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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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Google Trends and interest in Revere Ware

We occasionally get asked by people outside the US and Canada whether we ship to other countries.  We don’t presently.  Every country has unique shipping requirements and takes some effort to support; sales to that country have to be worth that effort.

Google Trends allows you to peer into Google search queries to see how popular they are over time and by region.  Here is a search for Revere Ware:

What this shows is pretty clear:

1. Interest in Revere Ware is declining over time.  In the last 14 years, interest has dropped by about 3/4.

2. Interest is entirely limited to the United States.

For us, this means that, there almost certainly isn’t enough demand in other countries to justify the effort to support shipping there.  We do support Canada, which we only sell the occasional part to, but that work is already behind us.

Lastly, it is interesting to see that Google searches mirror what we see ourselves in interest in our products; a yearly cycle of interest that peaks around the holidays and is lowest around mid-summer.  This must have something to with replacement parts for Revere Ware being the perfect holiday gift for that hard to shop for parent or grand-parent.

 

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Order ahead for holiday delivery

Just a reminder that if you want to order from us for delivery by Dec 25th, make sure you order early enough.  We ship primarily by USPS First Class Mail, which typically takes 2-3 business days to anywhere in the continental US.  However, as we get closer to December 25th, everything takes longer.

We can’t make any guarantees, but suggest ordering December 18th at the latest for delivery by Christmas.

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Fake web store?

Plenty of our parts are available on eBay, as we recently mentioned.  Most appear to be parts that were likely obtained through us, or through our store front on Amazon.com, and are simply being resold (at a higher price).  So we aren’t totally shocked that other people are selling our parts.

But we recently found a site that lists all our parts, at substantially higher prices

 

They list a lot of other kitchen related items as well.

Given that we don’t currently sell wholesale, and those are clearly our stock pictures, it seems unlikely that they are fulfilling from inventory. That leaves a couple of options.

Our first thought is that it is a completely fake store and they will just harvest your credit card number and keep your money.

Our second thought is that, it is just a storefront sitting on top of Amazon.com fulfillment.  If they simply order the parts through Amazon and have it directly shipped to the end-customer, they don’t have to carry inventory for any of  the items they are listing.  So far, we haven’t been brave enough to try purchasing something to see if it arrives in an Amazon box.  But if someone is willing to try, we’ve love to see what happens.

The store looks pretty fake, as do the reviews.  It all looks as if someone tried to make it look like a legitimate store, but didn’t quite succeed.

Their contact page lists a German address and an emails: [email protected]  When I go to the tsc-retail page, it is a fancy presentation with text overlay talking about bringing the world closer together through retail … and the video shorts are of Seattle.  Hmm.

In any event, just a word of caution: We are the only folks that make these Revere Ware replacement parts presently.  We sell them through this site, and on Amazon.com.  The items we’ve seen for sale on eBay appear to be legitimate second market items.  But I would stay away form any other outlets (and the prices are much higher anyways).

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The seasonal nature of Revere Ware parts sales

Here is a graph of our sales for every year since we started.

This cyclical pattern appears in almost every way we measure our business.

  • Sales on our website
  • Total site traffic
  • Sales on Amazon.com
  • Google Adwords impressions and clicks
  • Number of Revere Ware related items for sale on eBay.

In retail sales, this is exactly what one would call a seasonal sales cycle.  From peak (December-January) to trough (June-July) is about double the sales.

With respect to our little part of the retail world, I’ve often wondered why people are twice as interested in Revere Ware related items around the holidays then during the summer and fall.

I have no idea what percentage of our replacement parts are purchased as gifts, vs people buying them for themselves.

In any event, it is in interesting factoid around our business we thought we would share.

 

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What 20,000 orders means

We reached a milestone yesterday, order number 20,000.

Since we started selling Revere Ware replacement parts, our business has shifted more and more to Amazon.com.  While we still sell a fair amount through our own website, about 2/3 of our business now comes from selling our projects on Amazon.com.

In all, through both channels (and a brief stint selling on eBay), we’ve fulfilled about 40,000 orders since we started selling back in 2009.  This may not sound like a lot relative to the e-commerce success stories you can read about in the news almost any day.  But for us, we like to think about having made 40,000 people able to continue to use their often decades old cookware, and that makes us happy.  After all, we started this business because we were looking for Revere Ware replacement parts and couldn’t find them.

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Expect good customer service

Just a reminder to our customers or potential customers that we do our best to provide good customer service.

If a product arrives damaged, we will replace it.

If a shipment fails to arrive, we will ask that you work with the Postal Service to locate it, and it that doesn’t work, we will replace it.

If a part fails and you weren’t abusing it, we will replace it.

If you are having an issue installing or using one of our parts, we will do our best to help you, and if that doesn’t work, we will take it back for a refund.

If you have a question, even one that isn’t related to one of our parts or won’t result in a sale, we will do our best to answer it.  However, we do shy away from giving marital advice.

The only thing we ask is that you give us a chance to solve your problem before giving up (and leaving us negative feedback), and that you are kind in your communications.

I wish more people who purchase products online would expect good customer service (and hold businesses accountable when they don’t provide it).  If everyone did that, businesses that didn’t provide good customer service would not survive.

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