i've been staying the hell out of the pwt discussions because i really have nothing to say (or, no leg to stand on), not having made any orders, but i have a few things to point out that i've noticed, and some completely unsolicited advice, and i had no way of saying these things without sounding like a critical asshole. but i can't help myself, so i will go ahead and risk it, because i can't sleep and i'm a little bitter about that.
the bottom line is, without a paid staff working for this online business, there is no way to hammer out mistakes and there is no room--or motivation-- for improvement. you can't yell at a volunteer, nor can you reasonably fire them. and they have no reason to assure quality work because they're NOT getting paid, they're only doing it because OMG they love amanda. or whatever, who knows why anyone does anything for free. i'm not knocking the amount of product that might have been moved or even the good job they have done when they have done a good job, i'm just saying it is not going to yield consistent results across the board, and there is no way to improve on what you are already getting for free. no employee motivation. i'm willing to bet for every one good volunteer there are like three who just....wandered off. i'm also willing to bet as the complaining gets more acidic, it will affect their motivation as well, because they will feel like they are wasting their time on ingrates, and why shouldn't they feel that way.
i'll be the first to say, i am a terrible organizer. if i ran pwt, no one would get any of their merch, and it would turn out to be lady gaga stickers or q-tips or something stupid and insane if they did. i work a lot better when the customer is there in front of me and i can hold their attention while i am frisking them for cash. so all i know is what's worked for me in business, which details i had to learn as i went along. which means i am giving advice straight out of my ass, for what it is worth. the first thing i learned is, usps is shit and unuseable. i wouldn't trust them with a letter to my grandmother. fedex and ups might not be much better, but they are not federal, they are corporations, and as such, have a sense of customer service that federal institutions have lacked for at least my lifetime. i've never lost a package that's been shipped by fedex or ups, and it is worth the extra money to know that someone will find your shit if you ask them to, firmly. sometimes with minimal screaming, just to motivate them. the worst problem i have ever has with ups is the drivers who could not understand that my shops did not under any circumstances open before noon. merchwise, i'll sell whatever isn't nailed down. i've sold tee shirts for twenty years. i would never charge over twenty bucks for a tee shirt that didn't cost between 12 and 15 bucks to make. i would make it up by selling a glass pipe i got for three bucks for a hundred fifty. that's right yall. those expensive-ass double-blown glass pipes cost your head shop like THREE BUCKS. you don't even want to know the markup on body jewelry. ok i'll tell you. most pieces cost like forty cents. thats right, your ten dollar tongue ring cost forty cents...unless we bought it by the pound, that is. i don't even know what percentage that markup is. gold jewelry? maybe four dollars, but you will pay well over a hundred. stores like spencer's pay even less for body jewelry (and sometimes charge more), but their product is shit.
and i know operating on a minimal, or no budget is nigh impossible. when you don't have the money to spend on the things you need, sometimes you just have to go ahead and spend it anyway. i have YET to make a personal profit on a business that i didn't have to inject right back into the business to keep it afloat; the only money i have made off myself is money i have made, myself. this point of view doesn't really mean anything other than i can't really see where amanda gets a whole lot of profit out of this at all, honestly. which makes the fact that there IS a pwt pretty actually awesome in the first place, because such a big headache for not much or no profit is a pretty cool thing to do for one's fans. if that is indeed the case.
from out here on the sidelines, it's got every appearance of trying to make as much money possible without spending any. this may not be the case, i'm just saying, that is what things appear to be. which is of course another concept i am very familiar with. but when you launch almost any business, instant profit is almost going to be unheard of. the magic of a zillion-dollar tee shirt twitter frenzy will not work every time; in fact as awesome as that was, i would be surprised if it ever works again. i cannot think of a way to sound less like an asshole, but also could not mean to be an asshole less, when i point out using volunteers and the cheapest service available isn't going to win many points in the customer service department.
edit: i'm sure i seem overly pessimistic in light of the small percentage of errors vs the large amount of successes, but it has been my experience that one unhappy customer equals five, after they get done bitching. again, i dont mean to be a jerk, i'm just speaking from my point of view as a salesperson.
another edit: and i can't even begin to imagine what a pain in the ass those bundles are to assemble and ship. i've sold tattoo and body piercing kits that burned my ass because it was assembled from things i had to buy individually or have made, and sold for one price. so i am completely sympathetic to whomever puts those things together, and also to whomever counts them and has to decide hat to charge for them.