Mistakes are a part of business, but some missteps are just downright SCARY! We recently asked our School of Sellers members to share their spookiest, most cringeworthy “Oh no!” moments as a TpT seller. The spooky seller tales you’ll hear are chilling, horrifying, and…well, relatable. Listen in as 3 brave sellers share stories that will make you laugh and gasp at the same time. Joining me today are special guests Maryanna Dubanko, Brenna Nelson, and Katie Loftin!
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Spooky Seller Stories
Erin: Hello there and welcome to the most fun episode of School of Sellers we have done so far. We are going to be sharing our most spooky seller stories on today’s episode. So you can consider the alternate title to this episode Tales from the TpT Crypt because I have some of my seller friends here today who are going to be sharing their most cringe-worthy experiences in their TpT journeys. And I can tell you already, I know you will relate to almost, if not all, of them. Enjoy, friends and try not to get too scared. Before we begin this episode, I’d love to give a special shout out and thank you to the sellers who participated in this episode. Thank you so much to Maryana from 3 Peaks Classroom, Brenna from Mrs. Nelson Teaches, and my friend Katie of Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium.
Spooky Seller Story from Maryana
All right. Well, the first on our list for our scary stories that we are featuring on the School of Sellers podcast is my friend Maryana from 3 Peaks Classroom. Maryana, you are in Canada, correct?
Maryana: Yes. I live in Alberta which is just north of Montana.
Erin: Got it. Okay. So tell us a little bit of background, like how you got started on TpT, how long you’ve been doing this, and where you are today with your business?
Maryana: Absolutely. Thank you. I’m actually really honored to be here. Like I said earlier, I’m a little fangirling because I listen to your podcast every week. So this is really exciting. I live in Alberta, Canada. And I actually just started last year during the pandemic. So June 2020 was when I kind of opened up my store. I thought there was a need, and there is a need actually, for resources that have a Canadian base, Canadian context. And so everything that I create in my store is all aligned with our provincial standards which is really helpful.
But I noticed that when I was in a lot of Facebook groups for a lot of teachers grade 3, grade 4, or whatever, a lot of teachers they’d get hired, and they’d say, oh my gosh, I can’t wrap my head around language arts or I can’t wrap my head around this. Is there anybody that’s willing to share their plans?
And so yes, God bless teachers that do share what they have created, but there wasn’t something that was kind of like organized, cohesive, easy to use. And so I thought, I really like my plans. It’s taken me a long time to develop them, but that’s kind of my flagship product I guess were my plans, my year plans. And so that’s how it started, and then I noticed that, wow, there’s going to be a need for digital stuff. And so I started including digital, and everything just in my store is aligned with provincial standards.
Erin: That’s so cool. Well, we have quite a few Canadian sellers in the School of Sellers community. So you definitely represent a large chunk of our audience I would guess. And I was so amazed to learn, I just recently learned, that you guys organized standards by province. I never knew that was the case. So that’s like, oh my goodness, trying to search, we were talking about that in terms of search on TpT and how you search for then the provincial stuff.
Maryana: Yes, the keywords have to be like I write down aligned with the Alberta, we call them program of standards, program of studies. Sorry, that’s how we say it. So all of my keywords are always Alberta program of studies so that people can find it much more easily.
Erin: That’s just so cool. Well, again thank you so much for agreeing to do this. I love your story so much. I know it wasn’t so fun on your end. But tell us your spooky story because this is just amazing.
Maryana: Yeah, it’s definitely cringey. When you wrote the word cringey, I thought, okay, yeah, it wasn’t something that I necessarily did, but it was definitely a cringey moment. So like I talked about, my flagship product were the year plans, and I was getting consistently really good feedback, really good reviews on my year plans. And then one night at like 9:00 p.m., I got a notification that I got a review and I always like to check it. I got a one-star review. And I thought, oh, that’s different. Wow, I must have really did something terrible.
So I look at the review, and this guy just wrote like two words. Like “too confusing” or something. And I thought, that’s strange. Because all the other reviews that I were getting were positive. So I replied back to him, and I said, I’d love to speak with you, I’d love to maybe go over the resource with you. So I sent him an email. He emailed me back within like 10 minutes. It was really fast.
And through our conversation, I actually found out that he was not a teacher. He was a fourth year education student, and he had an assignment that was due that night at midnight. And the assignment was he had to make like a unit plan that was laid out that included assessments, that included the outcomes and everything like that, which my year plan does include that stuff.
But he had a hard time reading it because he didn’t understand that like you guys have your common core and we have our program of studies, the numbers in front, he didn’t understand what that meant. And so when I included it, when I listed it in my resource, he goes, I can’t find this anywhere/ Like what are you talking about? And I thought, okay, that’s how I knew he wasn’t a teacher yet. But he’s fourth year ed. So I thought, well, you should have figured that out maybe by fourth year.
Erin: Right, right. Red flag.
Maryana: Yeah, exactly. But here’s the cringiest part. When I finally explained it to him, he said, wow, you seem to really understand this. Do you mind if I paid you to finish my assignment but it’s due by midnight? And he was texting me at 10 or emailing me at 10 pm that night, and he wanted me to finish his assignment for him. And I replied very graciously. I said, thank you for that opportunity but I’m going to just be okay right here.
Erin: Oh my gosh. I don’t think I’ve ever, like I was going into this episode thinking like I’ve heard it all probably along the lines at least. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone like being positioned for anything through Q&A let alone like for something like that.
Maryana: Oh my gosh, it floored me. I was already in bed when I was emailing him back. And he said, I’ll pay you whatever you want. Maybe I should’ve taken him up on that offer.
Erin: Right. He must have been very desperate.
Maryana: He was, yeah. So thankfully, there’s a happy ending to the story. Once I explained everything to him, then he actually went back and revised his review to five star and said something like, the seller was extremely helpful or something like that.
Erin: Oh good. I feel like a lot of times that is not the case with the low reviews. Well, it sounds like you handled it very kindly too. So I’m sure he appreciated the support at least.
Maryana: Yeah, yeah. I wish him all the best in his teaching endeavors.
Erin: That’s amazing. Well, thank you for sharing. I know that it can be hard to tell these stories, but I swear they’re my favorite because people come out of the woodwork and it’s like, oh my gosh, that has happened to pretty much all of us. When you really start hearing what happened to other people, it doesn’t feel so…
Maryana: It was definitely out of the blue, but I’m sure it’s not the first time that a seller has been contacted privately to finish an assignment.
Erin: Right, right. Oh my goodness. Well, we’re going to end this on a less spooky note, and I want to know what your favorite Halloween candy is.
Maryana: Oh gosh. It’s so funny. I just bought a box from the grocery store this morning. My favorite is probably peanut M&M’s.
Erin: Those are good.
Maryana: Yeah. Yummy. Yeah. I got some to hand out.
Spooky Seller Story from Brenna
Erin: We are so excited to welcome Brenna to our show for our spooky stories episode. And I was just telling Brenna that this is a one-of-a-kind episode. We’ve never done anything like this before. But the responses to the form that I put in the Facebook group have just been so good, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear them. So before we get started, Brenna, can you tell us first of all, I would love to know your TpT store and just tell us a little bit about your TpT background and how you got started.
Brenna: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Erin. My store name is Mrs. Nelson Teaches. I have mostly middle school language arts resources. And I’ve had a store since 2013 or so, but I’ve only started taking it seriously the last, I don’t know, 15 months or so. So I’ve been on a steep learning curve, and it’s been fun. It’s been great.
Erin: Awesome. Well, you have a story that like it just keeps getting better and better or worse and worse, however you look at it. So let’s just dive in and tell us about your scary story which I already know so many sellers are going to be able to relate to.
Brenna: Yeah, absolutely. My spooky story, it started with something that always makes my heart drop a little bit. I got a notification on my phone that I had a question from a buyer which, I don’t know, it always makes me a little bit nervous. And this particular question was from a buyer who said that he really liked the content of the resource that he purchased. But that there was a picture on one of the slides, slide 18, that was probably not appropriate. And he said that there was an image of a girl with her middle fingers up. And he was so kind. He just wanted to let me know and wanted thought I might want to change that.
At first, I thought, oh, he must have me confused with some other seller. I would never put a picture like that on a resource. He probably made a mistake. So but I figured I better check it out anyway. And I was away from home. I didn’t have my computer. So I got on my phone and downloaded the resource from TpT and found the PowerPoint, got there. And sure enough, there was a picture of a girl with both her middle fingers up.
It wasn’t super overt or anything. It was like two boys had kind of hoisted her up on their shoulders and her hands were kind of blending into the boys a little bit. So I mean obviously it wasn’t so obvious that I know, I obviously did not notice I guess is what I’m saying. But I was absolutely, absolutely mortified because I guarantee that you put that picture up in front of a group of middle schoolers and they’re going to notice for sure, 100% of the time.
Erin: Which is surprising that you hadn’t heard anything yet about that, like that that was your first time hearing feedback. And oh my gosh. So can you share where you were when you got this feedback? Because I’m sorry, I think that makes the story even that much scarier.
Brenna: It’s pretty funny. I was actually at church when I got this message, and I probably should have been listening and not checking my phone. I was on my phone. And so that just made it funnier. And what’s even more ironic is the slide that this particular image was on, it was an instruction slide. It was asking students to write a paragraph about a topic sentence that I had given them, and the topic sentence was middle school students are fantastic with this image accompanying it.
Erin: Oh my gosh. You probably have a lot of buyers with a really good sense of humor then is what I’m guessing.
Brenna: I hope so. I mean I was absolutely mortified, and I’ve sold hundreds, honestly hundreds and hundreds of these over the last year or so. And if you think, most middle school teachers have several sections of classes. And so if you say conservatively that they teach 100 students throughout the day, I have inadvertently and unintentionally flipped off thousands and thousands of students in the past year.
Erin: Oh my gosh. Yeah. When you do the math, it’s like you really put it out there. I love this story. And I know everyone that’s listening is like, oh my gosh, I can just like feel her terror. Because I think we’ve all been there. First of all, there’s like something about getting the questions all the time. I always assume it’s a bad thing. I always assume there’s something wrong with one of my products. So I can totally relate to like the sinking feeling in your stomach. But then, of course, then your next instinct is to like, okay, let’s fix this right away. Tell us what happened though when you went to fix the product.
Brenna: Well, I have four kids. One of them is two, and she, bless her little heart, she spilled water on my computer, and I had to take it into the computer shop and they had to order a part. So I didn’t have my computer for almost three whole weeks. And yes, I should have had my resources backed up elsewhere. I know this, and I just didn’t do it. And anyway, so it was probably three weeks before I could get on and fix it. Meanwhile, I’m getting those cha-chings all day long that this resource keeps selling. Like guys, please don’t hate me.
Erin: Oh my goodness, what a terrible feeling to just feel totally helpless once you knew that there was something to be fixed. So lesson number one, definitely back up your things to multiple places. What do you use now? Are you more of like an iCloud person or Google Drive?
Brenna: Most of my stuff is on Google Drive. I do have some of it up on iCloud.
Erin: Yeah. It’s always good to back stuff up. I’m still really bad about remembering to stay on top of that. And also, to really, like they say, a second set of eyes is always good to like proofread your products. But I swear with these products, we need like seven sets of eyes. Because who would ever thought that we would have to proofread the photos. You just don’t think about those things until it happens to you.
Brenna: It’s so true. So true.
Erin: Oh my gosh. Well, I so appreciate you sharing your story. Usually I do lightning rounds at the end of longer episodes. But I’m just doing random Halloween themed questions for this episode. So tell us your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever done like yourself. Like what have you dressed up as that you loved?
Brenna: Let’s see. Last year, my husband and I dressed up as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Erin: Oh, that’s cute.
Brenna: That was fun. One year we did Superman and Supergirl. That was fun too.
Erin: Yeah. I like it. Okay. I like good couple costumes because sometimes it’s hard to find them when you’re like rushing around looking for something last minute. I’ll have to keep those in mind. Awesome. Well, thank you, Brenna, again. This was so exciting, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear your story. And I’m glad it had a happy ending.
Brenna: It’s all good. My stuff is school appropriate.
Spooky Seller Story from Katie
Erin: I love it, I love it. Seller friends, Erin here with a quick reminder that 2022 is going to be here like tomorrow. So I would love for you to join us for our second annual Jumpstart Your Year Planning workshop that begins on December 1st. In the workshop you will get step-by-step guidance to creating a clear business plan. You will use helpful tools like the Planner for Teacher Sellers and the course workbook and probably a Trello board or two. There’s no better feeling than having your year planned out before it even begins. Sign up for the Jumpstart waitlist today. All right. Well, our next guest I am so excited to welcome because it just so happens to be a member of our team SOS. So I’m happy to introduce Katie of Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium. Katie, how are you doing today?
Katie: Doing well. Thanks for having me.
Erin: Thank you for being here. I, of course, already know your story. This has been one of my favorite stories ever since the day you told me, and I cannot wait for you to share this. You are giving the community a gift by sharing your story. So thank you.
Katie: I’m so happy you get such delight from this tale, Erin.
Erin: I think it’s safe to say you’ve gotten tons of delight from my missteps as well. Part of the beauty of this business. But okay. So before we share the whole debacle, give us a brief background, how long you’ve been doing TpT, when you got started, and what you are up to these days.
Katie: All right. So I started TpT in 2013 like I think a lot of people did, and then I promptly went to grad school and abandoned my store for like four years. And then I took it back up in like 2018, and I’ve been doing it fairly seriously ever since. And I’m now pretty much full time since January of this year besides the time I spend on School of Sellers stuff.
Erin: Awesome. Okay. So let’s like set the stage for this story, right? So where does the story begin?
Katie: So to set the stage a little, I had been working hard on a product that I was super proud of. Basically, the concept is it’s this ugly Christmas sweater activity. And as part of the activity, students learn about the history of ugly sweaters and why they became a Christmas tradition. They also learn about different elements that go into designing sweaters. Like they mostly have patterns and they use certain colors and they have images and text. And they also learn a little bit about color psychology.
At the end, the assignment is for them to design a sweater for a historical figure. And they have to justify the decisions they made. So for example, a sweater about Teddy Roosevelt might have a giant moose on it because he was a member of the Bull Moose Party and I would use green on the sweater to represent his love of nature and other stuff.
Erin: That’s so good.
Katie: Yeah. So I loved the activity. I was super proud of it. I had been showing it to so many people. Like I made Amber look at it. I made Ashley look at it. I made my friend Micah look at it. And I was just like really excited to get it out there. And I decided to make it a product line too. So instead of just having one set of sweaters, I had a U.S. history set and a world history set and scientists and inventors and whatever. And I added it all to TpT, and I was so proud of it, I decided to share it everywhere. And I’m not the greatest in marketing, but I went full out for this. So I’m talking like a blog post, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook ads. I even sent an email and note to followers.
So it paid off and sales picked up. Like for a new product, I was getting more sales than usual, and I was really happy about it. Then we’ll fast forward two weeks later. So I get a review notification on my phone. The cha-chings make everyone happy. The reviews, sometimes. Q&As, not usually. But it was like midnight, and I like to provide good customer service.
So I read it just to make sure it wasn’t anything to address. And I was like, oh, it’s an ugly sweater review. Like yay, so awesome. And then I kept looking, and things were, in fact, not awesome. So I saw it was a one-star review, and my stomach just dropped. I’m sure you’ve had the feeling before. It’s terrible. Not only was it a one-star review, but it was like a scathing review. And I looked it up today for this story so we could have the actual text.
Erin: I love it.
Katie: And so the teacher said, “Extremely disappointed to find an absolutely inappropriate and vulgar image in the PowerPoint presentation. Shocking this image would be included for a school resource. Good thing it’s editable so I could delete it ASAP. I could have seriously lost my job over this. I’m thoroughly disgusted.” So this is like the worst review I’ve ever gotten. And like I said, it was like midnight, and I’m just like feeling sick. And I have absolutely no idea what she’s talking about. Like I said, so many people had looked at this resource already, right? And it was out there. It was out in the world.
Erin: Let’s unpack her review real fast. I don’t know which part is worse, the thoroughly disgusted part or the I could lose my job over this. Like I’m not sure which one would make my stomach drop more to read.
Katie: Right. And like I said, I had absolutely zero idea what she was talking about. I was like, is this even the right product? Is she talking about my resource? Because it doesn’t have any details besides that there’s a PowerPoint that’s editable. And so I was like, okay, it could be anyone’s resource. So I messaged her back, and I was like, hey, can you please email me so we can get this figured out. But I’m like feeling anxious about it, right? Because it’s a one-star review. It’s terrible.
So I texted Ashley who was by some miracle awake even though it was midnight. And then I texted my friend Micah, and we’re all pouring over the resource. Like what the hell is this lady talking about? And it was like we all realized at the same exact time. And the texts start flying. We all realized, like we see which image she’s talking about, and we’re like, oh my god. As part of the PowerPoint, I wanted to provide some examples of real life images of these sweaters. And I was having trouble finding images on my usual like go-to image sources. And so I did something really dumb, and I just took like two from Google.
Katie: I’ve learned my lesson since then. Like I’ve learned it. Trust me. Over and over. So I was looking at the image, and it was the sweater was two reindeer. And normally, you’d be like, oh, cute, two reindeer, that’s adorable. But it just so happens that one of those reindeer was mounting the other reindeer. So I had included an example sweater with two humping reindeer on it in my resource. And remember, to go back to like a few details about this already, how many people looked at it? Ashley looked at it. Micah looked at it. Amber looked at it. I had looked at it for hours. Never noticed.
Erin: Oh my gosh.
Katie: I know. And then remember I had turned it into a product line. So it’s not just one resource because I work smarter, not harder and I like to batch things. They all had the same PowerPoint in them. And so it wasn’t just one resource. It was like 11 resources. And remember I told you I’d shared it everywhere. So at this point, it was in the hands of hundreds of teachers before anyone noticed.
Erin: Was this page in the product or the preview or both?
Katie: It was just in the product.
Erin: Okay. So thank goodness it wasn’t in, I just like to look on the bright side. So thank goodness it wasn’t in the preview at least. Although if it was, you probably would have heard about it sooner.
Katie: It’s true. So it’s midnight, I’m freaking the hell out as I’m sure you can imagine. Like this is just the start. Like this lady’s my first one-star review. There’s hundreds of other teachers out there that have this. Like this is going to be a huge problem. So I pull out my laptop, I fixed it for all 11 resources, it took hours. And I was like okay, well, like I’ve done what I could. I checked the little update box letting people know that there was an inappropriate image and that they should download the new one. But TpT should really send a notification or an email or something for product updates for situations like this. Just a personal aside.
Erin: Yeah. So what was the final consensus with that original customer?
Katie: So it gets even worse because she emailed me the next day. And I was like, thank God, she took the time to do that. Like I really appreciate it. But she told me the story of how she realized that the sweater had the humping reindeer. So she had shown it to a class full of fourth graders, and this resource was tagged sixth through ninth grade. So like she shouldn’t have even been using it. But whatever. I’ll forgive her.
And then not only did she show it to her entire class of fourth graders, but she also sent it home to some distance learners, and distance learners tend to get a lot of help from their parents. So the first person to notice the reindeer sweater was one of these distance learners’ mom. And instead of going to the teacher and being like, hey, there’s this inappropriate image you might want to check out, she went straight to the principal. So the principal calls in the teacher, of course, and is like what the, like you can’t be showing these images to fourth graders. And so she had to explain she got it from TpT which is terrible.
So I did everything I could. I apologized profusely. I explained that it was an accident and that I had had multiple people look at it and none of us noticed. And I sent her a sizable TpT gift card. And like she was like, look, I understand these things happen. She was pretty cool about it. And so that’s pretty much how it ended.
Erin: Well, thank goodness that you heard about it from her. I mean it really could have been so much worse. But you know what? Well, we had the same conversation with another seller who shared their scary story, and it kind of brought to light the need for like, when I think of proofread, I purely think about the text. I never think about checking my images. Because why would you? So definitely a good lesson for all sellers especially with all of the photo sources we have these days.
Katie: Yeah. I’m much more careful about any photos I put in anything now obviously. I’ve gotten a couple more negative reviews from the resource of people who didn’t download the updated version. And now that Christmas is coming up soon, I’m already stressing about it. Like oh God, it’s humping reindeer season. Like I know I’m going to get some new teacher who still hasn’t downloaded the updated resource.
Erin: Oh yeah, I hate that. I hate that. That’s so frustrating. Oh my God. Well, hopefully not.
Katie: So if anyone’s looking for a fun social studies activity this holiday season, it’s humping reindeer free at this point!
Erin: Totally G-rated. It’s totally good. Well, thank you for sharing. That is seriously just such a good story. And I think we’ll have to include, can we include the reindeer picture in the show notes do you think?
Katie: I think you’d have to at this point. I also found the picture again, and that sweater is called, Reindeer Climax was the name of the sweater I chose.
Erin: That’s even better.
Katie: So that was an extra added layer of fun.
Erin: That’s amazing. And I just remembered you did a TikTok about it too. So if you really want to see it before the show notes come out and you’re listening to this, you can go to our TikTok and search back. It’s there. It’s a good one. That was a really, really good one. Okay. So I’m asking everyone a Halloween themed question to end our episode. So I want to know what is your favorite Halloween costume that you’ve ever had like in your entire life? It could be kid or adult.
Katie: This is a bad question for me, Erin.
Katie: I like have dressed up for Halloween like three times in my life. I mean I guess my favorite costume is my, it’s the same profile picture I use for our Slack messages. So like it’s not even like anyone specific. It’s just like me and like a moo moo with terrible hair and makeup on and I’ve got a cigarette hanging out the corner of my mouth. It was one of the last times I dressed up for Halloween. So we will not be sharing that on our TikTok or Facebook group.
Erin: Well, we have to draw the line somewhere.
Katie: That’s right.
Erin: I love that. Okay. Well, thanks again. I appreciate it, and again, I can’t wait for this story to be shared with all of our friends.
Katie: You’re welcome. And thanks for having me.
Erin: And that’s a wrap, my friends. I hope you have a wonderful Halloween, and thanks again to our sellers who were brave enough to share their spooky stories with the rest of us. I will see you here again same time, same place next week.
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