The second major theme of unhappiness in stamping--as represented by your answers to my sleepy-time question--is the business of stamping. Here are your major complaints:
- having to shop online or through consultants (presumably a preference for brick-and-mortar stores that are struggling now)
- cost of shipping/free shipping requirements
- design team members pushing product too hard on their blogs
- retired product
- off-season promotion
Let's face it. There's a lot to annoy us in our less-than-ideal world, but the realities of capitalism are the price we pay for the rich, abundant selection we enjoy in our hobby. Mostly, our complaints with businesses are minor, little niggling things we can shrug off with just a little effort. Other times, we get more emotional about them (oh, the passionate attacks on shipping costs I've read at SCS!!!), and occasionally there is a truly serious problem that crops up. Our complaints--large and small--are certainly valid, but it can be helpful to take a step back, look at the big picture, and refocus.
Here are a few ways to reframe the business of stamping that might help with some issues.
1. Accept that you're not in control. If you really need that new Hero Arts stamp that's not available at stores near you, or you want that new SU set, you may not have a choice. You may HAVE to go online or contact a consultant to get what you want. Ask for a vendor or consultant referral at Splitcoast or on your blog (people love to share their happy stories and warn you of vendors to avoid). A quick google search can show you if a vendor has issues. Then order, say a prayer, and hope. Focus on the end result. You're getting what you want.
You might even get a pleasant surprise. There are some extremely good online vendors, and you can shop in your jammies at midnight if you like!
If you're worried about credit card safety, ask your bank if they have a free secondary checking account with a debit card you can use just for online transactions. Keep only what you need in that account. If the card number gets stolen, damage can be limited. I did this years ago when I first started buying online. Now, my regular credit card has fraud protection, so I don't worry about it. Much.
2. Shop your local stores as often as you can. If you want small local businesses to stay in business, support them whenever possible. Ask if they special order supplies they don't stock; they often will! Accept that you'll probably pay a little more for the product since you're not benefiting from a volume discount provided by big box stores or large online vendors, but consider the trade-off in shipping costs as a bonus.
3. Shipping is a necessary evil...nothing is really free, including "free" shipping. Combining orders with friends can get you free shipping at some vendors, as can waiting to make several large orders a year rather than lots of small orders. That sort of planning and waiting might be annoying but will save you money.
I used to chase free shipping but gave it up about two years ago. I'll order a single stamp or set without batting an eye now, and pay whatever the shipping costs. Fact is, I try not to look too closely at it because it still makes me cringe to think I paid $12 for an $8 stamp. But that's so much more affordable than spending $60 for an $8 stamp plus $52 of stuff I don't need anyway.
Partly, it's easier to digest a few extra dollars of expense because I buy less these days and I'm well within my comfort zone with my budget. If you've been in this hobby for ten years, as I have, you've probably got a huge stash. I sure do, and I'm not afraid to use it!
And think about this: one of the biggest complaints about our hobby is feeling overwhelmed by too much product. Buying less product is one very good solution to that problem!
If your stash is small and your budget so limited that shipping really is a barrier and not just an annoyance, please read Part 3 of this series. I will have some words to say about your situation.
4. A blogger's gonna do what a blogger's gonna do. When someone starts a blog, she/he has free rein to do whatever with it. I've stopped following a number of blogs for a number of different reasons...even occasionally because the blogger started pushing a company whose product I found uninspiring. It's a little sad when I enjoyed the blog before, but I respect that blogger's right to do whatever she/he wants to do.
Unless that blogger is Joan B or Sue B, in which case I fall on the floor and pitch a fit that alarms my dog. When they walked away from their crafting blogs, it almost drove me to drink. Joan at least had the common courtesy to start another delightful blog. @Sue, I'm still waiting, girlfriend! And how sad was it when Jennifer Styles up and got a job instead of working on her blog and the One-Layer Wednesday Challenge? So, so sad!
But, my desire to follow certain people is NOT more important than their freedom to do what they want or need to do personally, creatively, or financially. I might mourn a bit, but I wish them well in their endeavors and life, and I move on as I need to move on. Remember, there are thousands of papercrafting blogs on the interwebs. Go fishing, and I bet you'll find new surprises to inspire you!
5. When a product retires, I let it go. Used to be, I'd stalk the SU retirement list and place a big order immediately of all the retiring sets on my wish list (or as many as I could afford). After a few years, I discovered that I actually regretted most of those purchases. Now, I ignore the retirement list and just wait for the new catalog.
If you've been stamping for while, you've probably noticed that things have a way of trending out and then back again. Just because it's not available now doesn't mean the new release won't have something similar (perhaps better!). If not, well, there's always new stuff to look at...that's the biggest advantage that capitalism gives our hobby: lots of choices!
Consultants for companies have it harder. When retirement lists come out and a consultant loses half her stock, that's tough to take no matter how you frame it.
6. Off-season promotion is sometimes necessary. Companies need to promote Valentine's Day sets in December so people have a chance to order early enough to use them for mailing in February. In December, pushing Christmas sets is sort of a waste of time and money...people have mostly bought what they need for the year.
If you find a company pushing stuff way too early for your pleasure (say, Valentine's Day before Halloween, for instance), send them an email or just stop buying from them.
I have started looking at this a little differently since I started sending cards to Operation Write Home. If I were making St. Patrick's Day cards (which I don't), I'd have to make them now to meet the deadline for shipping. Since there's not much lag time between when I make a card and when it gets posted on the blog, y'all might see cards for events that are still a few months away.
Also, I make 200+ Christmas cards every year, so I start in March or April, and post as I make them. Some people like seeing Christmas in April (it reminds them to get going on their own Christmas stash!), and others don't like it at all. I can't please everyone, so I'm gonna please myself. So to speak.
7. Communication is always an option. Any time a company does something you don't like, send an email of complaint to get it off your chest and perhaps do some good. (You can also send emails of thanks when they get it right!) All good companies take letters of complaint very seriously. They know if you took the time to type angrily at them, plenty of other customers feel the same but are just walking silently away. If you still don't get satisfaction, sharing your negative experience on an internet forum or your blog may at least help you feel better. Definitely avoid bashing individuals or companies unfairly just because you're angry. That could get you into trouble.
You may, of course, communicate with bloggers who make you unhappy, but please be very, very careful when doing so. You have no idea what is going on with that person, what demons she's wrestling, either creatively or in her personal life. I know several bloggers who have been deeply hurt by critical comments (even when the comments may have been good-intentioned). I've received a few comments that were hard to shake off, and I'm pretty thick-skinned.
Keep in mind that bloggers generally don't get paid for blogging (you're sure not paying to read them), and they don't actually owe you anything. If you do feel the need to complain about something, please be kind. Consider the good example set by kegbo recently. Her request that I bring Labels back to Simplicity was very polite and respectful, letting me know that she missed them and used them frequently. Thank you, kegbo. I'm thinking about it.
8. It is what it is. A friend of mine uses this sentence in all sorts of life situations. So much of what bothers us is outside our control, and such is the case with how companies run their businesses and how bloggers blog and what products we have available at any given time. When something upsets you, acknowledge that feeling and then step back. Ask yourself how important the issue really is in the grand scheme and what you can do about it. If the answers are "not very" and "not much," whine to a sympathetic ear to get it out of your system, and then let it go. It is what it is.
If it is important (a company ripped you off, a blogger did something you can't forgive, a shipping company lost your package), then you should act in your best interests.
Please share in the comments your own tips for moving past those stamping industry issues that bother you.