Thursday, January 12, 2006

Storytellers tell a lot

Storyteller figures have been a staple of Pueblo pottery ever since Helen Cordero, a Cochiti Pueblo potter, developed the genre. Today, her works are highly collectable and highly valued.

Now, other potters from other pueblos are also creating storyteller figures.

Perhaps their attraction is their charm as creations. While they adhere to the same high standards required of all top-quality pueblo and native pottery, they also feature the creative spirit of the potter in the poses of the storytellers, the expressions on his or her faces, the costumes, the number and placement of children and the objects they are holding. Add to this the adventurous quality of potters who take their storyteller ideas into the realm of bears, cats, mice or dogs, for instnace, and you have an unlimited range of possibilties.

Everyone of them is designed to make the observer smile.

At our pottery web site, we now have four pages of storyteller figures on display and for sale. There are works from the Fragua family of Jemez, Angel Bailon from Santo Domingo, Mary Small, also from Jemez, Stella Teller from Isleta, Cheyenne Jim from Navajo, Marilyn Lewis from Acoma, Linda Askin from Santa Clara, Annette Romero from Cochiti, Mirabel from Taos and others. To see them, simply click on the above link, scroll to the bottom of the home page and click on any of the "pot-links" labeled for "storytellers" (There are four of them.)

There also are some other very nice figurative pottery pieces from Andrew Rodriguez of Laguna Pueblo and Wayne Snowbird and Gary Gutierrez of Santa Clara.

If Native Jewelry is your Indian Art of choice, pay a visit to our Native Jewelry Link site, to see some gorgeous pieces by the best jewelry artists in the native community.

The artists that do this work, regardless of the genre, are absolutely fabulous in their skill and sensitivity.

Here comes the taxman

Somewhere around the end of January the W-2s and 1099s start to roll in. A sure sign that tax time here.

As an online merchant, we have been spared sales tax collections on any purchase that originates outside of Florida. Multiply that situation by the millions of online merchants and billions of online purchases and you can imagine the zillions of dollars in sales taxes that are not flowing into most state's coffers.

This makes the state treasurers mad. If these purchases were being made in bricks and sticks stores, the state would be getting its cut.

Without moralizing about whether the states have those taxes coming or not, they clearly could use the money.

So, guess what. They are working on ways to collect it.

To date the states have been unable to collect tax on out-of-state purchases because the law says they can't force a merchant in another state to collect their tax. Unless there is a nexus. That is, if you buy from a merchant that has a branch in your state, even if you are purchasing from a store or warehouse in another state, they must collect the tax for the state in which you reside and transmit it to that state.

Now, several states have entered into an agreement with the objective of reciprocating on sales tax collections. One state says, if you require merchants in your state to collect tax on sales from people in my state, I will do the same on merchants in my state when it comes to purchases by residents of your state.

Of course, one of the problems with this is that many states have local options that allow counties or cities in the state to add a local sales tax. With thousands of different taxing districts, how can a merchant be expected to keep track? Well, first of all there is computer software that can do it with some degree of accuracy. But who programs it and who pays for the software?

More ominous for those of us who pay our taxes but don't want to pay any more than we legally have to, there are rumbles of a national sales tax, the proceeds of which would be divvied up between the resident states/cities of the purchasers.

If you are one of those people who shops on the internet or through catalogs to save on the taxes (even though you must pay an almost equal amount for shipping), be prepared for the coming age when you will pay for both.

We don't worry about this much because the categories of goods we sell are one of kind. People buy from our web sites - ; ; ; and - because they can't find exactly what we sell anywhere else. Similar, perhaps. But not exactly the same. And, since we don't have store expenses, we can resell at lower prices, passing the savings on to buyers. Check us out. You'll see what we mean.

Scammers are Clever

I'm sure we've all heard about the phenomenon of "phishing." That's when some official looking email threatens to cut off your account at somewhere like eBay unless you immediately click on the embedded link to the ersatz web site and provide your account information.

These people are good at their evil purposes.

They have mastered copying logos and symbols to look like the real thing. They hijack web addresses that look legit. With each variation on the theme, they become more adept at the language of fear within reason.

Used to be you could spot them because they misspelled some critical words. I think there were two reasons for this. One was because many of these scams originate in countries where English is not the native tongue. The other is the rush to push these emails out. Their success rate is not high so they operate on the theory that thousands of emails can work if they get just one "phish" to take the bait.

If you happen to have one of these schemes come your way, either ignore it or forward it to the party being emulated. Two such addresses are and

Another variation on this theme is the "overpayment". We had someone who wanted to buy a high-end item we had on our Web site. They offered to send a money order for the purchase price but, since they were collecting a debt from a third party, would we accept a larger amount, deposit it and give them a refund for the difference between the money order and the price of the item. They were willing to send a runner to our shop to pick up the difference. We played along but set up some hurdles of our own. Ultimately, the "buyer" stopped emailing. We either lost a large sale or saved a lot of money.

A recent newspaper article confirmed our feeling that it was the latter. A local fishing charter captain received a reservation for an excursion from someone in Dublin, Ireland. They sent a $5,000 cashier's check for a trip that was only supposed to cost $3,000. As the date for the excursion approached, the captain got another email. The party was still coming, but one of them was ill and would not be able to make it. Could the captain send a check for $2,000 as a refund of that portion of the prepayment?

The captain wisely checked his bank for the status of the supposedly "good-as-cash" cashier's check and learned that it had been refused as a counterfeit. Fortunately, he checked the bank, which had not previously notified him of the rejection.

So, be careful out there.

Part of the psychology that tmakes these con artists successful is the inherent tendency toward "dishonesty" in the human spirit. If the captain had thought he had received too much as a mistake and he was willing to take advantage of it, because it was a cashier's check, after all, he might have sent the $2,000 and thought he was ahead of the game. If we had been so desperate as to accept our potential buyer's overpayment, we could have suffered a similar fate.

We pride our selves in being 100% legitimate. If you do business with one of our websites - ; ; or you will find that everything we offer is guaranteed authentic and has a 14-day return privilege. If you are unhappy with it when it arrives at your house, send it back for a full refund of your purchase price. (Just don't ask us to launder your money or your counterfeit cashier's checks.)

On Returns and Refunds

As an online merchant, we must deal with returns.

No one likes them. But we recognize that buying something on line is a bit of a leap of faith. Will it be the way it looks? Is the way it looks what I want? Will the merchant be there tomorrow? Will the merchant honor my request to return an item if I am unhappy with it? These are not only questions every buyer asks, they are problems we face when we go online to buy something. And, having been burned once or twice, we are very careful. Still when something intrigues us, we must make that leap of faith and buy with the hope that we can return it if we are unhappy when it arrives in person.

Actually, this not a new issue. Catalog merchants have faced it for years. Their answer? The money-back guarantee. They learned eons ago that you can not get anyone to part with the purchase price on the basis of a catalog photo and description, unless you give them the privilege of returning it when it arrives and it is the wrong color or the wrong size or just wrong.

At Aboriginals: Art of the First Person we offer all our online buyers 14 days to determine if the item they have ordered from us is what they thought it was, what they wanted and what fits their needs/style after holding it and thinking about it.

What brings this to mind is a recent returned item. We received a pot that the buyer was very excited about when she ordered it. It had just arrived and she was very complimentary about the packing. She was not equally complimentary about the pot. Not that it was bad. It just didn't "speak" to her when it was unpacked .

Our answer was to advise her to send it back. We will refund her purchase price. Hopefully, our willingness to work with her and stand by our return privilege will place us on her "A List." Perhaps she will find something else she wants that we offer. But, even if she doesn't, we have done the right thing. We have fulfilled our contract. We have honored our customer's trust.

Sounds corny, I know. But if you can't do that , do really have any business being in business?

We do business at four different Web sites: , which offers high-quality Zuni and other Native American fetish carvings; , which is where our returner found her pot; , offering absolutely sensational Native American jewelry at very reasonable price, if I do say so. And, of course, our Mothersite, The latter is the sit that started it all for us. It features African, Australian and Arctic works of art. Stop by for a visit. There is no charge for looking at beautiful things. B>)

If you want to subscribe to a blog notifier that will let you know when this blog is updated, click on one of the feed icons.