Today we'll be a bit different in The Tint. We receive a lot of correspondence from hobbyists all over the world, asking some good questions, sharing points, sometimes even schooling us on stuff! And ocasionally, a really great compliment or two! And yes, some harsher criticisms. That's okay, it comes with the territory. We'll share a few messages and responses today that might give you a bit of insight on how we roll here at Tannin. Damn, I thought this would be easier than writing a blog...Yeah, not so much. Regardless, how you enjoy todays "Tint."
We'll be honest and frank (and in my case, undoubtedly long-winded, too!) There is no holding back when we "Open the inbox..."
"Scott, I used to read all of your stuff on the reef keeping sites. It's crazy that you made the jump to freshwater. What's it like going from a really well-known reef "celebrity" to a whole new audience? Does anyone know you there? Why did you give the reef thing up?" -Darryl F., Nashua, NH
Well, that's an interesting question to start off with!
First off, who cares, right? But hey, why not answer this one? If nothing else, it gives you some depth on who I am and how Tannin functions.
For about 10 years, I was sort of a well-known reefing name. I was all over the place, literally. I co-owned one of the most respected coral vendors/propagators in the U.S. I was a keynote speaker at numerous reef-related hobby conferences, club meetings, and a featured presenter at the "Big Show"- the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA). It was sort of the closest thing the fish-geek world offers to the "rock and roll lifestyle"- cool travel, fans, gift baskets(!), VIP store tours- you name it. A lot of fun, and an opportunity to meet some great people along the way.
Breaking back into the freshwater side after decades of "living large" in the reef keeping world was something I went into with my eyes wide open. I know that my "celebrity status" in the reef world didn't mean squat here in the FW side. And I really didn't care. The credibility would have to be earned. And it would be earned in the same way I did it in the reef world: By doing stuff. Putting in the work. Sharing experiences, building a company that reflects my values and passions. Writing a blog to share. Every single day. I remember the first posts of "The Tint", when we'd be lucky to have 30 people a day on our website, let alone, reading what I would ramble on about.
I didn't care, because I loved this stuff with all of my heart. And when you write, build, and share from an honest place, you win people over. You inspire. And if you're lucky, you earn some followers. And if you're really lucky, you earn their respect. And if you're really, really lucky- you earn their business and loaylty as well. And I'm proud to say that we've done all of those things! A lot of you say I'm your morning coffee (okay, afternoon or evening for our European fans), and that you look forward to reading my ramblings. What an honor and a privelage!! Oh, and the speaking gigs? Yeah, the freshwater ones are starting to line up...Most of you still don't know who the hell I am...which is so freaking cool! Can't wait to meet you!
"Hey Scott! Great business! Sometimes, I notice you will substitute a leaf or botanical in your packs? Why do you do that? Is it because you don't have something? It's no problem- just curious. Tint on!" - Mark S., Bowling Green, KY
Oh, good question, Mark! Thanks for the kind words, first of all! It IS a lot of fun! Now, we really, really give it our best effort to include exactly what the "recipe calls for" in every variety pack- that's why you order them, after all. However, sometimes we are forced to make a substitution in a leaf or botanical for a variety of reasons. First, we deal with suppliers all over the world, and sometimes, stuff happens to "disrupt" the global supply chain we've created here!
Occasionally, there will be an issue with the supplier getting his/her export paperwork ready in the country of origin which delays the departure. Other times, there could be weather-related issues in the tropical countries from which we receive our botanicals. Occasionally, there will be shipping issues with the postal or express services that are used to get stuff to us. And of course, some botanicals are seasonal, and are not in an abundance at certain times of the year, meaning that our suppliers can't get them for us. We try to plan ahead and order a lot when "the getting is good", but judging supply and demand is sometimes tricky (well, it was when we first started! Not as difficult now).
Regardless, stuff happens. And our policy when we HAVE to substitute something in the packs is to include something that is of equal or greater value, and something relevant to the collection. This most often happens with leaves. Sometimes, we simply run out of them because of (typically) poor planning on our part. We'll wait too long to re-order something, and of course, it's the one time of the year when the monsoons are happening in India, or when there is a month long holiday in Southeast Asia, and the re-supply can take weeks longer than we expect. This most recently happened with Guava leaves, and we're still waiting for that shipment! All in all, we do our best to get you exactly what we're supposed to. If we have to substitute an "a la carte" item, we will always contact you with options. And if you were truly not happy with the substitutions we made in a variety pack, just contact us and we'll make it up next time!
"Scott, you're service is really good! Man, I LOVED my Enigma Pack! Better than I could have imagined! You nailed the selection and my Plecos are buzzing around like it's Christmas! And it was fun to unwrap the package! Also, it seems like you're always online! Do you have regular hours or something to contact you? Keep up the good work!" - Erin C., Charlotte, NC
Well, another great one! Thanks again for the "props", Erin! Your happiness with what we do really means everything to me. As a fellow fish geek and consumer, I understand how the little things matter- like caring about what we send. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that we literally select every botanical by hand. It's time-consuming and often not the most efficient way to put things together, but it's what we're all about. It's part of the process; the experience. Taking the time to put some thought into the "Enigma Packs"- and all of our stuff, actually- is super important and a lot of fun for us and for you. It helps when you give us good information about what the pack is for, and we can really tailor our selection accordingly.
We love the whole experience of opening stuff, which is why we package the way we do. When I started Tannin, I wanted to make the experience a lot of fun. When I was a kid and would order fish stuff (mail order, lol- dating myself here), I could hardly sleep the night before the package would arrive, and I never forgot how exciting that was. SO why not spend an extra few minutes and make it an "event", right? I think we ALL relate to that, judging by the number of cool "opening" videos we receive! Glad you enjoy!
As far as me being online a lot; well, we try to keep an active presence on Facebook, Instagram, to a lesser extent, Twitter, and on our website chat feature. It's part of the day for us. We can't always get back to everyone quickly, and do miss some on chat- it's an unfortunate byproduct of being busy- not been gable to get right back to everyone who contacts us. We try to get back to you within a few hours whenever possible. I start my day really early- often around 5:00AM here in L.A., so I can write and catch up with our customers on the East Coast or in Europe before heading into the office. Coffee is important! Regardless, I can't always get back right away, so my apologies if your message isn't immediately answered. We'll keep trying!
"Scott, although some people think what you're doing with Tannin is kind of cool, I think you are a bit arrogant in assuming that everyone else who exists in the aquascaping world is a 'drone' and follows someone else's rules. There are many people who are way more talented than you who create awesome tanks, and just because they don't like blackwater and decaying stuff in their 'scapes doesn't mean they aren't respecting nature. You need to get your head out of your --- sometimes and grow up. You aren't the only game in town, and I've seen better than the tanks you guys hold in such high esteem. Get off of your thrown once in a while and give it up for the real 'scapers." - Elderberry424
Well, first of "Elderberry424"- would have been nice if I knew your real name, but that could be asking too much. I am not sitting on my "thrown"- a "throne", perhaps. But not a "thrown." Alright, I'm being snarky. I do appreciate your opinion, and believe it or not, I DO respect it. However, I will tell you up front, I will never hold back my opinions. Otherwise, it's just a big lie. My skin is incredibly thick. Im a reefer. However, the fact of the matter is that the world of aquascaping has been "dominated" by some very narrow-minded thinking and a healthy dose of attitude for a long time, to it's own detriment, IMHO. (notice, by the way, that all of my criticisms are always "in my humble opinion"?) And the amount of negative criticism we receive here at times- not for an "attitude" that we have, but simply because we are talking about a different approach to aquascaping and looking at tanks- is almost laughable! It's almost like they are cult-like and afraid. It's YOUR buddies that have the attitude, pal. Not a lot of them, but apparently a very vocal few people who don't like the fact that what we talk about here at Tannin is contrary to the technique and style coveted by your crowd. (And I NEVER called any of you guys drones- but if you want to claim the title for yourself and people with your attitude, well..)
Look, Not everyone wants a floating cloud city or underwater waterfall in their tank, and not everyone thinks that those diorama type tanks are the ultimate in 'scaping, just like not everyone wants a tinted tank with decaying leaves. Those fantasy-scales? They require enormous talent to execute- I have respect for those who build them and could never approach what they do. However, I can't help but imagine what they could do with their skills if they would apply them to a more natural-looking, botanical-style blackwater aquarium! And yeah, I get it- not everyone likes our world of biofilms, blackwater, and decomposing leaves. And that's okay. I don't target them. They don't play in my world. Oh, and apparently we're not the only game in town for this stuff, so perhaps you should go to one of the many other online vendors who specialize in the blackwater, botanical-style aquarium genre and write a daily, free, non-sales-pitch-oriented hobby blog. There must be dozens. Hundreds. I mean, a quick Google search shows...oh, what a minute... Well, anyways.
And while a select few of you guys fearfully attack our philosophy, a number of the biggest names in the aquascaping world have embraced our products and ideas to create amazing aquariums of their own. They understand the value in stretching their skills and trying new ideas, or executing with different materials. Please, please, please don't be afraid. Stop being a blind hater. Just try a tank like this. Do it for yourself. You MAY hate it. But don't hate ON it because you don't understand it- or don't read our blogs explaining the ideas, or hate on the many, many posts from happy members of our community who do amazing work. Hate it because it doesn't work for you. You will never see a member of our community- well- you won't see me- trash-talking your work. Criticizing, yes. Absolutely. But I back it up with a reason why- and it's not arrogance. Members of our "tint nation", by the way, who are incredibly skilled at many aquascaping disciplines... We all need to understand that we're on the same team here. I won't stop criticizing the narrow-mindedness of some people i the hobby. And hey, you shouldn't stop criticizing our stuff either. A healthy disagreement is okay. But being a jerk isn't. Let's be friends....
"Scott, super excited with my botanicals you sent! And really excited about this "estuary" thing! Will this be a new company? Can you tell me more? Will it be available here in Denmark? Can't wait to see it! "- Caron L., Copenhagen Denmark
Hey Caron, thanks for the kind words and enthusiasm! We're super privileged to do what we do every day. And it's so fun to see what everyone does with this stuff! Now, "Estuary" is going to be part of Tannin- not a separate brand or company- a "product line" and more important, a philosophy of sorts. And of course, it will be available wherever we are doing business!
And we are not losing our focus on blackwater, botanical-style tanks! No worries. In fact, once we get underway (in just a month or so), you'll see that our approach to brackish is unlike any you've seen before, and is extremely complimentary to what we do here at Tannin! I've been playing with brackish for years, and I'm sure you've thought about it...And we'll give this much underserved market the love it deserves...Oh, and we'll have lots of cool discussion and hopefully, get to see many cool tanks set up in the fashion in which we'll discuss. Can't wait!
Okay So that's a "mixed bag" of some selected, representative messages of the many that we receive here at Tannin. Most are pretty cool. A few, not so much. Interestingly, the negative ones seem to come from just a few of the same people, lol. And none of them seem to be telling us that our stuff sucks, so there is hope. Yet, we believe that there is good information for us in every communication we receive! In fact, the negative stuff we receive is so limited that we are typically thinking that we MUST be doing something wrong. NEWS FLASH: Well, we have and will continue to screw up stuff. Yet, we will learn from it (hopefully!)
Honestly, it's a pleasure to be here for you and to work with you on expanding the hobby in this fun (and tinted) direction. So much more to do and to cover. I hope this little sharing of the messages gives you a little insight into how we are and what we do. It is fun to share this stuff with you now and then, and we think it's great to keep chatting!
Stay engaged. Stay enthusiastic. Stay a bit rebellious...
And Stay Wet!