Disclaimer: I launched this project whilst I was on holiday. I drink heavily on holidays. The below is what I think is an accurate recount of how shit went down. The writing is all over the place, but truthfully the entire experience was all over the place as well.
I’ve found that people think differently on New Year’s Eve. Most reflect back on the past 12 months and are either satisfied with their year or decide that the next 12 will be better. I fell into the latter. It’s not that I was unhappy with 2014; it’s just that I knew I could be doing a hell of a lot more. I had sunken into a creative lapse whereby I wasn’t bringing out anything new, just relying on recurring income to pay the bills and fuel my addictions. So, like everyone else on NYE, I decided to own the next 12 months. I promised myself to work on more projects and so on December 31st I registered the domain name www.shipyourenemiesglitter.com – an idea I had for a while but thought was so fucking ridiculous that I’d be wasting my time.
The basic premise is that most sane people hate glitter. If anything has glitter on it, personally I’ll avoid it like the plague. Man, if there was a $100 bill on the ground but it was covered in a shit ton of glitter, I’d probably not bother picking it up. The idea was that people could come to the website and purchase a glitter-filled envelope that would be sent to people they know and/or hate. It would have a letter inside that tells the person that they’re horrible, and upon opening glitter would fall out everywhere. Both pretty simple, and pretty stupid. So eventually I thought screw it; it will keep me busy for a few days and it might even spark a better idea. After recovering from a heavy NYE, I got started.
In the past, everything I had ever built online was based upon WordPress. I wanted to make a change from the clunkiness of using it, and I always like to learn a few things, so I opted to use Bootstrap with a free theme. Using this for the first time it was extremely easy to get a lightweight site setup and best of all it was all finished within 48 hours. The content to write, however, took longer – but that didn’t matter as I was still waiting on a custom illustration I had commissioned. I wanted the content to come across as a pissed off dude shipping glitter to people just so they can experience something terrible. The illustration was created by someone I found on Reddit and it only cost me 20 bucks. The total cost to get everything up and running was just under $30.00 (excluding web hosting which I already had with Media Temple).
So let’s fast forward a few days until the January 11th. The site was sitting dormant, waiting for the illustration and I was scheduled to go on holiday from the 11th until the 17th. I used to enjoy going on holiday, a chance to get away from the stress of the online world and just kick back and relax. I had booked a place in Sydney for the APIA Sydney International, a week long tennis event that I was attending with a friend. If people aren’t familiar with me, I take my computer with me everywhere. I don’t own a laptop that can hold a charge for over 60 seconds, so it’s the best I can do. We checked into the holiday house that I booked via Airbnb and got everything set up. The next day (the 12th), the illustration was finally done, so after uploading it to the website I decided that it was time to launch.
The website went live and I did the following things:
– Submitted it to Reddit
– Submitted it to Product Hunt
– Sent out a tweet from my personal Twitter account
– Emailed 2 journalists talking about how it was going to change the world – more for shits ‘n’ gigs
I think it’s pretty obvious why it was launched on those 2 sites. Blogs and news outlets scour those aggregators for stories, so if a particular story does well there then it will quickly spread. Now my thought process was that it might be picked up by a few blogs and do semi-okay on Reddit, so we headed out for the tennis with no expectations and with the site in the back of our minds.
We arrived near Sydney Olympic Park and the place was packed. We’re talking lines and lines of cars for miles. Apparently there was a soccer match on that night as well so it was going to take a bit to find a park. During that time, I decided to check the progress of the post on Reddit. To my surprise after only one hour it had received 50 upvotes. Strange. So I checked my emails and noticed a few notifications of payment received from PayPal. I thought this was about as big as it was going to get so after a few laughs we continued on. By the way – I’m not kidding when I say this place was packed, it would have had to be 20 minutes later and we’re still sitting in traffic. I do the same thing again; I check Reddit and my emails. The upvotes were in triple digits and the orders were in double digits.
Somehow I could sense shit was about to go down, so we turned the car around, abandoned the tennis and decided to ride this out. Oh, we stopped for alcohol as well because we thought it would make the experience ten times funnier, which turns out made it both entertaining and hilariously terrible – more on that later.
Alright, so we’re back at the house and orders are in triple digits. I have to also mention that at this point I was completely unprepared. There were no envelopes, no glitter, nor had I even started writing the letter that was supposed to go inside. Just to reinforce how badly I was prepared, I had setup the user to be redirected to a /thankyou page after making payment and that fucking 404’d because I didn’t even set up the page. The only reason I found out was because a user had made payments and then got the 404. Man, what I would have done to know in advance that glitter was going to fuck me on this holiday. Not long after the site was accepted on Product Hunt & the Reddit upvotes had surpassed 1,000 and this thing was starting to take off very quickly. It would later end up with a total of 4,500 upvotes and become the 5th most upvoted submission of all time on the /r/internetisbeautiful subreddit. It’s also, I think, in the top 10 of all time on Product Hunt. All pretty cool, right?
Later that night we started drinking, that’s when things got really interesting. By this point I was hesitant to refresh my emails because they were coming in way too quickly. The press emails also started coming in which we should have ignored until the morning but we wanted to have a bit of fun. I remember an interview I did with ABC over the phone where every other word was either fuck or dicks. I’m 99% sure it was entirely unusable and I don’t think it was ever aired, but hats off to that dude for playing along with what is easily one of the worst interviews he’d ever conducted, and I’d ever given. From then on it was decided that me using the phone was a bit of a liability so we refused any further requests for calls.
A few funny points on that:
– 1 reporter called me out and implied everything was a bit sketchy because I didn’t want to jump on the phone immediately. It seems nowadays if you’re not willing to receive a call then it somehow reduces your credibility?
– At one stage I thought to give my friend the chance to answer some interview questions over the phone where he can pretend to be me. We okay the reporter via email, hand out the phone number and straightaway the call comes in. My friend answers, and then completely freezes. Doesn’t say anything for what felt like eternity before he then just hangs up. That had me in absolute hysterics.
– Received a phone call from what seemed like a conference call with 2 people on the other end saying they were from Google. They wanted to talk about putting ads on the site and utilising Adwords. I completely broke my promise of answering calls drunk and unfortunately was a bit of a dick on the phone telling them I had to be crazy to throw up some ads. Sorry about that, Google!
That night I don’t think we slept for more than an hour or two. I had an issue that all of the emails were going to my email address associated with my ISP which is limited in storage space to 10 FUCKING MEGABYTES. That’s right, if you send me a HQ photo of 11MB, that motherfucker will bounce. So now I was on a race to delete unneeded emails whilst hundreds more came in every few minutes. This was a manual process and something that shouldn’t have been done whilst intoxicated. We later switched emails but not before deleting every single one of my emails from before that night.
Alright, fast forward to the next day. Cue massive hangover. Cue massive regrets remembering what was said on the phone. Cue remembering I had taken thousands of orders that I wasn’t ready for. Cue no fucking painkillers in sight. The perfect recipe for a fun day.
By now, this thing was everywhere. Press requests were coming in by the hundreds. People were starting to call these things “glitter bombs” – which I disliked. I had emails from people asking if this thing was going to explode. Like really? You want me to send something via the postal system that is going to fucking explode? Jesus H. Christ. I even had an email from a major TV show in America that wanted me to go on for a demonstration of this “glitter bomb”. I mean, if I said yes I’d walk onstage, open up an envelope, take out the letter, glitter would fall to the floor and that’d be it. I’d walk offstage and the segment would be over in 30 seconds. Admittedly it would probably make better TV than some of the shows currently on air, but I digress.
It was about this time that I started to think that I should probably stop taking orders. I quickly jumped in the shower and came back to my friend looking worried whilst cleaning the place in what looked like a frenzied state. Yeah, he was stress cleaning. Hilarious, but I was curious as to why. Apparently the orders were up to 2,300 and there was no end in sight. Remember: there were no envelopes and no glitter. Most importantly though, there were no painkillers in sight. So that was that, the order form was removed. Cue hundreds of angry emails.
As someone in internet marketing, I kick myself now for taking so long to add a subscription form onto the website when I took down the order form. It took me what… 2-3 days. The form ended up with something like 6,000 subscribers all waiting to purchase from the site again. If I put it up when the site was peaking I have no doubts it would have been 10-20k+
With all of the traffic the site was getting, it was tough for it to stay up with just my grid server over at Media Temple. I reached out for some help and they took care of it. Not only did they allocate more resources, they also took care of the bill (I think it came to around $400) for the few days. Big props to them and I’m glad that’s where I host all of my websites.
Now, let’s break this up a bit with 2 of the strangest emails I received from people:
The first: If I told you that you can do a search in the Ship Your Enemies Glitter inbox for the word “prostitution” and something would appear – would you believe me? You should. I got an invite to go on a holiday with a group of people who thought I seemed cool (which of course, I totally am) to some exotic island getaway place, where not only was there great liquor and gambling, but prostitution. Yeah, they were completely serious. I was intrigued for about 3 seconds until I realised that I liked having all my organs inside of me. Here’s a screenshot of the email (slightly edited): LINK
The second: I received in excess of 50 emails from people asking if I needed help or was hiring. One woman sent through an email which read like all the others, ‘I’m a 30 year old woman from the U.S. who would like to help out etc.’ – I would have clicked over it quickly if it wasn’t for an email sent directly after it from the same person with the subject line “PS I’m hot” with 2 attached, raunchy photos. That email was almost as strange as the first one. Oh, yeah, I replied with “nice”. Here’s the photo: LINK
Back to the site. I opened up PayPal and saw just over $20,000 sitting there. I have had one $20,000 day before via PayPal, but I’ve read enough horror stories to know that a freeze or hold is only moments away. That said, I was asking for it by calling PayPal out on the SYEG website. “You’ll then be taken off this shitty website for payment processing via PayPal. Yes, we know PayPal is a shitty company, hell why not send those dicks some glitter?” Seems though I lucked out though, as the account was never was frozen and we even had someone from PayPal get in touch, offer to help, and mentioned that the PayPal office was having a laugh with it.
There was a point in time after removing the order form & not being prepared where I contemplated refunding all of the orders. This was going to be a logistal nightmare, going through PayPal and manually refunding all 2,300 orders. I thought this would look incredibly suspicious to PayPal & it would only take a few hundred before my account was flagged & frozen. If I did choose to opt for this decision I had the fall back of now having several PayPal employees contact information since they got in touch with me earlier that week. Now this wasn’t a small thought in the back of my mind, at a few stages throughout the day I had settle on refunds, then I’d switch back to deciding to process them all. I went back and forth several times, making pros and cons for both options and in the end I decide to soldier on but I was so close to starting those refunds.
Okay so let’s move on to January 15th, this is the day that I decided I wanted to sell the website. The decision wasn’t that difficult, but it copped a lot of hate across the web. “Hire employees to do it for you” was the most vocal argument for continuing on with the site. I guess now is the best time to tell those people: fuck you. You seriously think the best course of action right then was to bring in employees? Are you fucking retarded? Do you have any idea what happens to viral projects? I’ll give you a hint: they gain traction really quickly and then the interest dies off almost as quickly. If you don’t have the existing infrastructure or employees to fulfil the orders, then you’re gonna have a bad time. The new owner had this both of these things in place and so was able to quickly capitalise. I’m happy for him, but for me this wasn’t a “hire employees” situation.
I put up a tweet which caught the attention of even more press, all of which started reporting on it. I received a lot of private offers via email which was absolute chaos. The vetting process and the negotiating – both combined with a lot of alcohol – and a ton of emails both from potential customers and press, did my head in. When I say that we were getting hounded by press I really mean it. My phone number was somehow found and this is just one example of someone from a radio station getting in touch to try and get me to go on. Check out this screenshot: LINK
Anyway, I wasn’t having much luck finding the right buyer, but luckily on January 16th I got an email from Joseph who works at Flippa. If you don’t know what Flippa is, check out their Wikipedia page. Apparently they had been getting inundated with emails from some of their users asking if we were going to list on their marketplace. We went back and forth for a while, and eventually decided to list it in a 7 day auction with the starting price of $1. Within the first day the auction received over 300 bids and quickly hit the reserve price of $60k, with the price sitting at $61,100. It eventually became Flippa’s most active auction of all time – which is pretty fucking cool.
If we briefly go back to people offering to buy the site via email, the largest offer I received (I think) was around $50k so for the auction to hit $60k within the first day you can imagine I was pretty happy. I really had no idea what it would sell for, I was just happy to get paid and get out of this niche as quickly as I had gotten in to it. I also want to point out that by this time, I still hadn’t bought any envelopes, let alone packed and sent them. We were able to find a store that sold envelopes so I picked up 2,500 and also finished up writing the letter that goes inside, then had that printed. Oh – we got the strangest look from the person at the printing place when we asked for 2,500 copies of this vulgar, ridiculous letter.
Back to the auction, over the next few days the questions were coming in thick and fast from interested buyers. The media was reporting on the auction and constantly sending through questions, all while I was working closely with Flippa trying to get the highest price. The auction went up to around $70k but then didn’t move for a few days – I thought it was going to finish at that price, which I was obviously happy with, but Joseph informed me that there’s usually a late flurry of bids at the very end of a Flippa auction. A problem that did come up was that every person who bidded was going to have to be vetted. This meant that Flippa would get in touch with the buyer to get a bit more information about them, as well as see if they had the capability to actually pay if they won the auction. Doing this ensured that when the auction ended, it was definitely sold, however, it also meant that the actual number of qualified bidders didn’t truly reflect the amount of interested bidders and this altered how it was perceived publicly.
If we fast forward to the last hour of the auction this is where things got interesting. The bid was at something like $70,600 and the auction unexpectedly ended an hour early because of a technical glitch. The highest bidder at the time thought they won the auction and eventually ended up leaving me negative feedback on Flippa (LOL). Joseph got the guys to fix it up but that wasn’t the only issue. There was something like 30 minutes left and Flippa crashes. I was told the amount of traffic this auction was generating caused the site to crash. The Ship Your Enemies Glitter auction caused Flippa to crash. Joseph apologized, but I thought it was funny as fuck. A couple of minutes later the site is back up with the same bid as before Flippa went down.
This next part is where Joseph directly made me an additional $15k. With time winding down, we talked about adding a buy it now, basically the ability for someone to snap up the auction for a set price. We started at $115k and as time went on it slowly decreased. About 3 minutes before the auction was going to end, the BIN was set at $85,000 and someone hit the button – it was sold. Just like that, this buyer didn’t want to wait 3 minutes and risk placing a bid, instead they opted to pay the extra money to guarantee they would win the auction. Crazy stuff. I also learned that the auction price was in USD, not AUD so that made things even better. The conversion rate made that $85K USD into something like $105,000AUD – which was awesome. The auction ending with a successful sale was such a huge relief that I just walked away from the computer and laid down on the bed. My phone was still buzzing and I could hear new emails coming through, but it was the first time on this holiday that I felt relaxed (did you remember I was still on holiday?). Of course, I shouldn’t have been lying down, because there was still so much more shit to do.
So the auction ended and I start communication with the buyer. I write up a few how-to’s, take a copy of the site and try and get things organised. The buyer is a man named Peter from the U.S., he runs a few different companies. I later learned from talking with him that his background is similar to mine; he was selling products whilst in school, both on eBay and offline, and his first business had a similar fate to the one I ran when I was 16. Great minds, eh? Escrow went smoothly, the site transfer was hassle free and after only about 9 days I was no longer the owner of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com. The issue now was sending out the orders I had already received.
Here are a couple of random photos of the orders:
The holiday ended and I was back at home. I had 7KG of glitter shipped to my place whilst I was away, however, it didn’t arrive until 2-3 days after I got back, which meant I had to empty the shelves of all the local craft stores. The whole first batch was a clusterfuck. The glitter I was using was so fine that if there was any tiny bit of air inside the envelope, when it was touched or pressed down the fucking stuff would fly out of the small gaps in the envelopes. I hated glitter before I started, but this shit not cooperating was driving me completely insane. No matter how I folded the letter, inserted it into the envelope, or how I put the glitter on the letter, mattered. This stuff just somehow made its way out of the sealed envelope.
Taking the first batch down to the post office was hilariously terrible. I was unfamiliar with bulk processing of envelopes, so here I am with hundreds of envelopes all going to different places around the world, unorganised and not only leaking glitter, but also shooting out of the envelopes whenever they were touched. The post office desk was covered in this shit by the time I was done. I’m 100% certain if I went there right now I’d be able to find some still hanging around.
Packing 2,300 of these envelopes like this was obviously not going to work, it was just too messy at the post office and I had a feeling they’d ban me soon, so I had to change tactics. I decided to add sticky tape to all of the edges which a) looked absolutely terrible and b) took up a lot more time. It was probably adding a solid 15-30 seconds onto each order – which over 2,300 orders, adds up. I did this for a day or two until the big 7KG rocked up. Luckily for me, this wasn’t the same fine glitter product that I had been using; this one was a bit thicker but overall it still had the same effect. I did one order with this new stuff and then shook the shit out of the envelope to see if it leaked. Nope! Thank fuck. I removed the sticky tape from the process and shit sped back up again. Oh – and the post office was eternally grateful.
It took a hell-of-a-lot of time, thousands of dollars in shipping fees and endless trips to the post office, but eventually I was done. This was probably the first time I felt like I truly was out of the glitter business. For good.
A fair amount of people were questioning the legality of a service like this. I didn’t consult a lawyer (obviously) but I thought everything was in the clear. We never received any notices about legal action or anything of that nature however we did receive 2 emails from 2 different people who were looking to cash in:
– the first was from some photographer who claimed we were using a photo of his. He sent through the preview of his own however it wasn’t anywhere similar to anything we had on the site. Dude was tripping balls. I think he demanded like $7,000.
– the second was from a pissed off dude that wanted to buy the site via email. I was entertaining offers & never agreed to anything & yet when I told him that I was listing the site for sale on Flippa he told me to expect to him from his attorneys. I just laughed it off & ignored the email. Never did hear from them.
Something I found funny was the amount of clones that appeared once the site went viral. I’d estimate easily between 100-200 trying to cash in both with picking up sales & by trying to flip their sites on Flippa. Even if you go to Flippa now & type in glitter you can see “134 Listings matching ‘glitter'” & if you take a look at some of those domains, people have really gone all out on choosing domain names. A few of my favorites:
– eatglitterbitch.com – bit fucking hostile there
– sendyourbabydaddyglitter.com – how fucking niche can you get?
With that said, the website did spawn a few creative takes on the niche that shipyourenemiesglitter created. A few examples:
– www.picklewizard.com – this website is shipping people a single slice of a pickle. According to the website he’s received over 397 orders & he told me via email that on the first day he had over $600 in sales. Let that sink in.
– www.glittergone.com – this website offers a creative solution to removing glitter. It also sells a glitter removal information brochure.
– www.shipsnowyo.com – this website says it will “ship your friends, family and enemies fresh snow from Boston.” It’s gotten a lot of media coverage & should be doing quite well.
With all of that said and done, it may sound like I had a negative experience, but there were still a lot of positives:
– The whole week long experience riding the wave of a project going viral can be insanely fun especially, when you’re drinking and you’re around friends. For example, my friend would make up the weirdest fucking quotes to see if they would get published. Two of the funniest:
“The house looks like it’s 1975 and Donna Summer has just hit the stage. ” – we have no fucking idea what that means but it still was published
– The website paid for itself – as I said before, the whole thing cost around $30 so I made a bit of money.
– I made a lot of great contacts with journalists. They’ll probably never talk to me again after all the shit I pulled, but still.
– I got to play the ‘pissed off glitter guy’ character for a few weeks, which was fun.
– Most importantly I met a lot of incredibly talented people.
So there it is, the Ship Your Enemies Glitter story. There’s probably a lot more that I can’t remember, but if it comes back to me I’ll update this post accordingly. My aim now is to move onto other projects and try to put the whole glitter thing to bed – none of which is full of fucking glitter.