Making Crafty Magic

A Few Cautionary Tales

I was just swapping consignment horror stories with a friend this morning and I decided that maybe it’s time I shared mine. I wanted it to not sting as much before I went and said something publicly, for fear I’d say too much, but the burn is never going to go away. Let’s just ease into this with a brief lesson on retail and some definitions. Besides selling at events or online, there are a few ways people can get their crafts into the clutching hands of the masses:

1. Wholesale–This is when the crafter sells their product(s) to a retail store owner (aka the wholesaler) at a 50% discount off the retail price. Then the retail store owner marks up the product(s) by 50% (or whatever they wish). The retail store owner usually pays the crafter for the products upfront so this is usually a desirable scenario for the crafter. The only downfall being that they only make 50% of their potential retail sales. That’s why it’s always best to cultivate those personal sales and vending opportunities.

2. Space Rental–This seems to be rare but this is the deal I had at The Treehouse and I loved it. Every four months I signed a rental agreement and was responsible for paying a set sum of money each month. This set sum of money was put towards the cost of running the store and with 30+ crafters pitching in, the system worked. At first we all paid the same amount in rent but over time it was adjusted to more accurately reflect a small percentage of each crafters sales. For example, selling five bars of soap each month at $5 each doesn’t come close to a fine artist selling a painting for $200 or a jewelry maker selling ten pairs of earrings for $35 each. (Truth be told, anywhere you go, the soaper will usually make the least because they’re selling $5 items instead of $30 t-shirts or $50 necklaces. Each crafter could sell 10 of each and there’d be a huge difference in profit. It makes me chuckle sometimes because I think a lot of folks assume I’m making bank by selling soap but that’s soooooo faaaaaar from the truth. I’d do a million times better if I just focused on selling jewelry or handbags but I’m too in love to give it up [Soap, I can’t quit you!].) So the only drawback I’ve experienced from this system is having all crafters pay equal rent. If you find yourself in that situation either get out or renegotiate.

3. Consignment–This is where my cautionary tale begins. Consignment is where a crafter places their products in a shop and waits for them to sell. Once something sells, the crafter usually gets 60% of the retail price and the shop owner gets 40%. You can see this is a better deal than the 50% with wholesaling. However, with consignment you don’t get paid until something sells whereas wholesaling you get paid right from the start and your worries are over. Usually people go for the wholesaling deal because that 10% difference is worth not having to worry about what happens to your product after it leaves you.

I very, very rarely will do consignment now and if I do it’s only in very small batches that I can stand to lose…because there’s a chance I will lose! For over a year I had my products in a soap shop in the Hudson Valley. The shop owner made her own bath and body care products but approached me about helping her fill in the gaps. For example, she didn’t make shampoo, cleaning sprays, liquid soaps, beer soaps… and she wanted to offer those products to her customers. Everything was fantastic for over a year. I was paid every month, she contacted me as soon as I was low on something, and I even made extra money by watching the store for her on occasion. I was building a great customer base out of that store.

Then things went south for her and her business when she completed an extremely large wholesale order and the buyer decided that she was going to pursue a refund through Paypal because she wasn’t in love with the fragrance. Places like Ebay, Etsy and Paypal believe that the customer is always right so they allowed the wholesaler to remove the money from her account. She made a several thousand dollar order and never got paid for it and none of it was ever returned. So let her story caution you! There is very little online protection for sellers and a ton for buyers. It’s an extremely unfair, one-sided system. Seller beware! Her story only gets worse but I won’t go there. Let’s just say that you should always be wary of large wholesale orders unless you know the person. At least send them a sample of the exact thing you’re going to make for them so if something goes wrong you’ll be able to say that they knew exactly what they were getting.

From there things began to spin out of control for her and she couldn’t keep up. To put this in time perspective, I had completely filled her store when I left for Yellowstone in May, she even had extra stock in the back. We were all square at that point. When I returned from Yellowstone in August, she was, unbeknownst to me, in the throes of all this drama. I went to visit her and the store to see if anything needed restocking AND to ask her why I hadn’t been paid since April. She told me I hadn’t been paid because nothing of mine had really sold. Humm, from April to August nothing had sold? I was onto her.

Soon after that she had lost the store and became impossible to contact. Over the next few months she became extremely slippery. Eventually, I sent her a very legalese email saying that I, in the very least, wanted my products returned to me by such and such date or I’d take her to small claims court. I even was kind enough to state that this wasn’t about the money she owed me, we could work that out at a later date–perhaps a payment plan–I just wanted my products back. She responded by saying that she’d “mail” them to me. Now, she lives just a few minutes from my house and I offered time and again to pick them up. Why spend money you don’t have to ship stuff across town? Seems kinda dumb…or devious? Calling her bluff, I said okay, but that I’d require a tracking number so that I could make sure the packages didn’t get lost. Well, I heard nothing back. Shocking!

I went to an event where I knew she was vending to confront her. (She was there with all my beer soap so at least I was able to get that back.) Right there in the middle of the farmers market she broke down while recounting what she’d been through in the last few months. I felt awful for her but told her that she had to remain in contact with me so we could get this all sorted out. At the time she thankfully agreed and was glad that I wasn’t going to pursue small claims court. Well, long story short, soon after she took the rest of my stuff and moved across the country. I still see Facebook posts on how she had a great day vending at such and such market and how she made a lot of money. What people don’t know is that she’s made a lot of money off of me and is still doing so. I wish I could reveal her but she is sooooo litigious that I can see her suing me for harassment or defamation so I don’t want to go there.

I hope by telling this story you don’t make the same mistake I did. In hindsight, I should have pulled out of the store when I returned in August. As soon as I saw that ship was sinking, I should have bailed. I wish I could say that having a contract with her would have made a difference, but I know that she’d have just as easily broken it. At least maybe this will save someone else. It was my first retail experience and it definitely was a lesson and luckily I’m wiser for it.

Uncategorized

Perspective

2012-05-07 13.24.41 It’s been a little while since I’ve posted so I thought I would check in.  As of today, I’m a free agent when it comes to work– which is a completely scary thought. This past Sunday, I was lifting one of my patients (who is heavier than me–dumb idea, right?) and I literally burst the blood vessels in my head. Throughout the day, this turned into the mother of all migraines and I knew I should probably consider a trip to the hospital.  I tried to contact my supervisor to tell her of my situation but she never takes her phone with her and/or never answers so I knew I had to stick it out because Alzheimer’s patients aren’t safe to leave alone. So I put the needs of my patients first and worked through the pain for a grand total of 14 hours. This is not the first time that this has happened to me in this job. Usually the migraines are from not stopping to eat or properly hydrate but sadly, I have burst blood vessels in my head before because of lifting beyond my capacity. My supervisor (actually her husband) showed up four hours late to relieve me and found me a complete mess. By the time he got home, I could barely open my eyes and I was on the verge of vomiting. The pain was beyond comprehension. Eventually, I made it home, took two Aleve (my saving grace) and went to sleep with the complete joy of knowing I had to do it all again the next day. Monday comes and my head is still killing me, of course. I go to work and tell my supervisor what happened so she does the lifting for me that morning. The only problem is that she puts the patient on her couch without a pee-pad under her so she of course wets the couch. This becomes my fault because I should have been able to know when she was going to pee and lift her to get her changed. So I ended the day on Monday knowing that I had to choose between my health or my job.

To make matters very much worse, on my drive home from work I see a very fresh accident up ahead. There are about five fire trucks (presumably because it happened about a mile from a fire station) on the side of the road, no ambulance or police yet, and some people have pulled off. I keep waiting for someone to either direct me around the accident or tell me to stop but no one does. So I slowly keep on driving. I see what I think is a bumper in the road so I cautiously swerve around just a few feet from it. Then I realize that it’s not a bumper, it is, in fact, a person. I stopped my car right there next to him and froze in a complete state of shock and panic. Most of his dead body was on the left side of my car, one of his legs was on the right side of my car, his shoes were ahead of me. And my car is literally stopped on the fifteen-foot blood streak made by his head being smeared on the pavement. I couldn’t believe any of it. There were five or more first responders there and no one was managing the situation. This person’s body was just alone out in the middle of a dark, unlit, country road for someone (like me) to hit again. He wasn’t covered up, there was no one directing me around his body, there was no one there slowing me down, nothing. It felt like a complete disregard for life. I spent all day yesterday in bed basically. I just felt so lost. This morning, I finally searched for the accident to see what exactly happened. He was a 19-year old boy riding his bicycle. That’s all they know. It barely made the news.

2012-05-07 13.24.29It can all be taken away from us so fast and yet we live our lives like it’s forever. We’re one of the most intelligent species on the planet, yet we’re completely stupid. We worry too much, we’re afraid of anything that is even remotely meaningful, and we put everything off…even our happiness. What the hell are we waiting for? I just don’t understand sometimes. Clearly, I haven’t got any solid answers because I basically gave myself a brain aneurysm over a job. Once again, I must pick myself up and dust myself off and you think it would get easier but it doesn’t. And I’m not ashaimed to say that right now, I’m not okay. I AM NOT OKAY. And that is okay to say. None of us will ever be perfect so let’s stop striving for something that doesn’t exist. Sorry for such a depressing post. I promise the next one will be on the happier side. Pinky swear. Now, I’m gunna go make some lemonade out of these lemons because lemonade is freakin’ delicious!