Our Mascots Mascots
Tenshi-Oni Game Tenshi-Oni Game
Anime Shop Anime Store

Friday, October 25, 2013

One Year After Hurricane Sandy, My Struggles and the Rebuilding of My Anime Figure Store

I have to come clean about what has been up with my anime figure store this past year.  As many of you probably know, Hurricane Sandy devastated my area here on Long Island one year ago.  It wasn't just that storm that caused so much struggle for me..it was only the start of a chain of events that made me hate living on this overpriced island even more...

Back in 2006/2007, I brought this site back to life after I sort of kept it too quiet here.  My work schedule with my manager job at Friendly's, my Amway distributorship and college really made life a living hell from the trifecta of being a busy slave.  Heck, that terrible schedule was what got me kidney stones at age 22 back then and subsequently, I had to quit college shortly after getting my Associates in Computer Science.  This site, though mostly with no updates, was still enjoyed by fans...mainly due to our AMVs we made that were a hit on Newgrounds.

I felt it was my calling to bring this site up to speed and continue where I left off in 2004 with it.  I soon did a complete site makeover, created the blog, even got sponsored to do game reviews, be part of anime podcasts and in that time, created my anime figure business.  My goal, as it was and still is today, is to be my own boss.  I'm not and never will be complacent with taking orders from somebody else nor being told when and where I have to be on a daily basis like some wage slave.

For the past few years, I was so very close to that goal.  There was a point where I was making more money than my job.  Had it not been for the enormous debt I got around the time of my college/past business fallout..I would have quit my job and just ran the anime figure business and this here site.  Heck..actually, there was a post I made back when I did put in my two weeks; I shortly retracted my resignation and still at the point of writing this...still work for that company.  It's a far better job than the hell Friendly's or later Office Max was; I sit in front of a desk and so some web dev for a camera store...mostly computer bitch work but it's better than serving retards who clammer for ice cream in the dead of winter back in my hometown of Selden.  Problem with this job is that, not only do I wish to not work for a boss, but also, the pay has been $15/hr for the entire 7 years here & I have to drive 70 miles round trip each day to do work I can easily do from home.  My schedule involves being a prisoner out in Amityville from 9-7/8 most of the work week.  I get Tuesdays off but it usually becomes a day of catchup and doing errands for others who think I'm taking a day off when in reality I'm trying to build our future.

Before Hurricane Sandy and the events after, Tuesdays were days I'd be spending most of the day shipping anime figures orders...and to survive on overpriced/mediocre/bad climate Long Island... I needed to be making 2-3x what my job pays me to truly be able to be free.  That, as any business owner will know, involves not just selling more but stocking more.  So, what I did was boost the pre-order quantities in my anime figure business by telling my suppliers, that I needed more stock.  There was demand for them though, I went based on customer requests and added a bit more.  As some of you might remember, I'd post only the quantities of figures I had set for pre-order...and not just put up items and wait for people to pre-order before I tell my suppliers what quantity to get. So, my stock grew...and so did the bills.  Again, nothing of an issue...except, logistics.  I was living at the time half of the time at my fiancee's and half the time at my parent's house.  My figure stock was all stored in the secondary room of my parent's basement and as the business grew, the space got less, the amount of time to ship increased and thus were I thought I could use the newly started at the time.. Amazon fulfillment.  Thing was, it took sadly until this year where Fulfillment by Amazon made shipping items overseas a possibility..great if Hurricane Sandy didn't hit...but was no help to me when I needed it for my business.

Reason I mention the logistics of my anime figure business is because Hurricane Sandy wasn't the first storm to mess things up.  In 2011, Long Island got hit with the worst flooding they have seen in years.  For the first time in my almost 30 years alive and coincidentally the time when the basement was so important... it got flooded.  Thankfully it was only one batch of figures, but financially, it was a bit of a blow.  Nothing too bad but the enormous amount of figure pre-orders pending loomed over my head.  It wasn't where I could sell the items, but if my supplier would be loyal to the quantities.  In most cases they were but there were times where I would not get figures promised and got stuck buying them from other retailers at or above SRP.

Then, fast forward a few months, Long Island gets hit with it's first Hurricane to directly hit it since Gloria in 1985...no, not Sandy, Hurricane Irene.  I since then elevated my figure boxes and kept them safe from the, you guessed it, second time in 30 years that my basement coincidentally flooded.  That wasn't the issue though..Irene, like Gloria caused mass power outages with my house without power for nearly two weeks after the storm...making my finances a bit strained and to not be a priority retailer with my supplier due to the understandably tough was to pay early..you know, because of a fucking Hurricane.

Fast forward to the ever end of 2011.  Continuing mindless family drama on my fiancee's end made it where she had to be booted out of the house...not because my fiancee was the issue.  No, the nut job in the home was a younger sister who probably shouldn't even have been left out of the nut house when she did.  It wasn't even her either, though it made our life hell to be involved in a household where ant hills where treated like mountains with people who were already emotionally unstable enough once stupid monr crap was blown out of proportion.  It was the equally crazy, typical Selden resident aunt and her baggage as to why my fiancee and I had to be booted out of her house.  Her aunt was being foreclosed on after years of no pay to her home and we were getting the boot.  Thankfully, my fiancee's grandmother offered us to rent out her beautiful, fully furnished basement apartment so that we wouldn't be out in the street.  As one might expect, our cost of living went up, but at the time my fiancee that summer got a second job watching a kid with CP and so the split rent wasn't going to be much and we were actually on track to clear my old debts and finally, finally have our wedding...since you know, we've been dating since 2002 & engaged since 2007.  Shipping for my anime business got a bit tougher as I would then had to ship back at my old home and then drive back to my current home..but with my fiancee now making about the same as I do in my camera web dev job...it was still tough but was going to be manageable.

Well, as the theme seems to be with my fiancee and I...we aren't allowed a bit of happiness without some equal or greater unhappiness.  Once the word came in that her aunt was moving in and that we were to move into the new apartment...my fiancee lost her second, more profitable job watching that kid; her other job is a very low paying clothing retail job...and like most of those silly jobs, they aren't ones you can rely on for help.  She got fired for simply calling out sick one day.  The parents of that kid were nice at first but I found that they were part of a very strict and of course assbackwards-to-all-logic Christ cult calibur church...the types that force people into their religion and make it some sort of mission to bring others into the cult.  So, it was ok she was away from that environment but the finances weren't of help and I was stuck to pay for most of the rent..slowing our ability to move forward since most of my money was stuck in the pre-orders.

Almost up to Hurricane Sandy but the shit spiral got a nice little push in August of 2012. You see, my rating as an anime retailer was/is actually really good.  I was happy to told I was being spoken of very kindly on myanimelist and myfigurecollection.  My bending over backwards for my fellow anime fans and customers showed in my ratings on ebay, amazon and elsewhere.  Well, in August I got in a few Sonic The Hedgehog Nendoroid figures.  They were tough figures to get and sold very quickly.  I had about 2 left one night and I woke up to 3 orders split on ebay and amazon.  I had no choice but to cancel the order for the third person, who was a customer on Amazon.  I usually, and to the detriment of my finances, would buy the extra figure from another retailer and have it sent their way when I oversell.  I couldn't for this one case since the figures were all gone elsewhere but through me.  Amazon actually doesn't charge the customer until I as the seller mark it as "shipped".  So, with my cancelation of that person's order, they lucky never actually paid for it.  Problem was, I go and look at my feedback on amazon and there without warning, without any prior message to me was a 1 out of 5 rating with the words "customer service"  The customer, without talking to me or even paying for the item...was able to sneak a bad feedback on my then flawless amazon seller account.  People of course didn't see the hundreds of positive perfect feedbacks prior to this one...and so my sales on Amazon tanked for a bit; doing ok on ebay and the site here but now hindered a bit because of a vague and misguided negative.  To add insult to injury..even before I talk about Sandy... the sudden drop of sales then kept me out of selling for the x-mas season on amazon since amazon needed a number of prerequisites to do so, prerequisites I passed for every year prior to that negative. Now, roughly a year ago today, here comes the second storm to hit Long Island in only two years, Hurricane Sandy.

 When I was in grade school and even a bit into college, I had a fascination with meteorology.  This storm was something you never ever see.  It was basically like the so-called "Perfect Storm" that stayed mostly off the coast back in the late 90's...of which that movie was based off of.  This one, though still considered weak compared to storms that hit the gulf and Florida often... was moving in and at the worst angle a storm can for the tri-state area and was the latest a Hurricane could really be here..thus has properties of both a nor'easter & hurricane.

So, like Irene, we lost lots of trees and had even worse coastal flooding than before.  People here on Long Island don't know when to stay the fuck home, be it because of their idiot jobs or ADD, so there was more damage and issues than there should have been in the first day or so.  No power for a about 8 days for us but surprisingly...power returned after only one day at my parent's house; unlike the 14 days it did during Irene.  New Jersey and the coast got hit worse so for us in central/eastern Long Island, the storm wasn't really much different than Irene...it was what happened after that made things far worse and the reason for my posting this and why my anime figure business was basically decimated...

Go back to roughly a day or so after the storm hit...residents here on Long Island get the news that oil/gas supplies were cut off for all of us.... thus, there was a mad dash to the gs stations.  Trees down, power out for most and here we started to see society break down because of the fear of a gas shortage.  Don't get me wrong, there was indeed a gas shortage but the panic here by the idiots who live on this sand barge made things 10x worse.  For over two months after the storm, gas was rationed at stations.  If you remember, I worked 40 minutes away (needlessly) in Amityville...so if anyone needed gas, it was me... yet I didn't run to the stations like a mad man.  There were cases where people would just go to fill there tank up $1 just because they can; yeah, that kind of stupid I live with here on Long Island.

As people could guess, I couldn't go to work, couldn't ship or receive anime figures for my business and was stuck just reading how to code C# in the dark. why was I reading about C#.  Well, since 2011, as you all know, as one of the many plans I have to try to be my own boss and run the helm,and just to fulfill a childhood dream and 10 year old promise on this site... I was coding my IOS game, Tenshi-Oni.  One of my good customers a few weeks before the storm wanted to help me get out of my stupid underpaying web dev job but possibly getting me in as a game dev with him over at Arkadium Games in NYC.  Very awesome, would be a dream come true to at least work in a place that caters to my goals as a programmer...and if you ever seen their facebook posts.. it's a fun really work environment; a damn dream job, even for someone like me who wants to be their own boss (ie: profit share in games you make with them).  For the past few years I've been in IOS development, but they were to be the first company making games for Windows 8 and thus, I had to teach myself C# / Windows game dev.  With his help, I revamped my resume, held my production of Tenshi-Oni back a bit and tried to get myself ready to put my best foot forward...well, about 5 days after my resume was sent to their HR department, you guessed it, that's when Hurricane Sandy hit.  Also, to make it worse, their offices in NYC were part of the area that was flooded and without power.  It wasn't until December, when some other crap happened, that they then basically forgot about me as they went to more super senior game devs...and not somebody like me who's been trying to crawl out of my underpaid job hell thus having not "true" experience other than what I'm able to to in my little free time.

So, for two weeks, because of Sandy, I couldn't go to work...I couldn't ship anime figures, I couldn't even receive anime figures not just because of the pay..but because the UPS trucks couldn't even get here.  Then, my boss, a man who cried for Hurricane Sandy donations all because his food went bad in the fridges of his two mansions, kept the hours at my job lean.  For the month of November 2012, I basically lost an entire month's pay.  So, where was the money going to come from to pay for the bills and old debt I just barely could pay for without a hurricane causing man-made armageddon?  Yep, I had to cannibalize my anime business.  That involved selling things off quick on ebay; ebay auctions being then and now the worst way to sell anime figures since most are completely underpriced final auction prices...due to bootleg figures on ebay being dressed as real, but really being fake and for Buy-It-Now prices that are below what us legit anime figure retailers buy this stuff from from our suppliers.  Speaking of suppliers, Hurricane Sandy kept me out of communication from AAAanime for a few weeks.  In that time they supposedly had a new and big batch of pre-order figures that were waiting for me to pay them for.  Tough thing to do with what just happened on this side of the states...they were living fine in California while people were stabbing each other here for a $1 worth of gas.  I do a few weeks later pay for the pre-order to them, thanks in part to underpriced ebay auctions that should have sold for 2-3x more.  Then, I look and some figures were missing.  I was suppose to get a number of figures, most of them were for customers who not only were waiting, but paid me in advance for them.  The other figures that actually did come, had to then be sold off on ebay in the same, sad way where the buyers on ebay didn't get that the $20 final auction was actually for  $115 1/7th scale figures...yes, KaKa anime from Hong Kong was selling the figures for $40...but people still didn't realize those were bootlegs and mine weren't.  So into December, I go and try to sell down my stock and buy back figures that AAAanime didn't get to me because I wa later told I didn't pay in time..again, ignoring that my part of the earth was ruined by a Hurricane.

Think that's bad enough? Wait, there's more.  One week after the storm hit, my fiancee's mother and grandmother separately fell.  Her mother fell outside and broke her wrist and her grandmother, our landlord, fell inside before dinner and broke her hip.  Then, in December... with Sandy's damage still prevalent (hell, parts of the island STILL haven't been helped a year later) we get hit with the biggest blizzard in the 30 years I've been alive.  It was a bad storm, but, the salt in the wound was that my town, Lake Grove, got hit with 37 inches of snow that night while the rest of the area only had about 15 inches of snow.  Yep, those pictures of cars abandoned in the highway that were i newspapers all over the world and on reddit...were only a few blocks from me.  Can't find the exact image right now, will probably make it the title image of this wall of text, but that was right at the intersection at 347 near the Smith Haven Mall , Lowes and the then empty Borders Books location; actually the same spot where my old job at Office Max was.  It's since became a Staples.  This lead to more delays in my anime business and more financial heartache; making my new debt almost mimic the life destroying old debt I got from my stupid dealings when my amway business was growing.  Since then I've been job hunting but like with Arkadium, I've gotten nothing but rejections, unanswered resume submissions and even promised positions that then get retracted.  No help whatsoever no matter how hard I fight the universe back.  At one point, I was actually suicidal.  It was brief and maybe only spanned about a week in the middle of 2012, but I had it.  I'm the type that fights back when life pisses on me but every person I guess has their limits of how much shit they can take.  Don't worry, though things are still kind of shitty, I'm back to laughing at life as it piles the shit on..waiting for my moment to punch it in the face and show it who's boss.

The past year has been me paying back customers who per-ordered (and paid) me in advance.  As of this post, I still owe 3 people their figures. So...this is why since then, there really hasn't been any new anime figures on the figure post and why for a while, I didn't blog anything.  I felt my "empire", my life's work crumble.  The awesome notion of being an anime retailer then became a painful thing to think of.  Heck, I nearly lost faith in all anime as since this issue, there's now 100's of anime retailer on ebay and amazon and the processes that gave me so much trouble then...are now all too late in being finally convenient.

Despite all of this, I did finally get some glimmer of hope.  There's still Tenshi-Oni to finish and get out into the market before another 5 different iPhones and IOS updates are announced, our Facebook page has grown immensely, I feel I now have the fandom and more that we had in the past.  This only then opens me up to have an audition for this blog again, future youtube content and more.  And...as you guys might have heard, I've finally became a voice actor.  I have two recurring commercial voice roles for two big companies...I'll leave the details in another post but I feel that it has given me hope for the future.  I'm a bit cautious to be too happy as you can see (and with now 200+ "failed" auditions since getting these roles for other places),  it was such a wonderful feeling to get these roles.

Also, as of yesterday, I got a job offer from EA, yep Electronic Arts... to be a senior game developer with IOS.  The only bit of studying I need to do is to just get back to making Tenshi-Oni ^_^  It can be an even greater job offer than what Arkadium Games was.  Yes, I know many gamers and anime fans alike have their qualms with EA; trust me, I've posted my opinions with some of the business decisions...but this might be a new page in my life.  If I get it, I'd have to move to Salt Lake City, Utah; which would also get me closer to voice acting opportunities since NYC isn't the place for animation voice over work anymore.

Who knows what will happen with EA, but here's what I plan for my future and the future of this site...

  • As you see, I'm back to blogging.  Blogging is not only something I like doing for this site, it also paid some bills at it's height an I'll bring it back to that and better.
  • Tenshi-Oni.  The game is moving forward; recently I fixed it to work well in IOS 7 and for iPhone 5 and above devices....and I even got a new music artist on board; Steven Lu.
  • Site redesign.  I have in the works an HTML5 / CSS3 version of the site and blog.
  • Anime.fm.  I really need to also make that site worth going to; once situated, I will make it worth the name.
  • Return of the store.  Soon I'll close down the store for inventory and redesign.  Oddly, Google is removing their Checkout option so I'll be down a payment method...I'm going to replace it with Bitcoin payment option.  The store will have what I have in stock, will showcase the Cafepress products more and eventually, I plan to put anime figure pre-orders up.  Sadly, AAAanime.com dropped my account with them after the Hurricane Sandy fallout..but I now work closer with an even biger (and closer) distributor...the ones who help me get great access to the anime and comic cons... Diamond Comics.  Since this whole mess happened with me, they because Good Smile Company wholesalers and so, I can return to Nendoroids and more once the customers patiently waiting get their figures and my finances are more stabilized.
Pardon this wall of text.  I wanted to let everyone know what has been happening and to see the full picture.  I'd like to say I guess, like I've said in my number of hiatuses...that... I'm back ^_^

(title image source: Long Island Press)

(edit: Like some unfair game…a few days ago, the night I wrote this, my family's dog Lucky, a loving Dalmation I have owned since the 7th grade back in 1997…passed away suddenly.  We knew it was going to happen soon but like some sort of mathematical insult the universe wants to pull on me…I wasn't allowed to be given an inkling of hope and happiness before being shot down again.  I'll be fine but I'm making the point that it seems that it's been nothing but unlucky for us this whole year since Hurricane Sandy.)

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2002- Chucks Anime Shrine
Re-Design by Chuck Gaffney | BTT