Get Off the Drama Llama

Posted on Wednesday, at • 186 views

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Get Off the Drama Llama

There's a new wave of drama going on in indie-makeup-land. (There seem to always be waves of drama. As soon as one dies down, another rises into prominence.) I would almost love to sit down with a sociologist and hash this out, because on an aggregate level I'm sure it's a fascinating study of human behavior, perceptions, definitions of relationships (including rights and responsibilities therein), and communication on both the one-to-one and the one-to-many level. However, since I can't do that, I'd like to offer my own advice to anyone doing business with a small or microbusiness. Just a few things to keep in mind, if you will. (Many of these also apply to small and microbusiness owners - and having been one for nine years, having had to fire clients, having had to clearly establish boundaries and clearly define what I will and won't do, and clearly outline what I intend to provide for my clients…I have an opinion. As does everyone, actually. But anyhoo, on to the post.)

  1. Indie store owners are not your enemies. They are not your friends. They are someone with whom you have a business relationship. When I was a wee lil' mammal, we went to a big store (Smitty's and Fry's, back before it became an electronics supply chain - so that tells you how long ago I'm talking about), we picked out our stuff, we paid, we left. We didn't expect the grocer to give us a good deal if we were having a bad week, but nor did we think we could come into the store and wreck the store or the merchandise or verbally abuse the staff. If there was a problem with the product, or if we received outright rude treatment, we were expected to speak up - and I can remember a very few times when my mom did just that. But these people were not our friends. They didn't know the details of our life, we didn't know the details of theirs. Our role in the relationship was pretty clear, as was theirs. With the internet, and the near-immediacy of email/blogs/forums/Twitter, people on both sides of the buyer/seller equation can slide over into thinking that they deserve free products, that they deserve to be lauded for everything they do, that their customers will also be their unabashed short, that they can treat the persons on the other side of the equation like they'd treat a close friend or family member. No, and no.
  2. Both sides of the equation have rights and responsibilities. Know what they are, and what they aren't. If you're giving someone money in exchange for goods and/or services, you may and should speak up if the good/service does not meet advertised expectations, and you may and should speak up to say "thank you" if the product or service greatly exceeds expectations. If something goes wrong, speak up - but ask what happened and give the other person the chance to learn about and respond to the problem before you put them on the defensive. (That will only shut them down, and utterly lose you any chance of getting a problem corrected. If you do speak up and they give you the runaround or the brush-off, then it's time to make the problem public so that others don't get mislead.) If you're providing a good/service to someone in exchange for money, you should provide the best product/service of which you're able for the money given. You should expect to provide the good/service in a timely fashion, you should not expect to give away lots of freebies to people "for good word of mouth", and while you can make minor changes and accomodations to your service when there's sufficient customer demand, you shouldn't necessarily expect to treat every single customer radically differently and handle their orders differently (unless your business runs on that model, like custom cakes or clothing alterations or something.) On the flip side, for both parties: yes, business owners, you have to put up with customers who aren't polite, even with customers who are blitchy (the "l" is silent). Yes, customers, you have to put up with business owners who won't rearrange their business to suit your every need and/or who won't just give you the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars on a silver salver. Stating your disagreements civilly pays off multiple ways: it may get your problem fixed (or at least lessened), and it leads others to respect you as someone who is evenhanded and mature and uses their brain for something other than 'keeping their skullbones apart'. The concept of civil debate seems to have been cast aside in multiple areas of our life; but it's an extremely valuable communications tool that not only helps people express their upset without accusing, but helps people get a little bit of perspective.
  3. Social media provides the illusion of friendship. But it's just that: an illusion. Marketing companies have glommed onto the fact that people want to have relationships with the people who sell them things, and that often a personal relationship will help decide a consumer in favor of buying from Seller A instead of Sellers B through K. (That's part of the thinking behind magazine, candy, and jewelry sales drives at schools: who won't buy from their kids or their neighbors' kids, to keep the peace if nothing else?) That said, it's quite possible for genuine friendships to develop between buyers and sellers, because buyers and sellers are people - and people develop friendships and build communities. But just because someone answers your emails or replies to your tweets, that doesn't mean that they're your bestest buds and you'll gossip about American Idol and braid each others' hair. P does not automatically equal Q here. If you assume this and act on this assumption, you're begging for pain....and the universe throws enough genuinely needful pain into each life without you asking for seconds.
  4. It's the job of a seller to get the most money for the least amount of effort. It's the job of a buyer to get the highest-quality product for the least amount of money. The point of equilibrium between these two trends is where transactions take place. Each side will be happiest if they know exactly what they want, and exactly why they want it. If a seller keeps dropping their prices just to make more sales, sooner or later they're going to feel like they're giving away product and not being able to live off the profits, and they'll start to actively resent their customers. If a buyer pays the highest price for a thing with the expectation that they'll receive superior quality, but they don't know what "superior quality" is for that particular product (or what "inferior quality" is, for that matter), eventually the buyer will start to get annoyed with the seller, or even with the entire industry. Just as an intelligent seller should want to provide the best product to their clients, an intelligent buyer should want to know how to determine the worth of what they're buying. This holds true for car repair services, clothing, foods, electronics, beauty name it. Sometimes a buyer can do their own research and figure out what's a good value for them. Other times - such as when looking for a surgical practitioner - the buyer may have to rely entirely on third-party assessments. But a buyer who just plonks down money without knowing what they're buying is like a seller who doesn't do any prior research into the quality of the ingredients that make up their finished product or service. Both are going to avoid a rude wake-up call only by the grace of the Muse of Whimsy (who is, among other things, the patron saint of the entertainment industry.)
  5. There is no "best [fill in the blank]". There's just "the best [fill in the blank] for you". That's a paraphrase of something someone said in a web hosting industry forum, and it's a very good maxim - for just about any industry, not just for web hosting. For some people, the best car is a tricked-out Mercedes with all the luxury extras and a full lifetime service contract. For others, a basic commute-box (like a Geo Metro) with A/C and a basic radio/CD player is exactly the car they're looking for. Neither buyer should be faulted for their choices, and both buyers should expect that someone somewhere will be able to sell them what they want - thought not necessarily the same price. Likewise, when it comes to makeup, some people will want softer shades with little or no shimmer while others want bright, bold colors and lots of sparkle. Some people will only want MAC or Lancome, while others will only want to buy from folks with Etsy shops. Some people wouldn't dream of paying less than $16 for a single eyeshadow, while others wouldn't pay more than $9. Everyone has different preferences, requirements, needs, and wants. You shouldn't feel pressured into buying something you don't need or want, just because everyone else has it or because everyone else is shopping a certain way. Learn constantly, reexamine your habits (in all areas of life), and make changes when necessary...and don't be afraid to make those changes, even if they seem to be completely opposite of what you've done previously.

I'd ask if anyone has any questions...but either you already knew this on some level, or you're not currently in a place to hear any of it.

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