Dear Jeff

Vintage Chiquita Banana logo

Vintage Chiquita Banana logo

We talk when we have something to say.

Jeffrey P. Bezos

As readers of my blog know by now, I am having a tiff with Jeff of Amazon fame about my whole lack of UPC situation.

I wanted to talk to him so much about it, but you know what, I keep getting one of his robot machines sending me mystifying emails — and this is just not helping at all.

The situation is as follows.

I own a needlepoint shop that is officially opening on July 1st of this year.  I thought to myself the other day, gee, why don”t I sell some of my vintage canvases in Jeff’s unshiny online store?

Yes, Jeff’s store is an online store, in fact he has at least two of them, one here, and one in the UK that is configured a little different, but hey, the TNNA doesn’t mind if you’re selling painted needlepoint online, so long as you have a shopping cart. And Jeff, that dear dear man, has many many shopping carts.

So I wrote to Jeff asking if I could sell my vintage painted needlepoint canvases in his nice store, but you know what happened?  A machine sent me an email stating that I had to have a UPC code in order to sell my merchandise there.

Now I’m pretty sure this machine that sent me the email does not know that much about the needlepoint business, because if it did, it would know that shop owners do not generally manufacture painted needlepoint canvases nor do they generally private label canvas from needlepoint designers.

This is not to say they can’t; they just don’t as a rule.

And if the machine from Amazon that sent me that nice email knew that about the needlepoint business, then it would not have implied that I had to go to the GS1 (this is a distinguished organization located somewhere who knows where out in NAFTA land or something) that will relieve me of 750 dollars plus I think another couple of hundred in annual fees so I can get a UPC code.

I wanted so much to call Jeff.  I wanted to tell him I have admired him so much since those heady days when he left that nice bank in New York and started his store in some garage and that store became the biggest store of them all.  I was so proud of him and he seemed always like such a sensible man except for that thing about the drones delivering Amazon products to your doorstep which I saw on TV and thought was a little unhinged but hey Jeff is under a lot of pressure and has been for years.

At any rate, if I had been able to call Jeff, I know he would have instantly realized that generally speaking retailers like Publix don’t use or need UPCs uinless they are private labeling their own knockoff version of Listerine.

UPC public domain image

UPC public domain image

And I don’t private label anything or knock off needlepoint designs to sell them online so I would have explained to him that I really should not be the one, technically speaking, to apply for a UPC designation, as it’s not a  product that I make, simply one that I retail.  Maybe I should go to Amazon’s Other category if I had to (no UPC codes needed there!) but then I would feel really left out as I so want to be in the Arts and Crafts department where Needlepoint Land merchandise belongs.

Now to be honest about this I was getting really revved up about this whole UPC thingie and so I went on Amazon to take a closer look, as Wolf Blitzer might say, at what’s going on.

I know Jeff prides himself on the accuracy of his store aisle signage but the thing is when I typed “painted needlepoint canvas” under the category Arts and Crafts I got a whole bunch of stamped canvases from someone called Chiquita or something like that from somewhere I guess in the Big Apple or thereabouts.

Now I know Jeff is very busy and all, but there is a difference between stamped needlepoint and hand-painted needlepoint canvas.  I know Chiquita knows it because it says stamped needlepoint right on her page, and I’m sure they are lovely canvases and all but they are not hand painted needlepoint canvases which is what I typed in the search box in Jeff’s store so now the result is being unwittingly misrepresented erroneously displayed in Jeff’s store and I am sure he did not mean to do that and in fact I’m sure he has no idea this is happening but I wish I could get past the email robot with the UPC obsession so I could tell him all about it.

I wanted to see if there were any real hand painted needlepoint canvases in Jeff’s store, so I typed “hand painted needlepoint canvas” and then I typed “-chiquita” and that got rid of the stamped stuff but brought up some sort of discount needlepoint mania products — this with the TNNA’s blessing mind you, I know this because their logo was splashed all over the vendor’s clearance Web page — I checked — and I also found an honest-to-goodness hand painted Christmas stocking by Liz Goodrick Dillon being sold by some outfit called the Earl Scruggs Needlepoint Boys or something bluegrassy like that and this surprised me because I didn’t think that product was sold to non B&M’s let alone be private labeled to them but then again what do I know?

Okay, we’ve had our fun.

Amazon's email robot

Jeff’s email robot droid

The truth is, except for the TNNA (with their how to books) and a sprinkling of large vendors who mostly sell kits online, few in the painted needlepoint ecosystem — in particular,  independent needlepoint designers, who, the plain truth of it is, would be the logical parties to apply for UPC designations for their products — use this machine-readable product identification encoding system. It’s a  fact you can easily check online by querying the UPC database by going to Google and typing “UPC” and the name of your favorite needlepoint designer.

That being the case, I hope Jeff does end up reading this post (did I mention he was such a sweet man!), and it finally sinking in that his robot’s fixation with UPC when it comes to needlepoint may seem to make sense in a general retailing context but all it does to someone like me is reveal that it understands very little about my business.

So Jeff, enough already with this UPC stuff.

It’s just plain silly.

Oh, and let me put some of my vintage hand-painted needlepoint canvases on a prominent shelf in your virtual store without any more real world hassles.




© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016



About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

One response »

  1. Hey Erin, I sure hope you win. What a struggle. I wish I could help but being a mere drone I have no clout anywhere at all. Best wishes is all I can send.

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