It's a lot of fun working with all of you people; sometimes, it actually feels like we have a real business! Now, approaching 4 years in business, it's more than appropriate to look back now and then, and to highlight some stuff that maybe we haven't discussed enough!
Even with me out there blabbing on incessantly almost every day, and with Tannin putting out email blasts, social media posts, etc, customers still have questions…Most are really good, important questions about stuff that, for one reason or another, we never got around to discussing. And some of them are things that you may have wondered, but haven’t gotten around to personally asking.
So, at the risk of looking a bit self-serving to my own company in my own blog on my own web page (Yeah, people have actually criticized me for promoting Tannin on our own page! Has the world gone completely mad?), I thought I’d share some of the more interesting “IFAQS” ("infrequently asked questions") that we’ve received over the past few years. I've saved the best for some strange purpose, like writing an "FAQ" thingy. So...These are real questions- and the answers are legit.
And sometimes intense, too! LOL. Like, you'd expect anything else?
Okay, so here goes:
What’s your FAX number? Our what?
Are you open on weekends? We are open 24/7, 365…online. We do have to sleep, of course...However, with a global community of customers, we try to be more available. It’s not uncommon to receive a reply to you email some weekend at 5:00AM Pacific Time. I'm always with my damn phone, so jumping in on a conversation on Facebook or Instagram is always part of the game!
Do you have botanicals and "stuff" that aren’t on your website? Well, with all of the botanical items we've experimented with and offered for sale over the years, there are always a few "one-offs" out there, or items that we have a scant few of, which weren't available in large enough quantities to offer regularly, or which proved unpopular, too hard to ship, etc. Yeah, we have played with a lot of stuff over the years, so if you want something that you don’t see on the site, there is always a chance we have some "mystery stuff" floating around. Ask for something in your next "Enigma Pack", and if we have anything cool, we'll include it.
Do you guys sell fish? Well, not at the moment. We did try for a while last year, but it was really outside of our core mission and fraught with logistics challenges, so wisely, we stopped! Of course, it's always a future possibility that we'll do it again...Well, maybe.
Do you sell blackwater? (asked by a guy who lives in Wisconsin. We are in Los Angeles, remember) You mean, like through the internet? Ship blackwater to you? I love my fellow hobbyists. But... Really?
Can I use Cariniana Pods with my fishes? Priceless. And true (November, 2016). This is when you tell yourself, "I just need to do better...I'm not doing something right..."
Do you miss owning a coral livestock business? Oh sure, as much as I miss acne, migraine headaches, doing my taxes, etc. No, seriously, it was amazing, fascinating, challenging, fun. But it was a different sort of market and a different end of the business. And livestock vendors have a lot more to contend with when shipping live animals across the country-or the world. It requires a lot of dedication, skill, and fortitude- like any other part of business- but it's a bit different. I love what we're doing here at Tannin- fostering a movement in the hobby!
Off the deep end, for sure..one of our 30 foot-long coral grow-out raceways, "back in the day."
"You guys should offer WYSIWYG Leaves." That wasn’t a question. (but a true statement from 2015!)...Now, I'm just crazy enough to do that. Really. Can you imagine photographing 300 different leaves? If anyone would do something that insane, it would be me. But, who would buy them? That's the more important question!
"Do you offer shipping to my country? I don't see it listed." We ship all over the world, as indicated in our website, but we haven't shipped everywhere yet! Some nations have very strict laws governing bringing plant materials in, and others levy ridiculously high taxes on just about any imported items, so we can certainly TRY to ship you your country in it's not yet on your list..It's just that we cannot guarantee it will be trouble-free. Some countries are picky about imported botanical materials, and may give you some hassles. And you are responsible for any taxes or other fees that your government charges on your end. Yay, fun. And of course, the add-on question usually is "Your shipping to my country is $40. That's too much. Can you do better? The short answer is that when you pay $40, I'm likely paying like $45...So, at this point, there's not much we can do to really get costs down. It's just an annoying "thing" we have to deal with.
There's a guy on E-Bay that sells leaves for $3.00 less than you do. Will you price match? No. If you want to know why, visit our website and social media feeds, then visit his. Enough said.
How long can does it take to ship my order? Now, we typically try to ship all orders within 4 days of the date they're received. And to be honest, we're obsessive about getting your order out within a day (weekdays). However, sometimes, because of incoming shipments, heavy demand, or the fact that every single botanical item is selected and packed specifically for your order, there can be delays. We generally try to inform you if there are. Honestly, we'll keep doing our best to get your orders out as quickly as possible!
Do you substitute if you don't have something? Typically, if we're out of something in your order, we'll contact you to see if you want us to substitute with a botanical of similar "configuration" and value. Our first choice is to wait until we receive a re-supply, but this can often hold up an order longer than we'd all like (the joys of a global supply chain...). We will generally inform you if a substitution needs to be made within an order. If we don't have an item you order, we'll definitely contact you to discuss options if the delay is more than few days...
"Do you have "Designer" Wood Pieces?" (asked March 2017) We’re a bit low on Calvin Klein at the moment, but we have some lovely Prada Mopani Wood, and a few Michael Kors Spider Wood pieces... This must have been asked by a (former) reefer.."designer", huh? Well, to be honest, there are all sorts of cool wood varieties out there, and we certainly would like to procure more of them, but the irony we've found is that the more "crazy" wood pieces you have (and that typically is code for "expensive"), the less you see of it. That one cool 24-inch piece of wood from the Himalyan Mahalangur HImal region probably cost $80 just to ship to us, so we'd have to charge quite a bit for the piece just to cover this cost, right?
And the longer it sits in our facility. Wood is one of those things that I agree can be tricky to purchase online. We try to stick to a few varieties that we know sell well at a fair price. Stuff you ask for. And we hand-select each piece, so you know you'll get something that we'd want in our own tanks!
Now, trust me, we try hard to procure new stuff. We even get contacted by some new wood vendors out there...However, some of them are, in my opinion, incredibly "flaky!"They'll often contact us, romance us, send us a few samples at cost, and then promptly...disappear, never to be seen or heard from again when we want to order. I had one would-be supplier stall me repeatedly and then simply vanish, because they were "waiting to set up an LLC and needed to hear back from their lawyer and accountant..." I was like, "YOU'RE SELLING FREAKING COLLECTED DRIFTWOOD! NOT AIRPLANE PARTS OR HEART VALVES!" Urgghh!
I mean, it would be cool to find more cool wood varieties (it's in our tagline, right?) , and we'll keep searching, but the market is kind of narrow for us to go really big on some really obscure stuff. It's kind of "when we stumble upon something cool..." We will continue to seek out and offer some new stuff, but the reality is that if YOU don't want to buy it, it's probably not something we'll be buying either! Oh, and seriously, remove the term “designer” wood pieces out of your head. Please. Or "designer corals", for that matter Who actually designs them?
Rant over. Don't get me started.
"Do I need to prepare these botanicals before I add them to my aquarium?" This one kills me, to be honest. We have a dedicated preparation page, lots of blogs on the topic, etc., all over our web site, so yeah...
Do you wear long pants to work sometimes? Do I WHAT?
I live in the nation of______. When I received the box of botanicals, the customs guys asked for ________ euro (or whatever local currency you use) to get the package! That's too much!" I feel your pain. Really. Hate it. Shipping and taxes and stuff really sucks. But not much we can do about it, really. It bothers us as much as it bothers you...However, we can't be responsible for the taxes and fees that your local government levies on imported items. We advise that repeatedly in our "Shipping and Handling" section. Please read this section before you order!
How do I find out when you have sales? Sign up for our newsletter on our home page, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram! It will generally be a great tip-off for when we have those famous sales and events!
Can Scott come out and speak at my club event? Whew...Do you REALLY want that? I'm a total risk... I'm likely to go off into a total tangent... If you dare, however, shoot me an email and we can set up a date!
Do you REALLY want this guy speaking to your club?
Do you do "live" sales? Urrghhh. I think we all have a root canal scheduled that day. Or perhaps we need to go to the DMV…Or call the cable company..Or have our taxes done…or…Maybe one day we'll try a "Facebook Live" sale or something, but I'm old and set in my ways, and....yeah.
Does Tannin sponsor clubs? Sure. Shoot us an email and we can see what you need. We've been involved for years in the aquarium club “scene”, and are huge supporters of clubs! They're so important to the hobby!
Can you get me “_______ ?” I didn’t see it on your web site. We will sure try to source it for you if we can. Just hit us up, and we’ll do our best! Can't promise results, but it's often fun to try!
Do you still enjoy keeping fish tanks? Obsessively!
Can you guys help me scheme out a botanical/blackwater aquarium? Sure, we can. Call us and we can discuss your idea and figure out what you need!
I haven't heard much about the "Igapo Challenge." Is that still happening, or what? Absolutely! There are a lot of moving parts to planning a legit, transparent, "open-source" contest like this (more than I even figured before I shot my mouth off about wanting to do it!), and we want to get it right. In addition to figuring out the format, we need to make the entry process easy, track stuff, and continue to line up some killer prizes! In the context of our daily work of running Tannin, by necessity, it has to take a back seat to customer care and some of the changes we've been implementing, so it's going to take a bit longer to get it on...Rest assured, we are doing this. Likely early in the Fall. And it will be cool! I promise an update soon!
"When you guys started out and came on with the "botanical thing" , it ticked off some people? You know, you didn't invent this stuff! Other people sold leaves for years before Tannin arrived on the scene! And more people are going to come and do what you're doing-and cheaper!" (from a "not-so-nice" email, September 2016) And your point? First off, when and where did we claim to "invent this stuff?" Please do show me. What we have done is to curate and hopefully "elevate" the art of creating natural, blackwater/botanical-style aquariums and make the materials to accomplish this more readily available, backed up with lots of good free information, customer support, and a talented global community of people interested in these types of aquariums.
Business isn't all fun and games. Competition is real and intense. And if a few people who were "selling leaves" before we arrived are "mad" that we're in business, should I care? And if more people want to jump in, that's capitalism. They better be innovative, not just "adding on" to this sector... And of course, we don't sit still. We have to keep upping our game continuously. It's part of the process. There are always entrenched businesses and competition- in any endeavor. And do you think THEY "care" about us? Doubtful. Was anyone hanging out the "welcome mat" for us when we arrived? Don't think so.
Did they identify, shape, and support a target market for their business? Create a "brand?" Provide real customer service? Were they sending free stuff to clubs for months, donating to charities, fostering a community, writing a daily blog that few people initially read- like we did..or were they just selling stuff on eBay? Hmm. Brr...a cold and mean assessment, I know- but hey, that's business. Any serious aquatics (or other) business owner will tell you the same thing. It's not about being arrogant or whatever. It's reality. Not everyone gets it. You have to Innovate, iterate, improve- or wither away and die...or simply be obscure. They have to. We have to. It's hard. But, it's that simple. And who cares? When you choose to do anything for a living, you need to give it 150%. Every day. No big secret here.
Did you plan on coming out with shirts and more logo wear? Yes, I promise! We'll have some new stuff coming up. The key has been to find stuff that fits the "vibe", doesn't "cheapen" the brand, and that you actually want to wear! Stay tuned for more!
Do I have to sign for my package when it arrives? Not typically for domestic shipments. We usually do not ship packages with a signature required unless the situation dictates it. International shipments have different requirements, however, and DHL will typically contact you regarding delivery...so please include that phone number!
How do you think of new stuff to write every day? It's not easy, believe me...but not that hard, either...It's weird. I just relax, close my eyes, and write. Much respect for people like Rachel O'Leary , Joey ("The King of DIY"), Dustin of "Dustin's Fishtanks", and others- all who do You Tube videos. THAT requires some serious talent! I admire all of these people for their dedication, hard work, and inspiration that they provide to the hobby. They do it right!
Does the “____________” pod or leaf look like it does in your picture? We think so. Maybe better. We strive for accuracy.
Do you have a favorite botanical? Nah. Really do like ‘em all.
What’s the biggest mistake you made? Not getting into this business decades ago! It's so fun to work with you people! All the "testosterone" of the business part aside, it's a great thing and a wonderful group of people that we are so fortunate to have as customers, fans, and friends.
Okay, I’ve went on long enough… Some of these were a bit intense, I know. But hey, you asked! There are many more questions we receive, of course, because customers keep asking…And we will keep answering. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Until next time...Have a good one!
Stay engaged. Stay interested. Stay inquisitive. Stay diligent. Stay curious.
And Stay Wet.