Can I Get a Custom Toy: The State of Affairs Concerning MTO's
Squish here with some hot takes and updates!
Please be aware that this is a bit more of a personal post than our normal content.
Holding out for the perfect custom toy? Sure does seem like HPE never has customs open.
Welp, the long and short of it is:
HPE has not offered customs in years, and has no plans to offer fully custom items again in the future (unless you're the lucky winner of a giveaway).
We have periodically opened up made-to-order selections over the years, ranging from seasonal colors to fully random surprise pours.
Our latest round of MTO's concluded in 08/23.
Okay... But I can still get one in the future. Right?
Beyond possible surprise pours, Kit events, and Lockered/Retired events, MTO’s will not be returning in any significant capacity in the near future unless there is some unforeseen emergency on our part.
I am so very sorry to do this.
We have opened and closed MTO’s quite a few times in the past, and I feel absolutely terrible about it. The lack of consistency is very confusing and frustrating, I’m sure.
Our most recent rounds of MTO’s on Etsy, and now on the main store, were a trial run to test the waters again, and the waters are rough. Too rough for us to sustainably traverse.
Why aren't you offering made-to-order options anymore?
To be completely transparent, HPE has almost unilaterally been negatively impacted every time we open MTO’s.
The vast majority of customer experiences are positive, and people have always been appreciative when we’ve offered MTO items! We’re incredibly thankful on that front.
However, MTO’s are excessively time consuming. They take a high level of effort and result in a lot of items that need to be redone in order to meet our standards of color discrepancy. And, more to the point, they are excessively stressful, to significant personal affect.
For those of you new to the Entourage, HPE does not usually offer anything other than ready-made inventory items.
With the exception of a handful of specialty events, we have not offered made-to-order items in any meaningful capacity for years.
Many moons ago, when we were a very young business, we had full customs open full time. To my recollection, we were one of few indie businesses at the time that offered custom items infinitum. It almost resulted in us leaving the industry due to the stress.
It was very difficult to keep up with, and we eventually moved to guided surprises, which are a hybrid of a custom and a random surprise. We experienced the same issues.
Following that, we tried full surprises, to similar results.
Over the past couple years, we’ve done readymade, ready-to-ship inventory only. It’s been pretty rad.
I deeply apologize to anyone that is holding out hope for the perfect custom.
The only time we’re likely to ever offer custom work again is as a prize for giveaways and the like.
Any MTO’s we do in the future will most likely be random surprises in terms of coloration.
Concerning MTO’s, while I can say most customers are an absolute joy to work with, some are not. And the ones that are not are loud, persistent, and more draining than I can truthfully articulate in a professional manner. Imagine working in retail, except you are a faceless service entity on the internet, where some customers do not feel bound by social norms of civility and have all the time in the world to craft the perfect, hurtful response to your attempts to provide fair and equitable service.
It can be rough. Very, very rough.
I, Squish, am the sole social media manager and customer service representative (not to mention the primary pourer of the dongles themselves).
I have a laughably hard time saying “no,” due to a lot of unfortunate personal history.
For those of you have been on the receiving end of a “no,” or a “Per our Terms of Service…” or a “We appreciate your feedback and wish you luck elsewhere,” etc., please know that that is not an easy thing to do. It is incredibly difficult, and the personal toll that takes is significant, to put it lightly. It is so, so much easier to give in to every request, every demand, to offer refunds, freebies, or favors for every perceived issue or slight. But it is not sustainable, and it is not reasonable to do so.
As a business owner I have a responsibility to myself and my employees to make sure that we are doing what we should reasonably be doing, not necessarily what is easiest.
Our Terms and FAQ are in place for a reason.
They are expressed in great detail in multiple formats. They must be agreed to before purchase. We remind people regularly to read them. We are as upfront and transparent as possible, and try to provide as much information as we can before customers commit to supporting us.
We do not want people to have a negative experience! These items should be fun and whimsical, and we’d like the customer experience to match that positive energy.
For the most part, we have very good experiences! Quite often we go through a drop cycle without any customer issues beyond the occasional technical hiccup, address change, etc. Most customers are kind, understanding, and reasonable. Just good beans all around. And again, we are incredibly, deeply thankful for how lovely most of the dongle community is.
It's unfortunate when our Terms do not align with customer preferences though.
I get it! It sucks being told something you don’t want to hear, especially when you’ve given someone your hard-earned cash monies for a product/service! That is why we try to make it clear what you are receiving before purchase. We want to avoid hard feelings, confusion, and negativity. We want customers to be informed.
That being said, we are not Amazon. We are three weirdos in a basement.
We are self made. We do not have formal training. We do not have multiple departments. We do not have extensive facilities or access to many of the systems, perks, manpower, and money pool that big businesses do.
We’re lil indie guys doing the best we can.
We sell artisanal, handmade goods. Not mass, factory produced copies.
We literally craft each of these items, individually, by hand (which I will forever think is cool as heck, but that’s beside the current point).
I’m sure y’all have heard from many other stores of the joys, trials, and tribulations of small business ownership.
It is amazing and wonderful and horrible all at once, and it takes a lot of dedication, stubbornness, and luck to make it work. Especially in today’s world.
Burnout is very real, y’all, and it is a monster to deal with.
And not the sexy kind of monster.
All this to say, we’re trying to do what we can do without losing ourselves in the process.
MTO’s are too difficult for us to continue offering.
We can’t reliably reproduce artisanal, hand mixed seasonal colors a hundred times over and not have some discrepancy. We can’t reliably meet the very high expectations that offering true customs entails. I’m not even sure how I feel about offering random pours in the future as that, too, leads to some very unrealistic expectations.
I understand how frustrating it is when you’re on the hunt for that special friend, only to realize that we’ve only produced one item in the exact size, firmness, and color you were hoping for. Or when we haven’t produced an item with the perfect specs in months.
Unfortunately that is the name of the game in one-of-a-kind, handmade goods.
They’re ooak for a reason, and there’s many more reasons why larger companies often don’t offer the kinds of crazy models, colors, and pour styles that you see indies producing. It’s too difficult; realistically not worth the additional cost, time, manpower, potential flops and repours.
I want to keep making beautiful, unique, and crazy items! I want to keep making things that have people saying, “Omg, wtf, I’ve never seen this before??” I love hearing from people that have found themselves and their niche in the fantasy sex toy community. I love seeing how much joy these silly little objects can bring, and how much of a positive impact they can make.
In order to do that, the HPE crew needs to do what we can to prevent burnout, and to keep the flame of dongsmithing alive in our squishy hearts.
I know it's a bit "much," but I did want to pull the veil back a bit here and give some insight into the going's ons.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my little essay!