were almost $350 a month. For 6 months thats - $2100 or  about $82 a week. At first we didn't think about it, we were already spending about $100 a week on groceries.  We shopped weekly and it was a trip we liked only cause we got to spend sometime together fooling around.   We figured our trips to the store would diminish with this program but it didn't.  We still had to make trips to purchase staples such as milk, bread, eggs, basically everything other than meat.  Our trips to the grocery store had dropped from weekly to every 2 or sometimes 3 weeks.

Our biggest disappointment was in month 4 when we were out of meat which meant we had to go shopping again for meat.  So here we go back to the weekly trips to the market and we are still paying that monthly bill. We are not happy really. In November our rep came to visit once again to place our semi annual order.  We were going to drop the program then as we tell him about running out of food so quickly and what does he do, he increases the quantity of the products and says try it again and we will see.  This time the payments were $380 a month. For 6 months thats $2280 or about $89 a week.

We got a variety of things including groceries this time. Still we are going shopping every other week for the 'other' things.  As the months go by we again ran out of meat by month 5.  We ended up spending a whole lot more to get meat in the house. We could go meatless but thats not really an option for my house. Any who... We were due in May to order again. We decided then that we were not going participate in the program any more. So when the rep called and got us on the phone he was not happy with what we told him but convinced us to place an order and he was going to give us a larger discount for our order.

The next day he calls us, we altered the order to just meats.  He crunches his numbers and tells us the 6 months amount is $1800! Ok we dropped the amount but not by much - we were never given a monthly amount because we had to pay it in full.  Like we had $1800 to drop like that! Some people are just crazy!  Did I mention we never knew how much we were paying per pound or anything like that. No Clue.

The other wammy is that its CASH ONLY!  Well I told him to call me the next day so I can see if its worth it to me and how much money I had.  In checking our computer I ran reports.   The reports told me that before we started this program we were spending about  $400 a month on groceries.  After we signed up for this program we were still spending that $400 plus an additional $350 a month for a total of $750 a month on groceries. We thought we were saving money and we really were not.  I know I can get us back to $400 a month and yea prices may have go up but not by that much.

Our rep calls back that night and I tell him that we decided to NOT go forward with this program.  He asks why of course and I tell him we are spending more now then ever. He goes into a tangent about organic food this and blah blah blah... I stood firm and said if I want organic I can get it at the local farmers market or at any of the local farms and he says - oh your gonna pay $20 a pound! I said 'so' and he says ok bye.

My experience with this company is not a bad one. The meat was OK, honestly we couldnt tell the difference between conventional meat and organic.  Visually you can see the organic pieces are significantly smaller.  The fact that the pieces were individually wrapped was great and awful at the same time.  It was great when I just wanted a single piece but when I was cooking for the family it was a pain.  One has to cut out every piece and there is a lot of plastic left over to throw away. How is that eco friendly?

Would I try it again? Doubtful.