This blog is meant to be a record of my adventures as a new home-based business owner. Starting my jewellery business was one of the most daunting things I've ever done, next to giving birth. Especially since I was (am?) pretty technically stunted. In this blog I will describe the trials, tribulations and, hopefully, eventual successes I experience while navigating the world of (really, really, really small) business. I also plan to use this blog to talk about all the aspects of jewellery design that fascinate me, keep me addicted, and cause me to spend thousands of dollars (What, honey? No, I didn't say thousands...) on gemstones, beads, findings, etc. I welcome your input, ideas, and stories of similar experiences in beading, jewellery design, or running a handcrafts business.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shipping Snafu

So far in my journey to bead tycoon status I've made four sales on my Etsy online shop.  The last sale involved a lot more customer service than any of the others.  The customer convo'd (contacted via the Etsy communication system) me with a request to adjust the length of a bracelet he wanted to order.  I contacted the buyer to let him know I'd be happy to make the change.  He then ordered the bracelet.  As per my shop policies, I wanted to send the order out inside the 3 business day time period, but I was having trouble getting more of the exact type of chain that I used for the bracelet in the picture.  I convo'd the buyer with pictures of the original chain and a chain that was as similar as I could get, and asked if the change would be OK with him.  He convo'd me, saying no problem.  So, I made the bracelet, and shipped it out by US Post Light Packet on December 6th.  (Through Canada Post, of course.)  This was within the 3-day time limit promised in my shop policies.  I then emailed the buyer to let him know that the package had been shipped.  Mission accomplished...or so I thought. 

On December 18th, the buyer contacted me to let me know that the package still hadn't arrived.  WTF?!  I had shipped the thing 12 days ago!  Now what?  He asked me in his convo if there was a tracking number.  With Canada Post, you only get a tracking number if you ship by ExpressPost or Priority.  ExpressPost and Priority are very expensive, which you will see later in this post.  To keep my costs, and therefore my prices, reasonable, I ship by oversize letterpost, otherwise known as Small Packet or Light Packet.  As a result, I don't get insurance, a tracking number, or a guarantee.  Now what?  Panicking, I convo'd the buyer and let him know that I had no tracking number, and confirmed the mailing address and the date that I'd shipped.  I asked if it was meant to be a gift, and if he wanted me to send another.  He said that it was indeed a gift, but that he would be going out of town on Monday.  (This was Saturday.)  I convo'd him back to say that I would make another bracelet, and ship it again by some faster method of shipping, at my own expense.  I asked him to contact me again with the new address.  He didn't get back to me until Tuesday morning ( I guess he was travelling,) with the new address.

So, Tuesday morning, I packaged the new bracelet, and put in a coupon for 20% off anything in my shop, as a sort of peace offering.  I went over to the post office to ship the new package, fully prepared to spend more to ship the thing than I actually received for the entire purchase.  I look at it as good customer service, and the loss as part of doing business.  When people are deciding whether to purchase an item online, they have to take a leap of faith, sending their money out through PayPal and trusting that the seller is going to send them their item.  All they have to pin their faith on is the feedback others have posted on that seller.  I need my feedback to be 100% positive because I'm a new seller, with only 4 sales so far.  Besides, this poor guy bought this bracelet as a Christmas gift, and naturally he wants to give it on Christmas.  So, I was willing to spend the money for ExpressPost.

Alas, when I reached the post office, the clerk told me that at this late date, there was no guarantee, even if I shipped by ExpressPost, that the package would reach its destination in the 2-3 days that is usually promised with this method of shipping.  I asked about Priority, and got the shock of my life.  Sending the package, which weighed 0.4 kg, by Priority, would cost me $64, and would still not be guaranteed!  That's about 250% more than the bracelet's price!  Needless to say, I did not ship by Priority.  In the end, I chose ExpressPost, which cost me $24.  Plus, I had to buy a new, larger bubble mailer to ship it in because of ExpressPost's huge sticker. 

I felt terrible.  The poor guy would now have to go out and buy something else for whoever was supposed to receive this bracelet.  I contacted him with the bad news.  In my convo, I apologized profusely, and gave him the tracking number and phone number to call to track the package.  I told him about the 20% off coupon I'd put in the package, and said that although it didn't fix the problem, I hoped that it made things a little better.

I hope that I handled things as well as I could have.  I don't know what the hell happened to the original package, but the buyer was really nice about it, saying that if and when the original package came, he would send it back to me.  The clerk said that the package may have been held up at Customs.  She told me that documents usually ship through Customs without incident, but everything else could be held up.  Is there a way to package jewellery or label it so that it clears Customs more easily?  Do other jewellery designers who sell online spring for ExpressPost or another shipping method so that they can have a tracking number?  If you have any hints or ideas, could you enlighten me?

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