Thursday, January 20, 2011

bizarreness of strangers

hi! I’m new here, joined a couple months back, but I admit I have been lagging in really digging in and revamping my store, which was salvaged from the ruins of that other site which shall remain nameless despite its cloven feet.
But I just have to say that so far I have only had 3 or 4 customers just off the old transferred listings, 2 of them canceled, and other than the one I brought here from said other site, the ones I found here have been off-the-wall bizarre.
I’m sure it’s not a site-wide thing. I’m sure it’s just me and my quasi-dysfunctional relationship with Murphy’s Law (is that good or bad? quasi… hmmm….)
Just this evening someone contacted me about this chair, which I nearly gave up on & sent to auction, after pulling it out of consignment of another shop whose owner turned out to be strange and manipulative. Gee, now that I say all of this, maybe there’s some kind of karmic crud that spilled down between the cushions of this particular chair at some point. You folks know what I’m talkin about right? did you ever have that one item that just seemed to attract all of the worst luck strangeness in the business? that one white elephant that trips you when you’re not looking every time? the unexpected fly-paper type of oddity-breeding no-sale stock that just hangs around forever just for the odd ducks to flock over to your little corner? does anyone want a peanut?
(just checking, good you’re still awake)
So this guy e-mails me, wants to know if I will reduce the price by nearly half- about 45% off. So like I said, bad feelings attached, long time no sale, history, headin to auction to rid myself of this albatross anyhow. Of course I said, sure that price would be acceptable, and to please let me know the most comfortable way to proceed and where to ship.
He e-mails me back wanting to know about shipping options and cost. I send him all the possible options, including the least expensive, the most convenient, as well as combined options that save cost if he wants to buy multiple pieces. He’s not that far away- only a couple hours, which is superb when dealing furniture! So here I think I’m golden, it’s in the bag, but of course I’m sayin to myself no whammy no whammy no whammy….
So you know there’s a whammy in this story somewhere, right?
Dang, I think I gave too much away just there…. he e-mails back and says he doesn’t understand the price since he shipped a 60-inch TV to Texas for $35. (yes, this is the bizarre part, it just started, where are you going? you don’t need popcorn, it’s too short for that it’s a miniseries, sit back down it’s finally getting good…)
So this threw me for a loop. I didn’t want to make him feel dumb for comparing a wingchair to a television, or a shipment between PA-MD to one from MD-TX, and with the nearly-half price reduction in the back of my mind. So I politely suggested that maybe that had to do with another seller, or if not I wasn’t sure what the connection was since I don’t sell TVs, and it’s obviously quite different from a wingchair, but that I had given him the best and most economical rates possible, explaining why and how, but that if he wanted to ship it the same way as his television he’s more than welcome to, but to keep in mind that his shipping company will charge much more than what I quoted him.
I put all of this slightly in a joking and friendly light, figuring I was being personable while using the humor to get to the point lightly but quickly. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Like for example, if you’re selling a vase & I say, how much is it to ship a goose?
and then to be kind you ignore my stupid faux pa about ignoring the fact that you actually sell pottery, figuring there’s some crock-pot connection in there somewhere, and you say well that depends on whether or not your goose is cooked! no seriously, the feathers must add a couple lbs, and fedex just increased the rates. You realize a cooked goose has no head or guts or feet, but then you have the water displacement of the broth, and anyhow you’d be much more financially secure sticking to a bouillabaisse. And we still don’t know if the delivery address is residential or commercial. Of course you follow all of this up with a nice little well-punctuated smiley  :)
so everyone knows you’re making light of the situation.
I don’t know, it made sense to me. I mean, I didn’t actually bring up dead foul with him- that’s just an example- but to joke with a smiley  :)  At least this is a more light-hearted way to approach a strange response to a shipping quote without seeming overbearing and correcting someone in a demeaning manner, and it tends to reinforce your surprise and good faith nature at their question after having given them so many great pricing incentives already. Are you with me rubber chicks?
I’ve done very well with this approach in the past. But this chair… oh excuse me, I mean ‘this time’ the guy got all bent out of shape. See I thought I was more or less commiserating with him by agreeing that 35 bucks was so extremely cheap and such a great price, so I congratulated him on his shipment, of course assuming that he must have some kind of corporate sponsorship account with a massive discount to be able to ship something 5-feet long across 3/4 of the country for 300 bucks less than UPS’s list price. I mean after all, that IS super duper fantastic. What does that have to do with delivering a wingchair from PA to MD? I kept thinking. Silly shipper, Trix are for kids!
And then I got to the meat of it- I used my own 27 inch TV as an example and used the UPS rate calculator to see what in fact the rates are from MD to TX, and I quoted it back to him- not to challenge him in any way, but rather to say, wow, do you realize how much you saved? that’s really amazing! Good for you! Rock on! Twilight forever! or whatever the kids say these days… I really meant it that way, but you can imagine by now that’s not how it went down.
So he e-mails me back this one-paragraph note about how he just could not fathom how I could bring this up and ‘question his honesty’. When did I question his honesty? I assumed what he told me was right, and out of sheer shock (and my knowledge of the shipping industry) showed him the enormity of his unwitting frugality. Maybe that sounds snarky here, but in context I was genuinely excited for him and diplomatic about it, and plus I figured it would reinforce what he should have expected the rates to be. I mean, who can argue with copy & paste from the website of the same shipping company he’s quoting for his TV? and using my own smaller TV as an example? I don’t think that speaks to dishonesty. I was on his side. To get a 3-day shipment from east coast to Texas of a huge piece of fragile electronics for 35 bucks? Heck, I was routin for him!! go bears! that’s probably the wrong state, but I’m not much of a sports fan as you may have guessed.
so now what?! I rationalize. I apologize for offending him, first, but then I explain that I was actually being supportive of his fine and extraordinary luck, so much so that I had to actually show him how much luck, approximately $300 worth of fantasy-island-landing delivery luck. A 27 inch TV from Baltimore to Houston quotes for 3-day service at around $370 (ground service was $163). he says he got it for 35 bucks tops at a UPS counter. What do you say to that? I’m not going to bark back at him that’s bull. So I figure instead, tell him Rock the Price narly!!
After clarifying this to him comes the next rationalization- that maybe he’s actually feeling guilty. It got so weird I stopped believing he ever had any interest in the chair to begin with. Maybe this person is looking for frames of reference. In context of my experience with that chair, that notion fits quite comfy. Why not call a spade a spade?
I think he knew about the shipping of the TV, but I wasn’t going to say anything about that. But since he brought it up, it seems like he’s trying to convince himself of his own honesty. Why would that be? Probably because he knows at least subconsciously the UPS store undercharged him by 300 bucks, and maybe instead of shopping for old ratty wingchairs at midnight on a Monday, he should take the reason he can’t sleep back to the UPS store tomorrow and let them know he feels terrible for not saying anything when they took his 300-dollar shipment for 35 bucks, and to please rehire that poor freshman, if not for his/her job skills (or lack thereof), not for his/her [questionable] future in higher education, but as a showing of solidarity for all that is just and right in this fly-by-overnight-parcel world! yeah! rock on! who’s tearin’ up about now? i know i am…
So that’s how crazy this biz makes me, and if you actually got to the bottom of this thing, I applaud you. Now in the words of Ms. Ullman, Go home! Go home! Go home! oh wait, you probably are home…
well then… just go to bed. and stop hoggin’ the bouillabaisse.

Written by Dan Elman

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