Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Makes You Unhappy? Part 2

For Part 1 of What Makes You Unhappy?, please read THIS.

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.


  1. Such a thoughtful post! Especially considering you are responding to all our "whining"...:-)

    How I get past this stuff?? Mostly I aim for the attitude you summarized at the end of the post. How important is it in the grand scheme of things? How much control do I really have over this issue? Also, in this case I think my age helps me be more circumspect. This is, after all, a HOBBY we are talking about here. And I've lived long enough to learn ( sometimes the hard way ) that there are much more important things to get worked up over.

  2. Getting perspective is what it's all about ....
    - consider that I normally pay double the price of the product to ship to my little dot in the Indian Ocean (if my invoice is for $12, then postage is going to be at least that too - sometimes I cancel an order because the shipping can be up to 4 times the price!!)
    - and I have no Hobby Lobby, or Michaels with great specials and savings
    - lots of companies don't ship out of the country - I can't get any Stampin' Up :(
    BUT that's hardly a blip on the radar because :
    - there is too much product for me to even process these days
    - I have internet, can follow blogs (too many at the moment - not sure how I'm going to pare it down)
    - I am enormously blessed with what so much of the world doesn't even have ... running water, hot water, food on the table, roof over my head, electricity, a fridge, a car, relative peace & stability, not in a war zone, not flooded, not in drought, not on fire (see Australia) . ... (see Kristen's Perspective Adjustment)
    All my crafting is just the cherry on the top!

  3. Great post. I always look forward to your commentary (and your cards!). The internet makes it easy to get very wrapped up in the minutia (positive and not so positive) of the hobby. It has been very helpful for me to just to walk away from the hobby for a bit. Wouldn't work for everyone, but it helped me get some badly needed perspective.

    Can't wait to see your next creation!

  4. I did the same thing with the SU retired list and regretted it. I now determine ahead of time which sets I will buy if they end up on the list. The last 3 years, I haven't purchased any.

    It also helps that I am finally figuring out my style of stamping and card making. It makes me so happy when I purchase something, use it, and say to myself, "Oh, yeah, I got that right!" It makes me sick to think about all the stuff I own that I don't use.

    I don't know that I would tell a blogger that I don't like something on her blog. I have told a company that their commercial was inappropriate and offensive. I must not have been the only one because they pulled the commercial and apologized.

    Thanks for sharing your insights...

  5. Putting things in perspective is always best. But thanks for giving us the opportunity to vent a little among other cardmakers. ;-)

  6. Well that certainly put a lot of things into perspective for me once again. Sometimes we get off track and it is so nice that someone nudges us gently back.

  7. Great post as always. Another thing with me is when I have an issue I try to vent constructively and then I leave it. I know I was one that posted about frustration of having to need a consultant for an order. I still haven't ordered. I probably will, but I just want to find the right consultant rather than a random one - cue random consultant listing! LOL! and when all else fails we have to laugh!

  8. Yes, Kristen, laughter is the best medicine! But sometimes it takes us a while to get there, especially when we're frustrated. I totally understand your annoyance with having to contact a consultant. Feels artificial when you do have to go looking for one when all you want is a stinkin' stamp set!

  9. Thanks for the illuminating post, Susan. I concur.

  10. Well said! I'd say the only thing on your list that really bothers me is high shipping costs but that is in my control using the methods you mentioned. As for the other stuff, I just remember that this ia a hobby and supposed to be FUN. Parts that aren't fun or parts that are hard, I disregard because I have enough hard stuff in my life. Thanks for you time and your perspective. Cheers!

  11. Hi Susan,

    Somehow I missed Part 1 and am anxious to read and catch up on this discussion, but this morning we lost our dear cat Rocky who has been such a wonderful, loving pet. So, I know since you, too, are an animal lover you'll understand if I don't get back to this discussion for a while when I'm not looking through tears.

  12. Oh, Colorado Crafter!!! I'm so sorry for your loss. Big hugs to you and your whole family. BIG hugs.

  13. Thank you so much Susan. For some reason this is hitting me so much harder than I expected so I am somewhat of a basket case. He was just the sweetest cat and had been ill so we knew it was coming, but it doesn't make it any easier. Even though his name (Rocky) wasn't after the movie character he had been quite the little fighter through his illness and had stayed with us over a year longer than the vet expected when she first diagnosed him. We will miss him so very much.

  14. Great post! I'm with you entirely. So much of this is out of our control, so, what choice do we have but to go with it? We can be bitter or better. That's it. Regarding the bloggers doing what they're going to do, I accept it, but when they start (almost exclusively) promoting stuff that I don't identify with, I feel like I've lost a friend. I know, that's on me. I do eventually get over it, but I miss them. I, like you, am so glad that Joan started her other blog. She's one of those "friends" that I really don't want to walk away from.

  15. I actually like shopping on line--so that does not make me unhappy. LOL We do not have any stamping stores in my area. Only the big retailers that have very limited and boring stock. And, most of that is made in China---now that makes me unhappy. Fun posts, Susan!!

  16. Could you come to my stamp club and tell that this is just a hobby and supposed to be fun? Oh. My. Gawd.

    Loved your insightful post. You hit the nail on the head with the retired list bit. I used to quickly buy what was going away and then found out I didn't really care much for what I got (if I had really really liked it I would have bought it already!).

    I'm also a fairly new consultant that that retiring list thing is brutal, but bearable. I'll definitely have to think outside my comfort zone.

  17. I love your insights into this hobby Susan. I do most of my shopping online because there are no stores nearby to visit. One thing that I do now when I see something that I immediately want to buy: I add it to my on-line Pin Board (I use Clipix and all my boards are private so only I can see them - this was before Pinterest had that function enabled). This action stops me from impulse buying and has saved me alot of money because often I find that when I go back and look at the item again, I have changed my mind and no longer want it.

    Oh, and not sweating the small stuff. Being a full-time carer for a loved one diagnosed with a life-threatening illness last February, refocused my perspective. Suddenly things that I thought were important, in reality were just a waste of precious time - time that you can't get back.

    I have noticed in the past year that a number of my favourite bloggers have moved onto other things. Nobody wants to do the same thing forever and far be it for me to try and stifle their creativity or yearning to do something other than cardmaking. I would hate someone to do that to me! I am grateful that their artwork was part of my growth as an artist. I say "thank you" and move on.

    Looking forward to Part 3 Susan. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.


  18. Thank you for your words - I thoroughly enjoyed them as I have enjoyed reading your blog for quite a while now. Thanks for letting me be inspired by your creativity and for voicing your opinion in sucha nice way. It´s a pleasure visiting your blog!

    Greetings, Christine

  19. Such a wonderful response to all the points on our list of frustrations. I learned a long time ago to pick and choose blogs I found satisfying, companies that had great customer service and product (I will even pay more for these)and produce interesting posts that fulfill whatever I might be looking for. I also recognize that I am reading THEIR blog which is written with THEIR best interests and perspectives in mind. It's as simple as not continuing to read a blog if I find it irritating to my oh-so-refined sensibilities. Yuk yuk. The one thing that I won't tolerate in a blog is piss-poor or non-existent proofreading, horrendous grammatical errors and misspelling throughout. A few here and there are sort of acceptable, but if my blood pressure is raised I don't go back. Hence...I'm always back to your blog for more. I don't let too much linger and bug me if I can answer "No" to this question that I ask myself over and over, day after day: "Did anyone die?" If the answer is "no," I just let it go.

  20. Very insightful and timely post for me...thank you so much, Susan!


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