RANT~Refused Service- Am I Too SMALL Of A Business To Matter? You Decide!

The strangest thing happened to me this weekend. As I have mentioned, I seal my pieces with an outdoor concrete sealant - but I am always looking for a better one! So I found this company online - Top Secret Coatings, Inc., and it looked to me as if that might be just the thing, except that the various products ranged in price from $60 to $115 a GALLON! Well, nothing's too good for my customers, so I sent the company an email - this is the unabridged email I sent-

Hi Peter,
I am an artist in Toledo, Ohio, and my primary media is concrete (if you look at any of my websites or information, I use the word "cement", which I know is incorrect, but I like the way it sounds more- I guess you'd call it artistic license!).

I cast leaves and flowers in cement, handpaint them in acrylics and seal them with a concrete patio/floor sealer. The sealer I have been using is fine for most of my pieces (It does stay slightly tacky, though). However, recently, I have been forming them into birdbaths, and I have had some problems finding sealers strong and waterproof (and clear) enough to really protect the paint itself. Some of your products may be just what I am looking for, but some are fairly expensive. If they work for what I need, the price is a non issue, but if I purchase them and they DON'T work, I would hate to waste the money or have to ship a gallon back! I know this is an odd application, so you probably could not recommend any of the sealers - in the past, when I do ask it a certain product would work, I am always told that it is not recommended to use over paint. I just have to try them myself, and, surprisingly, I have not found any that really DON'T work, just some that work better than others.
My question is this: is there any way I could purchase samples of your products? If not, does anyone carry your products in my area? That would make it easier to determine what may work for me,
THanks in advance for your time!

OK, was that a impolite, mean email? After what happened next, though, I'm even doubting myself.

Here is "Peter's" whole reply:


I don’t like dealing with people that tell me up front they plan to send products back if they don’t like them. We just don’t need the business that bad.

Peter Harrett
Top Secret Coatings Inc.

WELL! What did I do to deserve THAT? Don't they like to stand behind their $115 per gallon products? Doesn't he like women? Or is it that maybe I'm "small potatoes" and he only wants large corporations' orders? Despite what I wanted to email back, which would go something like,

"Dear @#*&$#%,
You can take your sealer and (&#^*%$#^ with ?{(#$^*%@ and #$)*&@$ and the horse you rode in on, too, you &^%#$*&^!"

...I didn't.I didn't think that would be very ladylike! So, instead, here was MY reply,

Hmmm... well, I guess you're the ONLY company in the U.S. in this economy that doesn't really need new business!!! I would only send it back if it could not work for me (not if "I don't like it"), and ONLY if that was your policy - I pretty much only said that to point out WHY I was wondering about SAMPLES. Maybe if you had read the whole email you would have figured that out...
That's O.K., though - I do not want to deal with a company that is as blatantly
nasty as you apparently are! I will make sure to mention this on my websites, blogs, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter (and to the Better Business Bureau) how much you DON'T need the business! I wouldn't want you to be bothered! .Thanks for nothing.

Time out!...................A nice, soothing picture to calm me down!.......................

...It's not over yet! One more jab from Pete:

Your threats are proof I pegged you right on.

What?! NOW I'm starting to think I'm dealing with a total paranoid!
So I wrote back:

Pegged as what? A customer? They're not threats - I will not lie or change anything I wrote. I can't see where I offended you in the first place. I will just send the complete correspondence (including this last one!) between us and the BBB can sort it out.

Which is exactly what I have already done. So, as I promised him, here it is, and remember, ladies and gentlemen, Top Secret Coatings doesn't need the business, especially from women and small businesses - leave poor ol' Pete alone! :o)


Wall Mural (sorta)

When we moved into this house (our current one), it was freshly painted in off whites, tans, and browns - VERY neutral! BUT we weren't about to paint over it! Still, after a while, the kitchen walls just about neutraled me into insanity! So I got the urge to do some stamping - bought a variety of green acrylic paints, foam stamps, paint markers, and dragged the ladder indoors. My only problem was controlling myself- if a few leaves look nice, wouldn't a LOT more look better?..... So,with DH's (requested) help and opinions, I eventually went around all 4 walls and I think it turned out quite well!
Here's a detail of the design above the sink area....

..And I sneaked in a heart shape in the vines above the stove! Awww.... I'm just a romantic at heart (so to speak :o)


New Signage

Hey, nice banner! Well, after trying to find inexpensive and waterproof letters to create my own signage (and totally failing), it was easier AND cheaper to have my design made into a banner. I'm very happy with the results,( except the Velcro isn't holding well), but I'm working on that!


Ancient Chinese Secret...

Here's a story: about 4 years ago, I had just started leaf casting, and was deciding to actually make a small business out of it, when I went to a local arts and crafts festival. One craftsperson really impressed me- she made ornamental - gosh, I don't know what to call them- towers created by gluing old crystal bowls, platters, candy dishes, etc. into sculptures as tall as I am! The glue/adhesive she used was extremely strong plus was crystal clear- I could not tell they were glued at all! I asked the artisan what kind of glue that was. She answered," Oh, we had to research for a long time and had to try many different ones until we found this one. This will not yellow and is very permanent."
Hmmm, notice something? She never DID actually tell me what it was! Then it hit me (slowly, being new as I was to the art business) that of course, she would be stupid to tell me what she used - if I liked her product so much I may purchase one, but if she tells me what she glued them with, I would just leave and make my own! As I was in the process of doing the same thing, researching and testing different products (and already my work was
looking more refined than the usual leaf castings I had seen), I decided that was
going to be my policy - I was not training others to be my competitors! Of course, any one could do what I did and discover the same recipes and supplies I use, it's just that they have to put in the same effort I did! No one helped or trained me at all.
Certainly, that's not all there is to it - an old saying is you should welcome competition in your field - if you are really good at what you do, others will not be able to match the quality.

My casting...

...NOT mine! :o)

I do feel that way, but i also realize that while most of my customers understand and recognize the quality of my work, some do not! I have heard people tell me a dozen times, "Oh you must be the one whose work is in (store name), they look exactly the same!" When I check out the leaves they're referring to, I'm always shocked! They are either unpainted, rough cement, or colored with a quick wash of paint or stain! While they are kind of cool in their own way, they are NOT even CLOSE to what I do. so if someone can't tell the difference, they may buy someone else's leaf castings in place of mine.I guess that's the point of this post - I have been contacted by many people lately about my giving them tips on how to do their own leaf castings, and, although I feel bad, it ain't gonna happen! But this post is, I hope, a good explanation of WHY...


Things I Have Learned (About Working With Cement/Concrete)

First of all, I'm surprised that no one has yet told me "You do not work with CEMENT - Portland cement is just one ingredient in CONCRETE, which is cement with additives in it (sand, aggregate, latex, fortifier, etc.)". ....And they would be correct! - technically, my work is with concrete; I just decided that "cement" sounds better. Hey, a little artistic latitude, plus most people don't know the difference anyway, but I wanted to put that out there, to clarify the correct term and to prove that I actually know the correct term!

So, with that out of the way, I have to start right at the beginning, when I used my bare hands in the cement, no dust mask, etcetera! Oy. Finally started to research this material I was playing with, and discovered that it is definitely a little more involved than "mud". First, apparently cement can BURN skin on sensitive individuals (evidently I'm not one of those), and even if it does not, repeated exposure could result in the development of contact dermatitis, and that would NOT be good!

Repeated inhalation of the dust can also eventually cause Silicosis, and that is , well, here's what I found online -

"Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to respirable crystalline silica. Silica is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and is a major component of sand, rock, and mineral ores. Overexposure to dust that contains microscopic particles of crystalline silica can cause scar tissue to form in the lungs, which reduces the lungs' ability to extract oxygen from the air we breathe. Typical sand found at the beach does not pose a silicosis threat.
More than 1 million U.S. workers are exposed to crystalline silica. Each year, more than 250 American workers die with silicosis. There is no cure for the disease, but it is 100 percent preventable if employers, workers, and health professionals work together to reduce exposures.
In addition to silicosis, inhalation of crystalline silica particles has been associated with other diseases, such as bronchitis and tuberculosis. Some studies also indicate an association with lung cancer"
- Hmmm, looks like something I may want to avoid, eh?
Materials that contain crystalline silica:
Blasting abrasives
Cement mortar
Mineral deposits
Rock and stone

Occupations that put workers at an increased risk of silica exposure include:
Stone masonry
Abrasives manufacturing
Agriculture (dusty conditions from disturbing the soil, such as plowing or harvesting)
(Oh, great; I'm a gardener, too!)
Glass manufacturing
Ceramics, Clay, Pottery (Pottery?!)
Railroad track setting, laying, and repair
Leaf Sandcasting
Okay, so I added that last one! But I'm pretty sure it belongs there!

Woo-hoo! Sorry, boys, I'm taken - hold yourselves back

Now, I'm quite certain that if you make 3 cast leaves for your garden, you do not need all that protection. But I'm going on 4 years now of working with that stuff almost daily, so I figure I'd better be safe than sorry. Still, everytime I develop any kind of cough, I start to think, "Oh, no! Silicosis!" (did I mention I'm sort of a hypochondriac?).