Friday, 16 January 2009

Please excuse me while I rant a little

I can't claim to be a very patient or tolerant person. I'm irked by all manner of things. Anything from throwing something into the bin, with seemingly good aim, just to see it veer off of its own accord and miss, to the global injustices of governments and international corporations, can equally get my goat.

As well as selling on-line, I do a lot of buying from my desk too. I like to support small artisans such as myself where possible and also enjoy the convenience of buying supplies and household goods without necessarily needing to be dressed or washed.

But I do have some principles and selection criteria when it comes to choosing a supplier. I like good service. I like to feel that my purchase is appreciated and that I'm getting a little direct and personal attention from the staff or artisan I'm dealing with. I try and give my customers the kind of service I like to receive. On venues like Etsy, I do tend to view the profiles and policies of sellers and there are a few things that will turn me off a seller.

Some of these are personal peeves beyond the scope of this page, but some are valid business concerns. One in particular will prevent me blessing a shop with my custom - a stated policy that the seller has no responsibility for the item once it is in the post. Or that the buyer must pay for insurance on items in transit in order to protect their purchase in case of loss. Wrong. wrong, wrong, plain wrong.

Distance Selling Regulations:

Whilst on Etsy, there are many nationalities represented, I understand that this legal principle is pretty much the same in most major markets - legislation is in place to protect the consumer - and as sellers we have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure we are familiar with our obligations and meet them.

In the UK where I am, we have the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000. In the US, similar principles are upheld by the Federal Trade Commission. The basic premise under English law is that the seller has certain obligations to the buyer, on account of them being unable to inspect the goods before committing to the purchase.

The seller has to accurately describe and illustrate the item for sale, along with clearly displayed prices, taxes and salient features of the sale, including delivery options and times, payment methods and cancellation procedures etc. They are obligated to supply it, as described and illustrated, within 30 days - although this can be extended with agreed negotiation. If you are supplying substitute goods this must be agreed beforehand. If you are unable to supply the goods or services within 30 days, you are obligated to make a full refund, including post and packing charges. 'Unable to supply' also covers items lost in transit.

Sellers should not charge the customer for insurance:

In the English legislation, it very clearly specifies that the seller can not charge the buyer for insuring the items when in transit, as the seller still retains title on the goods and is responsible for them, until the buyer takes delivery of them and accepts the goods - this is 'a risk the owner of the goods should bear'.

I regularly see sellers both shirking from their responsibility for items in transit (you may have little control, but you're still responsible) and trying to foist the cost of insurance onto the buyer - and refusing to be culpable without its purchase. This is simply not appropriate. The seller is the one being offered protection by the purchase of insurance, not the consumer. You're asking them to pay again for a right the law already provides them with. You, the seller, will benefit by claiming against your insurance protection, not the buyer.

Buy insurance or take the risk?

As a seller, I decide myself - on a per order basis - how I would feel if the item went astray in transit and I had to make good to the buyer. How easily could I re-make the item and would I be prepared to, for the value of the sale? If the item is easily replaceable and the materials to hand, I probably risk it in the normal post without additional insurance. If I can't easily re-make it, or would not be comfortable doing so, I pay for my own insurance. That benefits me and makes no difference whatsoever to my customer. They will either get their goods, or a refund, as that is what the law - and my conscience - already determines they're entitled to.

The contract to transport items is between the seller and carrier:

There is a secondary issue here which often leads to misunderstanding too. When a seller sends an item off to their customer, the contract to transmit the item - through the post or other carrier - is between the seller and the carrier. The seller owns the item at this point and has paid for the carrier service - the buyer plays no part in this.

You have entrusted your item to their care and paid for that service. If the item fails to arrive, then it is the seller's duty to investigate and instigate any claim for compensation from the carrier, if appropriate, within the limits of the service purchased. This is of little consequence to the buyer - their only concern is to pay for the goods and sit patiently and wait for them to arrive.

Ignorance is no defence:

If you're selling on-line and in a position to take money from people, it is requisite to at least learn about your legal obligations to your customers. Taking an inappropriate stance may - at best - cost you business from people like me that are easily irked when feeling short-changed by a seller's inappropriate and ill-informed principles. At worst - you could find yourself with an expensive and inconvenient legal problem to overcome.

Some useful links:

UK Office of Fair Trading:
An OFT .pdf called A guide for businesses on distance selling
UK Distance Selling Regulations, full legislation:
Federal Trade Commission in the US:

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Bonus earring display stand:

I've added a new page to the original necklace display bust template/tutorial to include a smaller, freestanding display card for a single pair of earrings. As I outlined in my previous blog (7th January 2009), I have found that customers seem to like being able to pick earrings up individually, on a card or in a box, to view and I developed a smaller display card for this purpose.

The new display template has been added to the original necklace bust template and this has been replaced with the latest version.

Latest modification: January 2009.

Template PDF (700+Kb):

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

My jewellery bust templates in use

Just a quick - and very long overdue - update to the previous post with some new photos of my jewellery busts in practical use.

It is my aim to hone my craft stall display down even more to a cohesive colour scheme, which I hope will result in a more elegant look overall and allow my pieces to add the 'colour'. By a process of elimination, this will be black and cream - black because many events I've attended have specified black table coverings and although I've always adhered to it, I've never seen it enforced and usually find myself much in a minority. So having bought black table coverings and found they work well anyway for highlighting jewellery, I am happy to continue with them.

As a side note; my main covering as shown in the following photos comprises a decent length of crushed velvet fabric - used as it came, cut from the bolt. It's the synthetic, slightly stretchy jersey-knit-based crushed velvet that's used for little girls' party dresses and trousers and it has proven to be ideal. The synthetic knit base of the fabric does not fray, it has a heavy slinky feel which drapes nicely over tables. The velvet type pile is very good for things staying in place, it acts in a soft Velcro type manner to prevent things slipping. The crushed finish hides a multitude of sins and finger marks without it looking at all shabby.

But perhaps the biggest single bonus is that it's synthetic and doesn't crease - I've used it for a couple of years and it's not actually been introduced to my iron yet, nor do I expect it to. I can scoop it roughly into a box at the end of an event and it doesn't take any harm left like that. I don't want you to think I'm slovenly, I do remove it and fold it carefully for storage, but on the odd occasion that boxes don't get properly unpacked immediately - when looking after stock is always my priority - it doesn't actually come to any harm or look any the worse for the experience.

Many people advocate using cheap plain dyed bedding sheets for stall coverings - they can be had cheaply per area of fabric, but even polycotton fabric will crease if left folded and is likely to need ironing for every show. My crushed velvet perhaps cost me around 20 GB Pounds when I bought it - I seem to think it was £6.99/m and I bought 3 metres. I feel that it was very well worth the investment. I supplement this for larger stalls with 2 small black fleece blankets - bought from Ikea for under 3 Pounds each - polyester fleece has many of the same attributes that I like in the synthetic velvet.

Why was I telling you that . . . oh, that's right, my black and cream colour scheme. The complimentary cream was arrived at for similar practical reasons; some pieces look good against a dark background, some need a light display to show them to their best and as I always keep a supply of cream vellum card for my photo greetings cards and also bought some riser shelves that happened to be already painted cream, this was an obviously complementary light to my dark. The photos show one or two busts of different colours - only used on this occasion as I ended up with gaps on display as pieces in boxes sold and happened to have them with me. By next time, I'll have a fuller compliment of matching display materials.

At the event illustrated, I ended up making more of the small earring variants whilst at the event, as they seemed to prove popular with buyers. They show the earrings off well and can easily be picked up for closer inspection or to hand to me to parcel up once they've made a selection.

Over recent events, I've gradually moved away from having earrings on communal displays with lots of items together - observing customers, they do like to pick them up to look more closely - or to put a few different items together for comparison when making a selection. I do use some larger display busts based on the necklace ones that hold a dozen or so pairs, usually in themes, but found that I sold more on the individual free-standing cards - or on pierced cards inside gift boxes - that they can pick up and look at. I will gradually move towards putting most of my earrings either in individual boxes on single displays if this assists customers to make a purchase. It has become very evident over recent fairs that customers prefer this format of display and I've gradually mothballed my larger display boards.

I later updated my free necklace display bust template to include the individual earring bust, which can be found in this earlier blog.


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