This morning an article by Seth http://www.sethgodin.com appeared in my inbox. I subscribe to his witty, often point-on short saying or articles.
Todays’ was a reflection of what happens daily. So here is what he said, I take his “back in the old days” to mean pre COVID “
“I hate this restaurant” Back in the old days, I took someone to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. As we looked over the menu, complete with regional specialties and handmade pastas, he started to sulk. With a sullen look, he said, “I want a hamburger and french fries.” Somehow, the patient kitchen staff figured out how to produce this out of thin air, and a tantrum was narrowly averted.
But I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot. In his mind, “restaurant” meant, “a place where I can get a hamburger and french fries.”
If you look at many 1 star reviews (of books, of music, of restaurants of shops) this is precisely what you’re going to see.
A mismatch of expectations. A mismatch that is blamed, completely, on the person who created the work, not the critic. It doesn’t matter that the thing was clearly marked. It doesn’t matter that the thing was extraordinarily well-produced. And it doesn’t matter if just about everyone else experiencing it was thoroughly delighted.
Because for this spoiled, under-informed and impatient patron, it failed. This failure comes from a few contributing factors, all amplified by our culture: First, you can’t know if you’re going to like an experience until you experience it. All you know is your understanding of what was on offer. And because there are so many choices and there’s so much noise, we rarely take the time to actually read the label, or we get carried away by the coming attractions, or we just don’t care enough to pay attention until we’re already involved. [And marketers are complicit, because in the face of too much noise, they hype what’s on offer and overpromise…]
Second, because many people are afraid. They’re afraid of the new and even more than that, afraid of change. Most people in our culture would like to be entertained not transformed, lectured at instead of learning.
Third, the double-edged sword of giving everyone a microphone means that we’ve amplified the voices of dissent at the same time we’ve given people a chance to speak up about their desires.
This means that mass culture is far more divisive than it ever was before, and it also means that bubbles of interest are more likely to be served.
And so the fork in the road:
You can either turn your operation into a cross between McDonald’s and Disney, selling the regular kind, pandering to the middle, putting everything in exactly the category they hoped for and challenging no expectations… Or you can do the incredibly hard work of transgressing genres, challenging expectations and seeking out the few people who want to experience something that matters, instead of something that’s merely safe.”
WOW So much to unpack, but so true.
Have you ever noticed that only the people who are unhappy actually post reviews on that unmentionable website that pretends to rate everything? (Unmentionable because I will not give them more air.) But pondering on Seth’s post, is it because they had different expectations? Did the value in their mind not match what they ordered? And that is exactly what Seth says. And every website sends you immediately a link to review every item, whether it is a toothpick or a car!
And as merchants and jewelry designers, we all fall victim to wanting those incredible reviews, yet subjecting ourselves to those people who are unhappy or having a bad day or were clueless as to what they really wanted. Or in our case can’t understand that handmade means NO Two are Ever Alike, PERIOD.
And this was so timely as one of my neighbors in our warehouse complex wanted to see our warehouse location/SKU system. They sell on Amazon much larger items than our small jewelry components, but for anyone making picking/packing easier and preventing errors is always an interest.
As they were looking at some of our racks and racks of beads, findings, crystals, they asked Why? Why what?
Why Venetian Beads, don’t we know that we could buy beads from China for much less? I could see the math going on in his head, we could buy pounds of “similar” beads for at least 1/10 the price…..and supposedly our customers would be just as anxious to buy them.
So picture this: Two Chinese men! and me trying to explain that we aren’t really selling beads so much as we are selling a story, a romance of a beautiful culture and handmade (yes lovingly because they love the artform, the story of Venice glass artists are that way). And that there is a story behind every bead we have, a family, and that I can look at a bead anywhere and know who made it, who made the tools, who made the glass canes and the millefiori.
And for the final, not to deter from the rich history of China, it is just my personal choice. Or as I say often #whyiwork
Venice is where I want to be at the end of any day….and BTW #whyisellMuranoGlass