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Every Friday, I post a small insight into running Curio City and/or Blue Hills Editorial Services. My most recent posts are directly below. You can also start with the first post, or use the subject labels to the right to home in on particular topics. Feel free to comment on anything that interests you.
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Friday, April 03, 2009

It's a God-Awful Small Affair

The exhibition hall’s lobby was nearly deserted when I arrived 45 minutes after the doors opened on the reborn Boston Gift Show. I intended to breeze through the junk aisles in an hour and 15 minutes, have lunch at the food court at noon, then finish off the section where the hand-made and made-in-New England booths cluster in another hour. Instead I walked the entire floor with 15 minutes left before lunchtime. And I wasn’t even rushing.

The Cavalcade of Crap shrank to 10 aisles this year, in a smaller space than before. The first seven of those aisles were the same mass-market souvenir trash that dominates every show. Uninspired jewelry and cutesy crafts filled most of the last three aisles. Even the good-quality stuff didn’t fit the Curio City concept.

Worst of all, there wasn’t enough foot traffic to justify opening the food court’s six fast-food restaurants. I had to settle for a “North End Panini” – a grilled cold-cut sandwich with no visible North End influence, not even made on ciabatta bread – at the Sam Adams bar.

I spent more time traveling to and from the convention center than I did at the show itself. Next time, I think I’ll drive. Assuming that there is a next time; I don’t think they’re doing a fall show this year.

I did place one small order for these little Pewter Desk Cork Pets. I’m not sure what came over me. It was the last aisle, so maybe I just wanted to salvage something from my wasted Saturday. Even though it's a weak Curio City product, maybe it will surprise me. There was one other product with strong potential, but its manufacturer thinks they’re going to sell retailers a $50 item for $37.46 plus shipping. Bzzt!

So I have nearly $400 left to spend and a stack of a dozen catalogs with thousands of dollars worth of stuff that I want. That money will go fast, leaving me one big challenge: I am running out of Mini-Briefcase Business Card Holders (again), and the minimum order is 200 pieces for over $800. Eight hundred bucks is a lot of money to drop on one product, and 200 pieces is at least a year's supply. OTOH, I know it’s a sure thing. I’ve sold hundreds of them.


I haven’t sold a DayClock in ages, despite wasting about $1.50 a day on advertising. No wonder: Competitors are going as low as $35.95 with free shipping, vs. my time-honored $39.95-plus price. Last summer the manufacturer offered cut-rate pricing (which I missed out on -- bitter, me?) and ruined the retail price. In a last attempt to revive this old bestseller, I combined four separate product pages into two, cut my price to match the competition (ouch), and rewrote my ads. I can’t afford to give up free shipping, especially with the lower markup. If these measures revive the product, I’ll accept its reduced profitability. If they don’t, I’ll kill the advertising and give up on it. Too bad; it’s still one of my personal favorites.


Believe it or not – I couldn’t – Authorize.net charged me $14.95 again yesterday. I haven’t used that gateway in two months. In February the person who closed my old accounts wrote: “If you cancel your Pipeline Data account which is linked to Authorize.net, your Auth.net account will be closed as well.” Today she said “We don't cancel the account, the merchant is required to do so due to the security/sensitive information that they need from you.” So I’m out another $15 for nothing? She clarified: “Yes, but I meant, and I apologize for not being clearer, is that you would not be able to utilize your Auth.net account at all if you closed your Merchant account. Some people think that just because they close their merchant account they can still have access to their Auth.net account which is not true.” Which is also wrong; my Auth.net account was still up and running before I canceled it yesterday.

Of course this is the fault of Merchant Express, not Auth.net. I hate dealing with stupid piddly details from other people's screwups. I knew that goddamned bank was going to be a problem when I decided to cut them loose. I’m glad I don’t own an assault rifle. My shotgun wouldn't produce a satisfying enough body count to make the consequences worthwhile.

A dismal week’s sales aren’t helping my mood. Without a surge today and tomorrow, it will be the worst week since I was on vacation last August. April is always a lousy month. I hope this doesn’t turn into a lousy April.

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