Above and Below the Bottom Line

The parties on either side of my pocketbook are at cross purposes, me wanting to get the most value for what leaves my wallet and companies on the other side trying to extract as much as possible while protecting their bottom line. I get over a hundred emails a day with last chance, today only, buy now, hurry, hurry, hurry last chance big savings; I attempt to press delete-delete-delete faster than my eye can register and consider any of the alluring offers. There is a reason for all those emails appearing in my in-box, I can get lured in when my eyes are faster than my deleting fingers and must be on every list from here to Katmandu.

The conclusion of these impulse transactions can end happily for both parties, or they can end with the oft repeated you-get-what-you-pay for lesson. Beyond the value of saving money is the value of establishing a trusting relationship with a company. This week when I had mixed customer service experiences, it got me to thinking about the good will that I carry forward from a positive experience and how important that good will is for encouraging future transactions. It is surprising how little it can take to engender that good will. I am naming names, but only the names I want to remember not the names I want to forget.

I am a repeat customer with Loopy Ewe and Miss Babs. Loopy Ewe calls the people in their shipping department “elves” and it is indeed like a mini-Christmas morning when a package arrives. They, like many other merchants, have tried to save shipping costs by using plastic shipping sleeves, but the inside the purchased is securely wrapped in tissue paper and enclosed in an internal plastic bag. If peeling back the tissue does not make you feel special enough, they also enclose a little packet with red swizzled paper and Tootsie Rolls. I do not eat Tootsie Rolls but it is such a–pardon the pun–sweet touch. Miss Babs also encloses packages in tissue paper inside an internal plastic bag, including a card with a very nice stitch marker attached and sometimes some other little goodies, like a baby skein of yarn to sample. Such little things show respect for their product, care in their packaging, and a little thank you to their customers.

Another well known yarn vendor recently sent a skein of sock yarn tossed unwrapped into a shipping sleeve. The bag arrived torn and the yarn subjected to the grit and grime of the shipping journey. I could have, and perhaps should have, asked for a prepaid shipping label and an exchange, but it is time and trouble for me to drive 10 miles to a UPS facility and an expense for them to process a return and new shipment. I examined the yarn and it seemed okay, but I did write to their customer service to report the problem and to suggest that they do more to protect their products for the journey. I got an email back saying they would let their shipping department know and, in fairness, did say to contact them if I discovered that the yarn was wonky when I started using it. A few weeks later I ordered from them again, white silk merino lace weight. It too was tossed into the shipping bag unwrapped and unprotected. Do I write them again or just not shop with them in future? Their customers probably should not be asking themselves these kind of questions.

I purchased a few Signature Needle Arts fixed circulars when they first came out, and loved them, but the early cords were inflexible and stiff in comparison to their later models. When adding to my collection, someone contacted me to say I already had a cord in that size. I wrote back to thank her–having forgotten that cord was on a time-out project–and while I was at it asked about the possibility of replacing the old cords on my early adopted needles. She sent me a pre-paid shipping label and instructions for me to return them. They did not replace the cord on the old needles but completely replaced the needles and cords with the latest interchangeable option, arriving in lovely tissue wrapped storage sleeves. I loved my Stilettos before this, now I have the highest regard for the company too.

Craftsy offers classes, kits, and supplies in all levels of splurge to budget options, with many sales to boot. They have recently added their own line of yarn, Cloudborn Fibers, which I was curious to try as a low cost alternative to some of the finer and more costly fibers from name brand companies. One of the specials was a on-sale-now sweater Kit using their Highland DK yarn and I thought, why not? I have satisfactorily purchased other Cloudborn yarns that were quite nice so it was with little contemplation that I hit the buy button. When it arrived, the yarn felt harsh to my hands and, worse, my hands felt a bit itchy as I handled it. The thought of knitting an entire sweater with a yarn that felt uncomfortable was too much to consider, sale price or no. Thinking I would have a hefty restocking charge, I initiated a return request. Not only did I get a nice personal note in response but a prepaid return shipping label as well. It was such a feel-good moment that I knew I would have no hesitation to shop with them in the future. What a relief, when expecting the worst, it was no problem whatsoever. This came on the heels of a less positive experience with an online shoe vender that publicized free shipping and exchanges but failed to mention that they charged for returns. To get the “free” exchange I was required to purchase an exchange item at the current day’s no-longer-on-sale price and would not receive credit for the original purchase until they received and processed the returned item. One return they will never receive is me as a customer.

It is by no means a single vendor, made up of so many retailers and crafts people, but for the most part I have had wonderful experiences on Etsy. Particularly for handmade items, I have found the crafts people to really be proud of their handmade stitch markers, hand-dyed and/or spun yarns, knitting bags, needle cases, quilts, and such. They generally seem to be so happy that someone shows their appreciation of their crafts enough to purchase from them and email exchanges are often warm and friendly. Although I rely on ratings as a guideline, I have had far more really positive experiences than indifferent ones on Etsy.

Bag from FrontRangeBags, stitch markers from WineMakersSister, and needle case from Quincepie on Etsy


It is a leap of faith to buy a product unseen, save for a picture on a monitor, from a shop I have never visited and whose staff I have never met. But it occurred to me how little things can make me feel valued and give me confidence that care is given to their products. Although it would be easy to write a very l…o…n…g post about the bad experiences I have had with various companies, I wanted to take a moment to be thankful for the those that, by dong just a little, make it a positive experience for both sides of the equation.