I have to admit, occasionally I will write a post that is, well, overtly commercial. You know, those kinds of posts where there is little I could do other than to discuss something that is about our business.
Well, today is one of those days, but I think it's about something that you've really enjoyed, so maybe we get a "pass" for that? Well, maybe not, but here we go anyways!
I want to talk a bit about a few things related to purchasing from us. Now, it's hard to talk about this sort of stuff without sounding a bit "smarmy" at times...I mean, I'm talking about how we roll, so..yeah...
Now, one of the things we talk about the most amongst ourselves is "expectation management." I mean, every consumer-facing company does, of course. When I started Tannin, it was about one thing- okay, maybe two things- or, three, actually: Having Fun. Doing Cool Stuff. Treating fellow hobbyists like friends. If I do say so, we've generally hit on all three quite consistently over the years!
F---- You, Amazon!
That felt good to say...I mean, therapeutic!
Yeah, those bastards have really changed the game. I actually love them. But the expectations of "millisecond turnarounds" on orders has percolated into our consciousness as consumers, and it's simply not realistic for a company like Tannin to hit those metrics.
And I wouldn't want to.
Yes, there are some things that we would do well explaining to you- in all of their uncomfortable ugliness. I'll just tell it like it is, and not attempt to "sugar coat" them. The most important thing is to give you an idea of what to expect when ordering from us. And it starts with an understanding of how we do our curating, packing, and shipping.
One of the questions we will occasionally receive- usually from new customers- is, "When will my order ship? It's been like 24 hours. I ordered Saturday night and it's now Sunday and I haven't received a shipping confirmation..."
Now, I totally get it. You've read about this stuff in our blogs...Heard customer reviews of Tannin Aquatics and the cool botanicals and all. You're ready to roll! You're used to hyper-fast service from Amazon, the "other guy on eBay", "--- Aquarium Supplies", or...whatever.
So, let me explain, at the risk of sounding a bit stubborn:
We're not them.
(Yeah, the jute bags are coming BACK soon! BY popular demand, no less!)
We're Tannin Aquatics.
I don't ever, ever, EVER want to be like "x". And you shouldn't want us to be, either.
We are uniquely "us", and we operating in a way that delivers the best possible experience for the largest number of our customers. And that means it may take longer than, oh, 12 hours to ship your order! I know, sounds a bit crass, but why would I couch this in some marketing "double-talk?" I want to be open about this.
Just like not everyone loves brown water, biofilms, and decomposition- not everyone will like this way of doing business. We get that. But we're being honest here about how we work. I'm sure that you appreciate that.
Now, look- it doesn't mean that we are inflexible and will never adapt or change or modify our processes to be more efficient or improve. It just means that we won't compromise our core premises of giving you the best quality and care.
We don't have some cold, sterile warehouse of pre-packed seed pods and such. We never intended to do business that way, and we never will. No bar-coded, scanned computerized collating system, or impersonal stuff like that. Nope. Fish geeks selecting stuff for fellow fish geeks. Would-be competitors could see that as a "weakness" of sorts, but I beg to differ. It's our strength. It's why we have grown so steadily over the past few years.
We are here for YOU!
Our process IS radically inefficient, tough to "scale", often challenging for us, and slower than perhaps you'd wish...By design. Yeah. Yet, it assures you that you'll receive the best stuff in the best possible fashion from people who love this stuff as much as you do. Old fashioned. Not modern at all, in that respect. But it's the right way to do business, IMHO. It's how we like to do business. Really. And we're honored if you elect to do business with us.
We are always striving to get your botanicals and other items to you as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible. We turn around most orders within 4-5 after they're received. This time frame may vary during holidays, weekends, and during busy sales! Once items leave our hands, we're at the mercy of the carrier, of course.
Now, again- we're not inflexible. In fact- just reach out to me or our staff and we'll do our best to accommodate almost anything that we can! This is where we really excel- those hands-on "extra touches." That, and the quality of our botanicals and the attention you'll receive are part of the reason why we have grown some rapidly.
And yeah, that's part of why we're not the cheapest guys on the block.
Oh, another thing. Don't forget that our aquarium prices and our rock prices INCLUDE the shipping. No surprises. On first glance, you might think that we're way out of line with the rest of the market, until you go to check out on the other guy's site, and...BLAM! Shipping! We're not going to "price match"- that's a game we won't play. However, we will offer you a fair price.
Again, we're being honest with you here...
Above all, we're a bunch of fish geeks- working for our fellow fish geeks. We get you! Yeah- there is a reason why your fellow hobbyists, aquarium clubs, hobby personalities, influencers, researchers, and public aquariums choose to do business with us.
Of course, if you absolutely need to have your botanicals and stuff on a specific day, we can arrange (at your expense) Fed Ex or UPS overnight shipping, which, unfortunately is pretty expensive- but it is an option. Contact us if you want to make such an arrangement and we can look up pricing for you.
The most important thing to remember is that every botanical item is hand-picked and packaged to order. It's not a "pre-packaged, mass-produced" kind of thing. Think of it almost like you would an "artisanal" product.
This is precisely why we really dislike wholesale, for the most part, BTW. It's cold, impersonal, bottom-line-driven, and just not how we choose to do business. We're honored to do a very limited wholesale business for some select businesses, but we're never going to be that brand that's in every fish store or online shop everywhere. We adore the LFS...However, it's not what I started Tannin for. Honestly, that would be soul-sucking and awful and simply go against everything that we stand for. We love dealing directly with our customers- YOU!
And it wouldn't be fun for us, either, to be this big, fancy prepackaged thing.
Honestly, if I had a choice between writing another blog or doing another "Tint" podcast for you, or getting our products into one more store- I'd choose the podcast or blog each and every time. And quite frankly, I'm as excited about getting people into this idea of botanical-style aquariums as I am about selling a few extra orders.
It's bigger than that.
So yeah- we aren't the most efficient aquatics business out there. And I'm really proud of that!
As such, we respectfully ask for- and totally appreciate- your patience, especially during busier times of the year. ( Although I admit, it's busy all the time now, lol) Despite our large presence and global reach, we're a small company at heart. We hope you will appreciate the care and uncompromising attention which goes into each order, large or small.
From a single pack of leaves to the most specialized "Enigma Pack", each order received our utmost care and attention. Obviously, if you have special needs that we should accommodate (a birthday or something), do let us know and we'll do our best to expedite your order!
Oh, let's talk about the most annoying part of our business. It annoys the hell out of us- I KNOW it will annoy you. So let's address it:
We occasionally run out of stuff.
We try our best to keep a healthy inventory of all of our botanicals at all times, and our top priority is to send you exactly what you ordered in a timely fashion. However, sometimes stuff just conspires against us and we don't have enough of what you ordered to fill the order.
And there are plenty of reasons for this: With a global network of suppliers, all sorts of things can go wrong, like customs delays at the point of origin, weather, seasonal limited availability of some items, shipping delays, etc. Stuff sells quickly, too! A product get's "hot" and all the sudden, it goes in a day. Or, a supplier can't collect any at the moment. And yeah, we do screw up on our inventory from time to time. I admit it. Sorry! 😐
If we have to substitute an item, we will always use a botanical of equal or greater value. This occasionally happens with leaves and some seasonally-scarce botanicals. We'll usually simply take an item out of inventory if we're out. However, it does happen from time to time. Stuff slips though. If we do have to substitute in this instance, we'll either contact you regarding some alternatives, or note it on the pack.
We appreciate your patience and understanding!
Again- talk to us if you are not happy with something. If you ask a fellow hobbyist how their issue was handled by us- I'm confident that every time, they'll tell you we took care of them well. That's my goal- and my promise to you. We want your business and I want you to be happy- so I'll do whatever I can to help.
Sure, we occasionally screw up. You know, just send the wrong stuff, have a package lost...even (gulp) forget (yeah, it's happened) to ship something in an order. I fully admit it. We're human, we get a bit crazed, and we mess up once in a while. It sucks, but it happens. And of course, when we do that, we promptly correct the issue as soon as we're aware of it.
I mean, that stuff is totally inexcusable- but when you're dealing with humans I na sort of "curated process" of hand-selecting stuff, we screw up now and then. It just happens. 😂 So, feel free to contact us when we do...you can even admonish us...We deserve it. But give us the chance to make things right, okay?
Occasionally, other stuff happens, like someone won't like the particular Monkey Pot we selected, or whatever. I mean, we do our best, but it's understandable that you may not like something. Oh, and with wood...we occasionally hear fro ma customer that hoped to get something a bit wider, or smaller, or less "branchy", or whatever. Again, I understand that it's a tough one to reconcile. However, let's just talk if you're unhappy.
(Oh, we're bringing back WYSIWYG wood! Stay tuned!)
We try to do our best and ship you stuff that we'd want to use in our own tanks...but everyone is different. And everyone has different expectations. Again, it's one of those things that we need to talk about when you are less than excited with what you receive. We can always try to work something out.
Okay, the "dark underbelly" sort of stuff covered- let's talk about something happier!
One of the best things about Tannin (if I say so myself) is that we have a variety of botanical materials which we can all combine in an almost unlimited number of combinations for a wide variety of aquatic applications. When we first began, I knew that the almost bewildering variety of stuff necessitated some curated "variety packs", intended to create certain effects, or suited for specific applications; even inspired by types of fish or habitats.
It was cool!
("OG" botanical pack shot, for our homies!)
And of course, after things started really taking off, the realization hit that not only would we drive ourselves bat-shit crazy making 14 different variety packs, each with 11 different "ingredients"- we'd deny our customers the ability to curate their own selections! Nervously, in October of 2018, we nixed them...to way, way, way fewer grumbles than we expected.
Like, practically none!
It's turned out to be way better for YOU- because maybe you don't want "6 of this or 4 of that", or whatever, in your pack. Maybe you want "32 of this, and 10 of that..." Self-curation was empowerment, and you- and we- haven't looked back, since. Of course, now we have "themes" that you can use as guidelines for various self-curated "exursions" in the botanical-style aquarium world.
And yeah, when the occasional self-proclaimed "competitor" comes on the scene offering ga few "variety packs", I have to contain the laughter a bit. I mean, good luck to you, buddy- Enjoy trying to track all that when (if) you get busy! Maybe you can...
That being said- and the hearty dig at other "competitors" aside, we realized that there is a certain joy in offering fellow aquatic hobbyists a variety of custom-curated botanicals tailored to their specific needs...and thus, the "Enigma Pack" was born! And of course, a big part of the fun of this pack is that you kind of never know what you're getting until you receive it!
Everyone loves a good mystery, now and again, right?
One thing that you are guaranteed is that your "Enigma Pack" will contain an assortment of cool stuff selected from our website collection...but you won't know exactly WHAT until you receive it! We get to geek out and "deep dive" into whatever it is that you're into, and select stuff that WE would want for your stated purposes if it was for our own tanks!
Yeah, it's as much fun for us to select your stuff as we think it will be for you to work with it! Like, we spend a lot of time telling ourselves, "Hey- this combo would be cool in OUR tank..."
And the beauty of it is that we will customize your pack for your specific needs! Looking to keep that cool Apisto from that unique environmental niche? We'll select stuff for that! Trying to develop a 'scape that only features botanicals which can also serve as hiding places for fishes? We can do that! Need a selection of stuff for your Axolotls? We'll select the stuff which works best for them. Want to build a botanical variety around Cariniana Pods?
Maybe, you are totally into botanicals, and are simply looking for a little "gift" for yourself- a surprise for a new project...Or, maybe a gift for your fish geek buddy or an item for the aquarium club raffle... Maybe you just want a hat, some stickers, and a beanie- or a blanket...Got it.
So, yeah, we can do THAT. Whatever "that" might be!
Our thinking is that you likely know the overall idea or need that you have, and we're privileged to do some custom curation for you within our extensive botanical collection.
So, what are some things you can do to help us curate the best possible "Enigma Pack" for you? Here's are a few more questions that you might want to consider when advising us about yours:
1) Let us know the size of the aquarium(s) you're working with. Are the botanicals intended to compliment or provide foraging, shelter, or spawning sites for specific fishes?
2) Are you looking for the botanicals to be the "dominant" role in your tank, or just be part of the "supporting cast?"
3) Are your trying to adhere specifically to materials found in a given biotope, or are you okay with a "biotope-inspired" selection? (Remember, while many of our materials have their origin in a specific region, they might not all find their way into aquatic habitats in said region...)
4) Are there items that you DON'T want included in your pack?
5) Are you attempting to create a very "tinted" look, or to influence the water chemistry in your tank, or is your intent simply to have botanicals in the aquarium, with "tint" being a secondary consideration?
6) Do you want larger or smaller botanical items in your pack? Specific colors?
7) Did you want only items from a specific geographical region?
8) Is your intent to use all the materials in the "initial installation", or do you need to have enough materials to replenish those that break down?
9) Are you only looking for botanicals, or would you like us to include some other, non-botanical "stuff" in your pack? (stickers, gear...coffee?)
10) Is this pack a gift for someone else, or just for you?
Obviously, these are merely a few of the many questions that you might want to consider when you order your "Enigma Pack", as it's really all about YOU, er, your fishes... 😆
Just let us know what you need.
It's really as much fun for us to create these packs as we hope it is for you to receive and work with them!
It's all about fun, trying something different; inspiring creativity! And we admit, we LOVE seeing your pics and videos on Facebook and Instagram, (we love when you use the hashtags #enigmapack, or #tanninenigmapack , by the way!) showing the "unboxing" and those sexy "arrangements" you do before you utilize them in your tanks! Oh, and no one ever gets tired of those prep pics, and of course, the aquatic displays you create!
So, okay- I imagine that some parts of today's piece may come across like a bunch of excuses or even sound whiny a bit. However, I want to be 100% authentic and honest with you about how we do business. We're growing at a rate that I never expected- and I'm grateful for that.
Of course, I also don't want lose sight of why I started Tannin Aquatics: To share my love of the process, the beauty, and the joy of natural, botanical-style aquariums. To help educate and inspire my fellow hobbyists. To support clubs, the hobby, and conservation organizations. To be authentic, human, irreverent- and occasionally, a bit of a pain in the ass...
I think we've achieved at least some of those goals!
Thanks for sticking with us! We look forward to working with you more as a lot of cool new stuff emerges in 2020!
Remember, it's all about fun, creativity...and sharing.
Stay excited. Stay imaginative. Stay bold. Stay unique...
And Stay Wet.