Friday, January 27, 2012

Complaint Department

As a shop owner/designer/publisher I am required to wear many different hats. In the Customer Service area alone I deal with questions, comments and of course complaints. Nobody is perfect, and I am not using that as an excuse, just a simple statement of fact. Every now and then, no matter how hard we try, we screw up.

The mistakes that the staff and I might make in the store are easy to fix. They are mostly made one-on-one with a single customer. Publishing mistakes are a MUCH bigger issue! I write instructions, do my own sample sewing, have others proof read and often the published patterns have been distributed to my shop clubs where dozens of people have used them before they go to print. Still, every now and then you get that call that starts "Did you know that there is a mistake in ......" and panic mode sets in! OMG! If it really is a mistake (and not a confused customer) correcting it can be overwhelming. I immediately begin the process of contacting vendors, consumers, other shops, posting corrections on the website, mailing corrected copies...... a nightmare.

At the other end of the customer complain spectrum are letters like this one. Hand scrawled hate mail from someone so frustrated with one of my patterns that they took the time to pen me a detailed letter about what a miserable human being I am for writing such horrendously bad instructions. These make me smile.

I know that on first impression the fact that I find this humorous doesn't seem very customer service oriented, but inevitably these letters are written by people that are their own worst enemy. The letter featured here was received last week and has detailed issues with our Easy Stripped Table Runner pattern. Really? I have been publishing that pattern in one form or another since the mid 1980's. We sell an average of 1000 copies a month and it has been on the best seller list for the last several years. More than a handful of people have had success using the step-by-step illustrated instructions that are included in the pattern that has only FIVE seams. There is a very good chance that in this particular instance, it isn't me with the problem.

Now I am faced with the issue of how to respond.

The author of this particular letter begins by telling me that she has been sewing for 49 years, quilting for 5, has a doctorate degree and is not stupid. She goes on to explain that it took her "hours to engineer a 60 degree triangle for the runner".

Dear Not Stupid in California,
I am sorry to hear that you are having issues with our Easy Striped Table Runner pattern. Please keep in mind that the materials list for a quilting project is much like the list of ingredients for a recipe. On the back of the Easy Striped Table Runner pattern you will find a list of materials necessary to make the project. Clearly listed between "thread for assembly and machine quilting" and "basic sewing supplies" is "Creative Grids 60 Degree triangle ruler" an important ingredient for the success of your project. This is the same ruler that is shown in the step-by-step photographs that accompany the written instructions. Attempting to make the project without the proper tools is akin to preparing beef stew without purchasing beef.

..... um... too snarky?

Ms. California also goes on to take issue with my use of the word "equilateral" in reference to the type of triangle needed for this project. She points out that the word equilateral means "all three sides need to be the same"...... uh, I agree? According to her drafting experience "You cannot make a 60 degree triangle that is equal for the 8 1/2 inch strip".

Dear Ms. California,

As a resident of the state of Pennsylvania I am unaware of any laws in the state of California that prohibit the use of 8 1/2 inch increments in basic geometry. To complete the Easy Striped Table Runner project I suggest that you purchase the required ruler from your local quilt shop. If sales of the 8 1/2 inch size are somehow prohibited in your state, the ruler is also available in a 12 1/2 inch size a well. You can also order the ruler directly from our website. We are willing to ship rulers across state lines at any time.

...bad idea. Ms. California probably isn't the type to appreciate my sense of humor.

And my favorite part of the letter: "My God, you charge $10 for this pattern"! Which is signed with her name, followed by "Esq." - meaning she is an attorney.

Dear Esq.
I am deeply troubled by your dissatisfaction with our Easy Striped Table Runner pattern. In an attempt to rectify the situation I would like to refund my profit from your purchase. Unfortunately I do not sell the pattern for $10. I retail it for $8.50 both in our store and on our website. Your purchase was made from another shop that ordered wholesale through a distributor and established their own retail in our free enterprise system. Our wholesale cost is $4.25 - 30% for the distributor or $2.97. Subtract from that the cost of the bag, color printing, paper, employee payroll to fold and ship the pattern and we are left with .86 cents. Would you like that in the form of a check or shall I make a charitable donation in your name?

....nope. She probably wouldn't like that either.

Customer Service experts will tell you that one disgruntled customer is like one bad apple. They can spread rot and ruin your entire reputation that you have worked so hard to build. I spend a portion of every day, and I do mean every day - 7 days a week, talking to customers via email and phone, helping them understand techniques, find old issues of free patterns or pages they have lost. I've talked many a customer through enlarging or reducing a project or helped them to understand that what the instructions say and what they are doing might not be the same thing. If Ms. Disgruntled had dashed off an email or picked up the phone I or one of my employees would have been happy to talk her through drafting a triangle using any brand of rotary ruler. We would have pointed out the importance of the blunt tip on the Creative Grids brand and explained why that is our ruler of choice.

Because she eloquently stated that she intends to "not walk, but RUN" the next time she sees my name on a pattern I think we have past the point of talking her through the issues she described. Therefore I am appealing to you, loyal blog readers, for opinions on how to respond to this letter. You are officially in charge of this persons Customer Service. Post a comment. If you were in her shoes, what would make you happy? Go for it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Work, Work, Work

I love my job every single day. There has not been one day in the last 19 years that I haven't loved going to work. I firmly believe that the old adage "Find something you love to do, then find a way to get paid doing it" makes for a happy life. But even when you love your job the way it is, sometimes the gods smile down upon you and gift you an office that looks like this:

That's right, for the next 6 days I am "working" in Ft Meyers Florida at the Pink Shell Beach Resort with Kaye England and several dozen shop owners. We will share ideas, sew, trade information on suppliers, sew, discuss class formats, etc, and sew. Apparently we will sew a lot.

Kaye runs this event and she sent us info about what we should have with us. To comply with Kaye's requests I shipped 48 lbs of fabric/sewing machine/notions before I left the burg. Then I packed a suitcase filled with everything that didn't fit in the box! If you total it all up, it was more than 50 yards of fabric that the wonderful Kaye suggested that we have with us. F I F T Y as in 5 - 0 yards! Plus trims for journal pages and things to share, rulers, notions, etc. I can't wait to see what she has planned for us.

My loyal followers won't be surprised to know that getting here wasn't easy. It involved Delta canceling my first flight. Getting up at 4am to make an early morning flight is bad enough, but getting to the gate on time only to find out that the plane is having "mechanical" problems could ruin your day. I have to say that Delta really stepped up, re-booked me through Atlanta, offered to cover my ground transportation and gifted me a $50 voucher towards baggage fees on a future flight (those 50 lbs are coming home with me too). I was impressed. I arrived at the resort only one hour after my original plan. Even though I was an hour late, my room wasn't ready when I arrived so instead of catching some late afternoon sun, I sat for an hour in the lobby with my luggage. Not fun - but a nice long walk on the beach, a glass of wine and a good nights sleep and I will forgive them.

I'm going to do my best to post updates of the weeks events on The Quilt Company Facebook page - you can follow the fun there. Post a comment, and see what 30+ shop owners can do with 1500+ yards of fabric! It is going to be fun!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


The king size quilt is bound and on the bed! One UFO done and checked off the list and it is only January 10th! My goal was one a month so I am going to feel really sanctimonious when I finish off TWO of my UFO's in ONE month! Doesn't that make you feel like a slacker? Go ahead, grab an unfinished project and finish it off! Don't let me get ahead of you! I think you will find that the time it takes to actually finish the project is far less than the amount of time you spend fretting over the fact that you haven't gotten to it, yet. Today - or possibly this weekend - should be "yet". It should be the deadline you need to move something, anything, from a pile in your sewing area to display worthy. You are going to love it when you are done - trust me. Finished is a very good feeling!

I'm moving on to project #2. A curtain for my daughter. This one is on the very top of the unfinished pile. It has only been there for about a month. Our oldest daughter and her husband and the twins have finally moved into the house they have been refurbishing for about a year. My gifted daughter found out she was having twins and to her the next logical step was to purchase a 110 year old victorian house that needed a TOTAL rehab. Something to keep her busy while awaiting the delivery of the twins. Is it possible that a house could need MORE than a total rehab? This one had no kitchen, no functioning bath, it didn't even have main stairs to the second floor! Luckily the majority of that is all behind them and they were in the house before the holidays.

Lauren requested that I make cafe curtains for her kitchen. Cafe curtains with Eifel Towers embroidered on them. She did the measuring, I did the sewing and the 2 window curtains were delivered mid December. She also needed one for the back door. I did my best to explain double rods, hems, headers and how the rods would mount, but I decided not to make the door curtain until I could see the door and take my own measurments. Today the door curtain gets stitched - because I am going ther to visit tomorrow. The "last minute" is a great motovator! It still counts as finishing off a UFO!

If you are planning to keep up by finishing off your own projects, you better get busy. I am spending all day Saturday sewing with friends and I have already packed up the pieces for those twin bed quilts as my project for the day. I would have to sew for a week to get the tops finished, but progress of any kind is better than none!

As you finish off your own projects, let me know about it so that we can celebrate together! Post a comment telling everyone what you have completed or send me a photo that I can post and share. Email photos to

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year!
Time to make that wish list of resolutions that should last you through.... Martin Luther King day? I know, I know, this year is going to be different. Trust me, I know, I even believe you. I was saying the exact same thing to myself early this morning when I was on the treadmill. The same treadmill that I haven't been on since LAST January. Seriously, 2012 could be different... couldn't it?

This year I will be making only those resolutions that I can actually keep. Including the one I make every year to stop smoking. That one is a given. I don't smoke. Never have, never will. I think of that resolution as one of those things that you put on your to-do list that you have already done, just so you can have the satisfaction of actually crossing something off. ......I'm not the only one that does that am I?

This year the resolution plan is to finish off some UFO's. Not too exciting, but just think of how good I am going to feel when they are all done - or sort of done. Let's not get too crazy here. I still have a ton of "new" work to do. I'm shooting for a one-a-month average. That will by no means finish off anywhere near ALL of my UFO's, but it is a healthy and realistic goal. I'm feeling good about the ability to follow through this year, I'll keep you posted.

2012 is off to a good start. New Years day, while dinner was in the crock pot, I made and applied the binding to the quilt for our bed. All that I have to do now is the hand stitching. This is the same quilt that I made for the "new" look in our bedroom in August of 2010. The quilt has been finished - quilted and waiting for binding for 17 months. A few nights with a needle and thread and the room will really be "finished". I actually enjoy hand stitching bindings, but this king size. To apply the binding I had to clear a surface large enough to accommodate the light blue and white quilt so that it wouldn't get dirty. That took 17 months.

Cleaning the space in our huge workroom also unearthed about a dozen other UFO's, several of which have been waiting far longer than 17 months to be finished. With enough encouragement and enthusiasm I might even get those twin bed quilts for the guest room assembled, quilted and on the beds. I'm pretty sure I started those in the last millennium. Hmmm. I wonder how they decide what constitutes an antique quilt, the age of the fabric or the date that it is finished? If I dig deep enough in that UFO pile I might have a few antique contenders!