Archive for March 2018

The Board Chronicles: Dealing With An Insurance Claim   4 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

In Velda’s mind, here’s what almost happened.

Velda was not harmed in the making of this photo.

Now, I’m don’t think she’s the Wicked Witch of the West, at least on a good day, but the truth is her booth was crushed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. This is the story of what happened after we picked up the pieces, left stormy Arizona and sought compensation from the company that owned that wind-blown destroyer.

Need to know what happened to cause this problem? Read that story in Wind. Blows. A Special Edition Of The Board Chronicles. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

First things first: I took pictures. I took pictures from each corner of Mrs M’s booth so I prove that we had been squashed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. I thought I took pictures of everything, but I really didn’t. I got everything I needed, fortunately, but wish I would have doubled the number of shots to get more close-ups. I didn’t have a good shot of the middle legs of the upside down canopy destroyer, for example. I had a long shot, but not one with as much detail as I would have liked.

Photos in hand, and once the shock wore off a bit, we proceeded to cooperatively disassemble the Flying Dry Soup Canopy … it was toast. Once it was off of Mrs M’s booth, we could see what had happened to her booth. Her canopy was also done for, of course, so we lifted it over her display and folded it up crushed it together so I could cart if off to the dumpster, as I was directed when I sought out event staff to ask what I should do.

Event staff, by the way, did not visit our booth and did not volunteer any direction as to what should happen or who should do what. We were on our own. Totally on our own.

I did salvage the canopy’s fabric top and walls. They all appeared to be somewhat soiled, but not ripped. I continued to take photos, documenting all of the damaged product, the damaged display pieces, the product on the ground, the broken signs … anything I could think of that showed damage, I took pictures of.

Anything.

I didn’t ask permission, I just took pictures. I thought they would come in handy.

They did.

We then proceeded with our day and completed the event. Once home, I got to work repairing Mrs M’s display, replacing broken pieces and missing hardware. Mrs M got to work replacing her product that was damaged, but all damaged product was held in case we needed more than photographic evidence taken at the event to prove the amount of damages we incurred.

Mrs M’s repaired booth, good as new.

Once we recovered, I reached out to the insurance agent with the contact information I was given on that fateful day in Arizona at Winterfest, in Lake Havasu City.

“I’m sorry, that agent doesn’t work here anymore.”

The Claim

However, the lead agent did come on the line and gave me an email address. I then sent them this letter, copying the client:

Thank you for your time on the phone today.

As we discussed, Mrs M’s Handmade was a vendor at the recent Lake Havasu City Winterfest. At that event, a windstorm on Saturday night lifted the canopy of your client, [Company Name/Client Name]. That canopy came down on top of our canopy, crushing it and damaging our products and display pieces underneath.

Amazingly, most of our products were undamaged. There were some broken display pieces. One display crate crashed and most of the products inside were destroyed (109 small lotion bars). Other product losses were nominal. The canopy, unfortunately, was a total loss. The main wooden display was somewhat damaged, and it had to have broken pieces and hardware replaced.

To figure the loss of business profits for this Sunday, I averaged the actual sales for our last 5 outdoor events, and figured the lost net profit from that.

Any questions? Please call me at the numbers below.

I enclosed an itemization of our damaged items, which included actual cost estimates:

  • 1, Undercover Canopy, commercial weight
  • 109, Small Lotion Bars, Replacement Cost
  • 8, Lotions, Replacement Cost
  • 1, Beard Oil, Replacement Cost
  • 1, Body Polish, Replacement Cost
  • 1, Loss of Business Profits, Sunday
  • 1, Bowl, Display Piece
  • 1, Picture Frame, Display Piece
  • 1, Repair of Display, 4 hours

Those are actual losses; I didn’t inflate any item. It doesn’t matter what others might do; I have to live with me. I played this totally above board. Just like life.

Also attached to the email were these photos:

The Denial

After 2 weeks, I got a response from a claims agent, who denied the claim. No idea if this was an automatic thing (as we all fear insurance companies that just deny every claim). Here’s the letter:

Dear Mr Mowry:

[Insurance company name] has been notified of your attempt to file a claim under our insured’s Commercial General Liability policy. After a thorough review of the evidence, documentation and evidence submitted, our findings indicate that our insured is not legally liable for the damages caused to your unit.

The loss concerned a wind storm which occurred late at night on the above-listed date. This wind event caused widespread damage to several vendor tents at the Lake Havasu City Winterfest trade show, including that of the insured. It has been reported that our insured’s tent blew over during this wind event, causing damage to your tent, your product, and affecting your ability to conduct business on the following day.

In review of the weather report for that particular day, it appears that these gusts of wind were in excess of forty miles per hour. Our insured reported to us that they had used – as they always do – five individual thirty-five pound weights hanging from their tent in order to secure it from such wind events that could occur overnight at the event. They also reported that his has seemed to work ever since they started their business.

It is our opinion that it is reasonable to expect that the weight they used, which totals 175 pounds, should be sufficient to hold down a ten-by-ten tent during a normal wind event. The wind event which occurred is considered an “act of God”. It is our opinion that our insured took all reasonable steps to protect against normal wind events, but it is not reasonable for them to expect that an act of God such as  this could occur. After reviewing the information available on this loss, we do not find that our insured was negligence (sic) in the cause of your loss. Therefore, we are denying liability for your damages.

In the state of Arizona, negligence must be proven by some breach of a duty of care. The results of our investigation show that there was no such breach. Therefore, we are denying your claim for property damage.

If you have any questions regarding this decision, please contact the undersigned.

The Refutation

I had questions. You bet I had questions.

Needless to say, I was a bit ticked. I took a deep breath, and that night, I responded to the claims agent’s letter. I sent the email to the claims agent that night, this time copying both their client and the original agent.

If there was any pressure that could be brought to bear from those quarters, I wanted it. I had no incentive to just follow the claims agent’s direction and only communicate with them.

Here is what I wrote:

Thank you for your response of March 8, just received today by me. You have several errors of fact in your letter that require your attention.

  1. I understand that your insured is surprised that their actions directly resulted in the destruction of our canopy and booth. However, their direct actions resulted in that damage, so they are liable. An act of God may have made the wind blow, but it was your client’s negligence that resulted in the destruction of my property. Absent your client’s negligence, we would not be having this conversation.
  2. Your contention that your client had 5 weights each weighing 35 pounds on their 10×10 canopy fails on many points, as follows:
    • They did not have a single 10×10 canopy. Rather, they had two (2) canopies that were bungeed together at the roof line. Those 2 canopies did not have 4 legs. They had 8 legs, as is clearly visible in the photographs that I submitted to your company.
    • Their weights were not found to weigh 35 pounds. I have made very similar “do it yourself” weights using PVC pipe and concrete, and I can assure you that their weights did not weigh 35 pounds each.
    • My wife lifted one of those supposed 35 pound weights with one arthritic finger.
    • I have another witness who will testify that those weights were definitely not 35 pounds each.
  3. Even if the weights did weigh a total of 175 pounds – which is a supposition that I reject – then that weight is STILL not adequate per the rules of the event. In fact, Winterfest requires each canopy to have fifty (50) pounds of weight on each corner of each canopy. Your client, therefore, should have had 400 pounds of weight on their two canopies, not the 175 that you claim.
  4. Further, the rules from Winterfest are clear that there should be 50 pounds of weight on each corner of each canopy. By your admission in the letter of March 8, your client did not weight all corners of their canopies with the required fifty (50) pounds.
  5. Further, your client weighted the four (4) outside corners, and then put one weight (not the two required to have one on each leg) in the center back. They did not weight the center front of their canopies at all, which happened to be facing the direction from which the wind blew. Therefore, their canopies were not weighted on two (2) legs in the most vulnerable section of their canopies.

It is my desire to resolve the situation amicably. However, if you persist in your insistence that your client is not liable for their canopies destroying my booth, then I will have no choice but to seek justice in the legal system. As you know, your costs will go up precipitously at that point.

Perhaps your client did not share with you that they did not follow the rules of Winterfest. Perhaps you have not personally evaluated each of the weights that your client claims to weigh 35 pounds. I offer you the opportunity to satisfy my original cost estimate, and deliver me a check in 14 days (March 26). If you choose to ignore that deadline or reject this claim outright, then the next conversation you will have will be with my legal counsel.

My original claim is attached for your convenience. We have since found additional damage caused by your client’s negligence, by the way, which is not included. Settle now, and the price will not go up.

Sincerely,

The Victory

The agent was back to me within 24 hours,

Thank you for your detailed description of the events as you understand them.  It was not brought to my attention that the event had specific rules for vendors to follow with regards to their operations.  Could you please forward a copy of these rules for my review, since you allege that our insureds were in violation of such rules?

Additionally, if there is more damage than simply to that which you listed in the document you forwarded, then we would ask that you provide information regarding such damage so that we may include it with your claim.

You bet I could forward the rules, sent within the hour:

The rules for Winterfest vendors are attached. These were a part of the standard event application that was signed by all vendors. The relevant information on booth weights is on page 2, under “Requirements:”

All vendors must have weights for any canopies in use. All four corners must have weights of at least 50 lbs. attached.

We agreed to the settlement that day.

Thank you for forwarding this.  It would appear, based on the rules all vendors are bound to for this event, that our insured did not, by their statement, take the necessary precautionary steps to secure their tent.

He invited me to submit the additional damages as well, which I did.

The check was received one week later, a week before my deadline.

I am no insurance expert; I did not consult legal counsel.

But, I won.

Morals of the story:

  1. Take lots of pictures
  2. Carefully document exactly what happened
  3. Know the event rules, and keep them on file. You never know when you might need to quote them!

The Board Chronicles: Almond Blossom Festival 2018   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

The Almond Blossom Festival in nearby Quartz Hill has become one of our traditional first quarter events: this will be our 4th year doing this event. Sales have never been spectacular, but it’s close, it’s easy, and we spend the weekend with the Granddaughters. What’s not to like?

Well, I have a few answers to that question, as you shall see. But we were committed, and we were off to the 69th Annual Almond Blossom Festival!

New Ideas

  • The forecast was very clear: rain throughout Saturday, with more rain Saturday night. We opted for our best weather protection, and put up the big Trimline canopy. It takes more time to put up, but it is dry inside.
  • I now have an array of cheese knives (one individual knife and 4 different sets are available) I can offer to people wanting a “complete” cheese & cracker gift set. I also have chess & checker pieces for those that want a “complete” game set.

Observations

  • This event has a problem with communication. They have no social media presence, and don’t provide any tools for vendors to promote the event for them. Emails sent to the venders vendors had grammatical errors, factual errors, and were just plain annoying to wade through. They’re trying … but with the long legacy of this event, they should have the details right by now.
  • They should know how to use spell check, too.
  • Can you tell I’m annoyed?
  • Two years ago, our booth cost was 1/3 less. They’ve taken a 33% price increase in 2 years. Wanna bet my sales don’t go up that much?
  • I arrived at 11am to set up, only to be told that I had not understood the instructions. Well, I was actually told that they were sorry that their English wasn’t correct. I had to go away because some RV might show up to be parked in the next hour, so they weren’t letting anyone else in until the 12noon start time they had tried to announce.
  • This event does have many youth volunteers that are eager to help you. Unfortunately, they were not available when I most needed them, since they were pulled off to do duties for the event itself. And, as supervision waned, the attention of the youth wandered as well. Still, I appreciate the effort to provide youth volunteers.
  • The weather heavily impacted vendor participation. Many vendors were NCNS: No Call, No Show. That resulted in the aisles being very spotty due to all of the empty spaces. That made the event much less than it might have been had the positions been tight.
  • Another stalker reader of this blog found us on Saturday, and we had a great conversation with Catherine about going a-vendoring with her horseshoe art. Always nice to meet people that already know us because of The Board Chronicles.
  • Philosophy that was shared with me: “I always tell my kids to do what you love. If you like selling a bucket of rocks, then do that. Someone will be looking for that!” And, indeed, that is true.
  • My neighbor was hawking a solar company, and he was standing in his booth and saying “How’s your electric bill?” to every person that passed his booth to engage them in conversation. Every person. Most people just kept walking, but if they acknowledged him, he kept talking to them as they walked past my booth.
  • One lady reached Mrs M’s booth, and then turned and said to us, “I hate solar people. I hate’m.”
  • As a vendor, those kinds of aggressive sales techniques truly lower the quality of the event. The promoters take the booth fees … and vendors like us have to endure potential but lost customers running down the aisles to escape the obnoxious sales pitches.
  • My favorite events are all handmade. Events that mix in some buy & sell vendors can be fine – especially if they keep handmade vendors in a dedicated section – but if there are “professional” hawkers in the mix, then the quality of the shopping experience deteriorates rapidly. IMHO.
  • It started raining on Saturday in mid-afternoon, and didn’t stop. It rained all night, and was still misty/wet in the morning until about 10am.
  • Sunday morning, we were hit by the trifecta: 1) bad weather, 2) Sundays are for church, and 3) it was the day to jump ahead for Daylight Savings Time, so everyone lost an hour’s sleep. No one was at the event at 10am … including many of the vendors. I read most of a book on Sunday. Everything finally got going at about 1:30pm.
  • The Trimline canopy generated a lot of comment from other vendors … one thought it was a car port that I re-purposed as a vendor canopy.
  • Uh, no.
  • From one of Mrs M’s customers: “When you hang out with drag queens, you learn a lot of tricks.”
  • Uh, OK.
  • A lady came by and wanted to talk about the use of a wooden board. She had been told by one of her bosses to never wash a wooden board: only apply mineral oil to it. WOW. That is such incredibly bad advice. OF COURSE you should wash your cutting board! After every use, in fact! For complete instructions on how to care for your cutting board, go here. For a summary of cutting board research done at UC Davis & the University of Wisconsin that shows why wooden cutting boards are the most recommended – by science! – then go here.
  • A guy walked by the booth, and thanked us for being at the event. “You’re classing up the place,” he said. He went on to suggest that he’d once seen a guy making wooden ties, and that perhaps I should make some. He’d take me to the prom if I was wearing a wooden tie, he said. I declined the offer to go to the prom with him – to the relief of everyone present, I expect.
  • In the end, this event was weather-impacted so you should not draw firm conclusions from this one event. However, we’ve done this event 4 times, and 2 of those had heavy weather impacts (2016 was even worse!). 2017 had better weather, but sales were still disappointing. It’s clear after 4 years that this is a convenient but annoying local event that’s significantly below average for us. Time to move on.

The Food

  • Best Meals: Dinners with the Kids & Granddaughters.
  • Worst Meal: We decided to eat lunches at the event … Fair Food, as we call it. Both of them were overpriced and not that good. But, they were easy.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 152
  • Booth cost: $365
  • Food cost: $252
  • Travel cost: $79
  • Total sales: $1,078
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $382
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: nope
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:45a
  • # transactions: not nearly enough
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There was one other, who is also a member of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild! I looked her up on the member directory, and then reviewed all of the listings for California. I found that Mrs M is one of only 15 certified soapmakers by the HSCG in the state of California.
  • # woodworking vendors: Just me.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 8:0
  • Returning next year? Nope. We’re done.

Boards sold: 8x

2x Custom Orders

2x Cheese Board

1x Small Board

1x Clipboard

1x Chess Board

1x Cutting Board

I Keep Making New Stuff   Leave a comment

This is a pot pourri of recent boards that made it to the finish line.

The first cutting board was a special order, and it’s the first piece I’m completed that uses Mesquite. Further down in this group is a Lazy Susan that better showcases this wood that’s uncommon in Southern California.

At the bottom of this group are a pair of “Family” signs that are the first of the true 3D carving signs that I’ve gotten to the finish line. Both of these are made from Hard Maple, though one of them is made from a dark wood that’s got some curly figure in it … unusual for Maple.

I got disorganized enough that a few pieces made it out of the shop and to last week’s event … and were sold before I got their pictures. That has not happened before!

I’ve got 4 more Lazy Susans in the shop that just might be finished for this weekend’s event … but I’ve got several custom orders that will be my focus this week.

The Board Chronicles: Fresno Home & Garden Show 2018   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

After 2 very uninspiring events, I’m hoping that the trek to Fresno will be a change in fortune.

Well, I’m a vendor. “Fortune” had better not be my goal.

But I digress.

We scheduled this event based on my success last year as a solo act. Read about 2017, here. This year, we initially planned for both of us to go, but Mrs M opted to stay home and make soaps & lotion while I went to the Home & Garden Show … that she doesn’t really believe is a good place for her, anyway.

So be it.

It’s the 32nd Annual Fresno Home & Garden Show. Last year, this was my Best. Solo. Event. Ever. I did it in a single booth, and I spent a bachelor’s weekend in Fresno.

That was high living, so you bet I’m returning for another round of fun.

New Ideas

  • I had a trailer, I had a double booth, and I had no canopy. I didn’t exactly travel light, but not having a canopy or 2 in the trailer – and no canopy weights! – is most unusual!
  • I took my largest-ever inventory of products to this event. 317 pieces were on display.
  • We booked the event this year as a double booth, and then opted for me to take it solo. This exhibits unprecedented flexibility on my part. Big booth? No problem. No Mrs M? No problem. Fresno? No problem.

Observations

  • I drove through rain about 60 miles south of Fresno, and I felt it following me. Rain was forecast for the first 2 days of this 3 day event. My booth is indoors, but so much of the show is not, I wondered if people would turn out in the rain. Only time will tell if I will match last year’s success.
  • Everything I said about set up last year is still true. This is a large complex, signage is minimal to non-existent, and you just have to feel your way. Luckily, my booth is in the same building as last year, and I drove right to it.
  • Well, sort of. Due to congestion, I had to have a 40 yard load in with the rolling carts. That’s not a big deal, but somewhat annoying when the load in is made more difficult by people just parking their cars wherever – and leaving them for their own convenience after they’re unloaded – with no concern for other vendors. You get a few entitled jerks, and everyone else suffers.
  • I suffered.
  • On Friday, we had rain. As predicted. Showers came every 2 or 3 hours, and the temperature was in the low 50s. My building was dry … but unheated. I just sat there and got cold. And bored. And when I’m bored, I get colder. It was a miserable day. Today sales on Friday = $80. Last year, sales were several times that. Friday was awful.
  • I went walk-about Saturday morning before opening, and looked at about 75% of the displays at the event. I found three (3!) different booths selling bottle openers with magnetic capability. Two booths were selling (IMHO) ugly rustic versions; one was selling something similar (but not as magical) as the ones that I sell. Still, this was the first time EVER that I have seen other woodworkers selling wanna-be MBOs.
  • He said he was a woodworker. “I mostly cut up old furniture and use the wood. We don’t have any furniture in the house anymore.”
  • Best t-shirt slogan of the weekend: “Rhinos are just chubby unicorns.”
  • I was walking behind a couple of women as they turned the corner in front of my booth.
    • Lady 1: Wow.
    • Lady 2: Someone has fun.
    • Lady 1: Beautiful.
    • Lady 2: Some people hang these.

How can I not smile?

  • Saturday had better weather, though it was still wet. Not as cold, fortunately (there’s that word again), so the day was much more pleasant. Sales, though were down from last year. Significantly down. As the day wore on, I was down 40%.
  • But, to use a baseball analogy (it’s Spring Training!), you play all 9 innings. In the last hour  of Saturday, a 3 generation Sikh family (the patriarch had such a wonderful beard!) came into the booth and bought 2 chess sets and 2 Lazy Susans. That transaction, the largest of the weekend, put me ahead of prior year at the end of Saturday … even though it was raining. Sunday, though, will tell the tale: that was the biggest sales day last year.
  • Sunday was a clear day. Blue skies, but still a bit crisp in the wind. Can I top last year’s best day of the event?
  • I do hate friends that turn to a shopper and say, “You don’t want to buy that.” I just want to scream “GET OUT OF MY BOOTH.”
  • But, I don’t.
  • Why is it that, now that I have chess boards, people will look at them, turn to me, and say, “Are these cutting boards?” Can I not ever WIN?
  • When a legacy customer walks into the booth, shops for several minutes, and then says to me, “I’ll just buy one today!” … well, OK, that’s a win.
  • Requests were for a mahjong board, a bread board, a pistachio board, a counter top, a cheese slicer (coming!) and a beef jerky board.
  • Sales were slow into the mid afternoon on Sunday, unfortunately. I sold 10 items, but all were priced at $50 or below, so I was down significantly from last year’s best day. Thankfully, I play all 9 innings.
  • The last sale of the day was my last Chess Board. I sold 6 Chess Boards at this event, and 5 of them sold with a new offering that’s not handmade by me: sets of imported chess pieces from India. So, again, I’m out of chess boards. This last batch of 10 that took me too many months to make only lasted for 6 events … and I sold most of them with chess pieces. At a Home & Garden Show. Go figure.
  • Again on Sunday, the tale was told in the final hour of the event. I had 3 nice sales that totaled over $400, and that is what made this event, again:

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • The double booth at this event helped me sell 13 different items on display. I need more real estate, but do we really want to do a triple booth when I share with Mrs M?

The Food

  • Best Meal: BJs Brewhouse was just down the street from my hotel, and I had their wonderfully cold wedge salad and then the Parmesan Crusted Chicken. This was a good meal.
  • Honorable Mention: I found DiCicco’s Family Italian Restaurant a mile further down the road, and that was a great way to unwind after a difficult day a-vendoring. Highly recommended!
  • Worst Meal: The “free” breakfast at the Best Western on Friday. Paper-thin bacon with scrambled eggs. The curiosity of the meal is that they buy bread that’s too big to fit into the toaster. What are they thinking?

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 397
  • Booth cost: $1,000
  • Food cost: $103
  • Travel cost: $343
  • Total sales: $2,164
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $512
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2. One lady asked me where leaks in the roof were, and another pair dropped off solicitations for their next 2 shows. No introductions. No personal contact.
  • Saturday alarm: Nope
  • Sunday alarm: Nope
  • # transactions: 25 spread over 25 hours.  However, 41% of total sales were done in the final hours on Saturday and Sunday.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: I didn’t see the entire show, but there were a couple in my building. Neither had the presentation that Mrs M did … well, that she might have had. Since she wasn’t there, she had nuttin’.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was another cutting board guy that I found; he had a small, artsy display. He offered nothing larger than a small board, by my definition.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 34:1
  • Returning next year? Yes.

Boards sold: 35

Coasters: 8

Chess Board: 6

Clipboards: 4

Trivets: 3

Heart-shaped Board: 3

Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Cutting Board: 1

3D Carved Sign: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

Word Block: 1

Custom Order: 1

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