OUR LAST AND FINAL Made to Order UPDATE...and more!
We are shipping out the last of our MTO's tomorrow, and we’re all pretty excited. Not just to be finished with such a massive project but because we’re really pleased with how they turned out! I made 279 (+) unique toys in the last 6 weeks under some wild circumstances and as a person who doesn’t take compliments well, I think we nailed it! Please continue to feel free to reach out if you have any problems with your order, and we will address them to the best of our ability. However, we ask that you inspect your item upon arrival and contact us ASAP. We are now focused on our normal production schedule, and will be unable to address MTO issues that fall outside of our normal TOS unless you message us within a week from it’s arrival to you.
A few general bullet points in case you missed the last update:
- Combined shipping is no longer possible. We will refund shipping on any orders who asked that they be combined. Send us an email if your order was supposed to be combined, but ended up shipping separately due to our adjusted procedure.
- We realize that the coupon codes on the bottom of our packing slips were basically useless since we didn't have anymore drops after Black Friday. If you got a coupon code at the bottom of your order sheet in the months of November-December, send me an email and I'll make sure you get an updated code. Additionally, you can join our email list for codes and treats throughout the year. (Next drop: Thursday, 1/14 at 8PM EST, pre-shop at 6:00PM EST)
- You'll note we have a new sticker on our bags which was made specifically for MTOs. This is outside of our normal TOS, but because we sent no photos we felt it would be best to open up temporary refunds upon return. As far as the returned items go, we want to be absolutely transparent that we have NO PLANS for them other than to leave them in the box and deal with them later. We're not planning to resell them in any fashion.
Now for the spicy parts. You're welcome to skip it if you just came for the MTO update:
We really appreciate the handful who have reached out with MTO issues. At the end of last month, I realized the photos we chose for Cosmic Crystalline did not do the best job of representing the color in actuality. We were glad our customers contacted us when they were receiving pours that were different than they had expected and hoped for.
Offering solutions to the things they brought up, I considered the direction of the indie market, and what expectations our customers have of us and of other small shops.
Silicone, as most people know, is a liquid medium. It is beautifully chaotic. Try as you may, you can pour silicone into a pouring vessel in the same way, the same amounts, the same percentages of pigments and powders, and pour it into the same mold you've poured into 100 times this year and it STILL doesn't always come out in a consistent way. The great thing about silicone, is that it is a liquid medium.
It's unpredictable and loose. It can be feathery, foldy and as a few have noted in their emails "muddy". What is a marble? Is it a tight grouping of folds and striations? Or is it loose and chunky? Should drips get thrown into the flop pile if they're not entirely uniform? And who says what a "named color" is supposed to look like? The artist or the collector? The seller or the buyer? Where do our expectations intersect? Should the criteria for pass/fail be that the buyer accepts 99% of the pours, and caveat emptor? Or should the artist flop pour after pour, hoping to ship out nothing but perfect reproductions?
As I wrap up the Made to Orders, I reflect on these things and wonder who holds the bag? My intention was to offer our community a chance at something cool that we made throughout the year because we all know drop culture kinda sucks. (But that's a whole philosophical topic for another blog). The result was mostly positive, but then, we have the resources and experience to take a few hits, but a lot of other shops don’t.
And then I ask myself if customer expectations have risen to a level that many small businesses can no longer contend with? I think when people shop at indies, try as we may, we cannot express enough that we are not *INSERT HUGE WIDELY KNOWN FANTASY TOY ENTERPRISE*.
We're in this weird middle ground. On one side we have the privilege of being really engaged, and providing one of a kind silicone art to customers we have often chatted with on social media. It can feel like being part of a small neighborhood where everyone knows and generally supports everyone else. Sometimes you even forget the intended purpose of said art. (😉) But on the other side we are all internet-based businesses which creates an expectation creep where folks want next day, lowest price, love it or your money back service.
People want to shop indie because we're accessible and affordable, but then expect that we will be able to respond like a major corporation with a huge team of people. In recent times, I find myself telling ShopDad to remake molds 11 times (RIP Small Merfolk) because I worry about our customer base not liking this or that small imperfection. Molds that would have definitely passed a year ago being tossed into the trash, and pours that are above average being passed off into the flop pile because of the continually expanding expectations we have seen from being active in collecting communities. These kind of things can and do put smaller creators out of business, and are flat out discouraging. Can you imagine all the incredible models we would miss out on if we were unable to allow people to make mistakes without blasting them on Reddit, Discord, Twitter etc? We're literally making these things with our hands. Some things will have printer texture, weird spots, tiny imperfections, and maybe the pour won't be exactly what you imagined, but I guarantee we absolutely care about every single thing that leaves our shop. Because that's what you get when you shop indie, real human people trying their best.
None of that is to say that you don't have the right as a customer to email when issues arise. You 100% do and I encourage people to message us or any shop they buy from with your concerns. I am not going to blacklist you from my shop for emailing me. I will, however, not hesitate to point out that you may be better suited shopping elsewhere as a continued relationship would likely be unsatisfying if your expectations do not match up with what indie shops can offer. As an artist, a small business owner, and a real human person, that's my right. There's no malicious intent behind this at all, I genuinely want to see you happy!
I can't speak for the others but when you purchase an MTO from us, we would consider the following to be realistic and reasonable expectations:
- You will receive an undamaged toy (unless otherwise noted) poured by myself, that resembles the photos we provided. And the photos will span the range of possibilities.
- You will receive no approval photos.
- It will be in the size/firmness/model you chose.
- It will ship to you within our 6 week window, USPS delays notwithstanding.
- The ability to speak with a real person who cares about their business, and their customers, and will be available should any issue arise.
If you email our CS, you will not be speaking to someone with a script on how to retain customers in three easy steps. It will be me, the owner and operator. I will always try to do more, and keep you up to date on what we have on offer but I implore you to take the time to read our FAQ/TOS and do the same wherever you shop. It’s rare, but always disappointing when we find we cannot make someone happy because they have come to our door expecting repours and approval photos from one shop, mixed with the next day service and free shipping of another shop, all combined with the generous return policy offered by yet a third. Speaking with our friends (but not for them!!!) this phenomenon isn’t singular to us. Many new indies experience the burnout that comes from fearing that if they don’t offer everything, all the time, right now, they will be making a misstep they will not recover from and that’s…just a huge bummer.
Allllllll that said, thank you for being not only our customers but our community, and listing to our rant. Please be kind and gentle with indie shops, our work is our heart.