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Friday, April 17

return to sender

Last night there was an email for me with the heading "travelocity confirmation" or some such thing and it was my son's itinerary for his visit in 2 weeks. I was beyond thrilled to see it. I had been waiting impatiently for him to tell me when he was coming. I replied with one of my usual sophisticated communications. I think it was about 15 "yay!"s signed "mama". And then I went to bed and slept like a baby..or like a Mom whose kid was coming home.

This morning, bleary-eyed, coffee mug in hand, I signed on to my email and there was a letter titled "travelocity incident" with an official looking number beside it and my heart dropped. What had happened. He wasn't coming? Aw, c'mon!

What I read sent coffee into my nose:

Email Correspondence
Response (Sharon T) 04/17/2009 12:50 AM
Dear Valued Member,
We received your e-mail, however, it appears to be meant for another party. Please re-direct your e-mail to the intended recipient.
Sharon T
Travelocity Customer Service

Apparently, Billy hadn't sent the itinerary. Travelocity had. Oops.

Well, maybe I gave a chuckle to someone plugging away in a gray cubicle somewhere. I forwarded it to my son so he could snort coffee, too. At least I hope I forwarded it to my son. I may want to recheck that.

This brought to mind an email incident that changed the course of my book arts business.

Some years ago I did what all artisans are encouraged to do. I started a web business to sell my work. I was pretty naive about e-commerce, but I had visions of cash heavy envelopes stuffing my mail slot while I went about my business in pajama pants and a t-shirt, taking many breaks for coffee and TV. *snort*

What I sold the most were wedding guest books. They were quite the deal (pricing has never been my strong suit). The pages were personalized, there was a flyleaf with their names and the date and a quote they chose. But the biggie was that I actually made paper specifically for the book cover, often using flower petals that matched their theme. I think I charged about 50 bucks for them. I was crazy.

Well, I thought I was nuts until I started working with brides and saw what nuts really looked like. But that's another post. Let me tell you about my last bride.

Well, actually brides, plural. It was my first same-sex wedding book. The women were charming and friendly. We actually had a personal exchange going in the midst of the business. They told me about their love story, the wedding, their sadness about the reluctance of their families to accept them. Emails went back and forth as we decided on colors and how the book would be personalized.

They ordered the book in the Spring for a Fall wedding and we decided I would make paper for the book with petals from Autumn flowers in shades of gold and rust and soft yellow. I told them then that I would make the paper when those flowers bloomed and that they would have the book in plenty of time. And that, I thought, was that.

The first warning came in May. When would I send the book? OK, obviously the part about needing the flowers was missed. I responded, reminding them that (as I stated romantically in my "about us" on the site) the botanicals I used were from my own garden and, therefore, seasonal.

OK, they wrote, but when would they have the book?

Now, let me pause for a moment and re-visit the wacky brides theme. I can understand how a person would want to get details just right and I know a lot of advance planning is needed for most of a wedding. But the guest book? You need that on the day of the wedding. It doesn't need to be fitted or reserved or tasted. The worst part of doing the books was the nagging via email. Where is it? Where is it? OK, I am making something just for you, using all your very specific details. The color is sort of plum but more rose with a touch of violet. Flowers on the binding but not too big or too small and in ivory not white. No ribbon please, but some satin cord...blahblahblah. Yep, get that right out for ya. Remember, I was also making the paper. Aaargh!

So, I wrote to them again. I was making the paper from Fall flowers. It was too early for Fall flowers, in fact, the only flowers blooming at that moment were daffodils. I could make pretty paper from those, but realistically, just chill, plan your wedding, I'll send the book in September. Plenty of time.

But can we get the book early?


I responded with a suggestion that since there was obviously some stress happening over the book order, it might be an idea to make different paper. Paper that could be made from botanicals available now. I could make a pretty moss paper and use Fall embellishements.

No, we want Fall flowers. We'll wait. Perfect.

June 1st..Is the book ready?

I was juggling several Summer brides about then. Measuring silk calla lilies to exactly match a bouquet, shopping for flowers that looked Hawaiian for a destination wedding, picking red flowers to make paper for a rock singer's bride who was wearing a bright red ball gown. I was getting real tired of weddings. I responded to the women that perhaps they should consider looking elsewhere for their book since it was obvious to me that I would not be able to give them what they wanted (Fall flower paper) in the time frame they needed (now).

Folks, when you intend to forward a letter, you do not hit "reply". Bride #1 wrote to Bride #2 that she thought they were being scammed, That they should have known better than to just pluck someone from the internet. They would never see their money again. Stuff like that. Stuff I was never meant to see. But I did. It was a message from the Universe. Get out of this business.

I hit "reply" and wrote that although I didn't think they meant for me to see that correspondence I was glad I did because they helped me make an important decision. I was obviously not suited to work weddings. My personality was too laid back, I could not respond to the urgency the participants felt. I needed to work in my own time frame.

What I was saying in really nice terms was "Ya know, I don't need this crap". And I didn't. I thanked them for helping me get out of a business I was just not enjoying. I told them I had already credited their charge card. I wished them well. I provided links to other guest book makers. I said there were no hard feelings.

Oh, there were follow up e-mails. Apologies. Explanations. But I was feeling free. Custom work was too much like a job, I realized. Making books in colors others wanted, decorating them in ways I would never choose and then putting my name on it. No. I posted on my site that personalized books were no longer available, uploaded some pictures of books I designed that folks could buy if they wished, finished up the last of the orders and boxed up a rainbow of silk flowers I hoped to never use again.

And then I did a happy dance.

The women wrote to me a few times. Chatty letters. They obviously felt they had hurt my feelings, but they really hadn't. They had turned a light on for me. The last letter I got said they had postponed the wedding. It was now planned for Spring. They were hoping by then to have helped their parents accept them enough to attend the ceremony. I wonder how it all turned out.

As for me, I have never looked back. I only do custom work now for friends or if I get an offer I just cannot refuse.

Now, when something comes up, like a week of son-shine, I can close the studio door and not worry. Works for me.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Wedding photography is a similar nightmare. "My Uncle Harry got a better shot of nana on his instamatic, so why are we paying you $XXX?"

Like you said - don't need that kinda crap.