Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where do we go from here?

Have you ever had a business that makes you love them as much as you love the products they sell? Have you ever walked into a place and it felt like home?

When it comes to knitting, that's how my LYS (local yarn store) felt to me. I was lucky enough to call my LYS, also a large online retailer, my HOME. I went there to purchase my first all natural fiber yarn. This store was behind an adult bookstore (yes, seriously!) and yet it was worth the weird looks to make the trips there. I remember the first time I smelled the sheepiness and dug through their sale bins. When they moved to their new location. . .oh the beauty! A stunning building and an excellent staff made my "dropping in" last much longer than intended every time. An experience for  the senses. . .the colors, the friendly banter with the staff, the professional handling of the products and the experienced and knowledgeable answers to questions made them my go to place for all things fiber.  I became addicted and the staff was a big part of that experience. I took spinning classes from them and met a talented and experienced spinner and enthusiastic teacher in Taryn. So I took up spinning too. I was offered the chance to teach knitting for them and met the most amazing and wonderful students and customers. When they decided to offer a yarn club, I was approached and eagerly jumped at the chance to work with people. . .to be on the front line on Ravelry and work with people to solve pattern issues each month. In exchange for my time I got a small pay check and I had the chance to work with great yarn, great designers, and great people and I have been doing that for nearly two years now! And oh how fun it has been. I would have told anyone who would listen how great my LYS is and how lucky I am to have them in town. 

But as is, unfortunately, the case with many family businesses, emotions can get in the way. I don't know the exact details, but what I do know is that in September the management/ownership that I had grown to love and respect, and that, it appeared, was successful, was replaced suddenly.  I met with the new management right away and relayed my feelings that my loyalty was to the store that had been so lovely. I reminded her that at the end of the day, my hope was for the continuing success that I had come to know in my LYS. I continued to teach classes but after the current classes were done, she did not approach me to teach any more and gave the classes over to be taught by other teachers.  I started hearing from yarn club customers who were disappointed with their customer service. I saw in-store customers wait too long for service and walk out the door. I put out the fires as I could on Ravelry when things weren't done in a timely fashion, or when things were promised and not followed through on. I watched more of the much loved staff be fired or pressured into quitting by the hostile work environment. And still, I chalked it up to learning curves and inexperience. I continued to do my job and work through it all and go above and beyond my normal job description by making contact with the store to follow up on things promised to yarn club customers. One by one, my in-store contacts were let go. . .and finally, the last remaining contact was the person who had been given the job of teaching my classes and, I found out, been offered my yarn club manager position in those early days when I was striving to defend the new management despite it all. Uuugh. 

Last night, I logged on to finish adding points for the month for the club members to find out that I had been blocked on Ravelry by the new management. No attempt was made to contact me to let me know that I was being terminated. It was just. . .well, done. And people aren't happy. I get her reasoning. I get that my loyalty was with the store, not with the new management, and for her, that wasn't good enough. Alot of people come in and clean house. It was just the natural course of things. And it's hard to watch my beloved store be criticized and walked away from when I know its potential in the right hands. 

So as I've been approached many many times by many many people today asking me what's going on, I had to wrestle with the way to handle it. I decided to share my story in a factual way. Only speaking to my experiences. I think, as consumers, we have the right to know who we are supporting and where we are spending our money. I know that calling out a yarn store can be a touchy subject because it's their livelihood and I think we need to be sensitive to that. But what about the livelihood of those left to face the results of this? It makes my heart sick. 

So I ask you today to examine your stance on where you buy your yarn (or any other products). What have YOU experienced? Is it enough that they have good selection or should employees and staff and their treatment be worth something too? Is customer service worth something or is availability of what you want all that matters? I encourage you today to voice your concerns and be heard. Talk with your money. Do your research and know your store, in good times and in bad. Respect those who work for your business, be understanding and considerate of small businesses and the hard work that goes in to them, but also be willing to decide for yourself who deserves your cash. I know that what happened here is not an isolated incident so I just remind you to be aware. And I know, too, that information may or may not be forth coming as people are often afraid to share their experiences.  I have heard that they many stores have ways of  deleting negative feedback on their site. Meaning that you aren't getting the real rating for this site, only what they want you to see. Keep it factual and professional but let them know when things aren't going well. And if they delete your critical feedback, post it again. Be willing to walk if you are not heard or if your expectations are not met. There are other small businesses out there that want your business and that deserve it. I know, for me, I will be shopping at The Loopy Ewe (see the link on the sidebar).

At the end of all of this, I'm not bitter. I hope that those who choose to support this store are given the customer service they deserve. I hope that Spokane is not left like a yarn store orphan - that either my LYS realizes that they need to start treating their customers and staff like they need them or that a new store pops up to take its place.  I hope that changes can be made to better the bad experiences that so many have had. And I hope that wherever you go, crafting continues to be something you enjoy! Much love to all of my prior students and customers and to the past and present staff and management at my LYS that I will miss so much. If you ever need any one-on-one help, you can always contact me on Ravelry or via email. I'd love to set up a meeting to knit. And a reminder to be gentle with those who have no control over the situation. We can only expect goodness if we show goodness to them.  


TaraMPaine said...

I've had a similar experience with what used to be my LYS. After some very hateful (and hurtful) words about a good friend and our knitting group in general, I left. I've heard that the shop is under new management that is, sadly, not any better than the old. We've recently had a new, wonderful store open so I wish them well and hope that our LYS drought is over.

Amy K. said...

Tara! I so hope that your LYS drought IS over!!!! That would be great. Hoping for improvement here, too.

Tracy H said...

As a Yarn Club member, I must thank you Amy. Your dedication and professionalism are to be commended and recognized. It was obvious to me and others you cared about us customers, you did what you could and you made it more than "just your job", above and way beyond. You put time and effort into making this club be the best it could be. I can't thank you enough. What's the don't know how good you had it until it's gone? I think we as a group are/will be experiencing that. I and others were not aware of any management change since the website, shipping labels etc are still using Sara and/or Travis Romine names for everything. The about us on the website is the same. Makes me feel cheated in a bad sort of way. But I did notice the decline in c.s. response (a week minimum to get an email response that was curt and did not really address the issue) or the chat response (taking an hour to get some kind of resolution). I chalked it up to holidays etc since there no was mention of change at the store via the web. Now all of it makes sense. Its a shame, a crying shame. Anyhow, I just wanted to write you thank you profusely for all you have done--the time effort caring and professionalism you have shown to us. Bless you and your family. This is truly our and PF's loss. Will miss your encouraging words :(

Amy K. said...

Tracy - You are so sweet. It was a joy to get to work with you all. If you ever want more details, you are more than welcome to message me on Ravelry, but since I want to be as factual and concise as possible here I will leave that for personal messages. :) If you decide to continue with your club membership, may it continue to be something you enjoy! Thanks again for being a part of what I loved most about yarn club.