It was just before 4pm.
I cast one last eye over the shipping system to see if there was anything urgent-looking.
It had been a relatively quiet day. Everything, of course, is relative right now. Cutoff time is in the rear view mirror, but I do like a final pass just to see if anything unusual has cropped up.
Officially, our cutoff is 2pm (Pacific time). That is, orders that come in by that time are routinely processed and shipped same day. Except Purilens orders, if they're going somewhere east of the Mississippi, in which case they get shipped the next morning direct from the manufacturer but still get there faster than if we had shipped them from here. Unless they're shipping via USPS Priority Mail, in which case it's a crapshoot because we don't know what ridiculously early hour of the morning the carrier might show up in New Jersey. Plus I'm avoiding USPS in Purilens dropships right now because one of their sort centers seems badly understaffed and packages are getting delayed and misdirected. On the other hand if it's a combination of Purilens and other stuff, it gets more complicated because we might split it up and ship the other things from here first.
Shipping minutiae. I digress.
That 2pm cutoff is a handy rule, but the fact is, it's a rule that we bend, break and trample on frequently. By "we" of course I mean "me". After all, what's the point of warehousing and shipping products ourselves (as opposed to hiring one of the logistics companies that regularly cold-calls me) if we're not going to take advantage of the infinite flexibility it gives us? And anyway, Dennis from UPS doesn't come till 4pm, and, thanks in part to coronavirus, I'm currently driving all the USPS packages to the post office at about 4:45. And with so many of our customers on the east coast, it means we so often can ship long after they assume it's too late. That's. So. Much. Fun.
You can imagine how much my staff love me for this. (Not.)
But now it's coronavirus time! Tori is here Monday, Wednesday and Friday, so I can only stress her out with last minute batches three days a week, while on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (because yes, of course I'm shipping Saturday mornings, though there's no UPS and the post office closes at 1pm) I can indulge my last minute idiosyncrasies to their fullest extent, free of guilt!
Anyway. As I was saying (an hour or two ago) I cast one last glance over the shipping system.
Where did THOSE come from?
A Next Day Air *and* 2nd Day Air. Shoot. It's almost 4 and Dennis has been coming early lately. But we can do this, and things are slow for UPS and he'll probably be willing to wait (because Dennis is Nice!)
I look at the Next Day Air. It's a plunger. One stupid little itty bitty DMV Scleral Cup, cost $4.40. Shipping cost? $49.59. I cringe.
In normal times, we would get on the phone with the customer and find out (1) could they order it from Amazon instead and get it overnighted a lot cheaper, maybe even free depending where they live? or (2) would they be able to pick up a plunger from an eye doctor's office if we could find one for them?
Neither of those solutions will fly today. Amazon can't overnight it... which is such a strange alternate reality that I cannot even wrap my brain around it. And obviously I'm not going to recommend a local source at a time like this.
But I call the customer, in case they need help... thinking of all the times we've heard from someone who needs a plunger overnighted because they have a lens stuck in their eye, and sometimes they can benefit from YouTube videos about how to remove a scleral lens without a plunger. (Okay, so they ordered an insertion plunger, but some people use those for removal....)
I get voicemail.
Then in walks Dennis.
At that point, it's just about packing and sending. Rapidly. And even though I'm disgruntled about the shipping cost, it's a real satisfaction to know that this package is probably going to get there sooner than expected, because who places an order at 5pm local time, anywhere other than on Amazon, and expects it to arrive the next day? But I also slip in a DMV Ultra, just in case there's been any mistake....
p.s. This is not my normal day job. I am longing to have my full staff here. But shipping has its satisfying elements... for sure.
Loved reading your essay this morning. You are such a perfect example of a dedicated small business owner who goes the extra mile in this challenging time we live in. Operating a small business is difficult every day in normal times. But you do it with class! Hang in there, Rebecca, and give our thanks and gratitude to your limited staff. You are all heroes for those of us who need and use your products! My best to you all.