status update (what I’m sending out in reply to inbox messages I haven’t gotten to yet)

First, a quick note to acknowledge your message and apologize if you have been waiting longer than usual for a response, if you got the wrong auto-respond or received a message twice, if the message I’m replying to concerns something that has been resolved or is being discussed elsewhere, or if your communication with us otherwise had something weird happening with it. [1]

Short version: I’ve been working feverishly to get caught up, but it seems it’ll be a while still before I am, so I wanted to at least assure you that your message has been received and is in the appropriate queue for applicable response/action, which it will get as soon as humanly possible. Everything is still going more slowly than usual — given the volume of email here on a daily basis, the recent problems with internet connectivity and finally the new ISP/equipment we had to resort to, the assistant situation, the unprecedented number of chargebacks since I foolishly tried out a new payment processor, and the continuing fallout from the events of last Fall and Winter — all on top of the normal December backlog resulting from holiday closure and slower-than-usual USPS — and I’ve simply never faced anything quite like this in over ten years of the shop being online. [2]

I am very sorry if you’ve been waiting/are still waiting on me or an assistant to respond. If you are still waiting, I am working as quickly as I can to sort, triage, and respond to everything and you will get a followup response from me if your message contains a question or issue. [3]

Please remember, per the FAQ, that sending “reminders” or responding again in a thread before you have gotten a reply to your previous message “resets” your place in the queue according to the date the most recent message was received, so it’s generally a bad idea if the only reason you’re writing is to ask why you haven’t gotten an answer yet. Messages appear in the inbox by date received and the general principle is that I tackle the earliest first. If you last wrote two weeks ago and then you write again tonight, your message will now appear in the queue with a date of today, but I will still be working on messages from January so you’ll have removed yourself from your original spot in the queue. And at this point, a two week response time is NOT cause for alarm – quite a few folks have been waiting longer than that, unfortunately.  (Remember, also, that if you have a consultation or other service booked, you are in a special queue tracked separately and this caveat does not apply to you – you’ll get your response when it’s your turn in the queue.)

If, however, you are concerned that your message might have been misunderstood or misfiled during the Great Assistant Trainwreck of 2014 — particularly if it dates from September/October and you haven’t gotten any response at all — then feel free to write and let me know you are still interested in my response after all this time (I will often assume you aren’t and that you’ve found assistance elsewhere if you were looking for help and I wasn’t able to assess or take your case in time, so if I know for sure you *are* still interested, it might ultimately save time if you just give me a heads up and maybe catch me up on whatever has happened in the meanwhile that pertains to the case).

But eventually I *will* get to everything – I am personally, manually checking every single order/service booking and any substantial correspondence that came through between September through the New Year — and while this will obviously take time, I *will* get to it all in due time. [4] So it is not required that you do anything at all if you are just waiting on me to answer your last message. And if the matter you wrote about in the message I’m replying to has been resolved or is being discussed elsewhere, please ignore this message; there is no need to respond (thought you are welcome to if you’d like to let me know that you gave up on me or found help elsewhere!).

Remember I keep status updates of any issues affecting response and turnaround times at the blog.  If you want to see the current queue/status post which I update regularly with whatever progress I can make, and which tracks the queues for many types of report/service, visit the blog here. You can visit there too if you want the details of what’s been going on, exactly what led to the various issues, how a chargeback in October started a chain of events I am still dealing with and initiated a financial cycle that I will be feeling the impact of for a long time, and what those events and that cycle mean for you as a customer or client (in other words, how one impatient customer — who didn’t read the description of an item before he bought it — initiated a situation in which I was not able to purchase the raw materials I needed to fill many orders in Oct/Nov or to purchase shipping labels for many international orders and meant I had to take a personal loan to stay in business). [5]

If you’ve asked a question that an existing  info letter can shed light on, then I’ve appended an info letter for you below.  If you have questions that are not covered in the below info letter/have not already been answered, then you’ll hear back from me or my assistant with a personal response as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, remember you can always visit the blog for info, education, tips, news, sales, and announcements.

Please know that I am incredibly grateful for your patience and I am not taking it for granted, especially not after the number of times I got to see people acting with a total lack of good faith, trust, or understanding over the past few months in dealing with all these chargebacks. I’ve never been more keenly aware of how lucky I am to have so many clients and customers who are so very understanding and who treat me like a person rather than a hoodoo vending machine.

May 2015 hold only the good kind of surprises for you, and may all your works be crowned with success,

Karma

[1] Since our recent string of snafus involved problems with the settings and email forwarders associated with our domain and website services (among other things), many of our auto-respond and confirmation message systems went down. That means that many of the inbox and contact form settings that I rely on to correctly direct and flag incoming correspondence and in many cases to send responses, info letters, and confirmations, quit working.  Well, let’s just say “messy” is an understatement, and I have honestly never seen anything like this before and never had to work *this long* to get caught up before. Nobody could possibly make me feel any worse about it than I already do.

[2] I am trying to get through a first complete pass of the inbox just to determine what can be filed/closed and what still needs further attention from me; this is part of my “recovery” process from the backlog and crossed wires that resulted from the events of the last couple of months. So if a substantive response to your message requires a chunk of time or typing, it might be a few days yet before I send you a personalized response — on Saturday night, I had 280 messages in the inbox (and that’s after Maggie worked on thinning them out all afternoon), and among those are four active chargebacks/disputes I have to deal with on short deadlines (from customers who decided I must be ripping them off since they didn’t get their mojo bags within two weeks), so I’m still pretty far away from being caught up. But in case you didn’t get the “we got your message” auto-respond, and it appears that most of our confirmation systems went down at least once over the last month, so I wanted to let you know what’s up in the meantime rather than risk your joining the ranks of the disaffected. 

[3] As of Sunday, Feb 8, we are finally back online with a reliable connection (we had to switch ISPs after several weeks of increasingly frequent and serious connectivity problems – got the new cable service connected Saturday the 7th). So I am resuming my plan of personally going back through everything order-related, service-related, or otherwise involving substantial communication from the last few months, since there have been some crossed wires with procedures over the last few months given the small but ever-changing herd of assistants that have been through here since September. 

[4] Once I realized the extent and nature of some of the crossed wires, I was able to identify some patterns and likely places to double-check for error, oversight, or omission, but I can’t be totally sure everything has ended up in its proper place until I check it myself. Unfortunately, as you can probably imagine, this is taking considerable time *and* it isn’t exactly helping me get caught up on *current* stuff since I’m still putting out fires from December. (It esp. doesn’t help when customers treat the “send” button like my doorbell and keep pushing it, assuming (I guess) that if I didn’t answer the first time, I must answer eventually if they just  keep pushing the button, and then it REALLY doesn’t help when they then decide that the only way to get a response from me is to file a dispute or chargeback. The only thing that will get you is blocked – if I was finishing up your order and filling available spaces with lagniappe by way of apology for the delay, I’ll be pulling out all that lagniappe and closing your shop account before I seal up the box. You won’t get a refund if I’ve already begun working on your order, because everything is custom-finished at the very least by being prayed over for you, so that’s why the TOS state that all sales are final and orders cannot be changed or cancelled. 

[5] If you read it now or if you regularly check in to see the status queues, you’ll know it’s been back to back trouble around here for some time now with everything from family crises to internet problems and I have made *very little progress* since I lost my only trained assistant (my sister Mary) after we had two deaths in the family in September and many of our generation in the family had to take on some new caregiving responsibilities. Mary took on more than anyone and it requires her attention full time, but it was all kind of quick and I did not have a “backup plan.” I have tried (three times now) to replace her and it hasn’t worked out yet, so I haven’t had an assistant for all intents and purposes since August. And honestly I was getting more behind on many things rather than getting caught up, since training an assistant is enormously time consuming.

I’m still feeling repercussions from that chargeback crap. In one case, a customer who put in a chargeback guaranteed by doing so that her order couldn’t ship; the payment processor debited the total amount of the order plus a $15 fee, which depleted my balance to about $2. I couldn’t ship her order and I couldn’t ship a lot of other orders that were ready either. Since international orders *start* at $22 and often cost more like $60 to ship, I am paralyzed when someone puts in a chargeback and international buyers suffer first for this. I can’t ship packages that are ready to go, and I often can’t order the materials I need to fill custom orders that require things I can’t keep a huge inventory of (like single whole roots, human bones, or mercury dimes) or restock materials that I have to buy in bulk (like candle wax, containers, and the various butters and oils I use to make soap). I just don’t run a big enough business to let several hundred dollars worth of buffer sit in the business account 24/7 – I try to keep enough in there to ship everything that’s in house, but even for things like herbs, I have to meet a certain minimum when I order from many of my suppliers; if I go with suppliers with no or smaller minimums, I have to either sacrifice quality or else pay more, which means higher prices for everybody. And guess what – when you don’t pay assistants, they get a lot less inclined suddenly to help you get caught up on the world’s messiest inbox while dealing with a seriously stressed-out “boss” – go figure! This has, to put it bluntly, *sucked.*  

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