status update – what’s been going on lately

Last time I managed to grab a few uninterrupted minutes in order to try to post an update, I promised more info on what the hell is going on, since I know that clients and customers with current orders or services in-house are wondering just that – what in the hell is going on?!

The short version is that I’ve been behind for months now due to an absolutely unprecedented number of issues coming on the heels of each other and resulting in the lengthiest delays my clients and customers have ever experienced in the ten years since I opened up the online shop.[1] We were a little behind already as of August (due to a series of events since Spring that went something like this: new-storefront-building– -illness– -DSL-outage– -flood– -push-on-store-inventory-updates– –   DSL-outage– -power-outage– -back injury– -computer-crash– -DSL-outage—you get the idea).

But then we suffered two deaths in the family within a few weeks in late Aug/early Sep; this sort of thing is always significant even when it’s not entirely unexpected and doesn’t require out of town travel. Among other things, these losses resulted in my assistant Mary (who also happens to be a family member) having to take on some additional caregiving responsibilities in the family, which meant I was very suddenly without an assistant during a fairly busy time.  Angel came on board but was being trained from the ground up, and her training and on-the-clock time were interrupted by computer issues on her end and then her moving house. I am hoping to see her back with us again in November, but in the meanwhile I’ve been essentially without an assistant since August.

Now, as if all this wasn’t bad enough – almost a comedy of errors, really, the string of lousy luck – the icing on the cake was the three separate chargebacks within a three week period – and they were not from customers who had been waiting longer than the posted estimated handling times, which would almost be understandable were it not for the fact that I publish my estimated handling times and emphasize that they are only estimates *all over my web real estate in an attempt to prevent this kind of thing.* But they came from customers who simply didn’t bother to read those estimates before ordering (and then of course didn’t bother to read the instructions for inquiring about order status or package tracing but instead went straight to their credit card companies and reversed the charges, although in each case, they had been informed that their custom work had an estimated handling time of about 30 business days).

This resulted in my account being debited the amount for the orders. While the Terms of Service cover me because I publish my info and honor my obligations (I have never lost a Paypal dispute, for instance, because I follow PayPal’s guidelines to be eligible for buyer protection and I publish my policies and deliver them to the inboxes of buyers), it can still take 90 days before the credit card companies complete their investigations and release the funds since these were chargebacks and not just disputes. As a very small, virtually one-woman business, I obviously don’t have the financial buffer to simply absorb several hundred dollars disappearing overnight from my business account.

Obviously I had to drop everything to tend to these issues, and in the instances where a custom order involving altar work was in progress, I had to put it ahead of the items of everybody else who was waiting their turn patiently, rush to finish it and ship it, and sprint to provide the required information to the company in question or risk losing the money on an item I had already custom made that thus could not be returned to stock. That meant people who didn’t behave and read the directions got their work done ahead of people who did, so these guys screwed me – and boy did they screw me — but they screwed y’all, too.

In addition to having to drop everything else and skip ahead of the orders and services of other clients, I took a severe financial blow.  They set me back once again, on everything, from ordering supplies that I need for making oils and candles to purchasing postage to ship packages to being able to prep contracts for brand new work. I was suddenly without sufficient funds to cover already-scheduled payments and debits, which meant I had multiple non-sufficient funds charges as things like the phone payment bounced, which I cannot recover no matter what the company decides, and I was without funds to pay my assistant. Since I can’t keep large quantities of the more expensive items like gold, diamonds and various other curios, herbs, and/or minerals on hand due to their cost, I have to order this stuff when a customer purchases an item requiring any of this, and I have to order it immediately if I’m to be able to deliver the item close to the estimated prep time. I could not complete some orders on time because I couldn’t order the supplies I needed to complete them, and I couldn’t ship orders that were otherwise ready to go because I couldn’t pay to print the labels.

Ultimately, I had to obtain more than one personal loan in order to purchase supplies I needed to fill existing orders and shipping labels for orders that were ready to go, which also took time, and so this made an already-bad September blossom into the single worst fiscal quarter we’ve experienced in ten years, in terms of time from order-to-shipment, my personal peace of mind and formerly-solid faith in my customer base, and general customer and client satisfaction.

In short, any order you placed between late August and now was/will probably be late.So I want to apologize and to assure you that this kind of wait is not typical. Since nearly everything in the shop is custom-made or custom-finished, we are not and never have been able to provide customers or clients with a specific date of delivery, either before or after an order is placed, nor can we provide personal updates on order status while an order is in-house; this is true now just as it always has been, even though there’s an unusual delay. I try to make this clear ahead of time by explaining it in the Terms of Service, FAQ, etc., but I realize that this policy was frustrating to some of my customers who wanted to know when their orders would ship.  I am actively working to get an assistant on board who can work set hours and become sufficiently familiar with all aspects of the shop such that she can provide more personalized responses to customer inquiries about things like that, but we just aren’t there yet.

I very much appreciate your business and am grateful for your trusting me with your spiritual needs and I am sorry for the  mess. If you are a customer or client who had to wait longer than usual for your stuff, you should have a look at the blog in the upcoming weeks to find out about the giveaways and specials I’ll be offering over the next month or so, some of them solely for those of you who placed orders since late September.

Happy hoodooing, and may you all have a better Fall than I’m having so far!

[1] Since I don’t have a staff or a customer service department and since this is virtually a one-woman show, delays are inevitable – life happens, I get sick, my car breaks down, people in my family get married or die or have babies or graduate or get baptized, I go on vacation (lol), etc. That’s why I have *always* emphasized that my estimated turnaround times are only estimates and that I cannot provide a customer with the date an item will ship or a report will be delivered but can only say that as soon as I know, I’ll be finished, and as soon as I’m finished, I send it, so you know too.

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