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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Confessions of a Baby Boutique Owner- Part 3

Some of my readers and customers have been asking- "when are you opening your store???" I was so gung-ho a few months back. I had the perfect place picked out, I had been working with the SBA for a small biz loan, heck- I even had the design layout of my store all mapped out! But then reality hit. My SBA loan was turned down. No biggie- I knew how hard it was to obtain one and I have other financing options. Then I discovered how prohibitively expensive childcare is here in California. Whoa!-that was eye opening. My son is newly 5 so he is still in preschool. Putting 2 kids in daycare, plus paying the high rent fees California demands put the brakes on my dream (temporarily, I hope). I must say how flattered and thankful I was that one of my loyal customers offered to be an angel investor. Like I have said in previous posts, I really do have the best customers! Thank you for believing in me. I have my brick and mortar store dream on the back burner for now....

Turning the tables to other topics- I have had some incredibly frustrating and disappointing problems with fellow vendors. If you have read my philosophy, you know I believe in supporting other work at home moms. I really try to feature as many as I can. Most like me have a similar work ethic- Answer emails/fulfill orders promptly, keep in contact and communicate delays and most importantly- DO AS YOU SAY. If you tell me you have shipped my customer's order, I trust that YOU have. It has now happened with several of my drop ship vendors. They tell me they have shipped something, I receive the tracking # and then a few weeks later, my customer calls to say they have not received their order. HUH? In one case, the order was left in a car forgotten and another said "oops, I sent that tracking # by mistake- I still have yet to fulfill your order". Sorry, but this is completely unacceptable to me. Come on ladies, you are running a business here. This lack of professionalism will be the downfall of your company. The vendor who left my package in her car- I no longer sell her products. It may sound harsh, but this was not her first incident. Sadly, her products were popular with my customer, but I could no longer let my customer service suffer by her lack of professionalism. How about this one? I placed a order with an etsy seller (she stated on her website that she welcomed wholesale orders) so I assumed she had a plan in place to fulfill them. After 3 months of not hearing from her, I emailed her asking about my order. She had "sick kids, she was so busy and exhausted, blah, blah, blah....". She said my order would ship soon. I was patient and courteous with her, even though I was a bit miffed to see new designs on her site and quite a bit of recent feedback from customers who had purchased from her. Another month passed, I nicely asked her about my order. No response. I emailed her once again telling her I was going to file a claim with paypal (I had paid half of my order already). Immediately, I received a refund and an email that she was just "too busy". Why did it have to get to that point? Why did SHE not contact me and tell me she could not fulfill my order? Why- because so many have dollar signs in their eyes. She had already been paid half so there was no true incentive to fulfill my order. The sordid stroy continues... Right when this happened, a customer purchased one of her outfits from my site. I had not taken it down yet. After everything that happened, I asked if she could at least make this one outfit for me. Maybe I could get her to throw in free shipping or something for all the problems ( I know I offer things to my customer when there have been problems. She did agree to make the outfit, but she then raised the agreed upon price! When I balked at that, she gave me a snippy reply that she was now basically working for $10 to make me this $50 outfit. After everything that happened, I just still cannot believe how rudely she treated me. Another important note: treat your wholesale customers just as nicely as your regular customers. I think some feel because their wholesale customers are receiving a discount, they can get by with rude and unprofessional behavior. You will see in time and if you look closely at your sales how important those wholesale accounts are. Ever been to a trade show? Companies are bending over backwards to get their line in as many boutiques as possible. How did it end? Etsy seller wants to know if I want to have a drop ship account with her? No thank you. I cannot teach you integrity. You either have it or you do not. I could go on and on with similar incidents, but I think you get my drift. It is a big reason I do not drop ship, unless is it necessary in order to offer personalization or more patterns. I have also become very wary about taking on any new unestablished designers. It is very easy to get excited about a new venture without thinking about how you are going to handle things when you get busy. You really need a plan for how you are going to run your business long term, not just the here and now. It all goes back to having a strong business plan and having something called integrity. I am continually astounded by the lack of it in this industry (more of that to come in future posts). The only way these issues will improve is for us retailers to open up a dialogue on what truly goes on in this business. What is your horror story?

13 comments:

GrayEyedScorpio said...

Amen. When customers can't rely on a business to provide the service or product they've purchased, zero confidence, repeat business, and referrals will result.

Catherine said...

Wow - wow - wow. I can't think of much else to say. Talk about unprofessional and ungrateful on the part of those sellers. I can't even believe those stories...and their responses to you! Wow.

cuddlyquilts said...

Yikes, you couldn't have been any more patient. How frustrating!

outofthepinksky said...

That's just inexcusable. I was taught to honor my word. What else do we have?

ButterflyDesign said...

I am so sorry this happened to you. Bad sellers, especially Etsy sellers, make many good sellers look bad. The "I'm tired" excuse does not cut it, fill the order and get the job done.

Auntie Dis said...

SO WELL SAID! You have no idea how many times I've wanted to say things along the same vein....Kudos to you! I think that too many people take their 'work at home businesses' as hobbies.

Jessica Ziel said...

Interesting. All of my wholesale relationships have been very positive. I don't have many of them--mostly because I'm very small and only can accept a few. I don't do dropshipping--a lot of reasons, but it just isn't my thing. I've had excellent communication with one wholeseller, but another one is very spotty, timelines always change--I know you think it wouldn't be a big deal, but on my end, I have to carve out time to make a big order, so when I'm told, "Perfect I'll get you my order by Monday." It results in me having to rearrange my whole schedule of items, and put my personal shop items on hold. Just a quick heads up email to let me know it wasn't going as planned would be lovely :)

I guess it goes both ways, responsiblity on both ends.

ABreathOfFrenchAir said...

That's terrible! I had almost the same situation...wondering if it's the same seller?

BundleBaby.etsy.com said...

I hate to hear that you had such an awful experience with an Etsy seller. She does sound like a piece of work for sure. I hope that you won't let that keep you from trying again. I know there are so many of us on Etsy who want to create and sell a quality product with our number one priority being great Customer Service. :) This is certainly a wake up call for those who don't have the time to run their "business".

jennifer said...

In response to bundlebaby, I love etsy! I buy from various vendors all the time. All have been great experiences, except for this one. I certainly do not meant to single out etsy. This is just a widespread problem with vendors in general. I have probably 100+ wholesale accounts and 98% are professional and great to work with. BUT, I am busy running my store, fulfilling orders, etc. and do not have time to chase down my orders. I AM very understanding and flexible and gave this particular seller many chances. I was always pleasant and courteous to her and I am still stunned by how it all ended up. I just ask that sellers communicate- if you have a delay- just tell us. I should not have to repeatedly email for a response. It just looked terrible that she was doing all these other designs for customers, yet never communicated with me regarding my 4 month old. While I will not buy from her again, I will continue to be a faithful etsy fan order.

BundleBaby.etsy.com said...

Jennifer - I completely agree with you and am glad to hear that didn't sour you completely on Etsy sellers. :)

Lotta said...

It's a shame those sellers spoiled it for you!

Dallas said...

I'm sorry you have had poopy vendors! At least some are good ones. ;)