Monthly Archives: September 2015

Are You Kidding Me?

Since opening our doors at PJP Buttonwood, we’ve leased a marginally functional commercial dishwasher from Ecolab.  And beyond the aggravation of the machine eating most of our teaspoons, we are charged $75 a month for dishwashing chemicals that we don’t need (and never receive).  And if you are new around here, suffice it to say that the backstory is that we don’t care for being charged for chemicals we don’t need.  At all.

And for months, we’ve been working toward formally terminating our lease for the dishwasher. Contemplating the eventual removal of our teaspoon devouring machine, we signed a lease in September with Swisher Hygiene company for a commercial dishwasher.  In writing, we were guaranteed a lease price a few dollars less a month than Ecolab AND, more importantly, no minimum monthly chemical purchases.

And today, it all finally came together.  Right at 8 am, several people from Ecolab arrived to take our dishwasher away while the representative from Swisher stood by to install the new machine.

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And you would think that FINALLY our dishwashing saga had found a natural conclusion.  But not so much, actually.

As it turns out, Ecolab purchased Swisher Hygiene in August for $40 million dollars in cash.  ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?  A blog reader sent me the tip last week and a quick Google search confirmed all the terrible truth…that in just a few months, we will again be Ecolab customers.

Today when our Swisher rep stopped by, I asked him if he knew that Swisher had been purchased…and he did.  When I asked him why he hadn’t told us, he had no answer.  And when I asked the point of removing the current machine to install a new machine that in a few months will be Ecolab’s machine, he basically said that none of it really mattered because the deal hadn’t been approved by the Swisher stockholders and if it was, there were a lot of other dishwashing company options available to us.

Oh.  Actually, it does matter to us quite a bit.

To start with, we don’t want to be an Ecolab customer…ever again.  That was something we clearly explained to Swisher (who apparently didn’t listen or didn’t care…or both).  I would expect that had he been listening, he might have disclosed the $40 million cash purchase that had recently gone down.

Secondly, if we switched dishwashers today, I don’t want to switch again in a few short months to another company.  While the removal of the Ecolab dishwasher didn’t take long, the installation of the Swisher machine took a better part of the day.  I’m not interested in wasting our time to do it again in a few months because we didn’t have full disclosure when signing our new contract.

And perhaps most importantly, I searched around online for commercial dishwasher leasing options and didn’t find a lot of other options for our area…so the suggestion that finding another company would be easy isn’t really the case.  I found a lot of rent-to-own and a few leasing companies that serviced particular areas of the United States, but none that was able to offer full leasing service to Columbia.  We could purchase our own dishwasher for $3,000 or so, but there are many other needs for a growing small business than purchasing a dishwasher.

Which leads me to my final point…the Federal Trade Commission.  Ecolab’s purchase of Swisher effectively removes any choice in vendors of commercial dishwashers for so many business, which translates to an anti-trust violation.  We are guaranteed under FTC regulation to have choices, and also to maintain competition for the good of all customers.  In this case though, businesses in this area needing to lease (and not purchase) their dishwashing machine have significantly fewer options.  By the end of the fourth quarter of 2015, Ecolab will assume over 30,000 contracts from Swisher.  That is 30,000 customers now locked into buying $75 a month in chemicals.  Well played, Ecolab…you’ll make back your $40 million purchase price back in no time at all.

 

 

 

Now That I Think About It…

In case you haven’t heard by now, we had a booth at this weekend’s Roots and Blues festival.  I might have mentioned it two or three or 847 times.  And if you didn’t hear it from me, well, you might have seen the front page of the Saturday Columbia Daily Tribune

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I’m still working through a lot of the numbers to figure out just how many pies we sold, but here are a few thoughts in the interim…

  1. Without question, we made enough to cover our expenses (and even some to put into the long-term PJP planning fund).  WHEW.  I felt like I wrote an inordinate amount of checks last week to prep for the weekend and as I knew we covered particular expenses, I felt less stressed.
  2. Beyond the sales of pies, the intangible benefits of meeting so many new people and explaining #WorldPieDomination was completely worth all the effort of being there.  In our marketing materials, we encouraged people to Join The Movement…and I know we have some new members after the past few days.IMG_5013
  3. Working at a festival for three days is ridiculously hard.  I know that sounds sort of silly…and I perhaps I would have scoffed at the notion a mere few days ago, but listen to me:  IT IS VERY HARD.  I even exhausted my own extrovert personality, because woo-ing in 20,000-ish passing potential customers isn’t for the timid or shy.
  4. People walking by and peering into our booth without stopping gave me a complex, by the way.  It was like when you host a garage sale and someone drives by in their car really slowly and just looks at your stuff without stopping.  WHY?  IS THE STUFF NOT GOOD ENOUGH?
  5. Our booth was located between the Jamaican Jerk Hut and a family operation from Sedalia that served up corn dogs and funnel cakes and frozen lemonade.  Both vendors do a festival just about every single weekend in the fall and so when I complained that I was tired as we started to break down our booths last night, they all just laughed.  Apparently, I lack festival stamina.  And a deep fryer.
  6. Why are funnel cakes so delicious?  It is a mystery of our universe.
  7. As challenging and tiring as it was, I got to hang out with one of my besties for a few days and drink beer and sell pies to music lovers while listening to great music.  They should quote me in the materials they send out to entice vendors to sign up for a booth, because who doesn’t think that sounds like a great weekend?
  8. Jeanne headed up the crew at PJP Buttonwood, wherein they baked hundreds and hundreds of pies, boxed them, and delivered them to our booth.  She was in her element, but by yesterday, even she was too tired to tackle a deep clean of PJP Buttonwood after the final trays went into the oven.
  9. I clearly got the better end of the deal when it comes to baking pies versus selling pies.
  10. Now that I think about it, there should be a company that specializes in disaster cleanup for situations like ours.  A team that comes in and scrapes the floor free of dough and removes the errant flour from every surface and puts us back in order for a return to a normal week on Tuesday morning…just like working for hours over the weekend never happened.  (Now that I think about it, Jeanne may leave me with PJP once she reads this idea.)

 

Pies For The Masses…

So, here we are…just less than 24 hours from the kick off to Roots and Blues.  And can I just have a moment here where I say: WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING?  Thanks.  I feel a little better now that I got that off my chest.

In my mind, I really envisioned a beautiful PJP booth.  Imagine with me for a moment…a tranquil setting full of baby pies of all flavors, plenty of beautiful fall decor making our space inviting and lovely, beautifully done handwritten signs advertising our work, and clearly marked banners with the PJP logo large enough to be spotted from festival entrance.

And in reality, um…I feel like a mess.  Festivals are a great opportunity to share your product and your brand, but the truth is that until you’ve participated in a few, I suspicion the learning curve is steep.  If we survive the next few days, I’m going to create an “Oh, You Are Participating In Your First Festival” checklist in a PDF and make it available for download on our website.  I’m not sure what is going on the checklist just yet, but that is only because I haven’t discovered all the stuff I’ve forgotten or am unaware of just yet.  Trust me, I bet the list is long.

I can only hope our baking schedule for tomorrow morning – 350 baby pies to go with us to our booth at 3 pm – is remotely on target.  Because we are in a baby pie tin crisis right now (a long story for another day), our tins are a bit larger than normal.  And today I realized that the difference, while small, made it a tight fit in our 2,000 newly purchased fully disposable and 100% recyclable plastic pie boxes.  AWESOME.

And you know the fall decor, beautifully lettered signs, and clearly marked banners?  Yep…didn’t happen.  Because the reality is that running a fully functioning and busy shop and thinking about baking 2,000 pies or so sort of shoves the rest to the wayside.  I’m not saying that we might not pull off a last-minute miracle tomorrow before 3 pm, but it is likely I’ll need to kill the Nora Ephron movie scene scenario I’ve got in my head before I make myself a little (more) crazy.

And beyond lackluster booth decor, I feel a little on edge because I don’t have any idea how tomorrow or the weekend will play out.  And you may not know this about me, but I’m a girl who likes a managed outcome.  Ahem.  So this whole “if this, then that…and then if this, maybe that” planning process is making me a little short of breath and a wee bit stabby.  In case you couldn’t tell.

At the height of one of my irrational panics over stickers this evening, one of my kids looked at me and said “hey, isn’t this just all about getting pie to everyone that wants to buy one?”.  Touche.  I think I’ll focus on that – pies to the masses…pies for World Pie Domination.  I think even Nora Ephron would agree, don’t you?