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, September 04, 2015
Fear of Flying
Last September I upgraded my website and started the Christmas season on its journey down the toilet. That creates an opportunity to blow away LY's anemic numbers for the all-important Q4, starting right now.
Bird kite sales are my be-all and end-all from spring until now. Summer is pay-as-you-go for kites, with everything else dribbling out too slowly to replace. Come fall, my old standby Panther Vision caps, Switchables, and golf balls miraculously rise from the dead just as kite sales tank, so now I need to quickly replace all of that stuff that dribbled. At the same time, I need to start bulking up for Christmas.
I need a lot of cash in September and October to do that. If sales crash now like they did last year, I'll be crippled for the rest of the year. I've already run up a big credit card bill replacing most of those dribblers. I'll start laying in Christmas as soon as my credit card statement period rolls over on the 13th.
But there's an obstacle: My first-ever September vacation begins next Tuesday (meaning no blog post next Friday, btw). This is an obligation, not a choice.
Over the past 10 years I've fine-tuned a July vacation routine: Shut down my advertising, post a delayed-shipping warning on my news page, make a vacation-delay banner for the front page, and insert the warning into the order acknowledgment email. I take my laptop to the Berkshires with me and monitor business daily. Sales usually fall by 50-75% but those customers who do come through know what to expect.
I'm reluctant to do the full shutdown routine next week, when the stakes are so much higher. I'm going to post the usual warnings but keep running my ads. That means I'll inevitably pay to lure some customers who'll bounce away when they see the delay notifications. Worse, some will order because they didn't read the warnings (shoppers -- especially those on mobile devices -- are terrible about reading), then get pissed off and cancel. But I'll only be gone for six days rather than the traditional 10, and I only need to keep the warnings up from Tuesday through Thursday.
The other big problem is mostly in my head: I'm reluctant to haul my laptop along with me. During July vacation it goes from my desk to my car's trunk to our cabin. Next week's trip is far more nomadic. I'm especially stressed out about my first airplane ride in 11 years because I know that travel conditions have deteriorated significantly in that time. Having my computer damaged or (worse) stolen would be a disaster; Jungle Disk backs up my key files automatically, but I honestly don't know how to recover them from a different computer.
Instinct tells me to leave the computer home -- I'm not likely to have any gaming time, and it seems like a huge hassle just to babysit Curio City. I can access the Admin interface and perform limited functions from my smartphone with some difficulty. I haven't figured out how to snag my email yet. On my laptop, Outlook vacuums up six accounts and dumps them into one inbox every 15 minutes. Trying to set up the mailboxes on my phone just returns a "failed to connect to server" error message with no helpful details. If I can solve that, then the only thing I really can't do is change the warning banner...so if I don't post that to begin with, I could conceivably manage my business from my phone.
I haven't been without a computer for more than a day or two in at least 20 years, so the separation anxiety of leaving it behind is as frightening as the danger of lugging it through airports. If I can solve the email challenge, though, I'll probably default to the path of least resistance and leave it home. Many young people rely on their phones exclusively, but I'm not a young person. The phone is a toy. I need a real computer. Losing or damaging my phone would be an expensive inconvenience, but I don't need it for anything except, you know, phone calls.
I still don't know what I'm going to do. It depends on whether or not I can solve the email problem.
I'm old enough to remember when flying was a pleasant experience...but that's a whole other subject. Nowadays there's nothing more stressful than air travel.