Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Today I Helped One of Our Customers With Baptism Favors


I have just had a very special last 24 hours. One of our best customers just had a baby girl and for her baptism he and his wife decided to use a gift from Marcopoloni to give to their guests.

First of all, we love babies. If you tell us that you just had a baby you have to send us pictures, otherwise we can’t function very well. After we have been able to definitively establish that your baby is, indeed, the most beautiful baby that ever came to this world: “congratulations!”. Now we can change the subject.

The Baptism is in a little over a week and the dad is looking for some party favors, what we call bomboniere in Italy, and would like some flower key chains. Perfect, we have enough, and we have an ideal gift wrap paper and ribbon that will be just right for the celebration. Given that the package will arrive just a couple of days before the great event, I make sure that he leaves the gift wrapping up to us. If there is something that I always experience when I organize parties, it is that there is never enough time to work on the final details.

Emi and I spend a couple of hours feverishly preparing the package and manage to send it out with the utmost care on the same day. We send it with the hope that our efforts gave the parents either more time to sleep or to get ready for the party.

I hope that this will turn out to be a success story. It certainly helped that the dad and I had talked a few times in the past so I knew the customer and the customer knew what we could do.

When it is time for a hand picked super high quality gift, think Marcopoloni, but, for the perfect experience, take the time to know us so that we can serve you best. Begin by signing up for our newsletter below and make sure to e-mail us your questions!

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Look Who’s New at Marcopoloni…

I’m thrilled to join Marcopoloni as the newest member of the team. Coming to the office every day means I have the chance to appreciate beautiful handmade artisan treasures, from rustic leather Campomaggi bags to delicate Murano glass figurines. But what really stands out at Marcopoloni is the care and attention that goes into the process of bringing these artisan-crafted goods to you, the customer.

It may seem crazy to take a half hour to photograph each of the four slightly different Salvi leather briefcases we have in stock – because there are variations in color and texture in vegetable-tanned, full grain leather – then upload and e-mail those pictures so a customer can choose the exact bag he wants to order.

It happens a lot around here, though, and it’s one of the reasons Marcopoloni is known for great customer service.

I think of Marcopoloni as a “mom and pop” shop of the Internet, run by a husband-and-wife team with a real passion for handmade artisan products. Since we’re not a bricks-and-mortar store (although there is a small showroom in the office that fills the place with the elegant scent of Italian leather) we can’t greet you by name when you walk in the door.  Instead we get to know you by answering your questions via phone and e-mail, and always following up to make sure you are completely happy with your purchase.

I share in your appreciation of handmade art. I grew up in Cambria, Calif., surrounded by creative people including my parents who made stained glass, batik art and ceramics. My husband is a woodworker who makes custom skateboards in our garage woodshop. Our home is filled with art made by family and friends.

While Daniele and Emi are in Italy this summer visiting local artisans and hand-picking new creations for Marcopoloni, I will be here in the office making sure things run smoothly. I look forward to hearing from you!

Marcopoloni is pleased to add Mary Berger to the team.
Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

You Guys Are Still The Best Customer Service

Today I got an e-mail that said: “you guys are still the best… customer service, literally like calling a friend and then of course you sell the most awesome bags!”–I couldn’t ask for a better e-mail to start my Friday. It embodies exactly what we are trying to do: treat everyone like we would treat the people that are important in our lives because our customers are important in our lives. And the other part, “the most awesome bags” is a tribute to the artisans that we seek to support. They do really amazing work.

Emi and I try to focus our efforts on customer service a lot. We try to do it because we think that customer service is the most important business function. This is where we get to know customers and develop long term relationships. Although customer service means dealing with all the headaches, if we weren’t the ones dealing with them how would we ever find out about the pain and joys that our customers experience?

So here is a little bit about one of the people who started Marcopoloni and, ten years later, is here to address your needs. I, Daniele, love computer programming, but dealing with problems that don’t have very easy solutions has really helped me think outside the box. Here is a photo of me trying to market products without a marketing budget:

Daniele and a Santarelli Leather Briefcase
This shot was taken in January. It is Daniele and a Santarelli that he likes so much.

Can you recognize the bag? Since we now show every Santarelli leather briefcase that we have in stock, if you can identify the exact bag that I am holding I will give you a big discount on that very bag. That’s if it is still available, of course.

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business Our Artisans and Their Products

A New Campomaggi Collection Is Arriving

The Spring/Summer 2014 collection has shipped from Campomaggi this week and we should receive it early next week, just in time for spring to arrive, which seems a more appropriate time to introduce a spring collection than, say, December.

As always, we think that we have focused on the good stuff–bags and accessories that we will be happy to stock for years. If you are a fan, prepare to have access to some wonderful Campomaggi bags with the Marcopoloni service attached. If what I just said means nothing to you, then you might be missing out on an experience. We believe that you cannot sell one-of-a-kind bags as if they were manufactured products that sit in boxes on a shelf.

So we are gearing up to present each individual bag so that you can choose the ones that you like best. This is a lot of work but it stimulates a discussion with our customers that ultimately results in our customers feeling more special and liking their bags even more.

Wow! I got my work cut out and so does Emi… Better get to work!

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

We Love Modeling for Our Customers

Have you ever wondered what it is like to work at Marcopoloni? I know that some customers have commented that they would like to be here to be around all the fabulous products that we carry. We do spend our days surrounded by wonderful Campomaggi bags, fragile Murano glass and Koito pottery, intriguing Antartidee wall clocks, etc. When I am not staring at all that, I try to catch up on accounting, make web site improvements (most of the time they are fixes), and market our products. My favorite part about marketing is helping customers with specific questions, and, in particular, modeling products for them.

Daniele taking photos with Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.
Here is Daniele at the beginning of July taking photos of Emi modeling a Campomaggi bag.

The photo above is an example. Daniele and Emi are in front of our office. Our office is to the right of Emi and the big 274 sign. You can see the mannequin through the window, probably featuring a Caterina Lucchi bag, and that is how you can recognize our office if you come and pay us a visit. If I remember correctly, Emi was modeling a Campomaggi bag for a customer who needed to figure out whether the bag would be too big for her.

We know that shopping online is full of uncertainties, so please do not hesitate to ask us for help. Do YOU have any questions for us? We would love to help.

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business Our Artisans and Their Products

How Your Feedback Helps: Two Examples

Too often, a company will post an insincere comment about how they value their customers’ feedback, etc., but in reality, when you offer your opinion or suggestion, you get an apathetic “Uh-huh, OK.” in return.

At Marcopoloni, we want to let our customers know that we really DO listen, and DO take your feedback seriously! Here are just two examples from this week of how your feedback helps:

Case  #1 – the Aching Shoulder

A few days ago, a gentleman who had purchased our Storia Leather Messenger Bag called to tell us how he absolutely loves his new bag.

“Do you sell a matching leather shoulder pad to go on the strap?” he asked. He carries a lot of things in his bag, and with a 1.5-hr commute, his shoulder can understandably get pretty sore. I had to tell the gentleman that unfortunately, Dionigi (the folks in Italy who make the bag) currently does not make any leather shoulder pads, but I thought it would be a great idea, and that we will see what we can do about it.

So I told Daniele about this exchange, and he has initiated a dialogue with Dionigi to discuss a potential new product design. Now, it’s not like we would have a new shoulder pad to offer anytime soon – these things take quite a while to plan, design, model, test, and produce – but it is an exciting project nonetheless. I hope to some day be able to call our Storia owner with some good news.

Case #2 – an Elderly-Friendly Coin Purse

This morning I took a call from a nice woman needing to return Gianni’s Tacco leather coin purse that she had purchased for her father. “The coin purse is beautiful, but it’s just not going to work for my dad,” she said, sadly. Her fear was that without a solid wall to stop the coins from spilling, her father, at 91 years old, may tilt the coin purse too far and the coins would all fall out.

This made sense to me … the coin purse she had purchased does have a soft lip that helps prevent the coins from falling out, but I can see how she would be worried for her elderly father. In fact, we had evaluated a few of the high-walled coin purses in the past, but decided against them because our Tacco coin purse was so popular, and we saw no need to offer an alternative. I immediately discussed this case with the team, and we all agreed that thanks to this kind woman who took the time to explain all of this to us, we now see a clear reason to carry the high-walled coin purse. I hope she will check back with us soon!

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Locanda Acquavita in Venice: a Sleepless Hotel

I recently went to Murano and stayed in Venice on the cheap. I booked at Locanda Acquavita because it is quiet and close to the vaporetto stop that takes you to Murano (by the way, watch out because there are two stops at Fondamente Nuove, one before the Murano Loop and one after, so make sure to read the direction you are taking–i.e. 42 or 41, I forget, direzione Murano!). Unfortunately I got 3 and a half hours of sleep before an important meeting so I think that something has to be said for an otherwise fine B&B that is run on cruise control except between 8am and 12pm. Here is my review:

I’m not a light sleeper, I’m even deaf in one ear–something that makes falling asleep much easier in noisy situations–but with a phone locked in a closet outside your room ringing literally all evening, all night, and all morning long, I have to warn you that you might be in for a very miserable and frustrating time.
Also, the bathroom is tiny, there is no shower although there is a shower head. And the mirror on the ceiling made me say: “chicabowuang”.
Without the phone ringing, and with full disclosure about the bathroom this would have been an acceptable stay. I got 3 1/2 hours of sleep, so I am none too pleased.

Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

Excellent Customer Service – Say What?

The other day a friend of mine asked me for two examples of EXCELLENT customer service experiences that I had, for a project of his. Surely, among the hundreds of phone calls to and e-mail exchanges with customer service reps/sales agents/technical support personnel over the years, I could think of two encounters that would qualify as excellent. So I sat … and thought … and thought some more … and much to my dismay, I couldn’t. Not even ONE. But how could that be?

I was so distraught over this that I decided to analyze it a bit deeper. The answer could lie with any combination of the following:

  1. I am just an obnoxiously snobby person and nothing is ever good enough for me
  2. The quality of Customer Service has been steadily declining
  3. Customer expectations have been steadily rising
  4. I receive excellent service all the time but suffer from selective memory loss

Based on the fact that my friends and family characterize me as being rather patient and even-keeled, and judging on the amount of complaints I hear from others about the service they have received, I dare to say that number 1 is not the main reason as to why I was unable to come up with any excellent customer service experiences. Number 4 above would render this blog post moot, so let’s just assume that my memory serves me well enough for now. That leaves us with 2 and 3.

So, true or false: the quality of Customer Service has been steadily declining.

I don’t think anyone would deny that this is true. With globalization and the development of technologies such as IVR (Interactive Voice Response), you’d be lucky to get a live person to listen to you, much less one that is a native speaker of your language. Note I said a live person to “listen” to you, not to “help” you, because in most cases they are merely a live version of the IVR system – worse, perhaps, as they take longer pauses to process your response, and you can’t exactly curse out the poor chap on the phone for not understanding you.

This level of Customer Service is almost expected of large companies, but what about smaller companies? Small businesses have the perfect opportunity to shine in the Customer Service department, and yet in my personal experience, none have truly seized this opportunity. A case in point: I recently ordered some espresso accessories from an online merchant. Unfortunately, they shipped me the wrong items – OK, it happens, but they are a small company, surely it will be a simple thing to get this sorted out, right? Sadly, the answer was no. 6 days, 2 phone calls, 1 unfulfilled promise to call back, and 0 – that’s right, ZERO apologies later, I still do not have any assurances that they will correct the problem caused by their error. I am sure there are plenty of small companies out there that provide great customer service, but I have not had the privilege of doing business with them in recent years. So yes, Customer Service is going down the tubes, to put it nicely.

But what about the customers? Do we as consumers have unrealistic expectations?

It could be argued that with companies nowadays offering more, like free shipping both ways ( and returns accepted anytime (Nordstroms), consumers have become accustomed to expecting a lot more from their retailers. So is that the problem? If a company does not offer the moon and the stars, are they not considered providers of good customer service? To answer this question, I reflected on my first experience with, the online shoe and apparel retailer who is known for their Customer Service.

Back in 2007, I was in need of a pair of shoes. I found a pair I liked on, and decided to test out their 24-hour support line, low-price guarantee, and free overnight shipping. To my delight, I got all three. I even got an unexpected, if not cheesy, thank-you card from the girl who helped me on the phone. I admit, I was rather impressed (though, I could have done without the card). However, shortly thereafter , Zappos ended their price protection and free overnight shipping policies. Knowing deep down that these policies were unsustainable, I was still disappointed in the realization that what I experienced was merely a great get the word-out customer service policy. I did not include this encounter in my example of excellent Customer Service because I recognized that having impressive Customer Service policies does not necessarily equate to excellent Customer Service.

So yes, the state of Customer Service in this country is declining. And yes, we all have gotten used to some companies offering a lot of freebies, but I think to many, the issue is more than what costs are built in where for the sake of calling something “free”. It’s knowing that you are in capable hands, seeing someone going out the way to help you, the feeling of connectedness – something that is nearly impossible to experience these days in the Customer Service realm.

At least now I feel better knowing why I could not come up with one example of when I experienced excellent Customer Service. It’s not just me.