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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, November 18, 2011

On the Third Week of Christmas, My Company Gave Me...

Three giveaways/Two gorgeous days/And a big rusty pail of fail.

I wrote off three relics from the 2005 founding of Curio City and donated them to my wife’s art studio fundraising sale. These products were way out of step with the kind of merchandise that I eventually learned would succeed. Good riddance! I only wish her studio was a registered nonprofit so that I could take a charity deduction.

Quick numbers: This week I need to average $236/day, and the week started out very good before falling into the doldrums on Tuesday. So far I’m running at $267. The moving average that I need for the month to date is $224/day; I’m currently at $218. November began this week down $300 and ended it down $131. So I gained a bit of ground but I’m still a tad behind LY.

You might have noticed that I am merely trying to match LY now. I’ve given up on beating it. Next week brings the first of the really obscene sales targets.

I am reluctantly coming around to the view that this recession is never going to end – or rather that it really did end when economists tell us that it did, and we are now living in the new normal. I am told that this makes me a “Declinist”. Statistically, the economy has been in recovery for years. The wealthy and the big corporations are certainly prospering. But this time the rising tide is only lifting yachts while a sea of dinghies are still bailing.

When’s the last time I wrote about kicking Curio City out of the house (or “taking it to the next level”, as my wife likes to say)? I stopped thinking about Curio City’s future and went into survival mode when the depth of the Great Decline became apparent. But now experts are saying that the job market won’t return to normal until the second half of 2014. It might never recover entirely for the lower classes, so I need to start thinking about how I can cope with that.

Of course, if I knew how to increase sales in a declining economy I’d already be doing it. But I’ll figure something out. That’s what I’ve done since the beginning: Figure stuff out. 


On this week’s Tuesday in 2010, a big Switchables return wiped out most of the day’s sales. It looked like an easy day to gain some ground this year…until (you guessed it) a big, unauthorized Panther Vision cap  return showed up. I was so pissed that I flirted with invoking my published policy of refusing unauthorized returns. Shoppers who buy “on spec” are a pain in the ass and a blight on the bottom line, so I don’t want any repeat business from this lady. I’d have been within my rights to keep the merchandise and her money…but that undoubtedly would have created a bigger headache than it was worth. So I took the path of least resistance. The $17 that she paid in two-way shipping costs is consolation enough.

Ordinarily the Outlook new-message chime makes me happy; yesterday it was just annoying. The six sales that came in are below average for this stage of Christmas. I also had to authorize another $55 return, had someone ask for a large charitable contribution, got the usual spam, and received a bitchy email from a would-be customer who couldn’t figure out how to use the shipping calculator (“Why is it impossible for me to find out your shipping cost?  I'm very wary of shipping chgs and cannot get an answer about your's”). Yeah…it’s a big secret. I know that it’s bad form to badmouth customers…but, coming at the end of a lousy day, that extraneous apostrophe sent me over the edge. And since she never did buy anything she’s not a customer anyway, and my integrity is intact.


  1. I would at least in part blame your check out for lower sales ( and i dont mean in general, i mean every season). I tried placing an order last week, and i had 2 items and already filled all the info for shipping and have accessed pay pal. I think i had old account since i ordered few times before from the site, but i didnt remember the log in, so i just decided to re register.

    Btw, even though you accept pay pal, it doesn't automatically adds address on pay pays file. I had to retype my addresses after i filled out my info with pay pal, even though thats exactly why i use pay pal, so i dont have to type address. As i filled out all this information, i decided to add few more items. After i added few more items, i tried to log in into the "new" account, and it told me i have re fill out all the information again. And it didnt even remember log in This was as i had to go for meeting. It took me 30 min to make choice and etc. It was exercise in frustration, as someone who does a lot of online usability research and implementation your check out is losing you customers every day. Pay pal should have updated my shipping info, but it didn't, my information should have been memorized when i decided to look for other items. But it wasn't. I would really look into re doing and simplifying check out before anything else.

    To end story i needed those items very soon, and after 30 min of looking for items and entering info , when it asked me to reenter all the info again while i was already late for a meeting, i never was able to finish that order. I needed it for a birthday gifts, and few days later when i finally got around again to think about gift, it was too late to order and get it delivered.

  2. Matrix, I'm sorry to hear about your frustration. PayPal integration works reliably when people follow the expected path, but it doesn't cope so well when they back up and then return. In some rare (and unreproducible) instances, it enters a feedback loop that prevents checkout entirely.

    The address behavior that you explained is actually a consequence of a prior bug fix: It used to be that when Sunshop defaulted to your PayPal info, it overrode any changes that you had made to the shipping address in our interface, which meant that customers could only ever use their PayPal shipping address. Their customized address would display on screen when they checked out, but it didn't make it onto my packing list.

    Checkout, and navigation in general, are only as good as the Sunshop cart. Overhauling it would mean one of three options: (1) Switching to another commercial cart (e.g. Zen Cart), which would have a different set of unknown shortcomings, create a learning curve, and be disruptive without necessarily being an overall improvement; (2) paying my developer to rewrite the Sunshop checkout process, which would be a major undertaking and dramatically complicate future version upgrades; or (3) move from commercial shopping carts to a custom cart built from the ground up...which would be obscenely expensive to create and maintain (probably more than my annual sales).

    So I am locked into Sunshop. The good news is that Turnkey is working on a completely new version for probable release in 2012. I opened Curio City in 2005 on Sunshop 3. I upgraded to Sunshop 4 around 2007, and I'm still running that version. So Sunshop 5 is going to be a big deal.

    As far as having to reenter your account info after creating an account...that's probably because your new account wasn't created. When you use the Quick Checkout the account isn't stored until you complete your order.

    Anyway, thanks for your feedback. I'll post the Paypal integration complaint to the Sunshop 5 development forum.


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