Welcome to Curious Business
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.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Switch On, Switch Off
This week started inauspiciously. On Sunday morning both my store and my admin site were replaced by a blank white page with the message “There seems to have been a slight problem with the database. Please contact the server admin to report this problem.”
Fabulous. The same thing happened last Sunday, too. Mocha didn’t restore my site until mid-afternoon. Losing half a day presaged yet another failed week.
So I’m especially delighted that this week’s sales – propelled by Switchables, two hefty lighted cap orders, and an unexpected large bird kite order (to someone in Minnesota…in January) – broke my losing streak. I not only trounced an anemic weekly plan, but recouped January’s entire shortfall versus LY. A slightly better-than-average final week would save this month versus LY. Making plan isn’t even out of the question. That would be nice, because February is doomed to be an epic fail. But let's leave that for next week.
Switchables damage claims are surging faster than sales. The company recently weakened their paperboard packaging to make a prettier retail display. Now their boxes are easily crushed. So far Switchables has been very good about replacing damaged items without requiring their return, meaning that I don’t have to ask (and reimburse) my customers to mail me broken glass. But the breakage rate is so high that I need to replace the bubble envelopes I’ve used for the past five years with something sturdier (and heavier and more expensive). The flimsy packaging shouldn’t affect bricks-and-mortar stores very much, so I doubt that they’ll revert to better packaging anytime soon.
The USPS rate lookup bug that I complained of last week has effectively killed international sales. When someone in Spain paid $12.55 for shipping that actually costs $28 I learned that the lookup routine is only finding flat-rate charges. Although people can theoretically still pay UPS’s bloated international rates – and one Canadian has already done so – I had to pull the plug on USPS service, probably until USPS releases developer support in May. Of course, I’ve been cool toward foreign business for years anyway, so although I don’t like having the decision taken away from me, I’m not entirely unhappy with the outcome. I should probably deactivate the UPS module and kill it once and for all. Still, I hesitate to take that step.
I had another Random Act of Media: Some blog somewhere picked up the Polluted drinking glasses last Friday and somebody else must have twitted it or something. This product had previously sold only one full-priced unit in two years, plus a single 48-piece special order at a deep discount. On that one day 3,115 people came looking for the seven units I had in stock. The aborted Spanish sale that I mentioned above locked down two of those units. By the time I cleared that up the wave had passed, and I still have one piece left.
Is taking on a new monthly bill ever good news? Curio City is now paying $45 a month for Internet access -- one-third of our monthly BELD bill (BELD = Braintree Electric Light Department, the nonprofit, taxpayer-owned municipal utility that provides our cable TV and Internet service.) I felt sleazy shifting a personal bill to my company until I found out that BELD’s rate for business internet alone is $65. So our household budget gets some welcome relief and Curio City gets below-market Internet – everybody wins. Except me, of course, since that new $540 annual expense comes off my bottom line.
In the Miracles do Happen department: UPS paid my claim for a lost 2nd Day Air package. This is miraculous because I had no proof of ever putting the package into the stream, other than printing a label. Should I start a "Reasons not to hate UPS" tag with this post? Nah. Where's the fun in that?