Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 550

I knew I was in trouble when I went to the battery store and was greeted by two new guys wearing green shirts instead of the customary red. I've been buying watch batteries at this store for years and had gotten to know the sales guys. They always gave me the jewelers wholesale price on watch batteries, even though I wasn't a jeweler at all. I did buy a lot of batteries though. When these new guys rang up my total, the price was almost three times what I was used to. I told them that I had always gotten a discount, but when they looked on their list of jewelry store accounts, of course they couldn't find me. I really couldn't justify my discount other than the fact that the other guys had always given it to me. I handed the stack of batteries back and told the guys in green that I would just buy them online. As I was walking out the door, one of the guys said, "let me see what I can do." He looked a little book and came up with the jewelers price again. I walked away with twenty five batteries.

This little scenario illustrates why small business is having a tough time these days. Nobody, including myself, wants to pay retail anymore. Can you blame us. There's an app right on my iPhone that lets me compare and find the lowest price on almost anything, anywhere in the world. It's much easier to order something directly from China over the Internet than it is to look for a lower price across town. Don't get me wrong. I love little retail stores. I just don't support them anymore. Times are tough and I want the lowest price on everything. Why would I want to pay $3.25 for a watch battery when I can get the same thing for 95 cents somewhere else.

So, there you have it. A few companies gear up to sell their stuff to the entire world on the thinnest of possible margins and the rest go out of business. The battery store probably won't go out of business. They'll struggle along and make less of a profit by giving customers the discount they want just before they walk out the door forever. The same thing has happens in my own business. I'm still busy, but I'm lucky to make $50 doing exactly the same things that used to bring in $500. To make the same income I used to make, I have to work a lot harder.

I got another new website launched and online today. I only like to work on one design project at a time, but now that this project is almost finished, it means I need to start looking for another website client. This is not as easy as it sounds. I'm not a big, fancy interactive shop like Razorfish, and I don't sell cheap cookie-cutter template sites either. Most of my clients started by doing one of those cheesy "website tonight" type of template sites on GoDaddy and ended up hating it. Then they priced big companies like Razorfish and couldn't come close to affording them. I was the only alternative left.

Now that the bees are finally gone, guess what I spotted today? Carpenter ants! I've started seeing the characteristic little piles of sawdust around the edges of some of the windows. Carpenter ants aren't as bad as termites, but they do eat wood. Looks like I'll be making another trip to the pest control store next week.

Dalmatian of the Day

Watch of the Day