Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Postal Service, you are letting me down

I'm not one hour back from my trip and I'm already stressed and upset. I come back to an inbox chock full of emails, and find that a few of them are about fabric orders that have gone missing in the post. Now don't get me wrong, 99% of the time packages arrive safe and sound (so don't start worrying), but to receive 3 emails at the same time about missing parcels was just too much for me to hear.

What I'd really like to know is, what is the correct etiquette when it comes to missing orders? What do shops usually do? I always resend the fabric if I have it (or another as a substitute) with no questions asked, but I'd love to hear what other people do. I hate the idea of an unhappy customer, so I'll do anything to make sure they're happy ... even if it means having to take responsibility for a crappy postal service or some nasty person who steals parcels out of mail boxes. Some shops put a "no responsibility taken..." disclaimer on my site but that just seems so cold and unfriendly and in the end doesn't make for a happy customer! Thoughts?

[update] Well, I feel better about the whole thing now - after talking to a few people and also reading the comments. All basically reinforcing what I already know is the right thing to do, which is to just take these losses as they come and replace any missing orders. Mum suggested to 'self insure' - which is basically to factor into your costs the possibility of one or two parcels going missing, so that it doesn't hurt too much. And I like that idea. Registered/Insured post in insanely expensive around here and just isn't an option.

22 comments:

April said...

Welcome to my world! Lately, I have had numerous packages either take waaaaaay to long to arrive or they don't arrive at all.

I always send replacements. Shops usually do not do this. They all say they are not responsible for lost orders. But return customers are important to me and make up at least 25% of my business, so I do it. I myself have been a customer who got burned by the post office and it sucks. It sucks for everyone involved, but as a shop owner, it is my duty to make sure my customers receive their merchandise and are happy.

Jason said...

I agree with April. I have only had it happen to me once. I couldn't send the exact product as they are usually one offs. But I emailed the customer with a photo of what they could have. They happily accepted it. I think it important to keep customers happy.

Shiny Black Shoes said...

I always send replacements as well. I usually make one of kind stuff, so I ask them to pick something different or refund their money. It doesn't happen often and I would like to think that most people are genuine so I'm going to do what I can to make them happy.

shannon said...

oh no! i'm sorry to hear that. i think customer service is a top priority, so offer to replace it free of charge, or if you have no more in stock, perhaps offer to send them yardage from your next printed fabric.

Tharvey said...

I'm sure the packages are just delayed because of the crazy holiday shipping & will turn up soon!

I do get delivery confirmation on everything so I can make sure the person is not making it up (which can happen if you sell cheaper things, they get the item & then want their payment back too). But internationally that is not an option.

I think how you would handle this would depend on what you make as well. I make some pretty pricy custom order pieces, and if one of those got lost in the mail I would not be able to make & send them a replacement. I can check the tracking & call the post office, but that is about it.

Heather Moore said...

Oh no, you poor thing. I've only had three parcels go missing, all to Singapore, and one of these was a re-send. I think re-sending once is appropriate, but if things keep going missing, I think it's reasonable for both sides to call it quits. I refunded money in this case.

But I was blown away recently by the customer service of Etsy seller ES Designs. She sent me a ring that went missing twice, and was still prepared to send it a third time!!! That really blew me away. It did arrive the third time, thank goodness!

Hope these losses are nothing but a festive season glitch. Crossing fingers...

Hyena In Petticoats said...

Bugger.

In my Ebay selling days, I would just offer a refund, minus the postage price amount, and that would usually keep things calm.

Otherwise, offering to replace the goods with the same fabric or something similar is totally fine, and will never piss off a customer. If there isn't something they want at that time, you could offer them a credit so they could get something else in the future.....

On another note, I wanted to tell you that I bought some of the robins egg Bich fabric from One Small Room the other day..... I LOVE it.

xxxx

avie said...

I have only had a couple of customers email worried because they haven't gotten their order. Once it was a large order to Spain and it had been a month since I sent it, so I happily re-sent the order only to have it show up along with the other order in the next few days.

I have been lucky, all of mine have eventually gotten there. I think the best advice is to do what you would expect a company to do if you were the customer without a package you ordered.

I think, without a doubt, customer service is the most important part of a sucessful business. I always remember the people/companies that take good care of me, as so few do these days. Plus, that individual touch is why people buy handmade direct from the seller. okay, enough rambling.

E-mail me: marianne (dot) zipzestzing (at) gmail (dot) com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Laura said...

If it has gone missing in Australia you can claim the money back up to $50. I think it needs to be missing for 6 weeks, you need the receipt and proof of the value of the contents. They are pretty good with that kind of thing, I had some artwork go missing and they refunded the money (and the cost of the shopping).

I would do a resend, although if the numbers started going right up, you would have to start to wonder when you would need to rethink it. At the end of the day, the cost to resend compared to the future business from keeping a customer happy hopefully should be lower.

Thanks for the fabric as well, it is STUNNING, the green is perfect, I keep touching it and oohing and aaahing!

starashan said...

Luckily I have never had anything go missing altogether, but have had some parcels go the scenic route around Australia. A lot of the time I register parcels. It doesn't cost much more, and then you're automatically insured for $100. It's just the paperwork that's a pain in the arse.

Sorry about your parcels going missing... that's so crap! I would do the same as you are suggesting (resending) - but would probably consider registering, or even express posting.

Just a note though- at this time of year, the post is going to be slower with the extra volume of mail being sent. Maybe it will still turn up?

Marianne said...

I don't know how long ago you shipped the packages but if they were shipped internationally it can take ages around the holidays. I received a package around Christmas last year from the US that took over a month to Norway. Normal is 5 days! When I have experienced missed packages from etsy/ebay I have once received a replacement and once received refund less postage. I was ok with both. I was surprised however that Amazon replaced books/dvds without any questions. I thought getting replacements from them would be a lost cause.

Florence said...

Gosh, poor you! That's a lot to replace (but like others, I do think you have to replace them...otherwise an honest customer has paid money and received nothing)...but, I think in your situation I'd be tempted in future to send things as 'Signed For' delivery, just so that you've got a way of checking for your own peace of mind that they really have gone missing.

leslie said...

resending is the best. that's what i do. though it is frustrating. and costly. we are the sellers. and should have a 'ust say yes' policy. i just got a parcel returned for the second time yesterday. crazy. and will trot off to the post office this morning. again. i hope you get no more emails!!

Kristine said...

You raise a good question. It's one I've thought a lot about. I hate my customers to pay a lot for postage so I use regular mail. I figure it's better to offer good postage rates and run the risk of the odd parcel go missing, rather than charge for more secure mail and deter customers at the checkout point. I have about 1 in 500 parcels go missing.

At this time of year they can take a lot longer than normal and they often show up when you think they're long gone (which happened to me yesterday when I was about to resend an item - 12 days to travel 2 suburbs).

I'm sure once a customer buys your beautiful product they'll be hooked and want more, so replacing lost items as you do is the best way to ensure all your customers are devoted return customers who shop many times over.

Hollabee said...

the frustrations of AusPost...
I actually think they might still show up...Christmas is a busy period and my parcels take longer to send. I'd say give it another 2 weeks and if it's not there...resend. Always resend or refund...happy customers are returning customers :)

It was great to meet up with you last night :) Ciao!

of paper & thread said...

wow everyone has left some really good comments and pretty much said what i was going to say! fingers crossed they are not missing and have just been slowed down due to all the christmas mail... and i think your mum is definately right about self-insuring - sounds like the way to go! hope it all gets sorted without too much stress...

feli said...

I have a few that has gone missing too. I usually replace the one that is missing or ask the customer to pick something from my shop as a replacement.

I agree with the rest that we always have to keep the customer happy and treat the missing package as a loss to the business.

ShiriMe! said...

everyone here said pretty much the same things i would've said. the only thing i would add, not to add paranoia, is that it also depends on what country. sometimes things will go missing if you ship it to a country notorious for horrible customs practices - ripping up packages, taking things away even if harmless, etc. But, I would wait it out a bit longer and tell your customers to wait a bit longer too. the holidays is also an awful time to send things. even big companies can't ship it out fast enough to match the volume of mail! i would try to keep track of which regions you've experienced lost/delayed packages (just in your head, over a period of time in your business) and how often it happens to get a good measure of where you would really need to start insuring or registering packages for those places. or to just keep in mind that a certain area is prone to missing stuff. and it's not a bad idea to replace parcels. it doesn't happen often enough (unless you had a mean customer who's trying to rip you off) to be a huge financial loss. and you ensure that you'll have that customer's business in future transactions.

but good luck lara and hope those packages turn up and no more fretting. :)

shirley

Sarah said...

No worries... a while ago I registered my parcel to french consulate in sydney containing the original of my passport and plane ticket... and australia post had NO idea where it went... luckily it turned up at the consulate, and i have it all back with a student visa too! Haha and yet today i got a letter from austpost saying they still don't know where the package is and if i want i can put in an insurance claim for loss of items... haha feel your pain completely :)

Little Bitsys said...

Hm, I am waiting for an order but it's only been about a week and I wouldn't expect it to get here (US) for about 2 weeks, that's normal SO I would maybe wait awhile and see if they don't show up. I once mailed a package to a friend in New York (for Colorado) the beginning of December and she received it in March! (that was odd, I replaced it and then the PO must have eventually found it)

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I'm a bit late in commenting, but it's been great to read what everyone thinks.

I sell on eBay and many of my pieces are one-offs. If I can, I send a replacement, if not I offer a refund. I prefer to keep the customer happy.

Until recently, I had a business partner and she had a strict no-refunds policy. It never sat well with me and was one of the reasons we split (though in a nice way) in the end.

Luckily, it doesn't happy very often at all, and around this time of year, it's usually just a delay rather than a loss.