New Store Layout! Hope you enjoy!
February 03, 2022
If you’re familiar with our shop from our Twitter presence, you may have heard us throw the words “Friend Request” around and wondered “What the heck is that?” Well good news! I’m here to write up a nice long blog post to help you understand what the heck these things we call Friend Requests really are!
Basically, Friend Requests are our made-to-order listings. A lot of shops take custom orders, but we don’t. Strange Bedfellas mostly relies on inventory drops to get new products in the shop. We are a very small team and in the past we’ve found custom orders to be more work than we can properly handle. We’ve also worried that opening unlimited made-to-order listings will result in overwhelming the team as they try to keep up with drop inventory. So we decided to try out a system where we occasionally open up for made-to-order listings with a manageable number of options. That’s Friend Requests!
Made-to-Order? What’s that mean?
When I say made-to-order listings what I’m describing is a system where you place an order for a toy of the model/size/firmness/color option of your choice and we make you a toy that fills the order. This is not pre-made inventory sitting in a bin waiting to be shipped once an order is placed. Made-to-order toys take longer to make and ship, so Friend Requests take a bit longer to receive once you’ve placed your order. We do not provide a finished photo of your toy before we ship it. Instead we provide example photos of the different color styles available and do our best to guarantee that the toy you receive will fulfill the expectations we lay out in the listing.
So how long does it take to make my Friend Request?
Well, that depends on our queue, but we generally like to say it’s about 2 to 4 weeks wait for a Friend Request order. That’s the time from when you place the order to when we ship the order. We very much try to only take on as many orders as we can easily complete in a 2 week time frame. In past experience, most orders ship in about 2 weeks, but we like to pad in some wiggle room for the team. As I’ve mentioned, we’re a small team and one little thing going wrong can really set us back. We will always list the expected wait time at the top of the Friend Request listings in the shop so you can see them before you buy. If there comes a time when we expect to exceed the listed wait time, we will absolutely get in touch with customers with outstanding orders and offer updates and possible options for refunds.
Okay, let’s go back a little. How do I order a Friend Request?
Friend Request listings show up in our shop alongside our regular inventory! We’ll notify folks through our Twitter page when we’re opening up for Friend Request orders and you’ll be able to spot them easily in the shop. They’ll be tagged for easy filtering as well.
Due to limitations of the Shopify storefront system, we have to break up the listings quite a bit. They’re arranged by size and then model. For instance, one listing for Small toys will have small Batou, small Ceela, small Fornax, and small Joh all available in it. If you want a small Lon you’ll have to find the listing that shows that model available. This information is shown in the image for the listing, so it’s not too hard to find (see image below for example).
Once you find the listing with the size and model you want just open it up and read through the disclaimers and options. There will be written descriptions and visual examples of the color options available. We try to have at least 3 color options as well as a Surprise Me! option to choose from. There are disclaimers that explain that the visual examples aren’t exactly what your toy will look like, they’re merely examples of what they COULD look like. We guarantee that you’ll be able to see all the colors listed in the description, but not the quantity or arrangement of those colors. We make no guarantees about anything for the Surprise Me! option other than that you will not receive a solid colored toy. This option is only for people who aren’t too picky and don’t mind truly being surprised. We do not take suggestions for the Surprise Me orders.
It’s also good to note that the different colors may vary depending on the firmness of silicone you choose. Most Friend Requests are available in all 3 options (super soft, soft, and medium), but there may be some size/model combos we don’t offer in a specific firmness (example: we do not make Royal Batous in medium silicone). Generally, the softer the silicone the more the colors will blend. Super Soft doesn’t tend to have as many crisp ripples as medium does. Some of this depends on the color, but it’s a good general rule to expect more blending on softer toys.
So once you’ve decided on a color from the available list you just click the drop down lists and select your options! Model, silicone firmness, and color all have to be chosen. Take your time with this part. These don’t sell out fast like inventory drops, so there’s no need to hurry through the options. We do not allow alterations to an order past the shop’s standard 2 hour cancellation window. Once all your options are chosen just click “add to cart” as you would with a standard toy and there you go! After you check out we’ll get your order into our queue to make your new toy!
Wait…I can’t change my order after I’ve placed it? Even if it takes you 2 weeks to make the thing?
You can make a change to your order within the usual 2 hour window after it’s been placed. I can go in and alter your options manually or I can cancel it all together. But every time I have to touch an order it takes time. Sadly, I don’t have enough time to constantly manage changes to the number of orders we get (150 for the last batch of Friend Requests). Also, every time I make a change on an order I have to make sure it’s changed across all the systems I use to track that order.
Once I get a batch of Friend Request orders I put everything onto a spreadsheet to organize it. This helps me manage production and keep track of toys that have been made, cleaned, and shipped no matter what part of the process they’re at. This is all managed by one person: Meesh (me). I’m also managing a LOT of other shop tasks at the same time, so there’s a lot of processing happening in my little brain every day. Any time an order has to be altered it requires a lot of focus to make sure that change is applied across the systems. Every time a change is made it increases the likelihood of a mistake being made somewhere. It’s a lot of pressure! So to save me from the anxiety, to keep things moving quickly and efficiently, we do not allow alteration to orders once that 2 hour window has passed.
Okay, fine. But what if I order more than one Friend Request? And maybe an inventory item? What then?
Anytime a Friend Request order is placed we will wait until the entire order is ready before we ship it out. If you order just one toy, we’ll make that toy and ship it once it’s made, cleaned, and bagged. If you order two, the same. If you order two toys and an inventory item we’ll wait until the toys are made and the inventory item will be shipped along with it. One box per order, one shipping label per box!
Makes sense, I guess. But how much do these things cost?
Friend Requests are always priced the same as regular inventory items. A small Tyv is $45 when you buy a pre-made inventory Tyv and it’s $45 when you order a Friend Request Tyv. Maybe some day we’ll charge more for super complicated colors, but for now it’s easier to just charge the same price across the board.
Okay, you mentioned that there’s some models you don’t offer. Why’s that?
Well, we really like to make as many models available as possible every time we open Friend Requests. If we’ve got good molds for a given model/size we’ll offer it up! But sometimes we…don’t have good molds. We recently had to take a couple of models out of circulation while their masters got resurfaced and new molds made. Whenever that’s the case, we’ll take that toy off the available list. That doesn’t happen too often, though. We have multiple molds for every model and size combo we offer (yes, even the Royal Batou).
Now there are also some toys we just haven’t figured out the best way to offer as Friend Requests. This includes Emme Eggs and Vibe Sleeves. I may offer the eggs as random pairs (for small eggs) or random singles (for medium eggs) at some point, but I haven’t decided yet. The thought of having to make sure our listings can handle the option of choosing your egg style and then having to keep track of those smaller details during production sounds like a headache for me. Same with the Vibe Sleeves. Offering the options to choose between the different styles and making sure I grab the right ones to make is a lot of extra little work. Additionally, we’re going to be remastering and adjusting some of the Vibe Sleeve models this year and I’m trying not make too many promises for those sad old molds.
So how often do you open up these Friend Requests?
Well, it’s been a while since we offered them regularly. We offer them for Black Friday every year for sure! But 2021 was a year of a lot of changes and I just couldn’t find the time to manage Friend Requests on top of all the other work being done. But now that we’re in our awesome new workshop and we have a whole extra person on staff, it’s time to fire them up again!
Generally I’m planning to open Friend Request batches once the previous batch has all been made and shipped. There will be things that delay them reopening (life events and holidays usually), but I’m going to really try to stay on top of them this year (2022) going forward. My hope is to take new batches every 4 to 6 weeks at the most. Sometimes we’ll use the same colors more than once, but I really like to change it up and get new color options for new rounds! We’ve got a nice backlog of color recipes and I’m asking the other crew members to start thinking of new colors we could cook up (Cassilda has been really excited about this task)!
I’m really hoping we can make Friend Requests a more steady offering in the shop. We really enjoy them! Having a set of toys we know we need to make in colors we don’t have to think too hard about is a nice way to take a break from pouring inventory toys. And since Friend Request toys don’t need to be photographed or listed once they’ve been made it means they’re less work in the long run, which we really appreciate!
Wow, this is a lot of info! What do I do if I have more questions?
Just send us an email! Contact Meesh at Meesh@StrangeBedfellas.com and all your questions will be answered (or at least attempted to be answered)!
Okay, now that those informative questions are out of the way I’m gonna talk about colors! Right now we’ve got like 15 different colors in our Friend Request library and wow that’s more than I expected! We made a lot of colors! I shouldn’t be that surprised, it’s kind of my favorite part of the process. I thought y’all might enjoy hearing about how we design our colors and why we do it that way.
When I first started these it was my intention to make simple colors that I could pour over and over again and make them look similar every time. The first batch of Friend Requests had 3 options made of 2-color combos and 1 option of a 3-color combo. Over time I realized that I liked 3-color combos more than 2-color combos, so the later options all had at least 3 colors. We got better at pouring silicone over time so it made sense for our options to improve!
When I’m designing a color combo I try to keep it simple so that it can be repeated easily. There are 4 of us pouring now and we all have our own styles. That’s why I don’t really guarantee or even try to get everyone to pour things the same way every time. Part of the beauty of these toys is how different they are from each other! But too much difference can mean unhappy customers, so I try to keep the formulas simple.
A basic Friend Request formula has 3 individual colors. Those colors are each made with a mix of pigments. We have wet pigments and dry pigments and interference micas (these are mostly the different colored sparkles). I prefer a single color have no more than 1 wet pigment, 1 dry pigment, and 1 interference pigment. Sometimes you can have 2 wet pigments, but it has to be formulated in such a way that there are no exact measurements needed. If you have a formula that asks for “a little bit of white” that could mean something different to each of us working with that formula. It’s easier to keep the formulas flexible. Also, we all see colors a little differently and trying to do exact color matching is…difficult.
So once we have some good color options for our formula it’s time to test! Whoever came up with the recipe gets to make the first example to see whether it’s got potential. If I like the color and think it’s something we can sell easily I’ll get the whole crew to do some testers. Everyone tries the same formula in different firmnesses so we can get some variety. If it gets through that test and still looks good then it’s ready to be prepped for adding to the library!
Once I’ve decided on a color I make sure to gather up all the samples I can and start taking photos. I’m still working on the best way to show off colors like this and my format for the color cards has changed. Graphic design is not something I’m terribly good at, so I do my best to make decent helpful graphics. Once I have those ready I can add the color to our listings!
A lot of folks ask for colors from our drops to be made into Friend Requests and unfortunately a lot of them just aren’t good candidates. For one thing, Steve and Avery rarely (or never) write down their recipes. A lot of it is just throwing stuff together on a whim or working on color matching for an hour. Neither of those is conducive to Friend Requests. Sometimes we can work back from a popular color to develop a Friend Request version of it. I think now that we’re starting to offer these listings again we’ll start really thinking about making colors we can replicate reliably.
Some of our pigments are more expensive and harder to get a hold of than others. Some pigments can be touchy to work with as well. Glow powders are a good example that can fall into both of those camps. These sorts of pigments usually don't end up in Friend Request colors, sadly.
Speaking of replicating colors, some of our older colors are going to have to be updated if we’re going to use them again. We’re always trying new pigments and sometimes we stop using older ones for some reason or another. Maybe they stopped making it, maybe it was clumpy, maybe we found a better color for that formula. There’s all sorts of reasons. But if you notice us doing a Version 2 of any color, that’s probably why. Slight change in formula. We also may have just come up with a better color combo and wanted to tweak the original with our updated experienced information! We do love progress.
I think that's about all I can think to say about Friend Requests for now. I'll end this post with a gallery of our older colors for you all to enjoy!
Here's the newest set of Friend Request colors. We updated/refreshed the formulas for these three colors for this release.
November 23, 2022
July 11, 2022
June 01, 2022