Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just Because We Don't Have What You Want, Doesn't Mean I Don't Care

As owner of an eco-fashion store, I get a lot of great emails, but every once in a while I get a crazy, nasty e-mail.  Most often, it's because I don't carry someone's size, but several other varieties of nasties also wind up in my inbox. 

We're getting a little more exposure lately, and with it, an up-tick in nasty e-mails.  Last week I received three; two were variations of size-related issues and the last was a rant that I'm a fake vegan because we carry 5 items (out of 951 currently in stock) that are made using free-range, hand-sheared alpaca.  One actually ended in "you disgust me."  No, I've never met this person nor interacted with them in any way prior to receiving the e-mail.

Admittedly, our Plus Size selection isn't as extensive as I might like.  With my strict criteria about fabric, finishes, dyes and human rights, plus sizes are just not that easy to come by.  I was very excited to find a new plus size eco-fashion source recently, and am happy to be expanding our plus selections this summer. 

Accusations are Unhelpful
Most of the women in my family are heavy, and it's always been important to me that I carry items that my family could wear and enjoy.  So please don't write to tell me, "You hate fat people," "You can't relate to larger women," or "You're not a real environmentalist," just because I don't carry or have something you like in your size. 

On the other hand, if you know of a brand that carries what you want, let me know.  We've looked into many overseas brands by request of our customers.  Some don't export to the USA, some are very expensive or have high minimum orders that we were unable to meet.  But a few have been matches, and we've added several brands based on customer suggestions that are hard to find in the USA.

Show Some Compassion
I struggled with carrying alpaca, but started because several (eco-conscious but not necessarily vegan) customers explicitly asked me to find warmer coats that were truly eco.  The amazing folks at Indigenous Designs took a written stand against mulesing when approached by PETA, and really do care about the welfare of the animals that are sheared.  From their website:
"Indigenous sources the majority of our alpaca fiber from outside of Arequipa, Peru in the Puno and Cusco areas, close to many artisan work groups. These alpacas are free range roaming animals with pasture rotation. The alpacas are not fed hormones and do not receive chemical dippings for ticks or parasites. There are no chemical ingredients allowed on the land or animals."

The thing is, these are just this week's criticisms.  Every decision I make for this business is made thoughtfully. And while I would certainly not expect everyone to agree with all of them, it would be really nice if folks could avoid accusations and name calling and perhaps ask me why things are a certain way. 

Ok, in all fairness, the vast majority of e-mails and calls we get do exactly that.  So I ought to be able to just shake off this vocal minority who sends nasty notes.  But it's hard. 

Remember People Have Feelings
This business is my passion and it means a lot to me.  It particularly stings when someone accuses me of being solely profit-driven since I earn half my previous salary running my own business, and work twice the number of hours.  (I wish that were an exaggeration, but it's not.)

Earlier this week, I saw another small business owner noting how badly they felt when they were openly criticized. So I'm writing this post for three reasons.
  1. I know the majority of my customers and readers are fantastic, understanding, socially conscious, super stars and after a week of hurtful comments, I'm reaching out to offer up some love to the good guys! :-)
  2. To share my experience with other solopreneurs and small-business owners so they can step back, like I'm trying to do, and realize that it really is impossible to please everyone and that we shouldn't let one person ruin our mood or our business.  It truly is impossible to please 100% of the people.  Just do your best.
  3. To provide a useful quick-link response to future e-mailers. If I sent you this link as a response to an e-mail, try e-mailing me back with a bit more civility. I'd be happy to answer your question, help you find something, or even explain my decisions as long as your remember that I'm a real, live person, not a corporate entity.  And I have feelings that can be hurt.  So please show a little respect and kindness and I'll do everything I can to do the same.
Best,

2 Comments:

Lisa Flynn said...

I am Adrienne's sister and also a size 24. I have been "plus sized" all my life, as well as our mom and many aunts and uncles. I can tell you first that Adrienne is definitely NOT prejudiced against fat people. Far from it! Second, she truly is a very strong vegan. I know, because I am NOT and I always have to buy and cook special when she visits. (Not that I mind - LOL) Thanks for letting me put my two cents in. This is real comment from her real sister. If you want to see photos you can e-mail me at Lisa@TheStampCampCounselor.com

Laurie Nylund said...

Instant avenues of connection give us all too much freedom to whine and bitch about imagined grievances today. I hope sharing this link with the next "customer" who writes to complain about you personally will wake up and smell the organic, fair trade coffee. Sure, some businesses are run by dicks who are only in it for the money. But I don't think that is true for most - whether you ARE a corporate entity or a solopreneur.
The company where I work has a sign on the wall that I really like: Assume Positive Intent. Maybe your post will help bring back a little more civility to a world sorely in need of it. Great points!