Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Putting the Wrong Foot Forward

Have you ever had a really stupid idea?  Oh, I know you think you have.  But, my friends, you have no idea the depths of stupidity that I have forged ahead of you. You would have to concoct stupid ideas all day and all night to catch up with just this one that I’m going to share with you.
The idea was to sell painted shoes.  It all started with my three friends in Southern California (so it’s really their fault) when we got together for a girls’ vacation.  We always bring each other party favors and this time I thought I’d paint canvas shoes to depict their hobbies and interests.  Karen has a glorious beach house in Balboa, so hers were nautical.  Cynthia is a formidable game player, thus hers were game-themed.  And Christy is the glamorous doll who I decided could use some leopard-print shoes.  I love bird nests and eggs, so I made myself a pair of those.

But this idea doesn’t just have one problem.  It has six.  First, I’m not an artist.  I forgot to consider this little factoid when I covered my breakfast bar with newspapers, paint, brushes, and canvas shoes.  You would think the sudden realization of this limitation would slow me down, but no.  I just thought the idea was so darling I had to see it through.  And, sure enough, my friends loved their gifts.  So much so, that they said the fatal words, “Oh, you should SELL these!”

And I actually believed them.  I came home and launched a business.  I paid the county for my registered name, got a re-sale number, placed the requisite ad, printed up business cards, joined Etsy and Artfire, posted a website, and signed up as a vendor in craft fairs.  This entire debacle was already costing me a thousand bucks, the Second Problem.
My husband (another culprit—would I have done this without his irresistible name idea?) thought I should call my new business “Oh Shoesanna” at which point I squealed, certain it couldn’t fail.  I decided I should buy the shoes wholesale, so I ordered a box of shoes made in China, the soles of which reeked beyond any rubbery shoe you have ever smelled, and which had to be returned at once.  That was the third problem: I was now forced to purchase shoes retail and sell them at craft fairs where folks expect prices to be below retail.
Naturally, you need to haul quite an inventory to craft fairs.  I was painting like the madwoman I am, and finally had 40 to 60 pairs of these in all kinds of themes. Problem Four: Each pair required two to three hours of work, for which one cannot possibly be adequately compensated.

 Once there, invariably a woman would say, “Oh, I love the Paris one, but you only have a 7 and a 9, and I wear an 8” and I realized The Fifth Problem, which is that I needed every theme in every size.  I also started taking special orders (“I’m in 4-H and want a lamb on mine”) which then required shipping as well.

But wait—as they say in frying pan infomercials—there’s more.  Problem Six is the worst one of all:  I am suddenly being mistaken for a Foot Therapist and am hearing about everyone’s warts, bunions, and fallen arches.  I am now spending entire afternoons trying not to grimace, yet show appropriate compassion.  Incidentally, what is the appropriate level of compassion, here?  I just know at any moment someone will come by, pat me on the shoulder and say, “Oh, you poor thing—you thought this could work, didn’t you?”
I finally dropped my prices from $45 to $22 to $10 and still couldn’t unload them all.  The shoes cost more than that to purchase unpainted!  Why didn’t I just bake up some cookies and give them away as a do-gooder, if the point was to throw money into the wind?  Four people missed the pun entirely and asked me if my name was Suzanna. 

Today I still have about a dozen of these shoes in a box in the garage.  I haven’t done it yet, but I should write “Electronics” on there and hope some burglar steals them.  Then he can blog about what a stupid idea it was to be a burglar.


  1. Wow, I'm sorry to hear your venture didn't work out because those shoes totally rock! If you have those Monopoly shoes in a size 8, I'd take them.

  2. Okay, my heart actually leapt for a minute there and I thought, "An order!" But I don't have that one in an 8. HOWEVER, if I can paint these, anyone can, and you are free to copy away!