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.
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Friday, May 29, 2015

Back to the Sea of Red

Sales were tracking LY very closely until business died over the Memorial Day weekend and recovered too slowly to save the month, racking up a $600 shortfall just this week (I'll reduce that by $100 in the next day and a half if normality holds up). If it were up to me I'd abolish all holidays except Christmas, St Patricks Day, Independence Day and Halloween. What's the point of a holiday that doesn't trick people into buying unnecessary stuff?  

I did prevent a minor disaster from blossoming into a major one by deflecting a $300 return. 

Total income: -15.8%
Total COGS: -6.8%
Payroll: -4.9%
Marketing: -2.4%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -122.5% (-$447)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$82

Year to Date

Total income: -7.1%
Total COGS: -2.8%
Payroll: -3.3%
Marketing: -3.1%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -7.4% (-$60)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$872

June is ordinarily a sleepy month with easy targets. Not this June. Large orders for 6-LED caps and Bald Eagle kites pumped LY way over normal, so I'm going to lose more ground unless something comparable materializes. Another golf ball shopper teased me with a $500 sale this week and hasn't formally snatched it away yet. The last three or four trolls that came my way all fell through so I'm about due to score a hit.

Friday, May 22, 2015

PayPal Is Trying to Kill Me Again

After surviving PayPal's last attempt on my life, their email entitled " ACTION MAY BE REQUIRED: Important merchant integration upgrade information" doesn't worry me as much as it probably should. It says:

"Because these changes are technical in nature, we advise that you consult with your partner, website vendor, or individuals responsible for your PayPal integration. They will be able to identify what, if any, changes are needed. If you do not have a technology team, we recommend you find one, and we can work with them"

In other words, don't even try to understand this. Gobbledygook about SSL certificates follows. So I'm forced into supplication again. I have to figure out who can help me before I can determine if I need help or not. Since I buy my SSL cert from my web host, I started with a post in their forums. No response. I made the same post to a message board with a lot of IT people; no response. Apparently everybody else is about as interested in this as I am. I'll have to deploy bigger guns next week.   

As long as people are trying to kill me...GoDaddy is terminating the free web hosting that they gave me in exchange for buying my URLs through them for the past 10 years, according to an email entitled " Action required: Migrate your free hosting to Plesk". They're shutting down the old server and offering one free year on the new one, after which normal rates will apply. It's not worth the bother of moving or trying to remember to cancel after a year. If you want to see a 10-year-old amateur placeholder website before it disappears forever, go to www.krakenenterprises.com.

I hope they don't kill the associated email address, too. I've been using it for 10 years. I'll cope if they do, but I'll miss it.


A major flurry of Dove kite sales tipped me off that Christians are about to celebrate another holiday. Turns out that most sects observe "Pentecost," from the Greek word for "50th day." They believe that seven weeks after Easter the Holy Ghost caused some shenanigans that inspired the disciple Peter to give his first sermon, and "the church" began. The Holy Ghost is often portrayed as a dove, hence the kite sales. It is also commonly called the Holy Spirit now, probably because children are afraid of ghosts, holy or otherwise.  


My back is 95% recovered and full operations are restored. No doctor was needed.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Still Crippled

This week I wanted to wish my customers into the cornfield because my back is still so messed up that I can scarcely walk, let alone work. They were undeterred. One potential customer dangled a $1,200 golf ball sale in front of me for a couple of days before backpedaling. He might still come through, but it's probably just another false alarm.

Back pain becomes fair fodder for a blog post when it affects my business for weeks (and, what's worse, makes me lose a week of perfect gardening days). Earlier this week I felt better and thought that exercise might do me some good, so I finished my weeding (actually hoeing, since I can't bend over). That was too ambitious; I re-injured myself and set my recovery back by at least a week. 

When I was 20 years old I jumped from a sand dune in Charlevoix and landed stiff-legged on the beach, unconsciously expecting it to be soft and fluffy like snow. Of course, sand is more like concrete. I messed up my sacroiliac and had to be carried from the field. I didn't have insurance and I didn't want to inconvenience my friends, plus I was young and invulnerable, so I never saw a doctor. The old sacroiliac has failed in a major way at least half a dozen times in the decades since then.

I assume that's what happened, although I'm not completely sure. Heat, ibuprofen, and stretching help a little, so that's probably muscle pain. I'm going to have to see my doctor if I'm not mobile again by Monday. I don't like doctors; doctors are for sick people and they cost money. Maybe he can refer me to physical therapy or acupuncture or cortisone shots or a heavy-duty anti-inflammatory or a back brace or medical marijuana or something. 

Now I must try to get dressed so that I can attend to my chores -- go ahead, try to put on socks without bending at the waist and see how long that takes you. But the orders must go out. It's not like I can call in sick.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Backbreaking Labor

My wife expects to work all her life, right through "retirement," and we share an unspoken assumption that I will do the same because she believes that work is noble for its own sake. Curio City might have failed as a career, but it seems like an indefinitely suitable retirement project.

Anne's work is sitting at a desk and typing. My work is a little more physical. It only gets strenuous at Christmastime, but it is always relentless -- the orders must go out, the stock must come in, and it has to go up and down stairs to do so. 

I threw my back out again this week for the umpteenth time since I originally injured it 38 years ago. I'm muddling through, as I always do; what choice do I have? But it reminds me that the day when "I'm getting too old for this" turns into "I AM too old for this" might come sooner than expected and without warning. 

I'm one of those rare and lucky individuals whose income will rise when I can draw Social Security. I worked real jobs and made real money for 30+ years. And because Anne outearns me by an order of magnitude, my spousal benefit will be substantial even if Curio City has ruined my individual benefit. I just need to get through another eight and a half years. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Hello Costumer! It's April Numbers Time

April would have easily topped the 2010 record if any of the large-order inquiries that I've been narrating for the past several posts had panned out. Instead, it sailed past LY for the #2 spot. With a day and a half left to go I'm within striking distance of plan and even showing a very rare profit in a non-Christmas month. The odds that another $100 will make this the best April ever are looking good.  

The usual school vacation week die-back didn't disappoint at disappointing and Google's mobilegeddon made me nervous for a few days, even though my site passed their mobile-friendly check (see why Curio City bought me a smartphone last year?). But the best week of the year-to-date easily made up for that lousy one. 


Total income: +17.1%
Total COGS: +20.0%
Payroll: +50.8%
Marketing: -43.8%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +124.7% (+$758)
Actual Profit/Loss: +$150

Year to Date

Total income: -6.2%
Total COGS: -3.4%
Payroll: -2.8%
Marketing: -3.2%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: +22% (+$258)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$918

I finally paid off my Mastercard balance with a few days to spare. Now if I can squirrel away my CPA's fee I'll finally be in the clear just in time for the summer die-off.

April had a statistical leg up on its competition. Dividing each month into full Sunday-through-Saturday weeks gives me good week-to-week comparisons in Excel at the expense of monthly matchups. Most months have 28 days (four full weeks). A few pork up to 35 days. Those five-week months drift with the calendar from year to year. This April stole March 29-31 and May 1-2 to flesh out its partial first and last weeks. Next year, March will poach April's first few days to fill out its last week and steal the five-week crown.

Repairing formulas and links after I cut a week from one month and paste it into another is a pain in the ass, but the resulting weekly snapshots are more useful to me than monthly comparisons. I use QuickBooks for the numbers that get reported here.

May's targets are intimidating. I need to average more than $1,000 per week to turn in another black month (April averaged $850). Dropshipped kites drive Spring business, meaning that my Mastercard bill rises in lockstep with revenue, so it's not all kittens and unicorns.    


My favorite phishing attempt this week was supposedly from Amazon:

Hello Costumer,

We detect unusual activity on your account so that we disable your account temporarily for security of your account and to avoid fraud is often the case , to recover your account entirely please confirm for sure that this is true you .

You know what's sad? If they sent 100,000 copies of that linguistic disaster, two or three "costumers" will undoubtedly click the link. The illiterate prey on the stupid.

Oh, and last week's post about spam drew a comment from a spambot. I'll admit that I chuckled.

Somebody tried to call me five times on Wednesday and four times on Thursday, without ever leaving a message. That's either a salesman or a lunatic; either way, there's zero chance that I'll answer that number.

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