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, June 24, 2016


In case you didn't guess from the 486 blog posts that have piled up over the past 10 years of Fridays, I'm a creature of habit. Skipping a post, as I did last Friday, might disturb habitual readers who are as compulsive as I am. I've said just about everything that I can say about Curio City in those 486 posts, so I'm trying to be more relaxed during the summer doldrums. If nothing happens during a week, I won't post about nothing happening.

This happened: My first order of 24 Create-a-birds sold out in two weeks. I'd like to think that the next 24 will go just as quickly...but a single order for 20 kites distorted the first batch. I noticed that Jackite is finally back in stock on Falcons, but since I only noticed that when I was receiving my most recent stock order, I shouldn't bring them back in until my credit card statement period resets on the third. "Shouldn't" isn't the same as "won't", though, and I'll probably wind up placing another order before the holiday weekend.

How's that whole paying-off-debt thing going? I still Can't...Stop...Spending. I should have spent $1,100 or less on merchandise this month just to hold my ground. I've already spent $1,850 and vendors keep tempting me with extra-discount and free-freight offers. My debt has shifted from Mastercard to the zero-interest Amex now, but it rose from $5,500 to $7,000 during the transition. Shocked by seeing me carry a balance for the first time ever, the enablers at Amex raised my credit limit to $20,300. Part of me is tempted to spend it all and go out in a blaze of glorious red ink. 

I shouldn't need to order anything except kites until September or October. I'll probably be okay if I can whittle the debt to $5,000 or less by then. And my workload is light while my hoarding money is my primary goal, so that's kind of nice. 

And yet...the vendor who supplies most of my Christmasy items is running a special until next Thursday: An $800 order gets me 10% off, and $1,200 adds free freight. On one hand, an $800 order would only add $80 to my bottom line (and only if I sell the entire order) and the $1,200 level would increase profits by about $175; I'd have to store the stuff for five months before it starts to trickle out; and I really REALLY need to reduce my debt. OTOH, I'm going to buy that stuff anyway; it won't be billed until August 30 (Net 60 terms); the vendor will sell out of some items by the time I would normally order in October; I have idle time on my hands now; and Amex has zero interest until January. Gods help me, it's hard to resist when the Other Hand holds so many good cards.  


Speaking of not stopping: I whacked my 387 active Constant Contact addresses down to 157 who have opened at least one newsletter since February. I exported those "good" addresses and rang up customer service to close my account and save $21.25 per month. First they offered me half price for 12 months. Then they warned me that Mailchimp has no customer service at all...well, in nine years I've been with Constant Contact, today was the first time I ever contacted them, so that's not exactly a big concern. They also claimed that Mailchimp requires a two-step confirmation process for new contacts that makes it very hard to grown one's list (Constant Contact just requires me to tick a box verifying that people opted in). That could be a dealbreaker if it's true. So Constant Contact offered me one free month to see if Mailchimp is going to work out. If it doesn't, I can call them by Aug. 1 to claim the half-price offer.

I need to set up a Mailchimp account and produce one newsletter during July to see how that works. July is just about the worst month of the year to test a marketing tool, but I'm evaluating functionality, not results. Free forever is better than half price for a year if it works as expected. 

Email marketing broke when Sunshop removed the newsletter signup dialog from their responsive templates, making it next to impossible to recruit new subscribers. My mailing list only ever gets smaller as old addresses go invalid. I have approached my programmer about fixing that later this summer.       

Friday, June 10, 2016

O No, Canada

This week brought an email inquiry about six dozen (unspecified) lighted caps -- a nice juicy $1,200 sale, even at my deepest discounted price. That kind of thing catapults a month from ordinary to record-breaking; just a few of them would turn a losing year into a winner. Only a fraction of these bulk requests ever pan out, though, and this didn't look like one for the win column.

Strike One: The shopper asked about embroidering, which I obviously don't do (although I did consider it years ago, during the heyday of lighted caps). Strike Two: I only keep a dozen of any given color in stock at a time, so I'd need to special order them. Strike Three: The shopper was from Canada, and I foolishly warned him about import duties. Canada only exempts $20 from tariffs (most of the world lets you import $1,000 or more duty-free) and large orders never escape the tax man. Even if he avoided Customs by having his order delivered in the US, he would have to declare them at the border, and Canada would soaked him there for a couple hundred bucks.

He went quiet after that. I can't blame him. A better salesman than I would have kept quiet about tariffs and just closed the deal.   

Truth is, I hate shipping to Canada. I like Canada. I've been to Canada many times. My wife's father was of Canadian extraction. But over the years I've had more complaints from Canadians than from any other non-US customers, and they usually involved tariffs (like there's anything I can do about those; take it up with your government. One customer asked me to lie about the value of an order, but that's kind of illegal). "What about NAFTA?" you ask. That pertains to B2B commerce. Canada does not want its citizens to shop in the US.


I've pared my Bing Ads spend down to just a few bucks a week, but since that handful of clicks delivers no sales whatsoever I'm going to suspend it entirely after Fathers Day. I feel like I have enough data on my Shopping campaign now to reactivate it successfully for Christmas. Google "Product Listing Ads" outperform my regular campaigns dramatically and I'd hoped for a similar result at Bing -- they use the same product feed file, after all. Nope. Bing is worthless for advertising.

On my personal PC, Microsoft keeps trying to bribe me to use Bing with some loyalty program called Bing Rewards, which I judged too complicated to bother with. It might be worthwhile if one has the patience to game it -- I buy my clothes at Bob's Store because their prices are great if one plays the coupon/discount/rebate angles. But that's tedious. I do it when I'm buying something expensive and tangible like clothing; I don't want to think about it when I'm consulting a search engine. I might change my mind if I thought I was leaving money on the table, but as far as I can tell it only pays off in discounts toward buying selected crap, and I never buy anything I don't need.     

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