Thursday, March 20, 2008

More thoughts on closing the soap business

1. One of the things that made closing my business so easy was the fact that I had zero debt. I steadfastly resisted all attempts by various banks to sign up for credit cards and small business loans. I am really, really glad I did that. I still have all my soap stuff, from leftover inventory to cool molds and even pots, utensils and the like, but it's all there now so that I can play with it when I want to, paid for with cash.

2. Here's another reason why I don't regret closing my business: weird customers.

Ninety-nine point nine percent of my customers were wonderful and so supportive. In particular, Margaret, Katie, Kayte and Michelle were willing to buy anything and everything I offered. They loved it and asked for more, and what could be nicer than that?

But then there was this one customer, an acquaintance, and she drove me absolutely insane. For one thing, she was the ONLY person I found in five years of making soap (three as a hobby, two as a business) who claimed that my soap made her break out. It also made her kids break out. And then it made a little friend of her daughter's break out. Now call me suspicious, but I started to suspect that she wasn't being entirely straight with me. Since she was an aquaintance, I had noticed that she wasn't entirely straight with other people, either. I didn't trust her, but I still can't fathom her motive in lying to me. How odd.

The crowning outrage, though, was when she confided to me and another person that she was using my soap to brush her teeth. BRUSH HER TEETH. With SOAP.

"Why in the world are you doing that?" I said with my own teeth clenched together.

"Well, because your soap is so natural," she said brightly.

This is the kind of thing that can make a cosmetics manufacturer -- which is what I was according to the FDA, since I made cosmetic claims about my soap, such as that it would moisturize your skin or help with exfoliation or whatever -- want to bang her head on a wall.

First of all, "natural" is a highly disputed term in the cosmetics industry and it's one that manufacturers often use to stretch the truth about the quality of their products. For instance, there are two types of vitamin E that can be added to cosmetic products: one is a natural plant derivative (tocopherol) and the other is synthetic (tocopherol acetate). I can't tell you the number of times I've read that a soap, lotion, lip balm or body scrub is "all natural" and then read the ingredients list and seen that they've listed tocopherol acetate on the label of their "natural' product, counting on the fact that their customers won't have a clue. Just in case you wondered, the synthetic form is a lot cheaper than the natural form. So understand that I never made claims about nature or the lack thereof.

Secondly, why would someone do this? I already had to crowd up my really nice labels with Warnings for Dipwads such as: avoid contact with eyes, for external use only, keep out of reach of children. Those are the standards. Was I now going to have to find room on the label to discourage people from brushing their ridiculous teeth with my soap? Anyone who's ever had his or her mouth washed out with soap as a child will know that soap in the mouth is not a good thing. And let me tell you, I wasn't paying beaucoup dollars per OUNCE of expensive vegetable oils and butters so that some dope could moisturize her TEETH.

I coldly referred her to Tom's of Maine and reminded her that I could not be held responsible for an unpleasant outcome, since she was using my product in a manner in which it was not intended to be used.

Out of my customer base, I had very few customers like this one. And she was the only one who ever said that my soap did something bad to her skin and other people's skin. But those few were plenty, believe me. Plenty.

1 comment:

Kbg said...

We are still "willing to buy anything and everything I offered," as your soap and lip balm are the BEST!

Haven't we whined enough about this? We really really want you to start making soap again. For us. All for us.