My friend has a small office supplies store. In our small town her shop is the only place for a number of things and definitely the only single store for all office supply needs.
She sells printers, All-In-Ones and Fax machines. Even though she limits her in-store machine stock to one brand (inventory is costly and space is limited) she tries to carry all the major ink brands because that’s what her customers need. And one of the steady sellers is Ink.
But this year something has been happening in this part of her business that is negatively impacting it. It has to do with changes in the relationship that the big manufacturers want to have with the companies in their distribution channel.
First one of the major printer companies, Epson, changed their rules on who can sell their Ink. If your store doesn’t sell at least $10,000 of their ink per year then they don’t want you selling their ink. So now locals cannot buy ink for their Epson machines from her.
Next it was Hewlett-Packard.
They want to ensure that whoever sells their ink meets HP’s requirements in regards to being reputable, professional and knowledgeable. Ostensibly so that the end users won’t associate HP with negative experiences they might have with shoddy sales outlets.
In order to meet those requirements HP wants all those re-sellers to sign up for their partnership program so that HP can vet them and pass judgement on them. And if they are found to be lacking then they will no longer be allowed to sell HP Ink.
At this point some of you will be thinking there is nothing wrong with this, that these companies are just protecting their brand and customers. That this is a move in the right direction, towards better experiences for those end users and better service behavior on the part of the re-sellers.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in every situation and my town and my friend’s experience show this.
Let’s look at market size first.
Most of you likely live in an urban area with very many people and places to shop. That’s good for you but it’s not where everyone lives and it certainly doesn’t describe our town.
Our town has less than 5,000 people in town and maybe as much as 10,000 people in the economic catchment area. The next largest city is about an hour of mountain driving away on one direction and over 2 hours away in the other direction.
How many Ink Jet printers do you think there are here in this market? And of that how many are Epsons? Enough to sell $10,000+ of Ink? Especially now that Epson is selling printers with large refillable tanks that don’t need the user to shop for more all that often?
In our town there are 3 large mainly grocery stores that also sell some items that aren’t food. One of them is talking about selling Printer Ink again – it’s a line of products that they have gone away from and are now returning to in the past decade.
Put another way, if they were the only source in town then for years we would have had to order it from out of town or travel out of town to get it. Now that they have it again we can buy from them without leaving town. Not all brands of course. And of course the sales people are grocery clerks . . . so, sorry HP, but printer ink is not really a product they have a lot of knowledge about. Hopefully your customers will be happy with that . . .
But of course the grocery store is Not the only, or best, source for printer ink. We have The Source and my friend’s store. Oops – The Source store USED TO sell printer ink but does not at this time.
That leaves my friend’s store. She’s been selling Printer Ink and Toner since she bought the store 16 years ago. All the brands she can get. She stocks the items she’s come to know are regularly needed by her customers because she sees her customers face-to-face every day. And she’s savvy enough to help those who can’t remember which ink they need as long as they know which printer they have. It’s a small town and marketplace so sooner or later everyone meets everyone else and the quality of service you give gets known.
If you’re new to town and need office or art supplies and ask around people will refer you to her store. And talking to someone face-to-face who provides knowledgeable and friendly service, in a well-stocked store, is far superior to an online shopping experience. Because it’s a small town and almost all of the business is face-to-face she’s never had the need of a website.
Apparently one of the criteria that HP needs a Partner to meet is to have a website. And not just a page on someone else’s site, nope. A website with a name and URL that reflect the company identity and a contact email that also references a real email and not some freebie one you can get anytime.
You see, from HP’s point of view, in today’s world a business must have a website in order to be taken seriously. Put another way, if you’re too small to have (or need) a website then you’re not a serious business, you’re not their kind of business.
From Epson’s point of view you’re not a serious business if you don’t sell enough of their product.
If you are a small business owner you’re either laughing or crying or scowling now. If you’re not a small business owner, then let me enlighten you as to whether or not small businesses are ‘serious’.
My friend’s business has one employee – her. If she needs to leave for a short while for any reason the store closes for a short while. If she needs to miss a day she has a friend that can mind the store for a day or two. When that happens she pays for the help of course. But that’s time when her store is running in a reduced capability (this friend doesn’t know how to do everything) and is costing her money.
That is the reality of a small business in a small marketplace. There’s enough business to justify one paycheque but not a second.
And to make that paycheque she runs the till so people can pay for their purchases. She also helps those who aren’t sure what they want. And does photo copying for those who don’t know how to do it themselves. And runs print jobs people bring in on flash drives or send to her by email. She is her own Shipper / Receiver, Inventory controller, price tagger and shelf stocker. She minds her stock levels and orders new stock from whichever of her suppliers has it. Or finds it elsewhere if possible – at least she searches. She has to do her own Invoicing / Billing and Bill Payment. Cashing out the till, tallying the money and cheques and doing Bank Deposits. Opening / Closing / Cleaning / Recycling – these are her jobs as well. And every month it seems like Month-End has come too soon.
Some of that she can do while the store is Open to the public – but always the customers need to come first. The rest happens before the doors open or after they close for hours into the evening. And sometimes for hours on our kitchen table.
This is the life of the small business retailer. It’s hard work, long hours and not as enriching as you’d think.
Add to this the customers who tell you to your face that they can get it cheaper at [pick a big name store] or across the border, when often you know that’s just not true. Suppliers who pressure you to be more prompt with payments not because you’ve done anything different but because they have had to tighten up their accounting. Or Suppliers who go out of business forcing a search for replacement sources. Or get bought by incompetents also forcing a replacement need.
With all of that on the small retailer’s plate why would they go to the added expense and work of creating and maintaining a website? It wouldn’t be for customers they see in their store on a daily basis, nope. Those people come in and can see and touch the products and ask the proprietor questions directly.
It would be for people they almost never see personally.
But that would put my friend in a competition with the biggest names in the world who have the best prices and distribution systems. (think Amazon)
ANY sales generated by this website, and it’s not likely that that many would happen – but I digress, anything sold would then have to be shipped out to the buyer. Meaning the website would add NEW ROLES to the ones that the small business owner already has: Order Picker / Fulfillment and Shipper.
It’s a lot of expense and effort for a questionable amount of new sales and profits. If you were in my friend’s position would you do that?
If you had to pay someone to build and maintain your website, that’s an added expense. If you knew how to create your own website would you really be saving all that much? You’d still have to do the job and then keep on top of it so it doesn’t get hacked and put your customers, and you, in jeopardy.
IF you tried actually selling online the site becomes much more complex and in need of much more effort and expense. Product changes, pricing updates, order systems maintenance – these cannot happen on their own. When would you find the time?
Then there’s Manufacturers who pressure Suppliers who pressure and cajole you not because you’ve done anything different but because they have gone through changes.
Did I mention the fact that my friend does not buy her ink directly from HP or Epson? No, she has wholesale suppliers who do that. HP and Epson have the power to pressure those suppliers to pressure their customers, my friend, to perform / conform or be dropped.
Well that may drive the online sales up for them but it drives the local, small town, businesses down.
And it’s also good to remember where the real profit stream is for the printer marketplace. It’s the Ink, not the machines, that big manufacturers see most of the money flow from.
Too bad that translates into Red Ink in the accounts of small businesses. But then there’s no Red in CMYK . . . magically though there is Green.
UPDATE: After posting this I did some research and found that I should be more clear in my wordage. HP is no longer just HP . . . as of Nov 2015 it split into two companies: Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc.
HP Inc. is the company that this post is about. They make Printers and PCs.
On a more personal note, I first ‘met’ and was impressed with HP 40 years ago but that part of the behemoth that HP became was split off into another company, Agilent, back in 2002. More information on the recent breakup can be found in this Fortune article from Oct 2015.
I had occasion to go back to look at pages from last Feb on my news site. Found the pages ok but there were no embedded videos … and there should have been a few.
So I checked and sure enough there were the embed shortcodes. I’m using JWPlayer but the older version 5. They’ve moved on to a different pricing model and to follow them I’d need to be generating revenue from my site and that’s not happening right now.
I use this plugin because (1) it streams RTMP from Amazon’s CloudFront and (2) I have a paid license for this version. I also like being able to put an internal playlist into the embedded player. I’ve been using it since before I moved to WordPress from DotNetNuke.
And it allows me to do all of that. Or at least it did the last time I looked. But it is not showing anything at all now … argh!
Just what I need.
A few quick checks and it looks a bit more than I can fix now. And official support for this version of the player is terminated so I’m back to shopping around. And there are a number of Amazon Web Services oriented alternative with cheaper pricing than JWPlayer is at right now.
S3Bubble is one. It integrates quite well with S3 so you can browse your S3 buckets for media right in the plug-in. Another one I’m looking at is S3 Media Maestro. It’s more economical but doesn’t give you the same S3 browsing ability. You have to copy and paste media file URLs. It’s more economical. But if I ever get helpers S3Bubble would be easier I think.
Where is she now and what is she doing?
I don’t know … I just hope she’s not hurting anyone else.
What did happen in the court case was this:
She pleaded Not Guilty. That meant the case took a very long time to come to court. Years. Really – years.
Then on the second day of the trial she switches her plea to Guilty. Could have saved everyone a lot of time and money and anguish, Maya, if you’d just done that in the beginning … it’s not like you had a good chance of ‘getting off’.
Then the court system kicks in and she gets a Conditional Sentence. That means staying at home and being a good girl. That’s the sentence she gets after the court has evidence she has been failing mandated drug tests AND has has been charged with another crime since killing my wife.
Before she killed my wife she had been arrested and charged with Fraud or Theft 9 times! And never did a single day in jail for any of that. And then she kills my wife and still does no time! WTF? Argh!!!
She would have got away with it … if some people in the system hadn’t taken their jobs seriously. And if Maya hadn’t been stupid.
She kept doing drugs. And failing drug tests. But even that was not sufficient to send her to jail! Imagine that: the court mandates drug tests and she fails them and the court still does not have enough to send her to prison. Argh!! If she had not been stupid enough the admit to an official she was doing junk they would have not been able to have do anything about her. And the system still had to work extra hard to marshal the information into a suitable package for use in court. As it was she got stuck inside and was to do the rest of her sentence in prison. She’s likely out by now … hopefully not hurting anyone.
What kind of f*#ked up system is that?
In our province, BC, the justice system has been so mismanaged that they have a problem with the judges – they’ve let the older ones retire and not brought enough new ones up so there’s not enough of them. (see Vancouver Sun Opinion piece or CBC piece) And people charged with serious crimes are going free because their cases took too long to come to court! The Lawyers are now starting a withdrawal of duty-counsel services because the gov’t is not funding that.
If you drive drunk and kill someone you should face a court case but apparently one of the cases bypassed by the system was just that. Someone died because of someone else’s bad choices and that killer walked away free. If the friends and family of the dead take justice into their hands it’s a good bet the system will find time for them …
And to add insult to injury: For the last few years there has been a major court case pending that involved two high-up civil servants. The case looked like it would become a bigger case involving corruption at the highest levels in the Billion Dollar sale of a public railroad to a private company. What eventually happened was that after years of fighting the two defendants suddenly switched their pleas to Guilty and the government agreed to pay their $6 million legal bill! And the gov’t says it won’t force them to sell their half-million dollar homes to pay any costs! Why is that?
They pled guilty – my tax dollars should not pay a cent towards their legal issues. They’re criminals for cripes sake! And worse is the fact that the people almost everyone suspects would have been facing the music in court (had these two been allowed to testify) are the same people that get to make this deal – and buy the silence of these two criminals with my tax dollars … that really sucks. Sucks dollars out of my wallet and puts it in the hands of lawyers and … criminals.
When a cop in Vancouver does something wrong they no longer let the Vancouver Police investigate – they bring in another police force to do that. Why? Because experience has shown us that for many reasons a police force should not be put in that position – investigating itself. Many would not trust the results and many would never be 100% sure that some sort of whitewash has not happened. Many, many jurisdictions have gone this route – another force investigates.
So why do we let members of the Provincial Cabinet (Premiere and Minister of Justice) make a decision to pay such big bills to criminals when they or their departments might be the target of investigations and possibly face charges? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
How is it they can get away with this?
And now they say there will be a ‘review’ of the $6 Million payout. By the same people and department that crafted the deal in the first place!! Crap! Bullshit! Don’t believe it? Read this column by one of our province’s best political journalists, Mike Smyth.
Think about what I’ve covered in this post: The government is screwing the justice system by cutting and cutting because they say the money is tight and yet they have no problems spending millions of tax dollars helping white collar criminals pay their legal bills.
Can the public say anything here? Is there any recourse? Can we divert the bill back to the party in place? Answer: Nope.
The next time a politician (or party flack) says they are accountable … ask them if that means they’ll cover the costs of bad decisions or stupid mistakes. Of course they won’t. So when they say they are accountable … they’re lying to you.
Tonight was good .. until I remembered my wife was dead. As I walked home from the nice going away party for my friend. Nice people, nice times … no Laurel to share it with.
Funny how you don’t realize how large things are looming internally until after they’ve made their effects known by blowing up … in my case it was the emotional maelstrom following the brief court … uhmmm … ‘transaction’ is the only word I can come up with.
The woman who was driving the SUV that killed my wife, that’s YOU MAYA BLEINIS, did NOT show up for the first court appearance. So now we have to do it the hard way – pick you up and hold you until the next court date. Have the Sherif bring you to court.
I guess I’d been more worked up about it internally than I thought.
When there was nobody to put a face and person to the name … well stress started to appear then.
I shall have to wait.
You know what I take away from this?
I feel my wife Laurel is insulted.
Someone has been killed. Don’t you think that the least you should do is show up to face the charges?
I might rant on and on, dancing around the raw feelings I have and what they are doing to my psyche, but in some sense I’d be letting this killer wreak more havoc in my life. And making myself look like a maniac.
Well sooner or later Maya will face her fate.
If there’s something in there that is redeemable in some way then maybe the universe will look aside for a moment and she’ll have a chance at a way back – redemption per-se.
But if she’s conscience-free then, speaking to her directly now, I hope you go to prison and, the person you are now, die there. Never get out.
If that means you change so much that you’re a completely new person then so be it.
But if you merely serve nice and calmly your 1/3rd or 1/6th of whatever sentence you get without change … I worry that the world would be worse off after you return.
I will let this out.
I do, in fact, like this.
Now I have an added reason to like it … whatever sick and twisted things my dream self might be doing to a dream Maya … I don’t know about or have to worry about.
So some part of me that needs to do bad things to her … may get to … and I don’t have to let it affect me – good.
I leave it to you , Maya, which one you must be in as you read this.
- I was born in a ’53’ and yesterday I turned 53 so it’s a kind of reset, returning to the beginning mentally
- This is the 1st birthday of mine since my wife, Laurel’s, death and so it had many tears (not unlike a birth)
- Laurel was so into doing birthdays up for me and this time she wasn’t there so it was a big 0
- When my son and I did the cake the only candle we found was a digit, a big fat Zero
some BS is Better Suited is all,
and other advice is Beer Speaking …
and since I’m Becoming Stinko (on wine mind you)
it don’t Bother or Sting me
if BeSmitten here
By Some forms
of the reflections on the Biting Stupidity
of the Basic Simplicity, or truth, of my Bumbling Situation …
Damn the torpedoes – BullShit ahead full steam.
1966, April 20th … Eddy Johnson is standing in line at the Post Office in Kenora, Ontario before heading to work in Redditt for Ontario Central Airways. While in line he has a heart attack and dies.
I was 12 then.
Try teaching yourself shaving.
Becoming a ‘man’ (in the 60’s) whatever that is …
Learning how girls think when you’re brought up to preserve privacy and not talk about ‘it’ …
Deciphering right from wrong when the hypocritical bad guys might be the government?
There’s so many things I can think of, and I’m sure lots more that I missed, that a parent is rather important in helping out the development of.
If there’s anything I’m actually proud of, and there’s not that much, it’s that I turned out as ok as I have in spite of having no Dad around to help me find my path, a correct path.
And I’m sure my father was a good enough model for the small me to notice how to be well behaved enough from that it didn’t screw up my mother’s example of how to coexist with civilized society. Main street mind you, but good people all the same.
But I can only guess at what I missed … maybe that’s part of why I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
(Does using that phrase date one?)
Maybe that means I’m more self defined … or maybe less defined in general.
How the heck would I know?
If you believe that, then 5 people stand between me and that boy who had a dad … maybe 5 stages of difference or more from a ‘me’ that had a ‘dad’.
Had he lived my dad would have been 87 today … my mother lasted until 86.
If he’d lasted that long … my brother and sister and I would have had him around him most of our lives.
Somewhere along the way I learned that he died on Hitler’s birthday.
So every year on the anniversary of my dad’s death, a day that I’d like to observe in privacy, the nutbars of the world choose to vent their anger and shoot up high schools or blow up buildings … what a bunch of losers … intruding on this day.