Monday, June 27, 2011

Hate Mail

The picture above is a rare one for my company blog. It not only shows me IN MUGGLE CLOTHING, but it also shows a member of my family. Generally, I try to keep my kids nowhere near the business, publicly, because I KNOW that if I mention my kids and being a stay at home mom, people are going to think that their orders are less important than my kids. As a result, they would hesitate to order from me, because on a subconscious level, they're thinking that my kids come first, their orders second.

*sigh* Sadly, they are wrong there. Their ORDERS DO come first most of the time. They come before me playing with my kids. They come before me cooking healthy meals. They come before me washing my hair or getting dressed for the day. They come before me working out at the gym. I never imagined how much of my whole soul I would have to sacrifice into this business just to be successful. Everyone has to make money, right? Money makes the world go around. I couldn't have a place to live or food to eat or ANYTHING without the income. I'm grateful for the job, but I don't know how to disconnect it from my whole being. I'm so emotional about the whole entire company, and so passionate about every piece of it, that when something goes wrong, my insides just crumble. When people have a problem with their orders, they have a problem with ME as a person and my dreams and hopes and fears and insecurities. Thankfully, since my whole entire company works their bums off day in and day out, most orders go smoothly. However, I would say there is about 10% that we just SUCK at.

I generally can grudgingly appreciate failure, because it teaches me what to NOT do the next time. The strange thing with selling corsets, is that each order is as different as the customers themselves! Or rather, every woman is a completely unique entity with her own passions and pains, and so the situations with their orders will be just as vastly peculiar to her. This means that when I figure out how to correct one mistake, and I breathe a sigh of relief, the NEXT issue will be a completely different animal. I'll have one order where I just did not communicate on the same level as the customer, and so the end result will absolutely manifest that fact. I'll have another order where I think I was right, the customer thought they were right, and we were BOTH wrong. There's orders where crucial bits of information are missed, and there was no way for me to even KNOW that something was wrong.
These are all the orders that take tons of emails, lots of stress, tons of pattern changes and tweaks, and a tremendous excess of production time. After all of that work, I still fail my customers! I will literally go to bed at night freaking out about these orders and wake up the next morning worrying and obcessing. I spend crazy amounts of mental energy and physical excursion, and then still end up with customers that are unhappy (rightfully so.....).

I know.....just "take some time for myself" and "don't stress." Sorry, but when your clients are the ones that make it so you can pay your mortgage, you had better dang well put some of yourself into their requests! I've also heard sentiments similar to "That woman is a hag, you don't have to work with her." I completely disagree. From my standpoint, these customers are just people who have faith in me and my company, and believe that I have the power to make their corset dreams come true (Ooooh, corset dreams....). Because the customers don't spend every day of their lives producing these, and they have no idea how the actual production works, and so the requests and pattern changes that they are making seem very simple and reasonable.

I'm always so grateful for their faith in me, and I mistakenly take on these big projects, and I'm also too much of a weenie to CHARGE what that kind of customized work is ACTUALLY worth. These are all mistakes made by me, someone who leads with my heart, and not with my brain. The emotions take me everywhere, good or bad, and while it means that I do a lot of things really well, it also means that I do a lot of things absolutely horridly. When I fail customers, I always get this big hard knot in my stomach that feels like a honey badger gnawing on my spleen.

I suppose this whole narrative is coming about because I've received an uncommon amount of hate mail in the last week, and I DO want to make a public apology. This is a very hard job, BUT there is NEVER an excuse for making one of my customers feel frustrated, taken advantage of, ripped off, or just plain disappointed. We've had a very VERY hard year this year, with such huge business expenses coming up that even after doing 5 big successful festivals, the business sucked away all of my earnings. I guess I just haven't been at the top of my game, and I'm pleading with all of you to give me another chance and make sure you clearly communicate your needs so that I can better serve you.

Thanks!!!, Michelle


  1. Oh hun. I know exactly how you feel. As a business owner (wedding photographer) I go through the same thing. I stress about their final product, if they are not happy I go to bed stressing about it. I have missed out on family functions and friends events for some of my weddings. I totally get that this is where you make your money to live off of.

    The one thing that you must realize before it drives you completely bonkers is that you cannot, willnot, and NEVER be able to please everyone. It is an impossible task. All you can do is keep creating your awesome corsets (which I will be ordering mine once my baby is born), keep faith that you do have awesome and loyal customers, and remain level headed when there is an issue.

    There is no way that everyone is going to be satisfied, because the truth is, even though you do have kids and a family, many consumers don't care about that. They figure that since it's their money that they are paying you, then it is up to you to make them 100% happy. Let's not even get in to the consumers that are unrealistic in what they want their vision to be and are just naturally unhappy and unsatisfied people.

    Hang in there hun! YOU GOT THIS!!!

  2. {{{{hugs}}}} I know how stressful that can be, but we can't please everyone. Just look at the ration between satisfied customers and unsatisfied customers and I am sure there have been way more hits than miss. Keep up the awesome work and know your stuff is amazing!

  3. I agree with Marisa - it's a both a sad day and relief to realize that some people are just never going to be happy.

    You do great work, but some people just need to be miserable - and email allows people to be passively cruel and selfish.

    ~ Daisy O'Danny

  4. Its like you were in my brain while writing this!!
    It take it personally when people don't like something or it doesn't fit right or something along those lines! When hate mail comes, my husband reminds me that I have hundreds of other customers who LOVE my work and sing praises~ don't dwell on those few that are unsatisfied. Some people are ALWAYS unsatisfied and looking for a freebie or handout.
    Things will be better!!!

  5. Man alive! Marisa, I just took a look at your photography website, assuming it IS in fact marisataylorphotography.com
    You're insanely good!!! How could someone be unhappy with what you did? Wowwwwww

  6. Ivelisse, I made some corsets out of that gold and black fabric, and I thought of you! ;)

  7. strumpet, we need to start a therapy support group or something.
    Daisy/Liz, do you still want to take a crack at crappy boning? :)

  8. Yup, that is my website :) And thank you. But trust me, some people aren't satisfied. They expect to make me have them look like a super model sometimes, and then they are unhappy when they are not.

    In ANY business, you will always have unhappy customers. Like Ivelisse said, you just have to look at the number of happy customers vs. the number of unhappy customers. If it's under the 10% mark for unhappy, you are doing EXCELLENT!

    In other news, although I am 8.5 months pregnant, I may have to order my corset in before baby comes (in August) so I can have it for ren fair (in August/September). Coincidentally it's the same ren fair that Daisy performs at.

    I think I can take a good guess at what my waist measurement was before pregnancy. If anything, I'll order it a bit smaller as I can always squish the hell out of my tummy to get into corsets (years of going to ren fair have taught me that!)

  9. This is so sad to read that because I have experienced something that begun like that this winter. I am an art director in webdesign, and somehow, I got so stressed that I end up trembling like leaf. This wouldn't stop and I had to stand at home for three months, like a worm, unable to take a single decision without crying (shame…).

    I thought myself a tough woman, that I could handle everything, but my body said STOP !

    So be careful Michelle to listen to yourself before you feel a stranger to your own.

    The hardest thing was to say "no" at work when I came back. "No, there is not time for those changes", "no, this it not enough money for the time it will take"… this is so hard, you feel like a lazy woman, which you are NOT. This takes time, but deep inside you know it's right to charge those modifications.
    After all, even if you love your job, you work for living, (and not live for work !)

    Sorry for the long comment :-)

  10. Hate mail? Really? People actually felt they had the right to flame you for some reason or another? That's absolutely terrible.

    It really does hurt my heart when I see you post a blog like this. It makes me so sad to think of you beating your self up day and night over everything. You are an AMAZING person with such a unique, gifted talent and stunning products. You shouldn't have to be made to feel so badly and that just makes me crazy. :(

    I do know what its like to take on big projects and do so much work and not get what you feel you really deserve for the work and then the people still aren't happy. I worked my behind off creating this amazing picture I felt was worth a lot but made very little. And then several months later they came back and said they wanted massive changes made to the piece. Changes that would never had needed to be made if they had been upfront with me in the beginning when I asked about it! They said no so I felt no problem in telling them "No, to do this would require another payment due to the amount of work involved." They were understanding then.

    Oh Michelle.. :( I'll keep you in my prayers in hopes that some of this negativity and stress may be lifted from your shoulders! You really don't deserve to suffer it.. you're so special! :( <3

  11. Elodie, I liked your comments! They made me think! Brilliant!
    Rina, is there any way for me to see the picture you did? I'm insanely curious now!!!!

  12. Sure! I have it on my art site but that is a smaller watermarked version. I'll upload the larger version for you to see!

    The commissioners were friends which is my biggest weakness. lol I hated to say no because I wanted to make them happy but I knew I had to for my own sake. It took a MONTH to do the picture and my poor old computer died a lot during the process. I really couldn't take it! The changes required redoing their faces entirely to make it look like them.. :(


    Love love love love.


    There you go, that should be enough love mail to cancel out at least some of the hate mail.

    Keep your chin up. There's bitches everywhere and they will, inevitably, get to you. And I know that sucks and all but I would very honestly suggest reminding yourself of how much awesome you are made of, and how much love and appreciation has been channeled your way. Not to mention all the lives that you have improved just by having your paths cross that you will never know the appreciation for because we often forget to speak out about our happiness. I would suggest to you that you take up a couple of e-mails or letters that you have gotten that tell you how much you are appreciated and tack them to a wall in your workshop. Right in front of the table you use to pattern on. Highlight the best parts-the ones that make you want to cry because it's nice or laugh because it's funny or feel amazing because they said everything they could to make you do so. Definitely make sure to include ones that say how amazing your patterns are and how everything always fits just perfectly. Invest in a polaroid camera and take snapshots of every person you meet who is just completely floored by your talent. Don't let these memories get pushed aside by anyone. EVER.

    You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are talented.

    P.S. Love that fierce face your son is making.

  14. Michelle, I am praying for you hun. You are seriously the nicest person and you really have an amazing heart. Not to mention PHENOMENAL products and anyone who can't see that is crazy! I'm sorry you received hate mail. It would have be from someone who has never sat down at a sewing machine. Your work is flawless and fits like a dream. You have always wowed me by your work and your attitude. I hope things get better soon. Just remember your have a seriously loyal fans who love you!

    Love, Nicole

    BTW you not only created FABULOUS clothing, your little boy is seriously adorable too!

  15. I am likely one of those not communicating on the same level >.< I swear, normally I seem articulate.

    I don't know why anyone would send you hate mail though. You obviously put a lot into this and you're nice and polite and what do they think hate mail would do? Even if something is wrong, that won't fix it. Asking or talking might help, but hate mail rarely does any good - and especially not with something like this.

  16. Don't be so hard on yourself. After 23 years in the customer service business, I have learned that no matter what you do, some people will never be satisfied. Those are the people that you don't want as repeat customers anyway, so why waste time on them? The rest of us love you and your work. My biggest fear is that you will get burned out and quit before I can afford to buy all the pieces I want!

    ps I can hardly wait to shop at your Portland Pirate Festival booth.

  17. As one of the customers who had something (little, fixable) go wrong with an order, I know how rare those kinds of problems are (I'm up to close to a dozen pieces in a less than a year) and as a customer, I am so grateful for the care that you put into making your pieces as well as how much you work to make sure things go right.

    It's a relief to know that in those rare cases where things don't go quite right that I don't have to worry about getting things taken care of. That's the kind of service that makes me want to keep buying from you.

    And instead of sending hate mail, I want to say thank you. I am so grateful for all the work you've done for me in the past couple weeks.

    I never feel better about myself than when I'm wearing one of your corsets.

  18. You've done a few custom pieces for me, and I see when things do need tweaking you take that on like it is a personal 'flaw' rather than a tweak that needs to happen because I'm not able to see you in person.

    YOu do amazing work, and you can't help how you take things so personally.

    I just wish you could see how many people adore your work.

    At this point I have a lot of your corsets, and you've made me a custom piece that was supposed to be just a pattern that makes me look like I have a size zero waist. We've had miscommuncations, I think, that is the payment of working on the net. :( But you've never been anything but kind. Though... self deprecating! :(

    I wont' tell you not to stress, because that's not helpful.

    I will say, this is a piece of "love" mail and I"ll keep buying from you. Though I AM afraid to ask you to make my custom pieces because I don't want to stress you out. :(

    All the love energy your way dear, you deserve it. Thank you for the sacrifices you make for your clients.

  19. I have been a costumer for a number of years now and many of my sewing skills I learned while working on my theater degree. I also used to work at a historic park. Between those two, I have built a couple of corsets and it is A LOT of work. A LOT of hard work. A LOT of frustrating work. To alter one after it has been made just means more frustration and a lot more work. You absolutely deserve to be stressed out and upset when a customer isn't happy. I have never ordered from you because I found your site literally today, but the products you make are some of the most gorgeous corsets I have ever seen.

    I am also an infant business owner (and let me say my website isn't nearly as gorgeous as yours!) I am putting my sewing skills to use making bags for Katnip Kreations. I am also the business manager for my husband's company that he co-owns, Play it Again DJs. That means that I deal with all the brides (not usually the calmest or most understanding group of people) regardless of whether they are ecstatic with us, as most of them are, or very, very unhappy with us. (There is one in particular that we refer to as "the gig that never happened".)

    I suppose what I'm getting at is that while you very smartly realize that you cannot please everyone, you must continue to stand by your work and revel in every happy customer you have, because I'm sure they far outnumber the unhappy ones. That being said, there is absolutely NO excuse for a customer to be rude to you, even if they are unhappy. All you can do is accept responsibility for any mistakes made and be firm in your decisions about how to make them right. I understand how you can view it as a personal attack but at some point you will need to find a way to separate your feelings from the business before everything drives you insane.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I wanted you to know how much I admire your work and love your designs. The next time I need a corset, I know EXACTLY where I'm going to get it!

    (and p.s. do you ever go out of state? how about south eastern Virginia?)

  20. Hey, every single one of you ladies should get together with me, and we'll all go on some irresponsible shopping trip!!!! I LOVE you guys for your comments! Can you guys tell me what your blogs are so I can link mine to them? I just want to make sure I get the RIGHT blog, since I know some ladies have several! ;)

  21. I'm afraid I don't keep a blog :( ... (I find that between getting my Master's degree, managing my husband's business, sewing, and managing my own business... well, eating and sleeping come before blogging. and quite frankly, like plants, i forget about them and they die a slow death...) but you are more than welcome to link to my website(s) www.katnipkreations.com and www.playitagaindjs.com just don't judge my awful web building skills!

    but I gotta say, I too know the joy of a fabric high, especially when it's a highly irresponsible shopping trip!!

  22. Irresponsible shopping trips! Best way to solve anything (though I usually buy cake truffles and funny socks if I have just had it!)

    Damsel in this Dress, you are very real and honest. And I love this blog and how it isn't sugar coated. I think that this is your Blog and you can post whatever you like! And your drawings make me laugh constantly.

    The best thing to do is keep the good memories and learn from the bad! (oh so deep!)

    Good luck!

  23. Hi, Michelle :) Sorry for this all this stalking, but I must admit, I've become instantly obsessed with your clothing. I never dreamt that things like this existed in real life, and I think you're brilliant, beautiful, and talented. I'm REALLY excited to be getting clothing from you, and look SOOO forward to it and hopefully meeting you in person one day.

    I know you don't know me, just contacted you today over your gorgeous pirate coats. I can't imagine anyone giving you crap at all or being dissatisfied. The flaw is likely in them. However, with that being said, I admire your graciousness for taking the responsibility of it all. But, it's really not your drama. We want to make people happy, but some people are just perpetually unhappy. I'm an artist, and I do very intricate, detailed work, just like you. Quality is everything, yet I've had many unhappy clients. Why? Who knows. I'm only learning now, at age 33, how to let it roll off my back and just laugh at it. It does hurt, though, and your blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly, time away from your kids makes it personal. But, hang in there, kiddo. Your work is the best I've ever seen, and I'm very picky about what I buy. (3 mouths to feed does that to a girl) If I don't LOVE it, and I mean friggin' ADORE it, I don't buy it. It's rare to even get an artist to even follow through on a commission anymore. (and I know all about that also. Not cool.)

    I have sewn. It's hard. Corsets are a LOT of work. I'm grateful to find someone else willing to do it for me let alone for such a great price and fast turnaround. But, it is OK to say no once in a while if someone is just impossible to deal with. I have directed many a client elsewhere myself. My husband owns his own plumbing and heating business, and he can tell you stories about people that will make you cry. It's the horrible part about owning your own business...you have to work for dbags sometimes. However, it will calm down. It will get better. You'll reach a point where you crawl out of the bills and get a little down time, and be in a better financial position to say no.

    I have 3 kids, and I do very little art these days. That's the choice I've made, and there's guilt in that, also. But, I can't run 2 businesses at the moment. No matter what choice you make, there's stress, and you want to do what's best for your family. Being a mom isn't easy, and being very good at something is sometimes a mixed blessing.

    I think you're grand, and I wish you well in all of your creative endeavors. May you and your family be blessed, now and always. I'm sure that the vast majority of your customers not only smile when they wear your garments, but feel so magical and beautiful for the priveledge. Those who don't would feel completely miserable anyway, and are missing out on something incredibly amazing and special.

    I just started my blog on here, so it's lame...LOL.


    My old blogs were on faezine.com, but she stopped publishing it.

    Brightest Blessings & look so forward to owning your lovely clothes,

  24. I have been following your etsy/blog for a while, waiting patiently to have an event to order for .. (and knowing my luck Im out of time LOL! cause i'm terrible at organising anything personal... could be that i too have to put the business that pays the rent and puts food on the table first too!)

    As a small business owner as well (like Marisa, a photographer) I know oh too well... I recently had major surgery on my foot. i know may not sound all that full-on, but required 24/7 elevation above heart level (for 6 weeks now) and very full on pain meds. As a one person show, I could only do what's humanly possible. I notified my clients, put email signatures up and without totally closing down (unlike a person who worked for a 'big' company would do "so and so will be out of the office until this date and will return all correspondence then") I tried to carry on. Of course for some people, that is NOT acceptable.

    I got the rudest, most Un-compassionate email from a client who basically said "I know you've just had surgery, but I'm tired of waiting" (she'd waited a week, for a pre-explained design time of two weeks) only for me to somehow get the design to her, against doctors orders, for her to tell me i'll be waiting 4 weeks for her to pay the invoice. Obviously was not in a hurry for the product.

    Basically, there will always be someone that doesn't read the T&C's, or the instructions, or doesn't understand that custom work means custom work.

    I agree with the above. Look at all your happy customers and see that you are doing an amazing job :)