Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Holiday Rush

Well, the "holiday rush" is over. As you can imagine, the demand for expensive fine writing instruments is "selective" at best, so the holiday rush mostly consisted of me "rushing" to the post office to get some packages sent off before the post office shut down for an undetermined period (see the "Sally Field" update from Oct. 22 below). But actually sales have picked up quite nicely lately, and not just from gift-givers. More than one client indicated their order was for themselves and not a stocking stuffer. And orders kept coming in right up to Christmas Eve, well outside my Holiday shipping window (again, damn you Sally Field).
                So that either means my marketing is working or people have no idea how the space/time continuum works. Let's hope it's the former. My Taiwan order went out, but haven't heard from the client yet. Keeping my fingers crossed. The address had both English and Chinese on it, so I'm counting on it finding its way there. The Spain shipment has been gone for a while with no word either. That's disconcerting.  Most clients contact me right away when their packages arrive, so I can't keep visions of it falling off an ox cart on a dirt road in Azerbaijan out of my head.
                Speaking of which, I'd love to hear from my clients. If you're the proud owner of a Hope & Grace Pens product, I'd love to hang a picture of you using your fine writing instrument (or keychain or business card holder or coin rack, etc.) here on the blog and on my stores. And to give you some incentive to send those pictures, let me offer a 10% discount to anyone who sends pictures in from now until the end of January 2013. That discount will be cumulative, by the way, so if you have additional discounts to use, I'll add them together (like the one on Military.com or maybe mentioned in a note in your package, ahem). ** The image must be of the product owner using the product, hopefully with a smile but a chagrinned "WTF" look might get a laugh too.
                Send those images to me at HopeAndGracePens(at)gmail.com, and let me know what you'd like to order and I'll arrange the discount. It's important you contact me via e-mail before placing your order so I don't have to issue refunds. Trust me, you don't want me doing math.
                Happy New Year!

** Someone just pointed out to me the folly of my logic. That's 10% off no matter how many pictures you send. No, if you send 11 pictures I'm not sending you a pen and $10. Nice try.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

International man of mystery

So I spend more time than I'd like in chat rooms and reading articles on running an online side business. One of them (by and for Japanese sellers) highly encouraged international shipping. They pretty much had me convinced to open up to international sales. But then I read another thread with horror stories about shipping and claims and lost packages and insurance, yada yada yada, that had me convinced otherwise.
                Well, sometimes I learn best by liberal strikes to the face with a two by four. We shall see. So I peppered my online shops with "WE NOW SHIP INTERNATIONALLY!!!" and waited for the mayhem to begin. It was inevitable then when a client contacted me, saying "I don't see anything on your website that says if you ship internationally. Do you?" Cut to an aside of me breaking the fourth wall by staring at the camera.
                Did you know it's actually cheaper to send a package to Spain from Iwakuni than it is in the States? Well, with visions of packages and envelopes in a wooden cart being pulled by a nose-ringed cebu through a rice paddy somewhere between Cambodia and Kazakhstan then languishing on the floor of a Spanish post office while some guy with a pencil mustache sexually harasses his female co-workers during the two hours of his daily shift, I intrepidly packed up my first international order and took it to the post office.
                I had carefully chosen a plastic bubble-wrap envelope for this order, not knowing what elements it would be exposed to, only to realize that the address I had painstakingly written on the plastic smudged with the slightest provocation. Cut to a montage of me covering the envelope in sticker labels and then wrapping it in layers of clear tape.
                So now I'm officially an international seller. The cool part? The DAY I shipped that off, someone contacted me to have a pen stylus custom-made for themselves in Taiwan. Awesome. Now I get to repeat that exercise, this time with Chinese writing on the envelope!
                I want to know! What different or unusual things happen in your work, hobby or interest? Comment below. Check out my current inventory at http://www.articents.com/HopeAndGracePens

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Call of the Dinosaur

So in the summer of 2010 I made my wife cry by blowing up on her. She kept suggesting I get a kindle e-book reader, which were on sale at the time. And subconsciously resisting being dragged into the digital age, I had had enough.
                  "I like the feel of a book in my hands!" I shouted (among other things, which started the waterworks). Needless to say, she was right. My kindle arrived in the mail while I was deployed on ship and it didn't take long for me to fall in love with it. She had pre-loaded some books onto it, and it never left my side through Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan and several points between. Today it's my "security Kindle" and goes everywhere I do, keeping my mind gainfully employed in many a lobby and waiting area.
                  Last year she wanted the touch-screen "Kindle Fire."
                  "Humbug!" thought I. "Next she'll want an iPod."
                  Funny, an iTouch magically appeared in the house a few months later. Now remember that she's even more CDO than I am, which is really saying something. CDO is "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," but with the letters in alphabetical order the way they ought to be (thank you, meme!). How in the world will either of us operate a touch-screen device without spending 90% of our time wiping fingerprints off the screen?
                  Ok, so next she wanted a stylus, which was right up my alley. Now we're talking, I thought. So I made her a pen/stylus combo from a beautiful piece of swirly blue acrylic she ordered. PITA to work with, but got the job done. Now I'm going to have to figure out what design to use for my own stylus. I'm reluctant to admit the words "Kindle Fire" appear on my Christmas list...

                  What changes do you resist? And is your resistance good or bad for you in the long run? I want to know! Post your comments below.