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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Sunday, May 29, 2016

May Numbers: MOTS

Statistically this was the worst May since 2010 and the 5th-worst (or 6th-best) ever. It felt like a better month than the numbers make it out to be; I certainly worked more than I would have liked to do. But Excel says I came up $313 short where Quickbooks reports a gap of nearly $900. I don't have the patience to figure out the discrepancy. Excel feels truer but Quickbooks is official, and so these are its numbers:


Total income: -19.8%
Total COGS: -23%
Payroll: -12%
Marketing: +2.5%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -426.1% (-$411)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$315


Total income: -17.2%
Total COGS: -17.3%
Payroll: -19.6%
Marketing: +3.2%
Net Income (Profit) vs LY: -153.1% (-$1,329)
Actual Profit/Loss: -$2,198

Cost of Goods Sold fell by more than total income did but I can't seem to knock advertising back any further than I've already done. This would be a good month to quit Constant Contact, if I can find the time to clean up and export the mailing list. I put a lot of time into gardening last week and I ain't done yet. 

Believe it or not, the Create-a-Bird is actually back after being out of stock for at least two years. I've sold nearly 600 of those to date; it will move the needle a little if it picks right up where it left off. The falcon kite is in production and should be abundant again in a few weeks. Those Create-a-birds made me cough up a few hundred more bucks that I don't actually have, and Jackite still aren't saying anything to me about eagles.

June ushers in the summer doldrums that won't lift until November. An optimist might say that this is an opportunity to regain some lost ground versus LY. At least, I think that's the kind of thing optimists say.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Jackite unofficially came into some Falcon kites, so I grabbed some of those while the grabbing was good. The bills for my wave of Pentecostal Dove kite dropships are coming due. Souvenirs.nyc, my partner in selling Metal Earth models, decided to stock a small selection in their new showroom; I had to order those (and of course I added a few new ones to my selection while I was at it). Two customers cleaned out 36 of the 48 Switchables fixtures that should have lasted me for months; I can't very well run out of my #3 all-time bestseller, so that's another reorder. Switchables will release a batch of new designs at the end of the month, so I'm going to need another order. Golf balls stirred feebly after a long hibernation; I need to reorder a few of the most popular designs. Panther Vision just introduced a new camouflage pattern; even though lighted caps have died off to almost nothing, and AFAIK it's not hunting season anywhere, a new Panther design is still a must-have (and, believe it or not, I'm still selling enough beanies to need a reorder soon). Intuit just cut the price of QuickBooks Pro 2016 from $200 to $90 (with the backup CD, or $80 for download-only version with no ability to reinstall) due to a security hole that doesn't affect me because I don't store credit card info; I need to upgrade anyway and that's too good a price to pass up. 

A few hundred bucks here, a couple hundred there...before you know it, I've added another thousand bucks to my debt, and still my appetite is not satisfied.

Most of that debt came from buying way too much advertising last December, and the rest of it is from Metal Earth orders. My dropship arrangement with souvenirs.nyc has borne scant fruit, but I am gradually expanding my selection anyway with next Christmas in mind. Every time circumstances compel me to reorder, I bring in a few new models despite knowing that I'll sit on them for the next six months. Buying Christmas stuff now is not the smartest move. But if I'm going to enjoy a big payoff in November I need to lay the groundwork during these slow months. 

By making just the minimum payment on my Amex bill this month, I expect to retire $2,000 of my $3,900 Mastercard balance. It's really just whack-a-mole as my Amex balance has already shot over $3,500, but at least shifting the debt to the zero-interest card will save me $75 a month. That's a start.

The good news is that it's time to put in my vegetable garden, so I'll be neglecting Curio City for the next couple of weeks.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Dumb and Dumber

Around the beginning of April I started getting scam letters from people who hope I'm dumb enough to pay them anywhere from $389 to over $1,000 to renew my trademark, which involves verifying an online form and sending the government $400. My favorite was from someone who "only" wanted $250 to send me the relevant paperwork...which, as I said, is just a web form. Obviously, I know better than to pay anyone for that. But I really do owe the government $400 to retain ownership of "Curio City." What I don't know is when the government needs its money. I filed for the trademark in March or April of 2006. The filing was published on Sept. 26, 2006, and registered on May 29, 2007. So which is the 10-year anniversary deadline?

I posed that question to the USPTO on April 7. The recipient of that email dodged answering and linked me to a different office, to whom I forwarded the same simple question. On May 11, the Trademark Assistance Center finally sent me an unsigned reply. As you might have guessed, I waited a month for an email that details the filing process without specifying the deadline that I asked them for. Thanks, Obama!

One of the scam letters says that the "start of filing period" was May 29 of this year, and the actual deadline is May 29 of next year, which is the actual 10-year registration anniversary. I can pay up within that year-long window. I'd have liked to hear that directly from the government, but it's the best answer I'm going to get.   

Speaking of thieves...PayPal finally snatched back $196 plus a $20 chargeback fee for last month's fraudulent charge. Since I got my merchandise back, the actual loss was "only" $20 to PayPal plus $15.68 to UPS for outbound freight plus $23.68 for return freight = $59.36; UPS was the big winner. The actual thief got bupkis. For accuracy's sake, I ought to debit the "return" from this week's sales and reduce my next paycheck accordingly...but, screw it.

Speaking of dumb...I think I mis-shipped a package. I got the customer's name and email address wrong so it won't surprise me if I screwed up her street address, too. Her small order is heading for the loss column since I'll either have to refund her purchase or reship it at my expense. Poor sound quality is just one more reason to hate telephone orders. Here's a pro tip: Not only is ordering online faster and more secure...it's also more accurate than using the phone because you're not depending on some old man trying to understand a crappy speaker. There's a reason that the game of miscommunication is called "Telephone."

Friday, May 06, 2016

When Doves Fly

The story this week was dove kites. Many Christians will celebrate Pentecost on May 15. The sect that I was raised in didn't observe that holiday and it isn't noted on my calendar, so Pentecost sneaks up on me. This year I decided to read up on what all the fuss is about.

The Internet says that it's a big deal in "liturgical churches," meaning those based on Catholic rituals. Originally a Jewish holiday of thanksgiving held 50 days after Passover (says the Internet), the Christians believe that 40 days after Easter the Holy Spirit descended to earth to possess the disciple Peter and his followers, literally inspiring the Christian church. Largely ignored in North America, Pentecost is a major feast day in traditional Old World sects, second in significance only to Easter and ahead of Christmas. Although that descent was in the form of possession, the Bible assigns the form of a dove to the invisible Spirit on some other occasions. So there: You learned something. 

What's important is that churches buy lots of doves -- more, even, than they buy for Easter. Before I figured out the Pentecost explanation, I thought Prince's death might have sold some kites since he had used them in his 2006 Superbowl halftime performance -- presumably a lot of Prince fans were watching video of that last week. Prince and football are less obscure than Pentecost to most Americans...but I have zero evidence for a Prince connection.

On the downside, most of those dove sales were dropships, meaning that I had to buy the merchandise. The resulting revenue won't reduce my debt by a whole lot more than buying the kites increased it. But if it's all about cash flow, as I keep saying, a lot of cash flowed this week.

Apart from that, this was the week before Mothers Day. I didn't market to that at all and have no reason to believe that it drove any sales.  

It's almost time to give up on Bing ads again. Assuming that their tracking code is working -- it says that it is, but I'm skeptical -- I spent $74 there last month with no conversions. Since then I've paused everything except my new "shopping campaign." Those few clicks cost me less than $1 per day, but it hasn't recorded a single sale yet. If it doesn't show some results in the next couple of weeks I'll bag that, too.    


That $250 chargeback hanging over my bank account delayed Monday's payday until I could raise enough money to pay myself on Wednesday. Thanks, thief! I wish PayPal would just take my money away and get it over with. I hate unresolved conflict. 

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