Four Secrets of Customer Service

Since starting the Calamityware store, I’ve discovered some things about customer service that weren’t obvious to me from the start. Let me share some of these insights with you...the customers.


Customer service isn’t optional. It would be marvelous to simply have transactions with customers—collecting money in exchange for delivering something of value—the end. But that’s not an option. 

Why? Two reasons.

First, real customers in the real world sometimes have something they want to tell you. They may have special needs that must be addressed. They might need something to be delivered at a special time or to an unusual place. They will have questions about your product that you could never anticipate. They will want to tell you about how they want you to change your product to better match their needs. Or they will have ideas for new products, feedback to share, or praise for how your product has made things more pleasant at their house. All this and much more means that someone needs to listen to and respond to all these messages. That listening and responding is the beginning of customer service.

The second reason for customer service is that sometimes things go wrong. Despite the most careful plans, addresses can be wrong, packages can be late, and porcelain (and everything else) can break. Responding to those inevitable problems is the other part of customer service.

So, some level of customer service is needed every day to listen and to cope with the astonishing variety of problems that pop up. Doing nothing isn’t an option.


Don’t let Don do customer service. While I have a high level of empathy for the issues that customers describe, I’m not qualified to fix everything. I’m a fallible human being who finds the challenge of accurate zip codes, correct tracking numbers, and efficient coordination of tasks too daunting. Besides, I’d rather be sketching ideas in my notebook or refining the next new product.

What’s needed are some smart, empathetic, pragmatic people to provide the high level of customer service folks deserve. Here at Calamity Worldwide headquarters, that’s the job of my good friends Lynnette and Jack Kelley.

Lynnette and Jack are married. I’ve known them for more than 20 years. We’ve worked together at ThoughtForm Inc. for decades. The list of tasks they do is extra long and includes customer service. To all the customers who have written to say how pleased they have been with how we took care of a problem, it is Lynnette and Jack who deserve the credit. They are the best.

Lynnette and Jack both have day jobs, so the effort they put into Calamityware projects is only evenings or days off. Nevertheless, they routinely manage to win praise for their alacrity and consideration.


Don’t try to be too big for your britches. In case you didn’t know, the Calamityware enterprise isn’t a big corporation. We’re not even a little corporation. Picture Don sketching funny ideas in his notebook and the Kelleys helping him turn some of those ideas into Kickstarter projects and then offering the resulting products for sale here in this e-commerce store. That’s it. No towering corporate offices, no vast factories, no armies of obedient managers and minions, no corporate jets.

What does that fact have to do with customer service? First, it means we can be fast. We don’t have to worry about policy manuals and quarterly reports. We can fix a problem without convening a meeting of department heads or getting approval from some committee.

Even better, it means that we can say no. In fact, “No” must be the answer to all the customer-service queries about customizing our product designs, altering packaging, changing delivery methods, or any other idea that will increase complexity or reduce the pleasure we get from our projects. For us, complexity is the enemy of fun.


Enjoy the stories; enjoy the praise. I don’t know how often the big, corporate juggernauts receive messages from satisfied customers sharing stories of the pleasure a product has provided or of someone’s delight with a customer service experience. But, we seem to get these stories fairly often and we love them. Part of the fun of solving a customer service problem is relishing the thank-you note that might result. It’s like receiving a gift.

If you had a good experience with Calamityware customer service and want to share, please tell your story in the notes field at the bottom of this blog. We love to read them. It keeps us going.



Pittsburgh, May 16, 2018

6 Responses


November 24, 2018

I couldn’t be happier with your customer service! I worked retail for over 15 years and it is so important to me as a consumer. Thank you so much for being so kind and treating everyone as if they are your #1 priority!

Alexandra Aldrich

July 12, 2018

I had NO idea Lynette wasn’t an 80-hour a week salaried employee striving to unseat the don, given how hard she works and how good she is at her job. Damn, she is like an elegant cormorant, gliding along… making it look effortless… and all the while, she’s paddling below the surface with the power of all the horses in a Ferrari!


Okay, here’s a useless customer wish, while we’re on the subject of daydreams:

One of my grandmothers, Luba Elianoff, was a fancy embroidered linens designer, and my step-grandma, Margaret “Rita” Blumenthal, was a textile designer, so I have a bit of it in my blood. I LOVE your prints. All of them, so far… sea monsters, strawberry stealers, and perhaps? most of all, the new and elusive yeti.

I’m a curvy women who has spent time in tropical climes, and taken a page from the island ways… when it’s hot hot out, I tend to spend most days wearing simple cotton sarongs or saris. Unfortunately in this country, the idea of a sarong is a tiny thing which is sized to be a mini skirt for preteens.

In the Caribbean and Southeast Asia these large cotton cloths can serve many purposes – tablecloths, beach or picnic blankets, wall hangings, bedspreads, etc. There are many beautiful batiks, prints, weaves.

You’d want a thread count which is not too high… in the 250/300 range, so the fabric is not see-through, but still breathes and stays cool. 72″ × 48″ (6′ × 4′) would be a good starting size, but maybe you could offer eight by six as an upgrade.

Once you had bolts of cotton run, it would be a fairly simple thing to produce duvet cover sets – one twin size with one pillowcase, one full/queen size with two. The duvet covers are essentially huge pillowcases with ties at the open end to fasten them together. These are the most popular sizes of a very high demand product. :-)

Lon Benattar

May 19, 2018

I got the 4 cups and the sea monster shower curtain, they make my bathroom less ratty and my tea much classier, thanks Don!!

Duchess of Mirth

May 17, 2018

The FIFTH secret is so secret even Don didn’t mention it… a sense of humor. I’ve done customer service at the local PBS station for over 30 years. Marilyn Monroe used to say the only thing she wore to bed was Chanel #5. My motto is that the first thing I put on in the morning is my smile. Works like a charm!

It also helps to be surrounded by things that bring joy. That’s where my CalamityWare comes to the rescue! Thank you Don!! <>

Chris Woodyard

May 17, 2018

A friend asked for a monster plate for Christmas. I just recently saw that she had it hung on the wall with her collection of blue-and-white Delft tiles and plates where it is perfectly, insidiously, at home. She loves it. Thank you for making such weirdly creative pieces!

Joyce Slaton

May 17, 2018

I love my Calamityware plates EVERY DAY!! They are beautiful and make me laugh. Thank you for being so cool.

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