Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
Sunday, September 23, 2007
My ducks in a row
About 12 years ago, after a long, taxing overseas Delta flight, the passengers disembarked and were herded into a "roving lounge", a sort of a very airport-specific vehicular creature, which resembles a wide fat bus for transporting passengers between the aircraft and the terminal. On the floor of the roving lounge behind several seats in the front was painted a thick white line. All passengers were to sit or, most likely, stand behind the Thick White Line. The roving lounge was becoming quite full behind the Thick White Line. All the seats were quickly taken, although, a seat was not much of an advantage, when the carry-ons of the standing passengers were hanging mere centimeters from your face and the seated passenger having no room to dodge or duck. As such, the arbitrariness of the Thick White Line was subconsciously, spontaneously being called into question, as first carry-ons, then a toe and perhaps a whole leg or shoulder ventured over the Thick White Line. Last to enter the roving lounge was the aircraft crew, several of whom reminded the passengers of the Thick White Line and need for safety and would the passengers please step behind the Thick White Line.
Person in uniform.
These in combination are so deeply engrained, that we passengers obediently leaned, wiggled and worked our collective way behind the Thick White Line. Because, of course, also "I'm not the rube, who doesn't understand the etiquettes of international travel, so, of course, back I shall step!" As best we could, because it was tight in there.
With all passengers safely standing behind the Thick White Line. The aircraft crew took their seats in front of the Thick White Line. Three members of the crew remained standing (voluntarily, as they could have taken one of the empty seats, and comfortably, with oodles of elbow room). Two were flight attendants (okay, I wrote "flight attendant", but in this one instance I'm thinking "stewardess") and one of the three had three stripes, I suppose the co-pilot. These three were less than a foot away from me. But on the other side of the Thick White Line. Whatever safety function that line had, it did not include being a sound barrier to the post-flight prattle of the crew.
"I hate Economy Class passengers."
(nods all around)
"I only like working Business or First."
"I swear, I was about the smother that guy with his stupid pillow!"
I don't remember exactly or all of the exchange, but "hate economy passengers", "smother" and "stupid pillow" stick in my mind to this day. I thought for sure the one with the stripes would lean over and suggest leaving that talk for the bar at the Ramada Inn. Nope, nothing.
Well, so, okay. "Safety" aside, I lean over the Thick White Line and say, "If you don't like customers, if you have a notion to asphyxiate customers, I will leave you alone. And never fly Delta."
I haven't flown on Delta since.
We all have customers. People who have expectations of us and to whom we have obligations. We all are customers, people who purchase goods and services have expectations of others. Our work, that for which we receive some reward in return, fungible or not, is in the tasks of meeting and exceeding expectations.
Contrary to the Delta crew, I like my customers. They pay me, sure, which I like. But, I really like these people! If they never purchase another pattern, I'd still love to chit chat and see pictures of their children growing up and hear how their lives are going. In addition to my personally liking these people, I am immensely grateful and astounded at the work, effort and belief they put in me, studioTANTRUM and Farbenmix. Without them, there would be no Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM in the United States. They take the risk in these unusual designs and techniques, promote, answer questions, participate in forums and really put a lot of individual attention and effort into giving the end customer a great, creative experience using Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM.
From a business perspective, I have several and welcome more retail customers. Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM relies on different service and merchandising strategies unique to each retailer. Each retailer seems to find, develop and many times restore and create niches. We each have our preferences in product and expectations in service. I cannot risk exclusivity with only certain retailers, no matter how much I like the retailer personally, as I cannot hitch my wagon to her singular merchandising and service strategy, which may or may not be successful. What I can do, however, is promote and encourage retail sales. I do not like practices which circumvent the retailer. I have wholesale incentive pricing in place to encourage bulk buying. On the other hand, I do allow purchases in smaller quantities, with that pricing disincentive mind you, so that I do not saddle the retailer, a small, independent Mom-and-Only-Mom shop, with the carrying cost of slow-moving stock. What I want to see and encourage is that you, the end customer, purchases from Corie or Suzanne or Kristina or Tina or Susan or Jen or any other amazing and courageous retailer I missed mentioning off hand. What I want to discourage is co-operative purchases which translate into buying not from Corie and Suzanne and Kristina and Tina and Susan and Jen ... Yes, they are middlemen. But there is a lot of work done in that middle that makes Farbenmix and studioTANTRUM possible.
I have on a past occasion unwittingly filled a co-op order. And I will probably do so again. I can never truly know how the patterns are distributed. I can require a fixed retail price for the reseller. And the Supreme Court recently upheld price fixing (at the behest of the oil industry, so I'm not really all that stoked about that). But, do I have to?
Moreover, it's not a fat middle. It's a pretty skinny middle. We all understand the value of a dollar and many of us have lean times. But, if you like independent design, this is the wrong place to save a buck. Let's give the retail partner her buck or two on the pattern. And also maybe take a look at her carefully and meticulously selected fabrics and notions. Co-op purchases do not beat "the man", they hurt the mompreneur.
If I ever do become "the man" and you see my high falootin' fine Fledge self all over Saks and Barney's, go ahead, do what you can to cut out the fat. I'm with you on that.
I take this stand at the risk of upsetting the end customer. Ultimately, there is no Farbenmix or studioTANTRUM without you. The comments section is open and I welcome your thoughts.