Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Who Has Responsibility?

An interesting topic came up yesterday in the Etsy forums regarding shipping policy, and then again today a person has a question about what to do in a shipping situation.

She shipped out a package and used delivery confirmation through the post office. The customer says that they have not yet received this package, but the delivery confirmation shows that it has been delivered. Delivery confirmation only tells whether or not the post office has received the package. It does not guarantee that the recipient has actually received their parcel. The only way to confirm a package in hand is with signature confirmation or insurance.

So what does she do?

My first hope is that she has her policies written up to include this kind of situation. My shipping policies specifically say that I cannot be responsible for packages after they leave my hands. I have no control over the Post Office, though I do my best to ensure that all packages are shipped per USPS policies to ensure safe delivery. When writing my policies regarding shipping I tried to be extremely explicit in explaining as many situations as I could. Feel free to read through them here.

I cannot be responsible for packages sent to incorrect or outdated addresses. Please double check to verify that the shipping address is correct and current. Should a package be returned due to an address error on your part, you will be responsible for any re-shipping charges to send it out again.

A person in yesterday's Etsy discussion said that this isn't a fair policy. Perhaps my policies are harsh, but as a one woman show (doing business now for 5 years or so) I have learned that if I don't protect myself no one else will. There are unscrupulous people who WILL try to take advantage of small businesses and I refuse to be a victim. Let's just say that learning the hard way is not something I want to experience so I've tried to learn from others.

From a customer's perspective I can totally understand how frustrating it is to not get a package, and I do my best to find the package (sometimes they are left at the post office, sometimes mis-delivered to a neighbor) or replace/refund, but it isn't always possible and it sucks. Not being a large box store I don't have hundreds of pieces of inventory waiting on the shelves, nor do I have a large supply of funds stocked away to issue refunds.

I also can't feasibly insure every package I ship out. It doesn't make sense to insure a $25 pair of replaceable earrings - the odds are good that they will arrive safely and if I add insurance to every package the costs would add up very quickly. Insuring larger packages or difficult to replace pieces, of course, makes sense. If an insured package gets lost it can be refunded or replaced.

[Did you know? If you pay for overnight shipping and it does not arrive overnight you can get a refund from the post office? I had that happen last Christmas.]

Then there is the dreadful situation - what if a package DOES get delivered but the customer is trying to scam another one or a refund? Claiming a package hasn't arrived doesn't necessarily mean that it hasn't. Of course, there is virtually no way to confirm this but there are places online where small shops talk about these kinds of things ... sometimes there are patterns.

My policies are my policies and therefore I can work around them if I need to ... and thank goodness I haven't had to deal with this very often. My goal is obviously a happy customer, but I also must protect myself. I think there are too many artisans out there who are so desperate to please that they will do anything - even to their own extreme detriment - to please a customer.

I want to please, but I'm not willing to do just anything.


San said...

I found your site through a comment you left in mine (uglydoggy). Funny enough it seems we have a lot in common as I am also a dog lover and I am setting up my Etsy account to sell my jewelry... I am bookmarking your site as it seems like a great resource for people like me, that we are "new" at Etsy :)

Anna said...

I had a buyer receive her necklace and earrings crushed. I thought I had packaged them carefully in tissue, then in bubble wrap, then in a padded envelope (I have since changed to boxes). The package arrived and looked pristine, except for one small black smudge. When she opened it, though, the main beaded bead of the necklace and one of the earrings were completely crushed (to powder)! Since I didn't package them as carefully as I could have, I remade them and sent new ones. She did send me the crushed ones in the original envelope, so I could see them for myself. I have no idea what could have caused that kind of damage, but I've learned my lesson and now box everything!

CastoCreations said...

Anna...that is a tough one for sure. I would have done the same thing and replaced the piece since it was not properly padded. That's a learning thing. =) I've been there.

Welcome San! Feel free to e-mail or leave a comment if you have any questions about Etsy. I'm not an expert but I've been around. *grin*

Crystal said...

That's a toughy. I mean, legally, I think we are responsible to get the product to the customers... but on the other hand, there are scammers.

However, I'm pretty sure that someone could file a complaint with paypal or Visa/MC or whoever it is they paid through, and they'd more than likely win unless you could prove somehow that they did indeed receive it. Fair? Probably not... but it's no fun to pay good money for something and not get it even if you did everything right (like if the PO misdelivered it even tho the address was right, or otherwise lost it), so sort of understandable too in a way.

It's a toughy though. Thankfully not a situation we've had to deal with.

How are you, btw? I miss seeing you on SJA!

PlungerGirl said...

I used to have a soy candle business and did a lot of online selling--I avoided this by strictly using UPS. It's more expensive, but the buyer should pay for the shipping anyway. With UPS, if it says it's delivered, the missing package is then between UPS and the customer.

As a customer now, generally speaking I'll pass up businesses that only use USPS. I hate dealing with the post office and mail travels so slowly with them.

Crystal said...

That's so funny, cause I avoid them like the plague. LOL They are very very slow where I live, and tend to leave $800 packages on my doorstep even when no one is home.

CastoCreations said...

Crystal - you're right. Someone could absolutely file a complaint but I would guess that if someone were trying to scam a second package they wouldn't do that. I think if you "challenge" (even just saying "let's wait a few more days" and do the due diligence to track a package down) a scam artist will back down.

I've used UPS in the past, but only because I get a HUGE discount through my "real" job. :)