Thursday, 29 August 2013

Something original?

and not just one of the designs we've had to make up recently either - which I will post further down the page for you all to let me know what you think.

By original I am meaning a company called Hidden Originals; a local company that specialise in personalising photo frames. We currently have 1 of each size in the shop (they will be in the window display later on today too) and they are lovely. They are what I believe are called "box frames" in that the glass is raised an inch or so above the back of the frame (I have some at home that I use as display cases rather than just for a photograph - so they are pretty versatile and can be used in numerous ways).

In the shop we have a 6 x 6 natural wood; an 8 x 8 black and a 12 x 12 white frame, so if you wanted to pop along and have a look at them in the flesh you are more than welcome to.  Price wise you can see from the photo's I've posted how reasonably priced they are. 

If you want to check out the full range click this LINK and you will be taken straight to their website; alternatively if you are on facebook, you can check out their fb page HERE

Now back to our own originals. Last week I was asked to make some personal creations myself.  I was asked to make a motorbike (I've made several before) so getting the basis for that right wasn't so much of a challenge; the family had also given me a photograph of the exact one they wanted, so I did cheat a little. I enlarge the image and printed it out to use as a template (don't know why I've never thought to do that before - I always draw out all designs freehand). 

I will admit I was a little disappointed with the gaps not showing through as well as they should have done in the photograph, but in the flesh they showed ok, which is all that matters. 

I was also asked to make a helmet; now I was sure that company that make foam frames, made a helmet, but I scoured the internet and wholesaler websites for hours - all to no avail - so I had to take a couple of foam bricks, grab my knife and get carving. I was quite pleased with the shape I ended up with. 

I desperately wanted to put a proper a visor for it (well one made by me that resembled a proper visor) but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get anything to bend in the right way; everything I tried left a crease in it somewhere or other, so in the end I had to leave it off  but I was pleased with the shape and overall effect it created. 

The other item I was asked to make, was a pair of motorbike gloves. Now these would have presented a really big challenge, as to get the details needed without losing the shaping they would have had to be huge, so after explaining to the customer that they weren't really that practical to make it was decided an old fashioned style fruit machine would be a good choice. So that's what I made; again the photo really doesn't do it justice, but I was really pleased with the finished result. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Scam? or Genuine?

I faced a dilemma over the weekend; one that actually kept me awake most of Saturday evening, and although at the time I know I did the right thing, even now I am still having doubts.

"What is she going on about"? you're asking yourselves   Well on Thursday evening I took a phone call from a gentleman who wanted to order 2 bouquets at £35 each, to be delivered on Saturday morning. Not a problem, and after discussing the flowers required, card message etc he passed on his Credit Card details to me. As with all phone orders, as soon as the call ended I put his card through to be processed, and unfortunately his card provider declined the payment. In this situation I often doubt myself over whether I have taken a number down wrong - even though I read it back to the customer as I took the numbers down,  and I read it back as a whole when I had finished to make sure I'd got all I needed. Because the gentleman was the last caller I hit 1471-3 and phoned him straight back. Obviously busy as it went to answerphone, I left him a message explaining I thought I had made a mistake, and asked if he could ring me back as soon as possible. I heard nothing, and when I came in Friday there were no messages from him to say he'd tried to get back to me. 

I tried calling him again several times on Friday morning, but to no avail, and by lunchtime my desperation took over - I knew I needed to get the order for the flowers he required in sooner rather than later - and so I made the very impersonal and (in my opinion) exceptionally unprofessional decision, to text the gentleman just in case he hadn't received my phone messages. Explaining who I was I mentioned there was an issue with his card and asked if he could ring me (I gave the number or he could have phoned me back on my mobile - yes I text him from my personal phone I was that keen to make sure he got my messages) as soon as was possible. Again, I heard nothing. 

Not sure what to do when I put my order in for the next day, I made the decision to order some of the flowers he required - ones I knew I would be able to sell if I didn't hear back from him - just in case he phoned on Saturday morning; I wanted to make sure I had what he required to fulfill the order. By closing time (and an hour after the agreed delivery time we had made) I had no choice but to assume the order was no longer required and cancelled it. 

Still unsure if I had done the right thing, I spoke to several florist friends of mine; some said they would have made the orders up, and left them in the van where they would have knocked on the door of the recipient to ask if the gentleman that ordered was available to make payment - this is something I couldn't have done, because say the gentleman had not been there I couldn't then ask the recipients to pay for their own flowers; had I previously had dealings with the gentleman I would have delivered the flowers and sorted it with him at a later date so as not to let him down, but this was the first (and I assume the last) time he had placed an order with me. Everyone else said they would have done exactly the same thing I did, and taken the gentleman's lack of response as his wanting the order cancelled. 

Then a local florist friend I spoke to told me I may have just been lucky enough to get away with not being scammed; this I was not expecting and the thought it could be a scam wasn't anything I had even considered. It appears there are people obtaining credit/debit cards by illegal means; they are then phoning orders through to florists using these details; IF the bank (or customer whose card has been used) realise and get things sorted then obviously the card is cancelled and the shop processing the details will find it declined. Apparently the rouse they use is that the bouquets are thank you's for a party that has been organised (my 2 were thank you's for a party that had been organised). Now this group of scammers used to order flowers for collection and pay over the phone with cloned cards, but as people got wise to this, they then use the information on the stolen cards to find the card holders home address, and when delivery is made they will intercept the driver before he gets chance to knock on the door; they then have the flowers which they load up in their own vehicle and sell on elsewhere, pocketing the cash. Several shops that have had cards declined, didn't take the steps I did to cancel the order, and were paid in cash (fraudulent notes) at the time of delivery; by the time the shop realised the money was fake, the scammers were long gone. 

The gentleman did leave a message on the answerphone after we had closed on Saturday asking when his flowers were likely to be delivered; it was during this message he also spoke the words "I know you've phoned me several times, so I hope there isn't a problem". Surely if he knew I had phoned, he would have contacted me to make sure there wasn't a problem? Also I had told him when I left the messages, there WAS a problem, so I can't understand why he wouldn't have phoned me back.

At the time of writing this the shop has been open 2.5 hours and I've not heard a word about the non-delivery, and I would like to think if the gentleman was genuine (I know if it was myself and my order hadn't been delivered) would have been on the phone by now wanting to know what happened and why the flowers didn't arrive? 

What would you have done in the same situation?

Thursday, 15 August 2013


I think not - don't worry, the title will make sense further down the page :O) 

As those of you that visit us in the shop regularly will know, I absolutely detest being hot; I know I'm a rare breed as most people can't wait for the summer to arrive and have been relishing  the recent temperatures (when the thermometer dipped the other week to only 24'c and people were saying it was "chilly" I could have screamed :) ) I have been despising EVERY single second of them. Don't get me wrong, I love to see the blue skies and sunshine, but when there is a nice hard frost on the ground, and icicles hanging from the trees. Those to me are the perfect days, when you can pop your coat, hat and scarf on and head off with the dog to the woods for a proper ramble (and my argument to the people that tell me the cold is awful is that "you can always wrap up warmer, but you can never unwrap any cooler). 

Now because the shop window is in full sun from pretty much 11am until 9pm this time of year, it gets mighty warm inside; add to this the lowered false ceiling we have, and the chip shop next door (we really do notice a huge temperature increase once they've been open for an hour) and it can be like entering a sauna. Opening the front and back door do very little as we face the wrong way for a draft, and more often than not all that gets dragged through is more warm air. Because of this we invested in a free standing air conditioner (we did have this in the previous shop that had 3 sides of pure glass so was always in the sun - but there we also had more space so the heat wasn't quite so noticable). It was a 2nd hand reconditioned unit when we purchased it and for 7 summers it has been forced to work 24/7, and it has performed its task admirably. Then the week before last it decided it didn't want to pump out cold air any more; it was happy to just play at being a fan. For 2 days we phoned round different suppliers, looked online, visited DIY stores to get a new one, with the result being the same each time "sorry out of stock". What does this "out of stock" mean? No air con? Heat in the shop? Totally not acceptable. Clive did get a man out to look at it who told us we needed a new one (we already kind of new that) and who said he would get back to us with a quote - the very next day - for a new free standing one but also a full on shop fitted one that would cover all areas - we are STILL waiting for this quote. The thought of watching my poor little flowers struggle in the temperatures (the thermometer INSIDE the shop one day showed over 45'c - that is HOT) and the thought of having to continue working in such temperatures was not something I relished at all. 

And then this little *miracle* happened. Chris appeared in the shop doorway and uttered the words "I've got something for you in the back of the car". Normally I would be concerned if someone wanted me to go to their car with them, but as it was Chris I knew I was ok, and the sight that greeted me as I edged towards his boot filled me with tsuch  happiness I actually hugged him; for there was a shiny, white, lovely air con unit. I was that excited, the thought of how much it was going to cost never even entered my mind. Now as I knew that everywhere seemed to be out of stock I did wonder where he'd got it from (this is where the despicable bit will from the blog title will come in to play).

One of their customers decorates blimps and Chris had gone down to see them that morning; while there he happened to mention how well the shop is doing (we are exceptionally busy at the moment) but also said how *grumpy* I currently was (it's true; I was mighty grumpy being so hot) and explained why I was being such a grump. Then the lovely Colin (blimp man) said "I've got a spare one upstairs sat doing nothing; Sarah is welcome to borrow it if she would like". If I would like? I very muchly would :) Within an hour of Chris returning, the shop was back to a more sensible temperature and I was back to being *not so grumpy* as I had been. 

This week Chris had to visit Colin again, and I sent down some flowers to say "thank you" at which point he told Chris the loan period is over; it is now mine to keep. Enter one very HAPPY Sarah  - the flowers really appreciate it too.

So what's despicable about all this??  The most recent blimp Colin has decorated is this one ↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓↓

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The first time :)

So, on Saturday we finally let our Becky out (to play?) so she could help Clive in the set up of one of our 4 weddings (yes it was a mighty busy weekend).  It was the first time we have let her venture further than the shops over the road (other than for important things like coffee and cakes - or the odd delivery that's within walking distance). 

Normally I would have started her off with something simple - carrying some arrangements into church/reception and sitting them on their stands - but being so busy I has no choice but to throw her in the deep end (she did have Clive with her so she wasn't completely alone) and I sent her off to Southampton to hang garlands and tied bunches from beams (she'd pre-made these before she left which helped) in the Merchants Hall - there was an arrangement for the registrars table too, but that was a matter of carrying it in and placing it on the table that was already set up. 

Registrars arrangement that was moved to the top table for the evening reception

Merchants Hall - Simple garlands that keep the rustic charm

Close up of one of the tied bunches attached to either end of every other beam

She was then handed a roll (or 2) of organza, some thin wires,  a pair of scissors, and  was told to " go and do something with the railings outside the hall". If you look closely you can just see her arm at the very top right of the photo :)

After leaving the hall she was then sent down to Ocean Village and the Princess Caroline ship where the reception was to be held that evening - apparently the constant bobbing and dipping made her a bit odd (but she's odd on her own anyway so this was nothing to worry about :) ).  Here she was tasked with attaching a foliage garland with organza trailing bows, to the gangway from the pontoon to the ship itself...

The railings around the outside balcony also had an organza garland (draped on both sides) with bows for decoration, but it was inside that the hardest part of the day trip was to be for her. There are 2 pillars inside that had to have foliage draped round them with gerberas and rope attached to them; because of not knowing the sizes these had to be made from scratch on board, but I think you'll agree she did a great job?

The hardest part of the whole set up (other than having to put up with Clive for a couple of hours) was what most people would assume would be the easiest thing; the placing of 2 Hydrangea heads in a jam jar. Now while this may sound easy, one of the worst things with hydrangeas is that their heads are too big for their stems. This isn't a problem if you are standing them in a tall vase, but in jam jars you have very little depth so it can be a bit of a balancing act to get the stem to stay in the water, while stopping the flower head from dragging the whole thing out of the jar; also the bride had told me the day before that the sand they had put in the jars (the jam jars were the brides own) was turning the water a dirty yellow shade if it was disturbed (even slightly). As you can see by the photo the jar on the table behind was disturbed and the water doesn't look that nice; however, the good news is that by the time Becky and Clive left the water had re-settled and was crystal clear again.

I have to say between them they did a great job, and any set up we send her out on from now will be a "piece of cake" for her. Bring on this weekend.