The Look of Guilt: Confessions of a Bad Shipper

I love this photo of Meowmers, I took it just now, mere moments after she barfed up a hairball in two rooms of the house (including the bulk of it on my white couch, which she has ruined this way in about six months). I call this look the Look of Guilt and I thought it would be the perfect illustration for this article about how I’m terrible at something that I have no right to be terrible at, much like Meowmers really has no right to puke on my white couch every week and still expect love. Oh, but we do!

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and there are so many aspects that go into running a handmade business, however small, that no one person is going to excel at everything. You need product development, supply pricing, time management, writing skills, photography skills, networking talent, graphic design, accounting, the list goes on and on … The area (well, one area) wherein I fall wildly short is shipping. I will tell you right now: fast shipping is one of the most important elements of a handmade business, just behind having something to sell. Seriously, it’s number two on the list. I’m awful at it, at least I am right now, but it’s probably just because I’m kind of down in the dumps, because I used to be great about it.

When I had high sales volume I was pretty on top of shipping and my customers were happy, but right after I quit my job to sell online full time (three months after, specifically) my wholesale supplier doubled their prices (that’s right, switched them to retail prices) and I had to raise mine. Goodbye, craft supply business! When handmade guides tell you to diversify your product line, this is why, I had my best seller taken away overnight and, if you’re around long enough, it will happen to you too! With my sales down I started going to the post office less often (it’s 30 minutes away in each direction so I didn’t want to drive an hour to mail one envelope) and my customers started getting mad, understandably.

I touched on this in my whine-fest from this morning, but if you let down buyers of handmade they turn on you like badgers (well, some of them, others are saints). Like a lout I’ve let down both long-time customers and good friends and, overall, being terrible at shipping makes me feel like a monster. Seriously! I feel like such a jerk almost all the time. I don’t want to be terrible at it, but I just kind of am. I’ll have times when I recover, but I always seem to drift back.

In the end I think I’m going to try and be a little Tao about the whole thing. The Tao says that the wise man does not try to destroy his weaknesses, but rather, turns them into strengths. Since this is the Achilles’ Heel of my business I’ve decided to change my shipping policies and institute a cheeky, “Good things come to those who wait!” style slogan. I mean, if people expect to wait for an order and it shows up early they’ll be happy, and if it shows up in the slow but forewarned of amount of time they will at least not be mad, right?

The last thing I want is to make customers hate me and my stuff and punish them for supporting me just because I’m awful at something important. Maybe some day I’ll get lucky and have a shipping helper again (I had one for a few months once and it was so wonderful!), but until then … well wish me luck, kids!

6 thoughts on “The Look of Guilt: Confessions of a Bad Shipper

  1. I completely agree with this post! Shipping is my weak spot as well. I have been doing really well lately since I moved and no longer have to deal with the postal system from hell!

    As far as letting customers know in advance that their order may take a little longer to ship, it is a good idea… If people actually read the information. I have listed in my shop announcements, policies, confirmation email and FAQ section on my website that all orders will ship within 10 business day. Still 3 or more times a week I get emails from customers who placed an order 2 days before hand asking when their order will ship. I tell them within 10 business days and many of them will say they wish they would have known before hand. I then make them aware of all of the locations this information was available to them and they usually say “Oh”. I have now taken to putting this info in almost all of my listings. Its not all bad though I usually get orders out way ahead of the 10 day mark and after I talk to these customers their usually nothing but sweet. I usually also include a thank you note in my orders to let customers know I appreciate their patience.

    I had a new customer tell me recently that she was a little confused when her item didn’t ship the day after she bought it because she is used to buying on Ebay and thought Etsy was the same thing lol. Ok I will stop rabbling now. I wish you the best of luck of turning your shipping weakness into a strength!

    • Aww, can I just say that I love you for posting this comment? I really appreciate it, I feel a little less alone-y with my being awful about shipping now! I think you’re right about the “if they read it” part, perhaps I’ll send them a convo after order too, thanking them for the order (like you’re advised to do anyway) and then letting them know about the shipping. Maybe that will help you too? The day-after “did this ship yet?” convo is almost as dreaded by me as the from-overseas-buyer “where’s my tracking number?” convo. Did your shipping cost $30? Then there isn’t one, and I’m sorry that the USPS hates you and, by proxy, me. Epic sigh!

  2. I just had to say that your cat is sooo cute!!

    I haven’t had any bad delivery experiences on Etsy but thats mainly because I’ve only had 2 sales :-S I did have a similar thing happen to me on ebay a while back though!! It was kind of my fault as I had every intention of shipping thenext day but then I had some out of the blue bad family news and to be honest it slipped my mind! I sent the buyer an e-mail to explain and had no response so I sent the item first chance I had…then when they left feedback they complained i’d taken too long and had to buy other stuff instead…….I wasn’t sure if I should feel bad or annoyed as I had given them the chance to get a refund and had explained why I was late…people huh?

    • Aww, thank you! I will let Meowmers know, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it :3

      Yep, there are definitely buyers who aren’t happy unless you ship the day they order :( it’s a shame, for many of us we have full time jobs and the post office is only open when we’re able to get to it for a few hours a week!

  3. Wow, 1 hour round trip to the post office!!! Crazy.

    Well, as a buyer, I appreciate Etsy-ers who have their shipping policies stated up-front like you do. As a seller, you can’t force people to read and pay attention. My day job is in corporate communications, and it’s frustrating when the majority of complainers don’t read the details. They don’t read the bold print, much less the fine print.

    • Actually it’s even worse because there are only two employees there and often one is on break so the line is usually about 6 people, last time I went about 6 people walked in behind me and were furious they had to wait for all of my packages! I think people just look at pictures, really!!

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