Turning A Negative Into A Positive

Getting negative reviews S-U-C-K. I don’t get too many. Mainly because I put a lot of work into making sure I DON’T get negative reviews. This includes a complete description of what they’re buying, one-day shipping, a well packaged product and hassle-free returns. But, if anyone who provides a service to the public knows, you’re gonna have people who can’t be denied:

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In all reality, the item was EXACTLY what she ordered. She was upset because it didn’t fit (despite my complete tutorial on measurements).  She could’ve sent it back. She could have asked for a refund. Both options I would have gladly accepted. She just decided to leave a negative comment instead. It’s a free country, I guess she has that right. Thankfully, eBay gives sellers the opportunity to reply to feedback (as shown above). This is a HUGE opportunity to show the consumer community that you care about what buyers think (whether you like it or not).

What you may not know is that it is possible to get a negative review retracted. I just recently did this. It’s a little time consuming but if you’re completely OCD about your feedback score like me, it’s worth it.

First, all you gotta do is screw up somehow. In this instance. I accidentally sent the wrong item to a buyer:

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Can you tell the difference between them? In my haste to ship the item, I didn’t. What can I say? I’m not perfect.

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Unlike some negative comments that are unwarranted, this one was completely legit. This was a mistake I had to make right so I picked up the tab on shipping and sent the quick-to-judge buyer the correct item within hours of finding out my mistake.

Once the smoke cleared and the buyer received their correct item, I sent them a feedback revision request and was granted a reversal from unhappy-to-satisfied buyer:

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While negative reviews suck, they are a way to prove you are different from the rest of the sellers out there. While the initial reaction may be to strike back, the correct reaction is provide excellent customer service and always put the customer first. The benefit of the former far outweigh those of the latter.

It won’t go unnoticed.

 

What Is Considered A “Vintage T-Shirt”?

(Update: Defunkd has already written about this. He even started the post out with the definition of “vintage” like I did! Boy do I feel like an idiot.)

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “vintage” as such: “(The word is) Used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition, attractive design”.

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“Vintage”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Why write an entire post about what is considered vintage when the dictionary explains it so well?

Quite frankly, because I don’t think Merriam Webster explains what makes a T-shirt vintage. It just says, “something”. That something could be anything! It could be lunch boxes. It could be pressed coins. Could it not also be for T-shirts?

There has to be some sort of cutoff date before each respective collectible is considered “vintage”, right?

So, for me, when it comes to T-shirts, my cutoff point is the year 2000. Any tee after that year (2001 to the present) can no longer qualify as “vintage” in my book. Perhaps in another ten years or so, I may reexamine what can be defined as a “vintage T-shirt” but for right now, as a collector who sells tees with regularity, my standard is to keep vintage at the year 2000 and before.

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“Kinda Old” (Click photo to see in store)

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“Vintage” (Click photo to see in store)

Lastly and for the record, I happen to be 35 years old. I DO NOT consider myself vintage. The “vintage rules” that apply to tees do not have the same applications with humans. There are billions of people on the planet with the average lifespan being about 67 years old. Using the same formula with humans, I would classify myself as just “kinda old”. I’m not going to be vintage for about another 20 years.

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“Kinda Old” (and with delicious cupcakes)

 

Questions Barbara Walters Might Ask Me

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Barbara Walters: Good evening. I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my lifetime but no one has ever made me shiver in my pantaloons as much as “Chris” of the nostalgic website and eBay store “Holy Idea Tees”. Chris, how are you doing today?

Chris: I’m good Barbara. Thanks for having me. 

BW: First things first, would you please take that ridiculous pizza hat off of your head?

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C: Oops, sorry. I work from home and am used to wearing this all day.

BW: That brings me to my first question: Why did you decide to leave Corporate America to work from home and pursue a dream of fame and fortune through the vintage T-shirt medium?

C: Well, it’s simple really. I hated working for “The Man”.  He (The Man) always had HIS best interests in mind. They were really stupid, boring ideas. Mine were better and more exciting. I got tired of doing things that only squelched my creativity. So… I quit. Now I get to do what I want while wearing a pizza hat all day. 

BW: You bring up your creativity, what are some of the things you do to feed that animal?

C: Not enough things honestly. I’ve spent the better part of two years building my store so I’d have a foundation to build upon. It isn’t until just now with over 1,800 vintage tees in my store that I feel like I have something to market. I would have been hitting the marketing/advertising side a lot more often but when you’re just one person trying to build something you have to prioritize. With that being said, you can expect a lot more activity from me on Instagram, Facebook and on my blog in the next month as I really try to build those avenues. I’m also toying with the idea of a YouTube channel.

BW: I see. So, you’ve had no one helping you? You’ve been doing this all on your own?

C: Well, that’s not entirely true. I have my business partner who also happens to be my beautiful wife who I go to for business advice and second opinions. She also handles all the shipping if and when I have to go out of town. She moonlights as a vintage T-shirt torso model as well so I get to take pictures of her in the vintage tees for the website from time to time.

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BW: Do you enjoy taking pictures of her torso?

C: Yes. Yes I do.

BW: Do you think that perhaps you enjoy it a little too much?

C: What do you mean?

BW: You know what I mean.

C: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I get you. Yes, I suppose I do. She has a very nice torso. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

BW: HAHAHAHA!

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C: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

BW: HAHAHAHAHAHA *BEEEEEEEELLLLLLLCCCCH*…………..

C: ……………….

BW: Oops, sorry about that. I had a giant pastrami sandwich for lunch. It was delicious. It gave me a little indigestion. It was about this big.

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C: I’ve never had pastrami before. 

BW: It’s fantastic stuff. You should try it.

C: What the hell are we talking about? 

BW: I belched and everything got derailed after that. Let’s get back on track. So, your wife helps you, is there anyone else?

C: I have an assistant named Barb. She a nudist doll who identifies (in any number of unique ways) flaws that may be present on the tees in my eBay listings. She gets looked over quite a bit but she’s a very pivotal part of the team here at Holy Idea Tees.

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Barb pointing out a flaw

BW: I see. That’s very, uh… creative.

C: It’s an untraditional way to stick out in someones mind. No one else uses a tiny nudist doll to point out issues. 

BW: You’re right, I can’t say I’ve seen that before.

C: I also use more traditional methods to “stick” out. 

BW: What are you doing?

C: I’m putting all these high quality, weather resistant, die cut Holy Idea Tees stickers on my face.

BW: Aren’t those going to hurt when you pull them off?

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C: Well… I didn’t quite think that though.

BW: Do you need some help getting those off?

C: No. That’s okay they should come off fairly easilaaaaAAAAAAHHHHHAHHHHHHH….

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C: …….HHHHHHHHHAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

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BW: Wow. Those are some pretty high quality stickers. Where’d you get those?

C: From this place online called StickerApp. All you have to do is upload your image and within a couple days they’ll have as many stickers as you want delivered to your house. I put a Holy Idea Tees sticker with every vintage tee that’s purchased from my eBay store. My goal is to have a sticker on every car in the U.S. by next year. I’m about one trillionth of the way there.

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BW: What’s the name of that place again?

C: StickerApp. It’s like the word “Sticker” with “App” right behind it. StickerApp. Just don’t stick their stickers on your face. I think I’m going to have to go soak mine in some ice water.

BW: Okay, I appreciate you taking the time to let me ask you hard hitting questions. Sorry for belching pastrami leftovers in your face. Before you go to soak your face, let’s take a photo together.

C: Thanks Barbara, it’s been a pleasure.

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Totally unedited photo of Barbara Walters and me


Did  you know I was also interviewed by Diane Sawyer? You can read that interview by clicking here.

Barb The Model: Flaw Pointer-Outer

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Barb The Model: Holy Idea Tees Flaw Pointer-Outer

Holy Idea Tees is a growing company. It has become increasingly more difficult for me to continue to try to do everything myself. The process of buying, “inventorying”, filing, “photoing”, processing, listing, packing and shipping is one of continual movement and I needed someone to help pick up the slack.

So I hired Barb:

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In case you’re wondering, the answer is “Yes. She is a nudist.” It is her choice and I’m an equal opportunity employer. Who am I to judge?

Barb has proven to be a very valuable asset to the Holy Idea Tees team. If there are any flaws on any T-shirts, Barb’s responsibility is to point them out in the most comprehensive way possible. This will hopefully be an upgrade from competitor listings I’ve seen that use questionable methods in an effort to limit customer returns.

I’ve seen Dirty Fingernail Pointing:

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Did you just plant some chrysanthemums?

Or use the “Nondescript-Item-To-Point-Out-A-Flaw-But-You-Have-No-Idea-Where-The-Flaw-Is-ON-the-T-shirt” method:

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Is this on the back? On the front? On the shoulder? Near the bottom?

Perhaps you could use sharp, pointy objects to point out flaws but you still have no idea where the flaw is ON the t-shirt:

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Again, thank you. However, where is this hole? The sleeve? The bottom? Front? Back?

Barbs addition to the Holy Idea Tees team adds a “fun experience” for customers browsing through photos on any of the listings in the store.

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A lot more interesting to look at than a dirty fingernail

Also, her ability to be so photogenic in key situations allows me to show angles that give the potential buyer an idea of where the flaw is on the t-shirt instead of just a close up picture of it:

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It’s the distant look in her eye that gets me every time

Sometimes she uses her extreme flexibility to show flaws that cannot be duplicated by other methods:

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Her multiple appendages allow her to point out multiple flaws in close proximity of each other:

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She even serves as a nice reference piece when showing exactly how large vintage pins are:

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And sometimes she even helps with other things like pill ball removal:

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All in all, Barb serves as a powerful reminder that no matter how small you are… you still have a purpose. Unless you’re Ken. Ken’s just weird:

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It’s actually Kenzie now.

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Wanna ask Barb a question? She’s on Instagram!

Questions Diane Sawyer Might Ask Me

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Diane Sawyer: Why did your brain choose vintage t-shirts over other more “well-known” items to sell to make money like cars, diamonds, insurance, real estate or rare mid-century shrunken heads?

Chris: I can relate it to being a kid in the baseball card store in the late 80s or early 90s. Back then, I went into a store called “C&C Cards” and spent my hard-earned “crabgrass-pullin” money on wax pack after wax pack trying to get the last three or four players to complete a set. Flipping through endless racks of old t-shirts in someones closet and finding a deadstock Screen Stars t-shirt is equivalent to the rush I’d feel as a kid when I’d find a player I liked amongst the sea of other faces. 

Ancient photo of Chris obsessing over his baseball card collection

Ancient photo of Chris obsessing over his baseball card collection

DS: So, why would you want to suffer sifting through endless mounds of old t-shirts only to find a few nice vintage tees and subsequently sit on them until the right buyer comes along 10 months later?

C:  I guess because it’s just something I love doing. Its fun to see what I might come up with next. I honestly can’t come up with a better explanation than that. Call me odd or call me quirky but I think Joss Whedon said it best when he said, “Whatever makes you weird is probably your greatest asset.”

DS: What are your plans for the future of your business and can you please stop picking your nose for the remainder of this interview?

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C:  My bad. I forget where I am sometimes. I don’t even know if I know exactly. I just wanna get out there, get down in the trenches and find some rare, different, eclectic, eccentric, esoteric vintage t-shirts and document it. After that, I’m waiting for a sign.

DS: A sign? What do you mean by that?

C:  I don’t mean a voice from the heavens or getting struck by lightning or anything like that. Its more of like a feeling. A feeling that it’s time to move forward to plan B.

DS: Okay. So what’s “Plan B?”

C:  Plan B is everything that happens right after Plan A. Duh.

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DS: Alright, seriously. Quit fucking around with me and get to the point.

C: Has anyone ever said to you, “Welp. On to plan B!” after something goes wrong? There’s nothing they can do to go back and change what happened in plan A, so they move on to plan B. That’s kinda like life! Life is a continual game of rolling with the punches and moving on to plan B. 

DS: What’s that gotta do with Jesus?

C: What? I never said anything about Jesus?

DS: Well, it’s in your name: “Holy Idea Tees”.

C: No. No it’s not.

DS: Okay, so its implied.

C:  “Holy” doesn’t imply Jesus. It implies that I promised my personal God I would give back 10% of what I make from the business if I could work from home and support my beautiful wife and child and be present more in our family than if I worked a 8-5. The name stems from that promise.

DS: I guess that’s commendable. Lets see if you can keep it up.

C: By the way, just because the word “Holy” is in my name doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a Christian. I could be a Buddhist or Hindu and still be holy, right?

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DS: You are correct, but you live in Oklahoma and were raised Catholic. Common knowledge wouldn’t lead me to believe you were either Buddhist or Hindu.

C: Whatever. All I’m trying to say is don’t pigeon-hole me because of my name. To me, being “holy” is more than just being pious. It means doing right by one another, doing good business and just not being a dick. 

DS: Speaking of dicks, you have been known to dish out some cuss words from time to time. Isn’t that being a little “unholy”?

C: I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a hypocrite. Bad language is probably the least of my issues. Quite frankly, we’re all hypocritical to different degrees. I don’t want “Holy Idea Tees” to be a business that puts itself on a pedestal but one that operates on what my heart and soul is telling me to do and sometimes that involves the human aspect of cussing, doubt, worry, flatulence, etc. I want this business to not only involve helping myself, but others as well. Thus the word “holy” in its title name.

DS: Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 and 15 years?

C: Well, The vintage t-shirt industry has been around a while and has a few big names. In five years, I want to be one of those names. In ten years, I want to be the biggest name. In fifteen years, I’m going to be 50 and I figure I’ll retire with my hot wife to the Bahamas or something like that. With all that being said, I just want to be happy. Like I said earlier, I still wake up every day to Plan B and continue following the signs.

DS: Okay, well we really need to wrap this up because I have to interview the president in about 30 minutes. Any final thoughts?

C: I’ve got a lot of really cool old t-shirts. I would encourage anyone who likes to flip through t-shirts to browse my obsessively categorized store in eBay or follow me for daily interests or funny/cool shit on Instagram or Facebook.

DS: Chad, it’s been a pleasure.

C: It’s Chris

DS: Oh, right. That’s what I meant. HA!

C: Oh HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Diane, the pleasure is all mine.

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Signs In The Strangest Places

I’m a cradle Catholic. This means that I was born and raised in the Catholic faith. Not only was I born and raised Catholic, I was inundated with it. My parents actually wanted me to be a priest. If you asked them if they did, they would probably claim ignorance to this statement but I am sure there were many nights they prayed for God to call me to wear the collar. Unfortunately for them, I liked pretty ladies a little too much to commit to a life of celibacy.

Regardless of my stance against committing to a life of priestly duties, my Catholic roots still run deep and as a result I deal with Catholic guilt on a regular basis. Despite regular prayers to the contrary, I still feel as though I will burn (at least partially) for stealing all of my mom’s Victoria’s Secret magazines and hiding them between my mattress all through puberty.

So, I didn’t become a priest. I married a beautiful woman who also happens to be a model and instead of dolling out Eucharists, I dole out t-shirts. Not hardly the life I expected as a adolescent but I just so happen to love this job. I also believe I’m here doing this for a reason. I’m not quite sure what that reason is yet but the voices in my head tell me to “trust Him”. “Who” you ask? Well, God essentially.

I was afraid before quitting my 8-5 job but a calmness in my heart told me that “I can do this” and “to not be afraid”. The simple feeling of being taken care if I simply listen to my heart steadily helps me believe Someone has a plan for me. Can this be done selling vintage Snoop Dogg t-shirts and pre-owned London Fog coats? After my best month financially, I can confidently say “yes”. It has been hard work but it is possible.

I am constantly reminded there is more to this than t-shirts. It may be a passing thought or a connection to something that helps solidify my purpose. Usually, these are passing thoughts. Moments that only I really connect with that cannot be explained or that I wouldn’t even want to take the time to explain. They are for me and only me. But, from time to time, amidst fleeting moments of doubt and concern, there are connections that make me look over my shoulder to see if God himself is standing there beside me shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Stop doubting me you little dork”.

Which brings me to my story:

I’ve started picking ties. I find the uniqueness in ties to be similar to those of t-shirts. There are literally thousands of brands and designs and the profit on select ties, as with t-shirts, can be well over 10 times (or more) than what I purchase it for. So, I was in a swarm of ties the other day checking brand names and conditions when I happened upon a tie that had something in it. It felt like a coin and my mind immediately figured it had to be a gold doubloon. I quickly turned the tie upside-down and out fell this:

St. Christopher medal

That’s a St. Christopher medal. For those of you who don’t know, St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel and many people place these in their cars or, those who travel frequently, wear one around their neck. My guess is, whoever the tie previously belonged to, placed this inside their tie as means to not lose track of it. My father gave me a medal when I first learned to drive and I had it for many years until it broke and I lost track of it.

When you pick for a living, you find all sorts of things. When you’re in the business of sorting through things to find something good, you stumble onto stuff. So, perhaps this isn’t all that cosmically fantastic. But, I’ve been listening a lot more with my heart and my heart tells me there’s something to this. I mean c’mon… my name is Christopher for poops sake.

What does it mean exactly? I honestly don’t know but I have a feeling Someone is watching me and just letting me know to keep doing what I’m doing and He’ll take care of the rest. 🙂

Customer Service Is Dead… Except Here

Who would agree?

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Customer service really is a thing of the past. Many places that I go into nowadays do not put the customer first. This is because they hate people. Businesses see consumers as a necessary evil to get to their money i.e. they have to put up with them in order to reach into their pocketbook. They don’t really like us, they just like our money. Don’t get me wrong, I like money too but not at the expense of forfeiting my own values. I want to enjoy the transaction, make a friend and hope to create a long-lasting customer that will stay plugged in with Holy Idea Tees.

I run on the operative principal that most everyone is inherently good. I believe this to be true. We come squirting out of our moms as a perfect little human beings. It’s what our parents tend to do with us after that squirting moment that determines if we will cultivate that inherent goodness or not.

I can tell you one thing I know: I would say I’m a “great person” but I don’t want to sound too highfalutin so I’ll go with “I’m a good person”. Mama raised me right! Not only do I eat my veggies and choose not to twerk, but I try to treat every customer as I would want to be treated if I was buying from myself. I feel as though this is more than most companies can prove.

I offer a less than 24-hr turnaround on all items purchased (unless I’m away from my store) because it’s important to receive your item as quickly as possible. I also offer hassle-free returns through the eBay return policy program and will ship anywhere!

More importantly, I like you. Where are you from? What do you do? Why did you buy this T-shirt from me? What are you going to use it for? More and more people are shopping online year over year than ever before and I hope to take advantage of that by a blisteringly great customer service program. I want to hear from you on what item you’re looking for, what can be different on my blog, what went wrong with your order, what went right with your order, etc. etc. etc.

The best thing about shopping through me for vintage T-shirts is that you don’t have to physically talk with me and I don’t have to talk to you. There are no intonations in our voices to make either of us feel demeaned or facial expressions to put us off. Its a simple exchange of money for items I have made available. While I wouldn’t mind talking with you, I also know that sometimes you just want your stuff without the small talk.

So, order a Hooters shirt for your girlfriend (cuz Halloween is coming!) while you’re on the toilet or buy that Troy Polamalu jersey (because football season is here) through the eBay app on your phone while you’re sitting at the stop light because I will be sitting here waiting to package your item up as soon as possible.

That’s the way customer service should be done.