When One Door Closes, Another One Opens

Harry Gordon Selfridge

“The customer is always right,” is a saying that originated with self-made millionaire, Harry Gordon Selfridge who revolutionized the way that people shopped in London with the opening of Selfridge’s Department Store in 1909. Prior to this time, shops were labor intensive. Regardless of whether the wares were food items in a grocery store or silk ties and gloves in a clothing shop, all merchandise was stored on shelves or in drawers behind countertops. Customers who wanted to examine or purchase an item had to ask a clerk for assistance.

Harry Selfridge changed this by making consumer goods more accessible. His store (pictured below) was an enormous nine story structure that encompassed 540,000 square feet. The exterior enticed customers with enormous window displays that were literally works of consumer art. Gorgeously attired mannequins garbed in the latest fashions of the day were portrayed in vignettes that depicted garden parties or scenes in a parlor.

Selfridges Window Display

Not only did these displays attract attention but nearly everything in these windows from the tastefully dressed gentlemen and the exquisite gowns worn by the ladies to the pedestal tables, cake stands, and bird cages (as shown above) were available for purchase.

Upon entering the store, customers found themselves in a brightly lit area with fifteen foot tall ceilings. Selfridges was one of the first stores in London to be illuminated with overhead electrical lighting.

Merchandise ranging from affordable cotton handkerchiefs to £1,000 sable coats were on display where they could be seen, touched, and examined by customers. Each department had a team of clerks available to assist customers in making their selections and purchases.

Each of Selfridges nine floors were accessible by nine power operated lifts, two service elevators, and six broad staircases. Luxurious restrooms and affordable restaurants encouraged customers to linger.

Harry Gordon Selfridge became a wealthy man who then squandered this wealth on gambling and women. He died a pauper in 1947 after his board voted out as the chairman in 1941.

Throughout his career Mr. Selfridge issued a large number of pithy sayings to motivate his employees.

“Get the confidence of the public and you will have no difficulty in getting their patronage.”

“The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.” 

“Remember always that the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten. Then your business will prosper by a natural process.”

“The customer is always right.”

In thinking about my first Etsy sale, I decided that I had a problem with the last quote. A 2019 editorial by Forbes stated an opposing opinion; that the customer isn’t always right. Some customers are just rude and nasty. The customer who complained about the customized orange candle that she had ordered submitted a negative review before she had even received the candle to examine in person. After having received a refund for “product not as described” she continued to badger me with emails about how ugly the candle was and whether or not it would be possible to “fix” the candle by scraping the face off. When I ignored her emails (since she had already received a refund), she got upset over the fact that I hadn’t replied to any of her increasingly nasty messages. She also justified her rudeness by telling me that this was “just business.”

According to Forbes, using “the customer is always right” in one’s business practice is to assume that all customers may be satisfied 24/7. Since everyone is different it follows that tastes will vary. Even if I hadn’t agreed to modify the orange candle by putting a bird’s face on it, the customer could have complained that the candle wasn’t orange enough or large enough, or as sweet smelling as it might have been. Forbes has even suggested that some customers are scammers who will say or do anything to get a discount or even a full refund.

Although I could have apologized (even though I did nothing wrong) and offered a full refund, this woman’s “Karen-like” manner was hurtful and offensive. Her one star review also damaged my Etsy reputation. Even if I had given in to her shrill demands for a full refund, there is no guarantee that she would not have submitted a scathingly negative review.

In the aftermath of this fiasco, a parent of one of the contestants in Season 10 of the Great Food Truck Race purchased one of my macaroni candles. A positive review from this person or the recipient could have improved my rating.

macaroni and cheese candle

I was also asked by an on-line magazine if I would mind having them feature my candles in one of their articles. Although I agreed to allow images of my products to be used by this journal, I subsequently decided to close the Etsy store because of low sales volume and the fact that I was losing money just to maintain the monthly listings. Etsy also charged me for the cost of the refund (and shipping charges) they gave the angry customer. In the end, the profit from the three other sales that I made offset my losses so that I broke even.

The Shop in Nevada virtual store remains active. Since there are no fees or commissions needed to maintain this site, I can keep the shop open indefinitely.

In the meanwhile I am turning my interests to other projects.

I was for a brief time, a contributing author of articles for Neuroclastic. In December of 2021, this online autistic forum published an article, “How I came to be diagnosed with autism at 55 years of age.” They also published, “How to Deal with Workplace Bullying.”

Personal family issues sadly distracted the owner of this website from publishing any of the seven other articles I submitted for review. After having twice written to this person over a period of three months, I finally withdrew these articles from submission with the intention of writing a book about life with autism.

For the past three years I have also been working on a fantasy novel about an autistic paranormal investigator. Since writing fantasy does not come nearly as easily for me as writing non-fiction articles, working on this novel has been challenging. To date I have written 28,733 words. Since the average fantasy novel ranges in length from 50,000 to 150,000 words, I estimate that my novel is at best only 1/3rd completed.

The time that I would have otherwise spent creating new candles will now be spent working on my manuscripts. Unless my business through Shop in Nevada really takes off, I anticipate either giving away or eventually selling off my existing stock.

This website will be maintained for the time being if for no other reason than the fact that it links to the virtual store at Shop, Made in Nevada. Since this store was never intended to be open year round, this business will be shuttered through the summer since I wouldn’t want to ship candles in 110° F + heat. I anticipate temporarily closing my virtual store towards the end of April 2022. The store will reopen sometime in late September 2022 after the worst of the heat has finally dissipated.

In terms of my financial goals, the additional income I will have made by teaching summer school along with the tax write offs I will get from having operated a home based business should offset the $6000+ I have spent in start up expenses.

All is not lost, nor do I have any regrets about anything that has happened.

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