Archive | April 2015

Etsy’s Gone Public: Handmade Artists Clamor for a Back to Basics Storefront, but Options are Limited

I’ve been on Etsy for about 4 years now. So far, it has allowed my hobby to do well, but usually only around Christmas. Since I’ve been doing it part time up until now…I was ok with that. Now that I’ve moved and graduated, I want to see about making it full time, but with the sporadic sales at Etsy that I’ve previously experienced, I realize I can’t have all my beads in one basket. As a result of my desire to expand, I’ve begun researching other suggestions for alternative places to sell crafts online.

I tried Artfire for over a year, with only 4 sales- not a success! It’s now a $20 – 60 monthly fee (I used to pay $12.95) whether you sell or not, so it’s not worth it for me to continue trying them. I’m now experimenting with inSelly viaInstagram‘s new marketplace. So far there are a lot of glitches and I’ve not made any sales there after just over a month of trying it out. I’m researching the following:

None of them have the traffic so far that Etsy has garnered over 10 years since they opened up.

I’ve got a website which links to my Etsy shop, but my audience is not large enough to sustain shopping at the website alone. If you can’t drive traffic to your website, regardless of offering a free standing eCommerce cart on it or linking to your Etsy shop, having a website alone still won’t guarantee success unless your brand becomes very popular and your SEO is amazing. Usually, artisans rely on blogs, social media, YouTube channel and craft shops such as Etsy to point to their website if they even have one. Many times successful artisans have their website with a shopping cart feature as their main sales presence, but still open Etsy shops due to the popularity of that site and the exposure that could be gained by pointing from their shop to their website.

Until someone mimics the success of Yardsellr which used to run as a marketplace app selling via Facebook, that will truly put the pressure on artisans as to how many marketplaces to try and fail vs. craft fairs or Etsy. Yardsellr did better for me in the 6 months I was there than in the entire 4 years I’ve been with Etsy. They had a great formula for tying in the social experience to get your items seen via people seeing your item intermittently when they logged into Facebook. Then, you could choose to pay ads and as Yardsellr got more popular, they started messing up by creating games to earn ad credits which led to chaos and an abrupt shutdown.

The truth is, most creative people are frustrated by constantly researching SEO tactics and uploading items into new online craft shops, in addition to attending craft fairs, taking great photos and keeping up with eMarketing communications via social media. All these tasks reduce the amount of time to CREATE, which is why we handmade artisans got involved with Etsy for in the first place, right? To get our goods online in front of the world, while still allowing time for us to make our goodies. If you want to be successful, you must always keep an eye on trends in your craft as well as your sales locale and audience shift. This means battling the frustration or just giving up online altogether in favor of craft fairs, home parties and personal sales.
So, I’m thankful for Etsy, but I’m looking at additional alternatives to use in conjunction with that shop in order to grow my biz online plus beginning to go to craft fairs. I wish Etsy would have made purchasing stock available to its sellers before going public so that we could have had an option in sharing in the wealth, since we helped them get to this point.Their stock already doubled on opening day and I’ve not seen the first invite as to how to get in on purchasing it, if I’m interested. Now I already can’t afford it. hahaha.

New Resident Nightmare: Moving to Texas- Vehicle Registration Rules, Inefficiency and Outsourcing- Driver License by Mail

Image result for idiots at the dmv

FINALLY went to try and get our Texas driver license. For anyone not familiar with TX…it is NOT a common sense state, contrary to popular belief. Before we could even go to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DMV doesn’t do licensing), I had to get our insurance changed over to Texas, get an inspection on the Toyota (for a fee which must be done yearly), then go to a separate privately owned car title company or tax assessors office to have the tags transferred from AZ to TX (for another and larger fee where we didn’t get refunded the month still pending of AZ tags). Then we are deemed worthy of going to try to get a driver license.

A note about these required car inspections in Texas: It makes no sense to mandate these inspections yearly because the people performing the inspections no longer issue stickers and after a certain age car (24 years old) , the inspection doesn’t test their emission level but just the safety (lights and wipers work, airbags installed, nothing falling off, etc.). If the purpose is for TX to ensure that new residents have vehicles with a low carbon footprint and are safe on the roads, then fine- the first inspection is justifiable. Why make a new TX resident car that passed the 1st time continue to get re-inspected every year when you allow border crossing vehicles here daily that still use leaded gasoline? And why allowold vehicles that can’t pass your emissions requirements to be waived and only tested for safety? I’m all for clean air, don’t get me wrong. With the sub-standard border vehicles, older US vehicles waivers, and sporadic counties in TX requiring inspections…it just seems like another layer of stupidity.

Image result for Texas DMV inefficient

Now, thinking we had all our ducks in a row, the hubby took off to go with me since he had to go to the title company and sign our car title for the registration part. At the DPS( for yet another fee), we were told we needed our social security card (or passport) AND our birth certificates along with my needing my marriage license (I guess they don’t trust my updated name on my social security card) AND our AZ driver license. This all in addition to the new proof of insurance in TX, car inspection report and new title tag registration.

It is ridiculous to have to go to 3 different places to get a new license and tag where the other 2 states we’ve lived in do it all in one place. Not to mention, Texas expects new residents to jump through all these hoops within 30 days of moving here. Uh right. You’ll be lucky to unpack your boxes in 30 days, much less have all this junk done!

Oh, and the final straw on top of an eye exam and digitally scanning both index fingers…they don’t even give you your license there at the at the DPS! They MAIL IT TO YOU in 2-3 weeks or 30-60 days (depending on who you listen to…your receipt or the clerk) and you are given a temp piece of paper. What? At this point, we almost contemplated becoming reverse illegals and crossing into Mexico. hahahaha.

I would expect this kind of junk from California, but not Texas. We were frustrated with Arizona’s high property tax chaos and fees ($393 in TN to $1900 in AZ) when we moved from Tennessee, but at least they did everything car related at one building and you got your license that day. (Which, might I add, AZ doesn’t expire licenses until you are 65. Yes, you read correctly- for me it was 30 YEARS away from the date I was issued back then). By the way, here in El Paso Texas…our property taxes are giving us sticker shock again as they are even higher than Yuma, AZ at about $6,000! Yet another thing to take care of, turn in a Residential Homestead Exemption form to get a mild tax break keeping us around that $6k mark which is INSANELY high.

We asked about our little 1996 Nash pull along camper today, thinking we could get it registered while doing our Toyota transfer. NOT! Even though the weight amount is noted on the title we brought with us (824 pounds), we have to get it weighed for $5 or get an inspection for $20 because TX says titles alter weight amounts on campers…even the small little pull alongs like ours. Newsflash: The real alteration is going to be us having to pull our camper to a weigh station which will not only give the camper weight, but pick up our truck’s weight! This then throws the camper over 4,000 pounds and causes us to be classed for a higher fee. Coincidence? I think not. It’s a money making racket here, it seems.

New El Paso Texas resident checklist:

  1. Transfer your vehicle and camper insurance (within 30 days moving to Texas)
  2. Get a vehicle inspection  (within 30 days moving to Texas, maintain annually)
  3. Transfer your vehicle tag registration  (within 30 days moving to Texas, done separate from license)
  4. Get driver license (within 90 days after entry into Texas, take a suitcase of identification documentation and possibly your family tree)
  5. Drink a Diet Coke and eat a piece of Chocolate cake

Tennessee friends, be extra glad that you still live in a land of low property taxes, sweet tea, and no border bureaucracy! Arizona friends, be thankful you have a one stop shop for your driver license, no yearly inspections and some muy bueno guacamole. Texas friends, I feel more secure in the knowledge that we are all here legally, driving non-polluting and safe cars.(Um, yeah right).

To end my rant of the day, I will say that over half of this frustration was made better by an awesome insurance agent who forewarned us of most of these inconvenient steps before the ability to even get new licenses. If it weren’t forAnnette Haverly with Statefarm telling us about the inspection, registration being separate from DPS and insurance transfers, we would have probably wound up on the news here tonight as crazy people throwing tantrums in local registration facilities. Seriously. And one more silver lining to try to end on a semi-positive non-lunatic note, our tag cost for the Toyota is about $220 cheaper here in Texas than it was in Arizona. I’m guessing that might be because that extra money went to the AZ MVD facility being able to process everything in one location instead of outsourcing the way Texas DPS does. Ok, that was just sarcasm. Another positive to the outsourced tasks is that they are a very small office and the wait time was less than 30 minutes. After we made 2 trips home to get additional documentation, make that about an hour, but that is still less than the 4 hours at AZ.

So, now we wait for our photo driver licenses to get mailed to us and hope we don’t experience identity theft as a result of them being issued by mail.

Update on my Cat’s Glaucoma Drama: There is Hope!

For anyone that didn’t read last week’s blog post about my oldest cat, he was diagnosed with Glaucoma and his left eye was supposedly totally gone. I blamed myself for this vision loss, as I had not made it a big enough priority.

After relocating to a new state at Thanksgiving and all that comes with setting up life in a new area and unpacking, I’d not been quick enough to get him to the vet the month after we moved here. Then when I got him to one in February, that went horribly wrong. Then in March, I was able to get in to see the original vet we wanted to try via Angie’s List and there was the bad news I’d dreaded. No vision left in one eye.

This week marks a 3rd vet opinion from an eye care specialist for animals. I now have a glimmer of hope attached to the expensive $301 vet bill and 3 additional medications that are specifically just for his eyes. This vet does not think his eye is totally gone and there could be a slim chance for some retrieval of vision if the anti-inflammatory drugs and pressure drops get the pupil back into normalcy. Also, this specialist said that unless Punkin was put on drops he could very well develop vision loss in the other eye, whereas both of the other vets had said that was unlikely. So, I am sticking with the specialist’s opinion.

I could have hugged the man, but I restrained myself. This is the only location that has an opthamologist for animals here in El Paso and they only have the doctor here on Tuesdays. He flies in directly from Phoenix every Tuesday, if you can believe that!

So, Punkin must be given these drops every day in addition to his blood pressure medicine and his eye ointment which keeps his eye moist. It’s a real pain to try and give a cat meds ( for that matter do anything a cat doesn’t want you to do), but I hope they can help him during this late stage of life.

Special tip: Again it is worth mentioning that even though the Banfield Hospital vet was less than knowledgeable, he did give one good tip to get meds cheaper via online coupon to take to your local pharmacy. It isn’t just for pet meds, it is for all meds. Good RX is a free online service that allows you to compare costs at local pharmacies for medicine that either your vet can’t fill at their locations or are really expensive, even with insurance. I was also referred there again today by the pet opthamologist when I discovered one of his eye drop bottles was damaged and had leaked out. They don’t fly in until next Tuesday, so they refunded me the med cost and faxed in a script to the cheapest pharmacy once they looked at the Good RX website comparison. This cost me $44 at the eye vet yesterday, but now via Good RX it should only cost me $16.06 when I go to pick up at CVS with the coupon I printed. So, if you are challenged by expensive meds, even if you have insurance…give that site a visit and see if you can get it cheaper via their coupon once you compared pricing at local pharmacies in your list per zip code you enter.

Well, keep your fingers crossed for Punkin’s eyes. Already, the drops have made his pupil get back to a semi-normal size. I remain hopeful that a miracle can restore his vision, even if only a little bit. I’ll take what improvement I can get and I know Punkin will feel better relieving pressure from his eyes now that we know about Glaucoma. Here’s a cute pic of him today as he was resting inside his cat climber on our back porch. (Check out behind him. Mr. Blinky had apparently already been inside the box when Punkin decided to climb in, too. hahaha).

Diagnosis: My 18 Year Old Cat Has Glaucoma and it is Momma’s Fault

My poor geriatric kitty has now been diagnosed with Glaucoma. The extra bad part about this is that Punkin’s eye may not have completely died if I had not been preoccupied with other things since moving to Texas. His pupil first dilated in late December at Christmas. We’d moved to TX on Thanksgiving week, so he’d been stressed out since about that time. Our neighbor suggested a vet that she uses for her dogs which I now wish I’d steered clear of and just tried the ones I looked up on Angie’s List. We took him to Banfield Vet in PetSmart (do not go to the one in El Paso). When I finally took him in February, it was extremely dilated.

Anyway, upon taking him to another vet this Tuesday, his opinion is that Punkin’s eye is totally gone. He had no response to the light test. This new vet also did a metal gadget test (Schiotz Tonometer) on his eye which read at 60 points pressure. He said a cat is normally supposed to be around a 12 points. He didn’t even recommend the expensive drops ($150) for Glaucoma since Punkin has never rubbed his eyes in pain and appears to not be bothered by it the way most cats are. He did give us some eye gel to keep the eye moist. He said the next step if Punkin’s pressure starts causing him pain in the blind eye is to remove his poor little eyeball.

So, after crying like a baby in front of these brand new people seeing my cat for the first time, this horrible excuse of a mother took her poor geriatric baby to the car where I sobbed more and he meowed louder. Now I’ve scheduled a 3rd opinion with an eye care ophthalmologist for animals for next week. Trying a last ditch effort since they specialize in this stuff. I want to see what their opinion is on the drops and if it matches the Coronado Vet’s opinion that this can’t somehow be reversed .

His pupil dilated over a year ago and the Yuma vet put him on blood pressure meds (his blood pressure stayed in the 200’s at that time). These meds (Amlodipine) made the eye better by reducing his blood pressure (or so we thought). His pupil didn’t do this again for over a year, shortly after we moved him here to El Paso. His pupil was slightly dilated again late December, but would go back to normal quickly, so we figured it was the stress of the move, his being pent up inside the house and being walked on a leash. Here’s a look at Punkin’s eye in that window of time:

This Banfield vet gave us an allergy gel last month for his eye and told us they didn’t do eye or glaucoma tests, but referred us to the opthamologist if his eye didn’t get better after a month. Since his blood pressure was fine, those meds were still working and he said it was probably the stress of the move and new surroundings with possible newly developed allergies which is apparently common in El Paso. Needless to say, after that debacle (they lost our records from Yuma, took forever to see Punkin and couldn’t do simple eye tests), I moved forward with trying to get a new vet. It did take a few weeks, which is right about another month and the allergy gel had no effect on his pupil dilation. The gel he gave us is dangerous for Glaucoma, according to this new vet this week. It had Cortisone in it which is a no-no. Great.

For 20+ years, I have always cared for all of my furbabies better than I do myself or even my hubby. (Poor guy). This time, however, because of the move and unpacking and all the other things going on being new to El Paso, I kept putting off getting Punkin to a new vet out here and apparently chose very poorly last month with Banfield . For this, I am deeply ashamed and don’t know how to look at myself moving forward.

Punkin is very forgiving, however. He snuggles with me and he’s been running around the house like a kitten, acting like he’s A-ok. He’s back to being supervised outside again which he hates, especially since he’s trying to climb the wall to get to the neighbor’s yard like an idiot. I’ve been keeping him inside mostly since last month. I’m afraid he’ll walk into a pointy cactus and pop his eye or something. I’ve been trimming out things he might walk into, but it still makes me paranoid so I watch him like a hawk.

Anyway, for all my cat friends…if your kitties experience a dilated pupil, bright red blood vessels in the top of their inner lid/eye and appear to have cloudiness in the pupil area, get them to a GOOD VET who will do a light test and a test with the pressure Schiotz tonometer! Get it diagnosed EARLY enough to hopefully help reduce pressure on the eye before it’s too late.

This 2nd vet did say with Punkin being 18, he’s in excellent health for his age and that Glaucoma is normal for older animals. No matter how much you do for them, they can still lose their vision. That doesn’t make me feel better.

That is my drama for the day. I despise getting older, but I really hate it when it is also effecting one of my babies and they begin losing their health. It’s my fault, in a way, on this situation and so I hate it even worse. Well, hug your furbabies!