Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why eBay is a zero and Etsy is my hero

I quit.

Sort of. Almost. Pretty much.

I quit eBay. I just plain can't stand it anymore. eBay has become an ugly place. A place where small sellers like me have to work their tails off for very little pay just to get anywhere at all. Or at least that's how my experience has been over the past few years. I know it's not the same for everyone else. I know some super awesome sellers in other parts of the country, even outside of the country, who are doing great with eBay. And that is awesome for them.

It just became too much for me.

As my kids have gotten busier, as my life has gotten crazier. I've found I just couldn't invest as much time into eBay as I used to be able to. People always tell you life is crazy when you have tiny little children, but no one warns you what it's going to be like when they're all in school and they have their own interests and friends and schedules. You think it's going to get easy because they're in school for a few hours every day. And it is, sort of. But it's also not. Because there is homework, projects, scouts, classes, all kinds of avenues of enrichment that you want so badly to allow your child to participate in. Band concerts, award ceremonies, meetings, and tournaments. You get the idea.

But I digress.

My busy life isn't the only reason I'm kicking eBay to the curb. The biggest reason is the stress. eBay has little sellers like me by the short and curlies, if you know what I mean. One dinged star, one red doughnut in our feedback profile, one missing package and our livelihood is threatened.  Not only that, but there is so much competition and the buyers are so willing to nickel and dime every seller, that our profit margins are teenie tiny. One scamming buyer can quite literally take food right out of our children's mouths.

It wasn't until earlier this year that I realized just how much I hated it. The shopping stopped being fun, the photos started to be pure drudgery, the describing, the research... all of it was like one of those jobs you wake up for in the morning and immediately start thinking of reasons you can call in sick.

And it's so very sad, really, because I used to absolutely love eBay. I was eBay's biggest cheerleader.  When I was laid off in 2001, eBay was a safe harbor for me. I put food in my newborn baby's mouth with eBay and sometimes even felt a real sense of security.

Those times are long gone for me, though.

(Okay, okay, I still have one eBay store running and I might list some stuff in it soon. But it's purely to get rid of inventory I already have. I swear. And to unload the Yudu for our Girl Scout troop. That's it. Really.)

So I found something different. Something I love to do and a reason to check my email with a smile every morning.

Tee shirts.

I talked about it a little bit before. But I've expanded, y'all. And I'm having so much freaking FUN.

It started with the girl scouts. And then a little summer camp action. Before long I was making shirts for bowling leagues and 4H clubs.

And then a few friends and I read Fifty Shades of Grey . You've heard of it. The scandalous novel sweeping the world with it's tantalizing scenes and bondage and discipline themes? Yep, that one.

We giggled over it, we shared our favorite scenes, we joked, we had a lot of fun with our significant others. Ahem.

And I made some tee shirts.  <- click that y'all! 

At first I was just joking. But y'all, they SOLD. And they're still selling. They're selling so well I'm making more with them than I was with eBay or the scout shirts. So I expanded. I added some other designs to my new Etsy store - no, I didn't put them in the same store as the Girl Scout stuff, silly, these babies needed a whole different kind of showcase - and I'm absolutely having a ball with it.

I gave some love to marriage equality and Neil Patrick Harris - two subjects I hold hear to my heart. And every day I'm putting up more and more. It's so much fun I have to literally tell myself to stop working and go spend time with my family.

So eBay can sit on it. I'm done.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Year With Florida Genbu-Kai Karate

It's not often that I consider using my blog as a place to actually discredit a local business. Like, if I get bad service at a restaurant I'm not going to run here and let y'all know about it or if someone does bad plumbing work I'm not going to shout it from the rooftops. But when someone tries to bully me or my children, I think it's time to use the blog.


Last May, The Man and I decided to enroll the boys in a karate school. We figured it would be good discipline and exercise for the boys. The Man had trained his whole childhood and earned the rank of black belt when he was a teenager. Though he hasn't formally trained in years, he continues to practice on his own and I truly believe that karate has made him a stronger, more disciplined and focused adult.

Earlier that year I had taken the kids to the movies and was given a business card for Florida Genbu-Kai Karate. At the time the school was located in Royal Palm Beach, which was pretty close to us out here in the boondocks. So we went and checked the school out.

Sensei Keith Moore gave our boys a trial lesson and the boys really enjoyed it so I decided to sign them up.


Now, my spidey sense was tingling when I was presented with a year long contract for the boys. It seemed kind of irrational to sign a year long contract committing a 7 year old and an 11 year old to any activity for an entire year. But the boys were so excited and I really felt good about Florida Genbu-Kai, so I went ahead and did it.  The school would have our credit card on file and take tuition out at the beginning of each month. I begrudgingly signed.

That was my first mistake.

Now, when we signed the contract I was told that after the boys passed their yellow belt test, there would be an additional class during the week for sparring practice, but that there would be no extra charge for additional classes. 


Oddly enough when the boys took and passed their test, Sensei Keith Moore and his wife, Karin, began harassing me to pay an increased tuition rate. When I refused, I was given the option to call a list of potential customers and try to book appointments for the dojo. In the spirit of helping out the dojo, I agreed to call this list. The list I was given was over 6 months old and the people on it often didn't remember adding their name to whatever fishbowl or ballot box the school had collected them in. I had terrible results calling them and only managed to book one appointment.

There we were, committed to the school for a year. There were times it was tough to keep it up, honestly. Goober had to give up football for the season because karate conflicted with practice times, but he truly loved going. Bug had practically no time after school before karate and complained constantly about having to go three days a week. It was a lot of dropping everything we were doing to rush to karate, a lot of driving, a lot of sitting around waiting for the boys to be done, and a few minor injuries.


My email inbox began to get regular emails from Sensei Keith Moore, most of them not related to karate at all - but silly forwards and chain emails. All emails were sent to all of the dojo customers with all email addresses clearly apparent to all readers. It irked me, but we had made a commitment and we were following through. I didn't want to bring up these "petty" little things as complaints because I started to fear that Sensei Keith Moore and his wife Karin might treat the boys differently if their mother were labeled a "problem-parent"... so I kept my mouth shut and carried on.


My spidey sense started tingling again when I was presented with a fundraising pamphlet that asked the boys to sell Domino's Pizza (or Papa Johns? I don't remember) to their friends and family. This fundraiser was presented to us on the very first day of the new school year. You know the day... when you're overwhelmed with new routines and paperwork and school uniforms and drop off circles. Not a great time to ask a mom to sell pizzas to help supplement their FOR PROFIT business that I was currently contracted to support.

Later on, just before Christmas, I was handed an envelope containing 20 raffle tickets with a note asking the boys to sell them for a dollar a piece for a 50/50 raffle splitting the prize with the school. In other words, the school was asking my boys to participate in a gambling effort so Sensei Moore could have more money for Christmas.

Now, I understand fundraising for non-profit organizations. And I can even understand if Florida  Genbu-Kai  had sent a letter home stating that more funds were needed for new equipment or maybe scholarships for underprivileged kids. Something. But to just send home raffle tickets with no explanation of what the money is to be used for is not acceptable. Especially since the parents can only presume that the money is just going directly into the owner's pocket. We did not sell any tickets.


So came the winter holiday. Florida  Genbu-Kai  was closed for a few weeks due to the holidays and because they were moving from Royal Palm Beach into a new location in Wellington. We were told that we would receive a credit on our tuition for February to make up for the lost time.

Before we could even address the issue of the dojo being closed for the better part of a month, I received an email from Sensei Keith Moore in the second week of January. This email was sent to every customer of the dojo - just as they all had been. This email shocked me. I'll just post it here in all its glory.

Yeah. Now, even though we hadn't been with the school for a year at that point I was horrified that Sensei Keith Moore would publicly admonish his students and their families like that. Was Florida  Genbu-Kai  really the kind of place I wanted to be sending my boys?

I had to sit on my hands not to respond to that email. Thank goodness the school was still closed at the time because it was several days later before I actually had to face Sensei Keith Moore and I had calmed down a bit at the time. He still had my boys in a contract for the next 4 months and I didn't want to make waves.

When February came, our tuition was charged with no discount. Again, I didn't say anything. I'm sure it would have really hurt the school to have to discount tuition for every member and so I just kept my mouth shut.


So finally, we were nearing April's end and the subject of  renewing the contract came up. After such a year with the dojo, The Man and I had decided we would not renew the contract, but would be fine with Florida  Genbu-Kai  taking payments month to month for the boys to continue with the school. This was solely because Goober really loved the school and Bug had set a goal to get to a purple belt for himself. We didn't want to keep the boys from reaching their goals and we knew they were happy at the school.

So I approached Sensei Keith Moore to try to compromise with him on signing a year long contract again for the boys. I mean, our card was on file, they got their tuition at the beginning of the month, he had nothing to lose, right?

He stood tall next to me, arms crossed, and told me a story of another kid who refused to sign his contract. "I kicked the kid out" he said, seriously.

Well then.

Sensei Keith Moore refused to compromise. Month to month was not acceptable, a shorter term was not acceptable, nothing but that year contract would suffice for him.

On the last Friday of the month, when I picked the boys up from the school, Karin Moore, Sensei's wife was there. She stopped me and again attempted to get me to sign a contract. I let her know that we weren't comfortable with it and that Bug didn't want to continue for a full year anyhow. She turned directly to Bug and started making a deal with him about what he would do at home while Goober was at class.

I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I didn't know how many times I had to tell them that we were not signing a contract. Not for Bug, not for Goober, not for anyone.

We did not return to the school for the class the next day that would have been their last class. I, honestly, just wasn't willing to be pressured into signing a contract again.

Today I received a new email from Sensei Keith Moore.

I will edit this one slightly because it has some personal information in it, but you'll get the gist:

"I am presuming being we have not seen nor heard anything from you or the kids, that you have decided to remove them from our program. While I understand, and can respect, we were hoping that we could at least work something out in trying to keep Goober in the program. Please remember the opportunity we gave you in making phone calls to new prospective students. While your efforts were minimal at best, we stuck to our word, and never increased the boys tuition with the hopes you were trying to get in new students to help offset your children's tuition. Unfortunately, we never saw any results on your behalf. 

I know you asked us to continue charging your card, as we have in the past, at least for Goober's tuition, however this is not legal, and unfortunately we could not honor this request. 

It is a shame, and I hope you and your husband realize my disappointment in both of you for making this decision. Obviously, my time and efforts in helping the boys get to were they are at, was not considered. Maybe both Bug and Goober, can learn more from their dad who watches martial arts videos. 

Best of luck in your future endeavors!


I sit here with my mouth open in shock. Would you want to enroll your children at Florida  Genbu-Kai ? I will save you the response I sent back to him and the drivel he replied to that with. Suffice it to say, I said my piece and he weakly attempted to argue back. 

Oh wait, I will include one quote from his reply to my confronting him about his "shame on you" email in January:

"To yell at our dojo family for not taking the time to help us move, being I'm the Sensei, it is my right!"

All I can say is that our decision to NOT renew a contract with these people is one of the smartest ones we've made.