How to handle it tactfully

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How to handle it tactfully

New postby Sew-Classic on Tue Nov 11, 2008 8:41 pm

As a hobby/side business, I refurbish vintage and newer, used sewing machines and sell them. Much of the money goes towards helping out my retired mother who's pension is way to small. She also finds most of the machines for me (she loves to go to garage sales, and this gives her a "mission") The rest is used toward some of my and my daughters sewing supplies, providing machines for just about every teenage friend of DD and DS and toward a small college fund for DD (a senior in H.S. at the moment). Anyhow, on an annual basis, it's not much money at all, but I still find a good use for it.

OK, that's the background, and here is the problem. As you know everyone's time is valuable these days. I really enjoy helping folks determine which one of my refurbished machines would suit them best. Not only to I take great pride and satisfaction in this pre-sales support and guidance, but I also eagerly provide any and all after sales support they might need or want. BUT, I find myself almost overwhelmed by folks asking for free advise and guidance on whether or not they should buy this or that machine at the thrift store, how to repair the one they bought off of eBay (not from me), etc...This can get pretty darn time consuming at times and I just don't always have the free time to address all their issues. When I have the time, I have tried to be as helpful to everyone as I can possibly be. I've also tried to post alot of this information on my blog for easy reference, but that doesn't all happen overnight either.

So, How I do I free myself diplomatically from this unpaid consulting service when I just don't have the time to do it without offending or insulting anyone?
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby temom on Tue Nov 11, 2008 10:57 pm

Wow. That is a hard one. I would think that you would need to start charging a consult fee. Depending on how you feel, perhaps phase it in gradually. Maybe start with the first 15 or 30 minutes free? Sheesh. I think that it is similar to people who sew as favors switching over to sewing for a fee. Hopefully a few of the people who do that could put their 2 cents in for you.
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby Upholsteress on Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:13 pm

That's a real good question. Probably the best response is to be honest and straightforward. Reread what you've written here and condense into a 2-3 sentence reply. Perhaps something like...

"Hi ______ (insert name)! I really appreciate your interest in my services! I'm sorry you have a problem with your machine, and I would love to help you, however, I have to limit myself to servicing only those machines I have sold. That is really my forte ... pre-purchase advise and counsel to help folks avoid the very problem you are having. {Here is where you can offer another service person's name and number if you know someone you trust} . Thank you for calling and let me know if you are in the market to purchase again.

You can be as friendly or as firm as needed ... sometimes -- you will have to be VERY firm... trust me... I know. :roll:

Hope this helps some.
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby Sancin on Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:21 am

The hard part of this problem is that there are probably some people who simply want a quick answer and there are dependent others who always to expect people to help them with almost everything. And further, don't value knowledge and skills and how they are acquired.

You could try "I'd really like to help you but it takes time and thought to give that sort of advise and I simply do not have time to discuss the various alternatives with you. Have you checked out my blog?"

I imagine it took you a long time to learn how to learn how to do this refurbishing. Good for you - tremendous skill to have. Do you have a reference you can refer them to? ....perhaps a really complicated read so they will come back and be willing to pay you? ;)
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God put me on this earth to sew and finish a certain number of things. I am so far behind now.....I will never die!.......If I stitch fast enough does it count as an aerobic exercise?
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby DorothyL on Wed Nov 12, 2008 5:58 am

Hey, my old machine won't.........

I'm kidding.

This is a business for you. You don't go into their stores and ask for free stuff or expect them to provide whatever service they do for a living for free do you? Tell them your consulting fee and make an appointment.
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby Sew-Classic on Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:01 am

Thank you, Thank you! Such thoughtful and insightful suggestions! I really do appreciate everyone's help with this. There so many helpful suggestions.

Upholtress, I found your sample dialogue very helpful. Sancin, your suggestion to offer more alternative sources is a good one. I think I will add some more links and perhaps suggest a book or two on the subject of sewing machine repair on my blog. If they ask a question that I have not addressed yet on the blog in some manner, I can mention that I am working on such an article and invite them to check back periodically to read it.

I feel so much better about all this -

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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby paroper on Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:21 am

I know your time is valuable but how about printing a list of resources that might help them get started. Maybe the name of a book or two that has information on cleaning/restoring machines, a website or two that has some information that could help them. Then, when people ask, you could maybe just give them the list and tell them that you found these resources to have helpful information to get them started.

If there is maybe a special site about appraising the worth of a machine that might be helpful or maybe some ideas or places to tell them to look...general things like thrift stores, garage sales, etc. Tell them that since you have a small business, as much as you'd like to help but you can't give them a lot of free information that would confilct with your business. If they would like for you to serve as a consultant, you would be glad to accompany them to search for a machine but your charge would be $20 an hour plus mileage. (Twenty might be low, certainly not high for a paid consultant). If they want you to service their machine, you need to also have a bench fee plus parts. My dealer who is probably rather low charges a $20 per hour bench fee. You might find that all things considered, you could actually make more money doing this than investing in machines, parts, etc and selling them yourself when you consider the labor too.

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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby lendube on Wed Nov 12, 2008 1:06 pm

Good ideas. I think making up a business card (if you don't have one already) that lists your website and phone number. Give it to them and say, "If you don't find the answer to your problem on my site give me a call and we'll set up an appt. to remedy your problem." This will certainly deter the people looking for cheap advice.

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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby Sew-Classic on Wed Nov 12, 2008 4:10 pm

I really don't mind it when I see I question or a problem on a forum or board somewhere that I think I can help with. If and when I have the time, I respond. I think that's exactly how the forums and such are supposed to work, and I like helping where and when I can.

Mostly I am getting hit with many emails asking for free help with things relating to the purchase, selection or repair of a machine from some place other than Sew-Classic. I just can't possibly take the time to answer them all, but I don't want to be rude either.

I am now armed with many helpful ideas from this thread. I've already added an entry to my blog under the sewing machine repair category that lists books, classes, videos, and websites to help with maintaining and repair sewing machines, and some information about refurbishing treadles and such.

So, when I get an email soliciting this type of free help, and I don’t have the spare time to devote to detailed answers, I can direct them to this page on my blog and hopefully they will find what they need.

I’m working on something to address some of the other common requests for information and consulting that aren‘t related to a purchase from Sew-Classic.

Thanks again to everyone.
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Re: How to handle it tactfully

New postby AndreaSews on Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:47 pm

Yes, I agree with your plan--I'd go for a pat, generic email that says, "Thank you for expressing your interest in sewing equipment. I have provided some links and pointers on my website that may help you with your decision. Come by and visit any time!" And then don't look back! You can certainly set a welcoming tone without being an industry doormat.
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