Delivery is a sensitive issue for craftspeople. First, you complete the fragile piece for the customer, wrap it carefully and ship it. Then, two weeks later, the customer calls you to complain that the item has never arrived. Now begins the delicate dance with the client and shipping agent; when was it received, who received it, where it was left and was it correctly tracked and scanned for delivery.
This end of things needs diplomacy: one accusation can end all hopes of resolving things amicably. It’s one thing when the item is a spoon; you might ship a similar item from your stock and use another shipping method. But it gets iffy when it’s a five or six-hundred-dollar unique boat portrait. You can’t just whip another one up in a day.
I am reticent about condemning any particular shipper or claiming perfection for another. Too many factors come into play. Something not showing up, though, leads in my mind to several scenarios:
- An item is “left in the building.” Small things go adrift in large package facilities and wind up getting delayed or lost.
- Misdelivery. The day your package is due to be delivered, a relief driver is on the route. Your package is misdelivered to a neighbor. Ask around.
- Bad driver release I. Most package companies have rules regarding where packages can be left. Usually, they are not to be left in plain sight of the road. Some drivers get cute. Check the shrubbery.
- Bad driver release II. Your driver is in a hurry or doesn’t care. So the package gets left in plain sight on the porch where all can view it.
- Porch Pirates. Porch pirates follow delivery vans around, watching for the opportunity to profit from your loss. They love it when a driver does a lousy driver release and makes their life easy.
- Of course, you are honest. But there are dishonest buyers out there. The package gets delivered, and they issue a complaint that it was not delivered. Fraud, unfortunately, can raise its ugly head.
I have colleagues who deal on Etsy, Shopify, and other seller sites that ship less expensive items. They emphasize that a delivery problem is not an integrity issue with the artisan unless it gets made into one.
Most artisans are concerned with their ratings and customer satisfaction. So most take care in shipping. But once a package is in the hands of a shipper, delivery is not the artisan’s problem. If they have done due diligence with good packing and internal as well external labels, it’s now the shipper’s liability.
Unfortunately, some customers don’t agree and post ratings with accusations of fraud. Later on, it’s hard to repair the damage done to the relationship between customer and artist; when the original package arrives, the artisan ships a replacement or offers a deep discount on a replacement.
It’s hard to lay down all the reasons delivery issues develop, but I think the ones I laid out are the most common. I avoid some shippers in favor of United Parcel Service, but I know other artisans who prefer the US Mails. You eventually stick with those services that you have good results with.
Here’s something to be considered. Without swathing my packages I always over pack.I always insure for the cost of the product, include internal and external labels, and I would never ship without adequate and accurate tracking on a package. As a result, I’ve had very few problems. Do my customers complain about shipping costs? No. It’s a few dollars extra on an expensive commission.
One final point. Keep the shipping company honest. For example, when you track the package and the notation on proof of delivery reads “met customer, man,” and you know that no one was home, something is wrong. Complain to the shipper. No one will fix the issue if no one complains because it won’t be perceived as an issue.