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.

weather + injury + news; status update, report queues, etc

I feel like I’ve been apologizing for something since I moved in August, and I suppose it really has been one thing after another since then, really. Short version: I’m behind on communication again, and some orders are probably going to be later in arriving than you expect, but I’m still here and I haven’t forgotten about anyone. There have been quite a few things going on lately that have contributed to the state of things around here being kind of crazy, but here is some news:

If you watch the news, you probably know that Alabama got slammed with totally atypical winter weather during the week of January 26-Feb 1 and large segments of it just plain shut down. Obviously this slowed down everything – from having supplies delivered to me to making orders to getting the orders to the post office. I wouldn’t expect scanning at hubs to have been handled as usual, but in any case, the usual procedures — the ones listed in the payment acknowledgment email you received — will apply: if it has been 20 business days from the label ship date and your domestic/US package is still not showing up, I will put in a trace on my end, and from there we will talk about next steps depending on what was in your order. But in the last 10+ years, *NO DOMESTIC PACKAGE* shipped USPS Priority Mail to a US address has remained unaccounted for by the 20th business day from the label ship date, and 99.9999% of them have been delivered intact by then.

If you read the pages, news sources, and blogs of any of my AIRR colleagues, you may have heard that the hoodoo community has experienced some great and stunning loss so far this year. I won’t say a lot more here yet because I haven’t been able to catch up with the news and the family members wishes and such in terms of announcements, notifications, etc., but I will share these links, one from the Lucky Mojo Hoodoo Rootwork Hour episode dedicated to remembering Dr. E, a worker well-known and well-respected in many circles far beyond just those of AIRR, and this one, to his memorial fund page. I’m late sharing the memorial fund info, but it’s never too late to remember his family and friends in your prayers.

Still working on the new storefront/shopping cart. Still not done. But that means the sale is still on at my current website.

Finally, if you have been reading for a while, you may recall that I have some structural issues with my back and hips that can really throw everything into chaos when they flare up. And they’re flared up. I can stay on top of altar work and I can stay on top of making most items, but *sitting* of all things is one of the most painful activities I can do, and standing still isn’t all that far behind it. That means that typing has been happening only in bursts while I’m standing (making email, reports, photos, etc quite backlogged), and driving has been really hit or miss (mostly miss). Tonight’s the first night I’ve sat down to deal with emails in just about a solid week, and I have to cut this short now because my leg is letting me know it’s had all it can take. Packages going out for the last week or so have been delivered to a postal facility by various friends and assistants because driving is seriously agonizing when my back is out and because scheduled pickup has been feasible only some of the time.

To top it off, I have been relying on memory and random assistance to stay on top of inventory, which means I haven’t really been staying on top of inventory. I have not been able to print any labels yet this week but I am getting ink *tomorrow* and will get the packages that should have shipped over the last few days out by tomorrow night.

In short, your order/service/report will probably be delayed and I am very sorry if that is the case; I genuinely hate this and I dearly want to be back on schedule here ASAP, and I promise I am working as quickly as I can to get caught up.

Happy hoodooing!

schools and roads still closed; mail still not running in my county

Atlanta has about 5 million people in it, but it only has a few snowplows, so the roads are still in really bad shape in many areas.  This is the enclosure that will go out with orders as soon as I am able to start sending them out again:

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Sorry for any delay – Atlanta, where I live, has had uncharacteristic ice and snow storms which have caused power and cable outages and a nearly complete cessation of public services, including USPS, FedEx, and UPS, since the weekend of 8-9 January.  This has caused supplier delays, meaning I do not have various bottles, boxes, and herbs I need to fill orders.  As of 14 January, the post office has not delivered or picked up mail in my neighborhood in 7 days.  I apologize for the uncharacteristic delay in processing your order; as a city in the deep South, Atlanta does not have the material and equipment to deal with ice and snow of this magnitude.  Please visit my livejournal for updates on current weather in my area causing supplier and shipping delays, as well as intermittent problems with power and DSL/internet http://karmazain.livejournal.com/85437.html

severe weather and post office problems = shipping delays

Hey y’all,

I live in the Atlanta, GA area, and we have been hit with some atypically bad winter weather the last few days.  As of yesterday, the snow started sticking to the ground and things have not improved since then.  I dropped off about twenty packages Saturday afternoon, but they are probably still sitting in the package pile at the post office, if the trucks haven’t been able to get in to get them since them.  I had several packages prepped to go out today but I was unable to get up the hill and onto the street to drive my car today, and come to find out the local post office wasn’t open anyway. Furthermore, a UPS delivery I was expecting today with some much-needed supplies did not come.  So if you have an order in that was supposed to ship right about now or in the next few days, please bear with me – I have got no control over this snow, and most counties around here don’t have the machinery or the budget to clear the roads, what with getting snowed in not being too common in Atlanta, GA.

Bottom line: everything is delayed right now.  To add to the fun, snow and ice on power lines have made power unstable, so everything from email to candle-making is slow right now. The mojo bags en route from my mom are not here, the herbs I ordered last week are not here, the one dram bottles I should have gotten today are not here, I can’t travel to get more wax at my local supplier, and UPS, FedEx, and the USPS are not functioning as usual.  I appreciate your patience as we wait on Mother Nature to thaw us out over here.

Here’s a clip from the Atlanta Journal Constitution on local weather:

“We have a limited number of offices open, and we are making delivery in some areas, but those areas are sporadic at best,” Michael Miles, USPS spokesman for the Atlanta area, told the AJC.

The postal service wasn’t the only delivery service with problems. Around 11:45 a.m., Sandy Springs-based UPS announced they were suspending all pick-up and delivery service in metro Atlanta.

FedEx has also suspended service in metro Atlanta today, spokesman Jim McCluskey said.

McCluskey said the airports and roads have been affected by "a wintry punch" and the safety of FedEx employees is of the utmost importance.

"Ultimately, we will provide service when the conditions allow," he said.

McCluskey said FedEx will continue to evaluate the weather in the Atlanta market for the coming days.

Mail delivery may be stalled or not happen at all for two reasons: delivery trucks are having trouble getting into central mail processing plants to pick up letters and packages to begin with.

If the trucks are able to reach those locations, then the second challenge is actually getting into neighborhoods to drop off the mail, Miles said.