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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, October 02, 2015

My Brush with Trumpworld

Before we get down to the grim business of business numbers, let me tell you about my brush with Donald Trump's world.

An ordinarily month brings one or two sales to Canada, England, or Australia. Last Sunday I got an order from France, and then one from Mexico soon after. France is a bit unusual, but Mexico might be unprecedented. They both looked normal enough so I packed them up and addressed them.

A few hours later my new amigo placed two more orders (probably right after he got the USPS shipping label email). None of them were large enough to raise suspicions, but together they added up to downright weirdness. It turned out that this muchacho had paid with three different cards without entering CVV numbers for any of them. That tripped all of my red flags so I fired off a polite email requesting an explanation. I didn't expect an answer because (a) he's most likely a thief (and a rapist and a drug smuggler, if Trump is right), (b) he might not speak English, and (c) his gmail address might be fake. 

While I was still fretting over what to do about that, a Canadian order came over the transom. Five foreign sales from three customers in one day? Both the French and the Canadian customers paid with PayPal. Credit card fraud is very much a thing, but PayPal fraud really isn't. 

After much digging I finally unearthed PayPal's security settings ("My Account/Profile/My Selling Tools/Getting Paid and Managing My Risk") and changed them from their wide-open defaults to strict filtering. I wish I'd found these a year ago and I wish they'd defaulted to the secure options, but I've been lucky until now. The strict new settings will undoubtedly trip up some honest customers and cost me a sale now and then; indeed, they blocked two transactions on the first day before I eased back. I recovered one of those and lost the other permanently. 

If my thief hadn't quickly followed his first suspicious order with two more, I'd surely have shipped it and lost both the money and the merchandise, and incurred a chargeback fee for good measure. If his follow-up orders had come in more discreetly I probably would have shipped those, too. As it is, I had to refund $150 worth of fraudulent charges, but all I lost was 90 cents in PayPal fees. Now, if this fellow was merely validating a list of stolen numbers preparatory to reselling them, he didn't care if he received my merchandise or not...but I don't think he's what you'd call a criminal mastermind.    


Remember when I said that September was my big catch-up opportunity? Yeah...about that. The two worst weeks of the year came back-to-back this month (along with my smallest paycheck, like, ever). Ordinarily I should do somewhere around $100 a day, or $1,400 for those weeks. Actual sales were $435. This week hasn't been much better. 

Last year I blamed September's decline on my site makeover. This year, my vacation shutdown is the most obvious suspect. Even though I was only actually "closed" for three days -- and my store was never actually offline -- I'm pretty sure that Google punishes one for suspending one's advertising. It typically takes a week or two for my July vacation business to bounce back to normal, too.

It's possible that September has turned into a piss-poor month all on its own. September '14 was the weakest month of that year, and the worst September since 2008. September '15 will be this year's nadir and fell to 2007 levels.
Without further agonizing, here they are. Read 'em and weep. 


Total income: -30.7%
Total COGS: -32.3%
Payroll: -26.1%
Marketing: +0.3%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -195.3% (-$500)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$244

Year to Date

Total income: -9.6%
Total COGS: -7.2%
Payroll: -8.1%
Marketing: -6.8%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -54.1% (-$763)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$2,171

I wonder if I should follow Trump's example and declare bankruptcy. He turned out to be right about Mexicans, after all.

What might have turned September into the year's graveyard? I don't think it's September's fault, per se. It comes on the heels of a summer of neglect; with very little money coming in and no new products coming out, I just coast on bird kites for several months. There's nothing in the pipeline when those sales sputter out. That prevents me from bringing in holiday items just as people are starting to shop for Christmas (and yes, they definitely are). I can't responsibly start placing Christmas orders until my November statement period begins on Oct. 13. And that's already a month too late. 

OK, well, the year's low point is out of the way and Q4 is here, ready or not. Last October was the worst since 2007. One would think that this month's target should be low-hanging fruit...but I said that about September, too, didn't I? Tightening security and making it a little harder to check out looks like a pretty stupid move in this sea of red but I'd rather go broke from lack of business than from theft.

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