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Happy Birthday to Us; a trip down memory lane

A year ago we celebrated our 10 year anniversary of selling new replacement parts for Revere Ware cookware.  If you aren’t familiar, the owners of the Revere Ware brand stopped supplying replacement parts for Revere Ware cookware sometime back in the late 1980’s.  For about 20 years, nothing was available.


We started out supplying a handful of parts in 2009 with this basic website, with sales solely on eBay.

Later that year we introduced handles for the post-1968 single screw pots and Dutch ovens, and switched to this beauty of a site; at that point we started selling through our own site, in addition to eBay.

We also started listing our parts on Amazon.com that year.  Over the last 10 years, Amazon.com has become a bigger and bigger part of our business.

The blue is eBay, red is our own website, and green is Amazon.com.


In late 2010 we introduced post-1968 newer style single screw handles for skillets and sauce pans, as well as the smallest handle for the pre-1968 2-screw line, followed by gaskets for the 1574 and 1576 line of pressure cookers.


In 2012, we switched from shipping things ourselves to hiring a fulfillment center to do the shipping for us.  This helped improve shipping responsiveness, and relieved us of the responsibility of shipping things ourselves, which became increasingly hard with the growing volume of sales and the arrival of our second child (now three) in 2011.  We stopped selling on eBay that year, as it was very difficult to integrate eBay sales into our fulfillment center.


In late 2015 we introduced the replacement, cap & trigger, and handle for the 2 1/3 quart tea kettle.  We also switched the the current version of our website.


In 2016 we completed a design for a 3D printable trigger for the 3 quart kettle, but materials that could withstand the heat weren’t available until 2018, when we added the model to Shapeways for ordering.


And all the while we’ve continued to add to our collection of manuals, repair guides, ads and catalogs recipes, and blog posts on Revere Ware related subjects.

We also started our ReverWare.org eBay listing classification site in 2010, with major updates in 2014 and 2019.  If you aren’t familiar, it makes finding the right replacement Revere Ware piece on eBay a snap.

For the last 11 years, it has been our pleasure to do something nice for the community of Revere Ware owners, fans, and enthusiasts.  Enjoy!

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It’s nice to be wanted

Every once in a while, someone contacts us with a comment like this:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for having these parts available to us . I’m able to save Moms set of Revere Ware. Love it and now I passing them down to her Grand son Chef/Teacher of Culinary Arts.

It goes a long way towards making up for the hassles involved in running a small business like this, like the latest issues with collecting sales tax.  As we work towards doing a manufacturing run for the next 10 years worth of replacement parts, It is grateful customers that keep us committed to this endeavor.

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Canada shipping is broken at the moment (now fixed)

The challenge setting up international shipping methods, as we outlined recently, unfortunately includes sometime difficulties when the software that runs our website changes as we install updates.  This happened recently and it appears to have broken our Canadian shipping in so that the cheaper shipping methods disappeared, making shipping to Canada overly expensive.

We hope to have this fixed in the next few days.

Update: this is fixed now.

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Why we don’t ship worldwide

We get inquires from time to time about shipping to various countries around the world – Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, to name a few.

To understand why we don’t ship worldwide at this time, consider the following Google Trends graphic.

This shows the searches for “revere ware” since 2004, by country.  It seems pretty clear that Revere Ware interest is confined almost entirely to the US.

If it was simple to ship worldwide, we’d do it anyways, to maximize the benefit for anyone, anywhere.  But unfortunately, each additional country we ship to requires a painstaking setup process that can take hours of finagling to get right.  It simply isn’t worth it to add 170 countries on the likelihood of a handful of orders per year.

It is possible Amazon.com will make it easy to ship internationally using domestic inventory at some time in the future.  Until that happens, we only ship to the US and Canada.

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How to get our mailing address

In addition to the reasons we don’t have a customer service phone number, (in short, we don’t have an office staff to answer the phone) people often wonder why we don’t post our mailing address.

When we first started 10 years ago, we did.  However, we often got unwanted mail.

For one, people often sent us their old broken and worn parts to see if we had a replacement.  In many cases, we didn’t, and, because a worn part is better than no part, we felt obliged to send the part back, for which we had to pay the postage.  In almost all cases, pictures will suffice to identify a part; sending one by mail is completely unnecessary.

Another problem was people sending their parts to us as a return without first contacting us.  Sometimes, customers think a part won’t work because of a simple problem, like this issue with old lid knobs losing their nut insert.  By not posting our mailing address on our website, customers must first contact us, and much of the time we are able to solve a problem, avoiding an unnecessary return.

However, if you really need our mailing address for some reason, just contact us.  Our reply with have our address in the signature.

 

 

Why we don’t have a customer service number

 

Every once in a while we get someone who is a little upset that we don’t have a customer service phone number.  I thought I would take this opportunity to explain why we don’t.

We tend to answer customer service emails within a few hours; often at night and on weekends; we often answer in minutes.  We provide copious amounts of help for things unrelated to our sales, just to be helpful to the Revere Ware community.

Our business is small by every measure.  We serve a very niche market, and provide our parts (and information) as much as a service to the dedicated Revere Ware enthusiasts, as we do because it is a viable business.

As small as we are, hiring someone to sit by the phone to wait for the occasional call (I would guess a few a week if we did have a number listed) is out of the question.  We simply can’t afford it.

That leaves a couple of options:

–> Have an office phone that us answered when someone happens to be in the office.  I can imagine that nothing can be more frustrating than having a customer service number when you need help, but not being able to reach someone.

–> Use a personal mobile phone for such support calls.  Who among us wants to give out their personal number, and risk getting calls at 3am from someone that happens to be in a different time zone?

Neither of these solutions are very satisfying.  So we choose not to list a customer service number, and just do the best job we can promptly and thoroughly answering support emails.

But perhaps the best reason not to offer customer service by phone is that it isn’t nearly as useful and efficient as email.  With email, you can send photos and screen shots. With email you can cut and paste exact error message.  Email is simply a much better medium for the kind of support our customers need.

We hope you understand.  You can contact us using our contact form.

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The benefits of new (spread the word)

Customer Kathy sent us this picture of her handle.

It reminded me of how many people suffer with sub-standard handles because they love their Revere Ware so much, they refused to replace them, despite severely damaged or even missing Bakelite parts.

Like home-made wooden handles:

Tapes up handles:

Welding on a new metal spline:

We’ve also gotten reports of people simply grabbing a bare metal spline with a pot holder or using pliers where the handle has come completely off the spline.

We’ve been selling parts now for 10 years.  Before that, there was about a 25 year period where no replacement parts were available.   People had a long time to get used to not being able to get replacement parts.  Combined that with the fact that many of the Revere Ware generation are older, and not exactly internet savvy, we’ve probably reached just a fraction of the people that need our parts.

Revere Ware was sold from 1939 to 2018, almost 80 years.  There have likely been 50-100 million people in this country that have used Revere Ware at some point during their lifetimes, and I would guess 10 million or more that continue to use their cookware.  In the 10 years we’ve been selling our parts, we’ve sold to 40,000 customers.  That means there are many millions of people still diligently using their Revere Ware, many of which are doing so with less than suitable Bakelite and other parts.

Please help us reach the people that need our parts.  Help someone who doesn’t have access to the internet purchase parts.  Tell your friends.  If you come across a forum that is discussing Revere Ware and availability of parts, let them know about our parts and all of the information we’ve gathered.  We need your help to keep this business going and help it reach the people that need it.

 

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It’s our birthday – 10 years of replacement parts

Image result for vintage 10th birthday

10 years ago today, we listed our first set of Revere Ware replacement parts for sale. Prior to the availability of our parts, there was a 20 year period where new parts were not available at all, as Revere Ware stopped selling any replacement parts in 1989, after being bought by Corning in 1988 (more company history here).

Prior to our parts, the only option for someone looking for the like new look, or to fix a piece that was no longer functional, was a complicated Bakelite refurbishment process that involved repeated sanding with progressively finer sandpaper; very labor intensive, and expensive.

So wish us a happy 10th birthday, and enjoy your Revere Ware for another few decades.

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What taxation of online sales means for small businesses

Online retailers come in many varieties.

– Some sell a variety of products, and some. like ours, have a very specialized niche.
– Some online retailers have employees, and some are owner operated.
– Some are a business and some are more of a hobby.
– Some are a full time job for the business owner, and some are a side job. Some, provide no income at all.
– Some, provide products you can’t find anywhere else.

Typical small business

I got my start in this business based on a need.  We were looking for replacement handles for some old Revere Ware and couldn’t find any.  Based on our need, the fact that the company that made Revere Ware, stopped selling replacement parts three decades before we came on the scene, and the large number of Revere Ware pieces that had been sold, I presumed that there was a good opportunity.

So I went through the trouble to get replacement parts manufactured, set up a website with lots of useful information and quite a few replacement parts for sale, and have served the community of Revere Ware cookware owners for almost a decade now.  Our story is probably not that uncommon among the small businesses that sell online exclusively.  This guy makes really cool devices that are useful for getting the most out of vintage Apple computers.  Like us, he serves a small community of customers and potential customers, and his products are incredibly useful for that that need it.

Supreme pain in the *[email protected]#$%

Among this backdrop, consider the Supreme Court ruling that came out this week, which opens the door for South Dakota to require people selling into South Dakota, but who aren’t located in South Dakota, to collect sales tax on the state’s behalf.

Our average order total is between $10 and $20.  We fulfill thousands of orders each year (not hundreds, not tens of thousands).  Right now, we are required to collect sales tax only in our home state, home county, and home city.

Despite the fact that we are more than 20 years into online retailing, quite frankly, the software we use to run our website, is horrible when it comes to extracting data.  Every year, in order to collect the data the California requires us to report about our sales, we spend quite a bit of time slicing and dicing the sales data to figure out exactly how much sales tax we collected, much less all the other data California wants, like breakdown of sales inside and outside the state, county, city.

Even if better eCommerce software was available, switching is expensive.  The last time we updated our website and move to a new platform, it cost us about $10,000.

We deal only with 3 tax jurisdictions.  In the US there are over 12,000 state and local tax jurisdictions.  It isn’t too hard to imaging how requiring online retailers to collect sales tax could become a nightmare that puts retailers like us out of business.  Among the myriad of problems:

– We only have to keep up with three rates right now – one state, one county, and one city.  Requiring us to keep track of and set up to collect 12,000 different tax rates would be simply impossible.  Even 50 or 100 would be substantially more work.
– We only have to file one sales tax return right now, which only includes one state, one county, and one city tax and revenue breakdown.  How in the heck would we file when considering 12,000 jurisdictions?

South Dakota has an exclusion for any business with less than $100,000 or 200 individual sales in the state.  But, for us just to be able to figure out for 50 states whether we are above or below the limit or revenue and transactions will require a lot of work.  And given that we make quite a few sales of small amounts, we will undoubtedly be above such limits in some states.  There will definitely be a crossover point where we just throw up our hands and say “it isn’t worth it anymore.”

A better solution

In my opinion, there needs to be a solution at a Federal level to solve this problem.  This is what I would want:

1. A flat sales tax for online sales that applies to every business every where.
2. A single authority that collects and distribute sales tax revenue to the states, counties, cities.

This presumes a couple of things:

– That 50 states and / or more than 12,000 tax jurisdictions can agree how to apportion tax revenue among themselves.
– That states with higher sales tax than the agreed upon common flat sales tax rate, will agree to accept a lower rate for online sales

Which is basically saying it probably won’t happen  But what if it did?  It would sure make my life easier, and it would remove the barrier for a lot more small businesses to open up.  Every single bit of bureaucratic filings and fees makes it that much harder for a small business to form and stay in business.   Perhaps you haven’t heard, but small business formation is down to about 2/3 of historical norms.  It isn’t hard to imagine that bureaucracy has a lot to do with this.

Government entities are sometimes greedy and unreasonable

Remember that, in addition to the requirements for collecting sales tax and filing returns, there is always the threat that any tax jurisdiction can file an action against a business demanding that they pay a presumed amount of sales tax, or prove that they don’t have to. Thing this is far fetched?  Let me tell you as story.

In California, and probably other states, businesses are required to pay business property tax on assets.  Imaging having to go through everything the business owns, assign it a reasonable value, and then pay property tax on that value, just as you would on real estate.

But there is an exclusion.  If you have less than a certain amount of assets, you don’t have to pay.  But you are _supposed_ to file a return anyways, proving that you don’t have to pay.  It is just another bit of red tape.  I now my business assets are below the threshold required to pay this business property tax, so I never bothered to file a return (who has the time).  So someone that works for the local assessor decided one day to just randomly assign a presumed value of assets that would guarantee I would owe business property tax, and send me a bill … to the wrong address, even though they had my proper mailing address.  Months go by and someone slips one of these letters from the assessor under my door, as they happen to recognize my business name.  Now they are charging me late penalties as well.  Two years later, after filing an appeal with the County Board of Supervisors, and winning, I am still having trouble getting the assessor to remove the assessment from their system.

Now multiply this experience by 12,000 tax jurisdictions and you’ve just killed every small business.

 

 

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