Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Thanksgiving Rant

I have never liked the adage, "Money can't buy you happiness". It's so absolute and authoritarian. Yes, I understand its intent: to explain why Howard Hughes' immense wealth couldn't save him from his agoraphobia, for instance. But I really think that this phrase is incorrectly worded. Don't you think "Money can't guarantee you happiness" or "Just because you are rich, it doesn't mean you are happy!" would convey the concept a lot better? I suspect that "Money can't buy you happiness" was created when a medieval king commissioned his slogan maker to come up with some effective propaganda to keep the poor folk from staging a revolution. The peasants were getting increasingly pissed off about their standard of living being so much lower than that of the king, so the king used a slick advertising campaign to secure his place on top of the totem pole. With these grand words plus the zinger, "Money is the root of all evil", a peasant uprising was cleverly avoided.

Unfortunately, the economic news of the last two months has gotten all of us a lot more focused on things like money and potential peasant uprisings. Like most of us, I am totally appalled at the sight of some of the richest men on the planet coming to the American taxpayers with their hats in their hands asking for handouts the size of a small country's annual GNP. Suffice to say, things are definitely weird these days. And I'm really feeling it in this year's holiday orders. I sell over 90% of what I produce to a group of less than a hundred fine craft galleries throughout the United States. Every fourth quarter of the year has been roughly the same for me: we get a steady stream of orders in September and October, and we ship them all out by Thanksgiving. Then we get a bunch of re-orders the first three weeks in December and hopefully we have a really low inventory by the end of the year. This year things are way off. A lot of stores that regularly order with us haven't done so, and the ones that have placed orders are down by about half as much as usual. I feel a bit like a canary in a coal mine.... cough! cough!

The main reason I started this blog is to liven up my presence on the web. The sales in my webstore were phenomenally low in September and October, and I attributed it to the economic crisis. This month, my webstore sales have picked up pretty well up due to an email I sent out to all of my online customers. I'm hoping that the next few weeks will see a lot more sales for us through the internet. But the real question is, what is it going to be like in January? If my accounts are laying low during the holiday season, they surely won't order much at all after New Years. By coincidence, my assistant is leaving for a three month "semester at sea" program the second week of 2009. Kelly is an absolutely perfect co-worker, and she will be hard to replace. So if we have a lot of pots still in our stockroom at this time, I probably won't hire anyone new and I will look for other employment. Sounds like fun, huh? I just contacted an incense distributor in Boulder who is looking for massive quantities of hand-thrown incense bowls. This could be a good fall back situation for me and I'm hoping that it works out. I'll still be producing Wallyware, but only to meet demand. You can only have so many pots in your stock room, right? I'm fortunate that my business is out of my house, because if I was renting a warehouse, this would be an entirely different situation. Rest assured, fans of Wallyware. We are far from throwing in the towel at this stage.

OK... that's enough ranting. Now for the things to be thankful for. While my lack of money does make me somewhat unhappy these days, the big things in my life are good. My family is doing really well. I'm married to a wonderful woman who is doing quite well in her career. Lori's job is a lot more stable than mine: she is a tenured professor at CU Heath Sciences and her career continues to thrive. Our teenagers are quite successful, too. Robin is an English major at CU Denver, and she is the editor of the arts and entertainment section of the school newspaper, "The Advocate". She has a host of side projects in other media, as well. This week she got promoted from intern to freelance writer for the print and online version of the A/V section of "The Onion". Check out her latest article. And Monica is having a very nice year senior year in high school. She has excellent grades and test scores, and she has a really great group of friends. It's fun watching her turn into an adult. So we all have our good health and our varying degrees of success, but it would just be nice to get some more pottery sales right now. Because if I'm working at Wal-Mart a year from now, I don't think I'm going to be quite so happy about the state of things.

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