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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 06, 2015

Locking Down Christmas

It's officially time to start panicking over my slumbering Metal Earth models. Just because I'm compulsive about such things, I'm going to keep a running tally. Complete sell-through would bring in $3,400; realistically, earning just $1 more than I spent on them will be a win. Amount spent: $1,833. Total sales: $0. 

I spent a week creating all the new product pages. Then I updated my Google Shopping product feed so that they'll appear wherever Google Shopping stuff appears. Then I raised my pay-per-click bids on Google and increased my daily spending limit from $35 to $41 (compared to $15-20/day during the summer). Then I whomped up an email newsletter and updated my mailing list. The newsletter ships tonight. 

Then I discovered that my template was resizing the main image on each product page to thumbnail size. Crap! Well, tiny pictures could explain a lot. Dimly recalling a forum post complaining about Sunshop's image resizing feature, I backed up all 3,833 of my image files before running it for the first time because I didn't relish re-uploading 50+ images one-by-one. The backup took so long that I decided to do it manually after all rather than run the risk of using that Sunshop tool. Then I discovered that one of the old pages that I had cloned for a template still had giftwrapping options...so I had to manually delete all of those. And with that, another full day was lost to Metal Earth. 

All of my Christmas merchandise is here now (although it's not all on display yet) save one order from the vendor that I put off until last. I won't name them because Google sees all and public criticism has come back to bite me before. This vendor was once one of my biggest suppliers, and dealing with them was always a struggle. They take orders through an independent sales rep who was always indifferent to my tiny account and usually screwed up my orders. More often than not the company would then screw up the billing or packing and I'd have to go through the incompetent sales rep to fix it. Then there's their products: They've discontinued most of the successful ones. Over the years they have moved more and more to prepack assortments. You cannot order a dozen black widgets; you must take four black, four red, four green, and four blue widgets -- if you want the successful variant you have to take the unpopular ones with it. Since I already have enough unpopular stuff in the cellar, I've been buying less from them each year. 

Having put that headache off as long as possible, I tried to bypass the sales rep (who never bothered to contact me) and order direct this year. After all, the company sends daily special-offer emails; they must want orders, right? Well, not through their website. I found an annoying Flash version of their catalog online (they stopped mailing me paper catalogs a year or two ago) but their order form is nowhere to be found. They ignored my email to the address in their promo emails. My second attempt got forwarded internally twice by people who didn't want to handle it before someone finally sent me an Excel stock list, which I promptly filled out and emailed back. Finally they sent my little order to the damned sales rep, who called me for my credit card information. :eyeroll: After hearing nothing for several days, I emailed for a status update. After a couple more of days of silence I got a reply saying that their end-of-month inventory had backed up shipping and the order will go out this week. Yesterday, their shipping department called for my credit card information, which the sales rep had screwed up. I haven't received shipping confirmation and still don't know if my order's on its way from Rhode Island (just an hour's drive away) or not. Assuming they don't charge my credit card for an order that's never forthcoming, I am done wrestling with this company. Their stuff just isn't that important.

Google says this company has just 11 employees. I either dealt with or was spurned by five of them. I'd punt them to the curb if some of their products weren't proven holiday hits. Not that they'd notice or care....

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