Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pros and cons of being an online retailer...

update: 11/6/13
We are thankful that Amazon has taken down the product description they copied from our site for MIDORI Traveler's Notebook. Thank you everyone for all the support and encouragement you shared to get through this issue. -wakako

So... our mood is little down here at our Baum-kuchen headquarter (aka. our kitchen) tonight. It's not often that we share not-so-happy news in this space but I believe transparency is important for us... and many people have asked me what has been my experience on running online business so I hope it will provide some thoughts to ponder for fellow online retailers or future businesses.

As many of you know... MIDORI's Traveler's Notebook has been our steady staple at Baum-kuchen shop. In fact... Traveler's Notebook was one of the reason why we started our store 3.5 years ago... because we fell in love with Traveler's Notebook and their simple yet clever system and we wanted to share them in the U.S. and beyond. It has been an amazing journey to witness Traveler's Notebook grow and have its own life to inspire so many people all over the world.

Recently I noticed that there are a lot of customers who are ordering TN refills... but the sales for actual leather cover has slowed down a bit compared to few months ago. One of my customer kindly shared where she found her Traveler's Notebook cover... and of course... via Amazon (link here).

First I was genuinely happy that she was able to find her Traveler's Notebook for more reasonable price. At the end of the day... we are one of the biggest Traveler's Notebook fans and I am thrilled that there are more people who can afford the notebook. Of course we will not be able to match the price since we are probably much smaller in scale and lowering the price simply to compete for the cost will not be sustainable for us. Instead our philosophy has always been to be honest about pricing and pour our energy into making sure that our customers are smiling when they receive the package from us.

But as I browsed their Amazon page and clicked "more description", I was surprised to see that their written product description sounded awfully familiar... in fact... identical to what I wrote few years back when I first introduced Traveler's Notebook at our shop.  (I copied and pasted their description below and red parts are exactly same as description on our website)
"Midori Traveler's Notebook is a refillable leather sketchbook that will accompany you through a great journey of everyday life as well as an exciting adventure around the world. The Travelers Notebook features a high quality leather cover that is handmade in Chiangmai, northern city of Thailand. The vegetable tanned leather cover feels great in your hands and it becomes softer and more beautiful as it travels time with you. Traveler's Notebook is perfect for carrying small memorandum from a trip. You will never be out of a great notebook to jot down your ideas while on the go. Upon unwrapping the notebook, you will find a white powder-like particle on the brand new leather. This is a result of its manufacturing process. You can wipe the leather surface with soft cloth and the particle will come off very easily. The inside refillable notebook is made in Japan with Midori's original paper with the highest writing quality. The notebook can be incorporated inside of the leather cover using a rubber band that is fastened by a clasp made of tin. The leather cover can be closed with a color-coordinated rubber band that goes around the outside of a sketchbook. Either you are an avid backpacker who loves to explore the world or a mom who immerses yourself in the everyday adventure with your kids... the Traveler's Notebook will be a great place to capture your thoughts, inspiration and ideas, which will become an artifact that you can hold on to."
When I first wrote the product description, I really thought about how to best communicate the beauty of Traveler's Notebook in words and revised few times so that it best highlights its system. It might sound silly... but it took me a quite a while to get to the final draft. So when I realized that someone took away and pasted on their site, I couldn't help to feel sad and disappointed. 

On one side, I totally understand it's so easy to copy and paste an online content and an incident like this is unavoidable. On the other hand... I wish that we all respect common courtesy to stay honest and have a good manner. I shared the news with Frido when I came home this afternoon and I believe he wrote a courtesy letter to Amazon just to let them know that it happened. We will see what happens next. I would be so happy if they would write their original description while keeping the price low for their customers. 

What do you think?? 


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