I will preface this by saying that no one particular incident/brand encouraged this post and nothing has personally happened to me lately to inspire this, either- but it’s a topic I see again and again lately and has low-key bothered me for awhile.
If you’re a reader of my blog, there’s a good chance that you’re a fan of indie brands, as am I. We probably have a couple things in common- we love them for their unique and handmade creations and we love knowing our money supports an individual and their family (or their cat).
Indie brands- businesses or friends?
Another benefit of many indie brands is being able to make a personal connection to the person creating the product you’re purchasing. To me, this is not as big of an aspect as the first two but for some, it’s the sole reason they shop indie. They enjoy being able to interact with the maker in fan or facebook groups, suggest polish themes, get to know the brand outside of just polish, etc.
So, we understand that indies are (most of the time) run by a single person- often one who either works another job, goes to school or has other obligations. Naturally, since we can see how much work goes into handmade products, we tend to give them more leeway. If I order something on Amazon and it doesn’t ship in a few days, I’m checking into the expected turnaround time and getting antsy pretty quick. With an indie, I tend not to even notice something hasn’t shipped unless it’s been more than two weeks.
With that said (and hopefully with it established that I respect and appreciate all of the hard work responsible brands put into this gig)- sometimes I feel that we as consumers in this community forget that making and selling product is a business and should be treated like one on both sides- especially with regards to communication.
Here’s the thing- some brands really, really suck at communication and I don’t think that should be acceptable behavior from a business owner. There are a few brands whose social media pages are almost always full of customers commenting trying to get a response to their emails. (Did one brand pop up in your head when you read that? I can promise you there are 10+ others that are exactly the same.) I myself have had the frustration of having to send multiple emails and finally having to resort to public posts to try to get a giveaway prize (both ones I’ve won along with brands I’ve worked with to host giveaways for you guys) shipped months later. It’s like pulling teeth (and without any tooth fairy money).
The biggest bugbear of it all for me- almost 99% of the time the same brands ignoring emails or posts in groups are at the same time super active on social media in general, posting and commenting in groups all day long! And if someone brings up their frustrations with a brand taking past their turnaround time to ship or not responding to private emails or messages- the excuses from
minons fans of the brand come right away (sometimes even harassing or trying to discredit the person with the complaint). It’s usually “Oh, she’s a mom!” or “Oh, she’s just one person trying to run the business!”. Okay, but so are a ton of other indies who manage to, you know…mail the items people paid them for in a timely manner.
Yes, indies totally deserve some slack- they are often one-woman shows and as I mentioned earlier, they usually have other responsibilities or jobs outside of their brand. But usually when people start complaining about shipping times- they have cut that brand some slack for weeks or months AND it’s a habitual/constant problem with that brand, not just a one time ‘life happens’ issue (which is understandable)! There becomes this feeling as though they should be lucky the brand is doing anything at all for the person- yet that person PAID them to deliver a product in return! When you pay a person, it’s a transaction, not a favor on their part.
I’m just going to say it– I know a lot of moms, I know a lot of people working multiple jobs at once (I have myself in the past) and I know a lot of people juggling work/school/family life. NO ONE is too busy to not be able to take ten minutes once a week to respond to emails. If you are, you have no business taking people’s money and shouldn’t be selling product. If you have time for facebook, you have time to respond to customers who have put their trust in you and their funds in your wallet. If you have time to run a giveaway to gain followers, you’d better make time to actually send out that prize. If something happens in your life that is so severe that you are going to need to disappear for months- you can take the five minutes to click that little ‘refund purchase’ button in paypal.
Frankly, there are SO many indie brands who take their commitment to their customers seriously and have such great service and it really bothers me seeing people soured on the indie community as a whole because of some of the bad apples. If it takes a brand more than a month (pre-orders or large sales that come with an upfront disclaimer about longer ship times aside) to send out an order- that brand does not have a real commitment to it’s customers and it’s not doing them any favors to let that continuously be excused.
On the flip side
We love indies for being handmade and usually one person or a small team creating the product- and although I think some get more slack in certain cases than they should, some also get treated pretty unfairly as well. There’s a lot of little things I could talk about here but this is long enough already, so I’ll stick to two major things- stock levels/restocks and shelf life.
Restocks suck. Having to refresh at a certain time and grab something within a minute or it’s sold out sucks. I totally agree with that and personally I tend not to buy from places where I have to do so because I’m lazy and I’d rather spend my money somewhere I can leisurely checkout without fear of cartjacking. That’s understandable. HOWEVER. I have seen so much vitriol and harassment of some brands who have had trouble keeping enough product in stock for everyone who wants a particular product.
On one hand, we want a product that’s handmade with care. But on the other hand, as a community we sometimes don’t understand that one person can only take on so much- and if that person knows their limit that they can produce and still be able to keep a decent shipping time, shouldn’t we respect that? It’s one thing to be understandably frustrated and let down if you couldn’t snag the product you wanted. It’s another thing to personally harass or try to guilt the person behind the brand because they have a limit on how much time/energy they can or want to dedicate to their business.
Second thing is shelf life– we know that our lip glosses and lipsticks go bad and have to be tossed after a few years. We know our mascaras should be used within a few months or tossed. Indies definitely should be testing their ingredients for months prior to using them and there definitely should be a timeframe that a polish should be expected to reasonably last without changing (pigments changing colors, glitters melting, etc.)- but why does it seem like that is expected to be a lifetime?
I feel that absolutely if a polish changes colors or has a pigment issue in a year or so after purchase that it should be replaced.
But a year and a half? Two? To me, that’s pushing it. I see plenty of commercial polishes sitting on store shelves waiting to be purchased with bleeding glitter or bad separation. As a community, we rarely get outraged at things like that. Sure, if OPI tries to sell us polish with “ultra-large gently curved hexagonal gold pieces” from the get-go, we let them know that we aren’t that stupid.
But polish changing after the typical cosmetic shelf life time frame passes? Would we contact Revlon five years down the road if a polish color faded? So why do we feel that a small company without the large amount of income and infrastructure should be responsible for their product basically forever?
So for me, bottom line- if I’m giving you my hard-earned cash in exchange for a product, I expect to receive that product in a timely fashion (and again, for me that’s whatever the brand’s stated turnaround time is- even two + weeks is okay if they’re up front about it) and if issues arise that make that unlikely, I expect them to be communicated promptly and honestly like a professional business would. I also feel that it’s unfair that in some circumstances, indies are held to such a higher standard than commercial brands and I wish that was talked about more in the community.
What do you guys think? Do you totally disagree with me? Have you experienced a lack of communication with a brand before? Did it make you wary of purchasing from other indie brands or did you treat it as an isolated incident? Let me know in the comments!