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Archive | July, 2017

Competing against ourselves on Google Adwords

If you regularly read our blog posts, you know that, in addition to writing about topics that are helpful for owners and fans of Revere Ware cookware, we also like to write about our experience running an online business.

Today’s topic is Google Adwords, something which is pretty essential for running almost any online business.  If you don’t get traffic, you can’t make sales.

Let’s start with this graph that shows the average cost per click we’ve paid since we started the business, about 8 years worth of clicks.

One thing to realize is that, when it comes to most of the keywords we advertise for, like “revere ware parts” or “revere ware handle” we are the only business providing these parts.  You might think that there is little to no competition for the Adwords phrases we pay for, and you would be right.  By any standard, the amount we pay per click is tiny.  Some businesses will pay tens or hundreds of dollars for a single click, while we spend mere pennies.

But still, a curious thing has happened over the last 8 years … our cost per click has continue to trend up.  (There are a couple of anomalies to ignore.  The large spike near the start of the graph was us weeding out keywords that were far too costly for our business, and the downward trend towards the end of the graph before it started going up again was us again weeding out the most costly of the phrases we paid for.)

How is this possible given that we are the only business that does what we do?  Well, we recently discovered the likely reason.  Check out this email we recently got from Google.

Well that’s interesting, we are mostly competing with Amazon.com for keyword phrases.  The strange thing about this is that, well, we are the ones selling our parts on Amazon.com.  So, it appears that Amazon.com, in order to move more of the business for our parts to their website rather than to ours, is purchasing the same phrases as us.

What does this mean to our business?  At one level, not much.  Our net margins of selling through our own website and using a fulfillment center to ship the orders, versus selling on Amazon.com and using Fulfillment by Amazon to fulfill the orders is about the same.  Well, mostly.  Take a look at the graph of our margins over the last 13 months.

As you can see, our website margins (in blue) are right in line with the Amazon margins (in red), except for the last two months.  Our fulfillment service has a certain fixed cost for using the service (base cost that doesn’t change every month) and then a variable cost per order (handling, packaging materials, postage).  If our website sales get too low in any month (in the summer months we do about half the volume per month than in the winter months) then there aren’t enough order such that the shipping charges sufficiently offset the fixed costs.  This affect is smaller if you consider the full year, but, if the proportion of our sales that are sold through Amazon.com continues to go up, eventually it simply won’t be profitable for us to sell through our own website anymore; we will at some point start losing money on every order.   Selling through our own website is beneficial, as it allows us to keep much more in touch with our customers, and get direct feedback from them, than selling through Amazon.com, so that would be a shame.

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Revere Ware retail arbitrage on eBay

Arbitrage is the exploitation of economic inbalances.  An example would be borrowing money from a low-interest rate country and investing it in a high interest rate one.

The appears to be some kind of economic arbitrage happening with our parts for sale on Amazon.com and those parts being listed on eBay.  Here is an ad for two of our lid knobs on eBay.

The ad is identical to our listing on Amazon.com, including the title, pictures, and down to the description.  We sell the pair of knobs on Amazon.com for $10.49; on eBay they are listed for $14.49.  Similarly to the fake web store we found a couple of months ago listing our products from Amazon.com, it seems likely that the back-end systems of this seller simply place orders on Amazon.com with free Prime shipping whenever an eBay order is placed, and make a few dollars on the difference between the prices.  This particular seller has 3 other products of ours from Amazon.com listed, all of which are our top sellers (so they are being smart about it).

We can draw a couple of possible conclusions from this phenomenon.

  1. Our prices are too low.  Given the proliferation of our products (and we are the only maker of Revere Ware replacement parts) on eBay at higher prices than we sell on our website or Amazon.com, perhaps the market can bear higher prices.
  2. We should start selling on eBay; there is clearly a market for our parts there.

Doing a little searching on the subject reveals that Amazon-eBay arbitrage is actually a pretty common thing.  There is nothing wrong with it, per se; people are selling a listing something on eBay and then fulfilling the terms of the sale via Amazon.com.  The only problem we have with it is that the un-savvy shopper is paying more than they need to, and that any issues with the sale may track back to us via our Amazon.com sales channel.

We would actually love to use Fulfillment by Amazon as a way to fulfill eBay sales, and the difficulty of fulfilling them separately than how we handle our own website sales (via a fulfillment company), and Amazon.com sales (via fulfillment by Amazon) is what keeps us from listing our products on eBay.   As of yet, there doesn’t appear to be a way to do this that is supported by Amazon.com.

The moral of this story is, if you want the best price on our parts, avoid eBay and go straight to Amazon.com or our website.

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Scrubbing the inside of stainless steel pans

In our cleaning guide, we recommend against using steel wool to scrub stainless steel pans.  The problem is that bits of the steel wool filaments can get embedded in the cookware stainless steel and promote rust.

However, we discovered a new scrubbing pad recently made of stainless steel, the Scotch-Brite stainless steel scrubbing pads.

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Scotch-Brite green scrubbers are our favorite tools for cleaning the inside of stainless steel pans, as they can easily remove food and hard water buildup, and leave the inside with a nice dull polish, (which it will end up with from metal utensils anyways).  The stainless steel scrubbers look useful for dealing with the harder burnt on crud.

As a reminder, never use an abrasive scrubber (either of the two above) on the outside of a stainless steel pan, as it will dull the finish.  To clean the outside, use a nylon scrubber to clean and Bar Keepers Friend to polish (as well as a good copper cleaner to polish the copper bottom).  If you have burnt on food on the outside of the pan, use one of the techniques in our cleaning guide to get it off without harsh scrubbers.

 

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Finding old-style 2-screw pan handles

Our 2-screw handles fit Revere Ware cookware made since the early 1940’s.  However, from 1939 to the early 1940’s Revere Ware briefly used a type of handle that was somewhat different, but looked very similar.  These handles had 2 screw holes near the pan side of the handle, and another screw that went through the hold where the hanging hook goes.  They look like this:

Unfortunately, because of the limited number of pieces that have this type of handle, we don’t sell a replacement.  However, from time to time (like the ones above) they do appear on eBay.

The key is to save a search on eBay like “Revere Ware handle) such that it will email you new matches.

For the less patient, we have a guide to adapting our handles to this style of cookware.

For the more ambitions, you could grind down the metal spline to get a perfect fit.

 

 

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What to do when your new pressure cooker gasket leaks

We sell quite a few of the Revere Ware vintage pressure cooker gaskets.

Occasionally, we get complaints that the gaskets don’t seal properly.  Here is a checklist of things to try before you consider returning the gasket to us.

Is the gasket installed correctly

Due to how they are manufactures, the gaskets come to us inside out, and that is how we ship them.  Inside out means the notched side, which matches up with the lip in the lid, is on the inside (but needs to be on the outside).  So the first step is to make sure the gasket is right-side out.

It is essential that the notch in the gasket site below the lip of the lid.  Here are some useful graphics:

Is the pressure cooker warped

If your pressure cooker is warped, the top can be out of round.  This will cause steam to escape in certain spots around the rim of the lid.

Use a ruler or tape measure to measure across the bottom of the pressure cooker as close to across the center as you can.  Measure in a few different spots.  Each measurement should be exactly the same.  If it is off, even by as little as 1/8 of an inch, your pressure cooker is warped and likely won’t seal well.

Note that as silicone ages, it swells.  Old gaskets can sometimes work on a warped pressure cooker while a new one won’t.

Is the gasket defective

Closely inspect the parts of the gasket that come into contact with the lid. Are there some injection molding artifacts hanging off of it?  If so, try to gently pull them off.  Are there any divets in the gasket?  If so, this is a defect and could cause leaking.  Let us know and we will replace it.

Has the latch metal bent?

The lid has a metal hook piece at the front underside of the handle.  If this metal has gotten bent outward, it won’t apply enough downward pressure on the lid and thus the gasket. This could cause leaking.  These pictures show this latch metal:

If you press the two handles together and the leak stops, this could be the problem.  We’ve never tried it, but presumably you can try to bend it back down so the lid sits tighter when latched.

None of the above is true but it still leaks

If it is correctly positioned, your pressure cooker is not warped, and the gasket is not defective, there are still a couple of things you can try.

The first is to apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to the gasket before you put it in the lid.  Oil will cause the gasket to swell slightly.

Second, you can try some silicone lubricant, like this type from Amazon.com.

The product listing does seem to indicate that this lubricant is food grade.

 

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