plan for order backlog; response to queries about order status; latest status update

IF YOU PLACED AN ORDER FOR TANGIBLE ITEMS BEFORE JAN 31, HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING:

  • If you placed an order for tangible items before January 31, someone will be going through to 1. verify that the order was fulfilled and shipped; 2. verify that the shipping info was uploaded to Paypal and/or Shopify; 3. verify that the package was delivered; 4. if the package was not delivered and if 20 business days from the label ship date have passed, put in a trace request; 5. if the trace request does not provide satisfactory reassurance, reship the order (if possible; for OOAK items that cannot be replaced, we’ll contact the buyer directly to see what they want to do).
  • Folks writing with shipping queries get a standard info letter in reply, reminding them that the FAQ/TOS and payment confirmation emails all outline how shipping notification and queries about in-transit status work. This has always been shop policy. 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 shipment or delivery, either before or after an order is placed, other than that info that is emailed to a buyer by our shipping software when a shipping label is generated. Nor can we provide personal updates on order status, aside from the shipping notification, while an order is in-house or in transit, unless/until 20 business days from the label ship date have passed, in which case we can put in a trace request. In short, if you write to ask “When will you ship my order,” you’ll get a form letter. Nobody can tell you any more and I do not have the staff to answer things like that individually anyway, even if I wanted to. As soon as I know when it will be ready to ship, I’ll ship it. That’s all I can say, and that’s always been part of the shop TOS.
  • Although I try to make this clear ahead of time by explaining it in the Terms of Service, FAQ, etc., I realize that this is frustrating to those who want to know when their orders will ship and/or arrive, esp. when they have been waiting longer than they expected. But especially given the backlog, it is simply beyond my ability to send individual replies to individual queries about shipping and package status.  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, but we just aren’t there yet. I am sorry that this means that in cases like the current one, that people have to wait longer than usual for their stuff, but unfortunately this is a risk with custom-finished work. A business like this cannot operate like Amazon; it’s impossible. Those who want Amazon-like customer service will have to shop at Amazon and forego the personal attention they’d get from an individual craftsperson or artisan.
  • A trace request is a required first step before we can talk about repair, replacement, or refund; as a very small business focusing on custom-made and custom-finished stuff, I CANNOT just replace or refund customers out of pocket on demand; I’d be out of business in a week. I have to put in a trace request and follow the rules of the shipper/payment processor in order to file a claim for lost/damaged shipments. And a trace request can’t be put in with USPS until 20 business days from the label ship date. So I CANNOT do anything until 20 business days from the label ship date have passed.
  • I RELY on my customers acting in good faith by abiding by the TOS, and I act in good faith by proceeding to prepare and ship their custom stuff; I am counting on the fact that they will abide by their agreement to follow the TOS in case of problems. Once people start ignoring these and putting in chargebacks, it destroys my ability to fill other orders in accordance with the TOS. This is the nature of custom and custom-finished work done by a one-woman shop.
  • Normally, with a backlog like this, I would have closed the shop for a week or two LONG before now so I could get caught up. Because of the chargebacks that a few customers have put in, however, I can’t do this; I have to stay open so that I can continue to receive new orders so that I can afford to fill and ship the ones I’ve already got in-house. As I’ve explained elsewhere, normally a Paypal dispute is not a big deal; since I operate within the terms outlined by Paypal’s buyer and seller agreements, I have never lost a Paypal dispute in over ten years of having an online shop; my terms are clearly outlined in multiple places and are in accordance with Paypal standards, even if buyers don’t read/understand/follow them, and Paypal has always found in my favor for this reason. But chargebacks through credit card companies are a different matter entirely, as I explain here and here. Twice now I have been debited the amount of an order PLUS fees from my payment processor *for orders that I could prove had been delivered.* Even in cases where the credit card company eventually finds in my favor, which can take 90 days, I still have the net loss from the fees assessed by the payment processor and I still have to operate without that money in the interim; since custom and custom-finished work can require a significant outlay of cash on my part to fill an individual order, chargebacks quickly become crippling. The nature of my business demands that I act in good faith and assume customers will not put in chargebacks, and it demands that customers act in good faith and assume that I will fill their orders. Once that principle of good faith is out the window, the ship starts leaking. The actions of a few customers affect *all customers.* And that’s what I’m dealing with now, still.
  • So if you send/have sent a message asking “Where is my package,” it will get the response that the TOS/FAQ/order confirmation email explained it would get, which is an info letter reiterating how this works and, in addition, pointing you to this blog for more details on what’s going on. *IF the window for putting in a trace request is open, then we will put in a trace request. If your package is lost, then we will either replace it or contact you about refund or store credit.* It is not necessary to send in an individual request – I am going to follow the outlined plan for ALL orders placed before January 31. I do have a system, and even when the system gets screwed up, I have redundancies built in so that no order can simply disappear. But I cannot do any of this overnight. As a customer, you can help me to work more efficiently and quickly by NOT sending unnecessary emails and reminders, which just clog up the inbox and take time away from my being in the work room filling and shipping orders.
  • I do value every single one of my clients and customers and I will make sure that all orders are filled and verified. But I cannot do it in a single weekend by waving a magic wand; so I beg just a little bit more of your patience if you are still waiting on an order. Your order HAS NOT BEEN LOST or forgotten about.

Most recent updates:

  • I have been phoneless. A combo of bad luck/timing and my misunderstanding some fine print meant that, just as I was figuring out how to carve a couple days so I could offer some phone appointments to consultation clients who’ve been waiting a long time, I had to be phone-less for nearly two weeks.
  • I had to go out of town for a sudden family obligation with no phone and thus no reliable internet, and then I got stranded so there was no car either to top it all off and to extend the out-of-town-ness.
  • I am now back in town and again have a phone but I now have no car and no immediate solution for that problem on the horizon.
  • This means slower shipping on top of the fact that orders are still going out more slowly than usual, anyway, due to the other issues I’ve been covering in blog posts/status updates. I have to rely on the local post office to pick up packages right now since I have no transportation; this is not ideal, since they just didn’t show up at all on Friday, for instance, and today they showed up at a time other than the one they gave me when I called to ask wtf so they did not pick up the packages I had for them. So I have several bins of packaged orders, ready to go and complete with labels, that I’ve been trying to get to the post office all week.
  • Order fulfillment is currently delayed beyond the ordinary/ongoing delay due to the backlog that I am still digging my way out of for the reasons i’ve been covering in blog posts/status updates. We have had a spate of unusually cold weather/freezes, as have other spots in the country, and this has contributed to delays in order prep. For instance, some materials I need to fulfill orders that should have been here Monday still aren’t here. I have about a dozen 2-dram bottles left, for example, and I’m waiting on soap-making materials and candle wax in addition to some essential oils. One package, for example, has had a shipping status of “picked up” but no further update since Monday, so those of you who get upset when USPS Track/Confirm doesn’t accurately give you package whereabouts? I feel ya. As I’ve covered elsewhere on several occasions, though, just because they call it Tracking doesn’t mean they have an obligation to give you a play by play on Priority shipments while in transit; Priority mail comes with delivery confirmation ONLY and package status is often updated only AFTER the package is delivered.
  • Predictably, this most recent assistant solution hasn’t been much of a solution. At the moment, I’m relying on whatever pinch-hitting help I can get, which hasn’t been much lately, at least not for the stuff I really need it for. I really need somebody on top of the email inbox on a daily basis, but that seems to be the real sticking point that scares off people who offer to help. I have been concentrating on trying to catch up with the order backlog. It sucks, but since I have greater liability for disputes and chargebacks over physical items than over services, I have had to spend more time on physical items lately. As soon as I get caught up there, which means getting out all orders dated 31 January or earlier, I will focus on catching up on light setting reports and consultations.
  • As I’ve said here before, I am gradually making my way through everything from last fall/winter to manually double-check it. Obv. this takes time, esp. when I’m behind on orders and reports anyway, but it’s the only way to be sure everything ended up where it was supposed to given that some human communication hiccups combined with some website/domain/notification hiccups to screw up my auto-responds, order and service notifications, and message forwarding setups. But I will eventually manually verify everything, and I do have built-in redundancies to ensure that nothing can simply get lost forever.
  • In the midst of the too-many-half-trained-cooks-in-the-kitchen + holiday closure dates scenario of Nov-Jan, there was a huge snafu that meant some shipping labels got printed before they should have. This created a mess that has been beyond my ability to handle in a timely matter with individual emails (even after I became aware of the full extent of it, which wasn’t until last month). That is a major reason why I am enacting the plan outlined at the very top of the post, to manually verify shipment and receipt of every order placed before 31 January.
  • On the other hand, now that I have a phone again, I can do some phone consults/followup sessions here pretty soon, and I’m going to start trying to set those up as soon as I get this other plan in motion and get this current backlog of stuff out the door.
  • See the current service/report queue here.

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