Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Hello all!

I hope you've all had a great Thanksgiving, spending it with family or friends, and ate some great food.

I have been in Florida since Monday, with my girlfriend Karen. It's been an interesting trip.

On Tuesday, my mom, sister, Karen and I moved all of my belongings from a storage unit to the Soapier storage unit, to save money. What a job. We were exhausted afterwards.

On Wednesday, I did some work for Soapier. We had to get a ton of packages out, and I saw just how hard my mom is working. I'd like to put this into perspective for you folks out there.

My sister makes the majority of the soaps. She does it out of her home, since my mom, while having a second bedroom, does not have enough room to house everything. So, we get orders, and they prioritize, and then my sister makes the soap, and then drives it over to my mom's house.

Now, depending on whether we have labels in stock or not, I get the email asking me to send out files to get labels made. We have a bit of a savior in Tracy, a worker over at the Office Depot down the block from my mom's house. We had a sheet of label stock templated with the size of our labels, so that they can be laser copied. He does everything quickly for us, and helps us out a bunch.

So, my mom gets the soap. From there she has to cut the soap, then wrap the soap, then label the soap.

She has to invoice the order, via QuickBooks, or some such program. Then print out the orders, and then pick the order.

Then, she has to pick orders. If we're out of something, she has to wait until it gets made. Or, if it's one of our works of art soap, my mom has to make them. They're the Jack Frost, Penguin March, Santa's Sleigh, or Sparkling Snowflake. You can see they have multiple parts... it's what makes them unique from our other soaps, and they take a while to make.

Then filling out the shipping info, then printing the shipping label, putting the box together...

Let me tell you, folks. She does so much work, it's boggling my mind. I helped out a bit, did what I could, picked orders, wrapped soap...

Owning a small business in this country is hard work. I figure that if it's easy, you've either hit on something by luck, or you're in the mafia. We kind of wish we were in the mafia, these days.

Wednesday night, my girlfriend and I relaxed and watched The Biggest Loser, What Do They Weigh Now... or whatever the hell it was called. I was too busy watching Pandorum, or... In the Mouth of Madness. I've had my fill of reality tv these days. After months and months of being unemployed, I got through Hell's Kitchen (all 5 seasons), Top Chef (all seasons), The Biggest Loser, Amazing Race, some other stuff, I can't remember. I had that part of my brain removed.

So, we relaxed, had Denny's for breakfast the next morning, and went to go see 2012 with my sister, her husband, his friend. I thought it was a good movie. Not sure why so many people were disappointed with it. It's like these people never watched ID4, Godzilla, or The Day After Tomorrow. Whatever.

So, we head over to my mom's. I get there, open the door, walk up the stairs to her place, and she's standing there and she says "I didn't cook."

Let me tell you something about my mom. She's a chef. She might not have gone to school, but the woman cooks some fantastic food. Really. And for her to say she didn't cook, I knew something was wrong.

She said she was feeling sick, that she almost passed out, was weak... things that no son (or daughter) wants to hear. Especially on Thanksgiving! I mean, where's the turkey, stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, cranberries...

What I mean to say is, I was very worried about HER. You know, her. So, we called her doctor's office, and the doctor on call called us right back and said 'better safe than sorry, get to the hospital.'


So we get to the hospital, and long story short (too late), her blood pressure was a bit high, but that was it. It could have been a number of things. Bad eggs she ate that morning, or a problem with one of the meds she's taking... could have been stress.

She stayed the night at the hospital, they ran some tests, everything came back fine, and then she came home and gushed about some doctor that saw her. He was handsome, in his 40s, he set my mind at ease, blah blah.

It's funny. I knew she was going to be ok, but I couldn't help make jokes at the hospital. People think that it's how other people deal with things. Not me.

"Ok, Karen and I are going to be back in an hour or so, ok? We're going to get dinner."


"So, umm, nurse, the morgue is..."

I thought it was funny.

I was supposed to go back to NY today (Friday), but I didn't feel comfortable leaving my mom home alone over the weekend, with the amount of orders that have to go out. It just wouldn't be fair. So, I head back Monday. I've been cutting soap and wrapping soap, labeling them. We packaged up about 25 orders. Some waiting for soaps, some ready to go out tomorrow.

I also started about 20 molds of Reddit soap, and let me tell you, they suck! If you haven't seen the reddit soap making video from the jet blue guys, watch it now. It's pretty crazy. I burned my hand on the goddamn plastic bottles. And I melted one, too. Didn't know it wasn't supposed to go in the microwave. We put everything in the microwave!


So, I'm exhausted. I'm pirating a signal on my laptop from someone named CRAZYALEX. It's not very strong. If I can't have internet here in Florida, and my mom canceled her cable, I'll go nuts. Seriously.

This will be a busy weekend, which is good. And I think we'll cook Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night. That'll be awesome. I ended up getting a Thanksgiving plate at Ruby Tuesday's, which was just ok, while Karen ate a swiss cheese burger that had me drooling. No fair.

So, in the true meaning of the holiday gone by, I'm thankful for quite a lot of things. One, my overall general health. Two, my girlfriend. Three, my family (obviously this is in no particular order). And four, our customers. I can't tell you how blown away and happy I am that Redditors (and our other 4 customers) have helped to take care of my mom. Really. I'll always be grateful.

Have a great weekend.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

shipping and shopping carts

Just got this email from a customer:

"I really really really want to start ordering some soaps from you but my wife keeps vetoing it because the shipping of $11.00 for my order tacks on at least 33% to our order and makes the cost per bar a little on the crazy side.  I'm curious, is it just an estimate and then the final charge is different?  Because surely the postage for 5 bars of soap isn't that much.  Sorry if I'm being a cheapass, it's just that I would much prefer to buy soap from you, but it is tough going convincing my wife.  I appreciate any response as I'm holding off on our soap purchases hoping that I'm just doing something wrong.  Thanks!"

It's a problem we're having and trying to fix. The shopping cart we're using is a bit of a pain, and they just instituted a ridiculous policy that all phone help now comes with a charge. It's one of those 'we need to make more money in this economy' type plans that's just going to alienate their customers. Ridiculous.

So, here's the reply I gave this customer:

Hi, thanks for writing!

First off, where are you in the world?

Second... In regards to shipping, here’s the thing. There are a number of flat rate boxes that we use, via the usps. The problem is that if we don’t use these boxes, then the items are shipped by weight... And that can be a lot more expensive than a flat rate box. Over a certain weight, we can’t send them parcel post or first class, for two reasons. One, the usps doesn’t accept them, and two, we’d have to charge people a larger handling fee because of the purchased boxes.

So, we send out everything priority. 4 bars of our soap can normally fit in a small flat rate priority box that will cost $5.95. Some of them cannot, because of their design (take the arabian nights bar for example), but 95% of them will. The reddit soaps... Only 2 will fit. We’re not too technically savvy here at Soapier. The shopping cart we’re using has been proving to be a severe pain in the butt. They don’t account for many things the USPS expects, and so real time shipping becomes a nightmare. We’ve lost well over $1000 since we first started selling to redditors because of shipping problems.

So, we generalized pricing. Now, the truth is, we only charge real shipping fees. We don’t hide these costs when it comes to laying down the postage, so people can be sure they’re paying for what they get. Sometimes the shopping cart says one thing, and we find out it will come out cheaper, and we charge accordingly.

So. 5 bars of soap... That ends up in the medium sized priority flat rate box that costs $10. You can fit 20 bars or so in that box. It just so happens that 5 bars is the magic number, and jumps up the shipping cost.

So, that’s where we’re at, at the moment. We’re trying really hard to find a cheaper way to ship, but unfortunately we don’t ship out as many products as a larger store, and don’t get good discounts from UPS or FedEx. It’s a shame, because it only hurts customers of small businesses like ours.

If you’re outside of the US... The rules are even worse.

So, let me know where you are, and we’ll do all we can to make sure that you’re not only paying true shipping charges, but that you’re getting the best price for it, too.


We're doing our best folks. I promise!