Reselling without permission?

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SomethingGoodAustin

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I make a dog shampoo bar. It's one of the products with which I am most pleased--I've even used on myself, because I love the smell and because it's very gentle! I sell this bar on Etsy and it does fair-to-middling well, but not great. All of a sudden, though, I have this repeat customer who likes to purchase in large quantities. Her first order in August was for five bars, which was an order I couldn't completely fill (large for me is actually pretty small at this point). I explained this, apologized, and offered her two cured bars and three two-week-old bars. I advised her that the fresher bars needed to be cured at least another two weeks and included a best by date on the labels so she would know when to use them.

After I sent them, I realized that "best by" might be confusing--it sounds too much like an expiration date--so I contacted her again to clarify. She said that was fine and that she would "correct the labels." Hmm.

In mid-September, less than a month after I shipped her her first order, she ordered another five bars. Curious, I looked her up and found that she owns a dog grooming business. She's also a dog rescue enthusiast (I looked up her email and it came up in connection with a Dog Rescue page on Facebook--I know, I know, this sounds stalkery). OK, I thought, so maybe she has five dogs.

I contacted her again and let her know that I would again need extra time to fill this order. I also asked whether she was buying for private use or giving them as gifts. She said she just used them on her dog--her one dog--and loved them because they were so good for his skin. She was fine with waiting. Yesterday, I messaged her to let her know her bars were still curing, and to offer her some irregular bars--same formula, same batch as the ones I sold her last month, same weight, just not as pretty due to stamping issues. She wants to wait for the pretty ones because now she's giving some as gifts.

SO. Perhaps I'm just overly suspicious, but I wonder whether she's either using them in her business or possibly reselling them (why correct the labels otherwise?). And I wonder whether this could possibly cause other problems down the road for me--I don't know what those could be, but I'm pretty new at this.

Should I be concerned? Should I ask her straight up whether she's reselling and risk offending her, cut her off, attempt to cut a wholesale deal, or just gratefully assume/accept that I have a semi-reliable customer (with a really clean dog) who likes my product and wants to keep it around always? Any thoughts?
 

OliveOil2

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I think that if you are selling them on Etsy, and she pays the price you have them listed for, then she can do whatever she wants with the soap. At this point you are are already selling them so you have whatever liability there may be in selling a soap.
I would just be happy that she likes your soap enough to keep ordering, and to me you have a good product. If it were me I might offer her a 'wholesale price for 10 or 15 bars. But I would never ask her about selling them.
 

DeeAnna

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^^^ What OO2 said. A customer, whether wholesale or retail, doesn't need your or anyone else's permission to resell something she legally owns, assuming that's what she's actually doing. On top of that, she's paying full retail price and is a loyal customer. What's not to like about a customer like that?

I can see why this seems a little weird to a new business person, but IMO, it's not something I'd spend much time worrying about. You could decide to not sell to her if it bothers you a lot, but otherwise relax and let it go -- you can't really do much about it.
 

SomethingGoodAustin

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Good points. Just relaxing was the direction I was leaning toward, but I guess I was feeling a little nervous. Y'know--just cause I can't see any unusual pitfalls ahead doesn't mean they aren't there. :)

Thanks!
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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Aye - it might seem like you are losing out on business, but in actual fact you are likely getting much more! If she is selling them or even just giving them to her regular customers/other doggie folks, then you have gone from having a few sales to lots of sales through another channel, people that you might not have ever reached and sold to. That is a good result and you actually want this to continue.
 

Susie

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As long as she is not changing the label, she is advertising for you while paying retail price for the privilege of doing so...sounds like a win-win to me.
 

wetshavingproducts

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Retailers are force multipliers, not sales stealers. Whether she's reselling or not, just be happy to be making the sales.

Also, it's completely legal and I can't see why it would be unethical unless she claims she personally made them.
 

pamielynn

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Personally, this would piss me off. You have no idea if she is selling them, if she is selling them with your packaging on it or if she is selling YOUR product as HER product. Changing the label would definitely be a red flag to me. Maybe some see it as a great vehicle to get your name out there- but are you really?

I still have too much "pride of ownership" of my products - and that can become a huge problem when one wants to scale up their business, but I don't like sneaky and I definitely wouldn't want someone pushing my hard work as their own.

There's no way somebody washes one dog that many times in that time frame. I think it's hinky.
 

CanaDawn

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she did say that, but the woman said she was using it on her own single dog, and was not gifting any, but was going thru a crazy number of bars if that was true....then she WAS gifting...the jumbled story makes it hard to have a lot of confidence. I would have been fine with her saying "gosh, people love your soap. Can we talk about a bulk order so I can stock my grooming shop?" I"m not good with sneaky, even when the end results are the same - I find trust to be a pretty important feature of a relationship with anyone.
 

pamielynn

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she did say that, but the woman said she was using it on her own single dog, and was not gifting any, but was going thru a crazy number of bars if that was true....then she WAS gifting...the jumbled story makes it hard to have a lot of confidence. I would have been fine with her saying "gosh, people love your soap. Can we talk about a bulk order so I can stock my grooming shop?" I"m not good with sneaky, even when the end results are the same - I find trust to be a pretty important feature of a relationship with anyone.
That is exactly what should be happening. And a contract should be signed that she is to sell it in it's original packaging OR pay for personalization or private label. In all transactions, the terms should be clearly spelled spelled out for both parties. I'd even give her a "bulk" discount, but not a wholesale price.

This is the perfect opportunity to turn her into a proper reseller of your product.
 

shunt2011

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I agree with the advice others have given. I would approach her with buying bulk and either selling it as your original product with labels or private label a contract with her. I would also get a stamp and stamp your soaps with your logo/name.
 

DebiB

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^^^ What OO2 said. A customer, whether wholesale or retail, doesn't need your or anyone else's permission to resell something she legally owns, assuming that's what she's actually doing. On top of that, she's paying full retail price and is a loyal customer. What's not to like about a customer like
I agree with DeeAnna. Your exclusive, hand made doggie soap could be a marketing tool she is using to set herself apart from the rest of the pack. (Oh, yes! pun.) Here's another: it's dog-eat-dog in the world of dog grooming. There are 4 within a mile of my home.

It sounds to me that she was being vague, not dishonest. She may have been expecting the type of reaction you shared here. Instead, would you be able to consider building a bridge? Perhaps engage in conversation with her. Ask her for a review of the product and how she used it. Send her a little gift for helping you. Maybe, you and she can build a deeper, mutually beneficial relationship. Free advertising on her website? Custom formula, just for her clients? Who knows where it could go?

I don't sell soap, but my background is sales and marketing, so that's where my thoughts went :)
 

TheOneWhoSoaps

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I can agree with most here.

She's buying your soap in larger amounts at full price, which is a great thing. The bad thing is, she might be selling them for double or triple your cost and making more money than you without even having the knowledge of how to make soap.

I would stamp my bars with a personalised logo if I were you, and make sure your labels have your website on them. If she is selling them for $20, and you sell them for $10, the customer is always going to buy them off you first if they can find your online store easily enough.

I wouldn't offer her any discounts unless she says that she wants to stock them in her shop, in which case you could work out a wholesale price.
 
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SomethingGoodAustin

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Didn't mean to post and disappear. I'm back.

CanaDawn and Pamielynn hit on the thing that is niggling at me. It is the vagueness and the changing story that makes me uncomfortable. While I understand that I have no control over what she does with the soap after purchase, the thought that she might be reselling and making money off of my work is deeply annoying, especially if she's not being straightforward about what she wants to do. To complicate matters slightly, she's in Canada, and I don't know whether liability/contract law is significantly different over there than over here in the States. But of course, I'm already liable just by selling the soap, so...

I like the idea of stamping my soap--I'll have to get a custom stamp made, of course. And perhaps a straightforward discussion about reselling under an agreement is the way to go, even if it means I lose her business. I'll have to think about it.

Thanks, all for your input and ideas--they really help!
 

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