Wednesday , 2 December 2020

Worst Case Scenarios Part Two: Shipping Mix-ups

Worst Case Scenarios Part Two: Shipping Mix-ups  (Part One)
Last week I wrote about some undesirable or “worst case” scenarios you might bump into while running your Etsy shop: an unhappy customer or bad feedback. In part two of this series I’m revisiting a few shipping mix ups I made and how I handled them. I’m speaking about these scenarios from the point of view of someone who’s been through them. While my solutions are certainly not right for everyone, I hope for those of you that wonder “what if” they might be helpful in working out what to do if you find yourself in a pickle.

During the holidays things can get pretty hairy in my studio. Last year even when I was sure I kept things organized, I mislabeled a package and sent it to the wrong person. When the customer contacted me, I was really embarrassed. I couldn’t believe I had done it! I felt that the customer should not be responsible for the cost of sending the item back to me, so I decided to let them keep the small item I sent. Obviously, if this were a more expensive item, I would probably kindly request the buyer return the item and possibly compensate them in some way by paying for return shipping or offering them store credit for the cost of shipping and their time.
The second time I sent the wrong items out, I mixed up two orders that were more expensive custom items. Total panic set in. I had spent a lot of time an money creating these pieces and was definitely not willing to take a loss on them. I contacted the buyers and fortunately they were incredibly nice about the mix up and happy to send the items back to me. I sent each buyer money for shipping via PayPal, and, although they offered to send them to the correct buyer, I decided to have them send the items back to me. This took longer, but I didn’t want to give out the other buyers’ addresses, and I also wanted to make sure the items were in good condition and nicely packaged. I also included a hand written thank you with the repackaged orders and a small gift to thank them for their time and understanding. In over 1200 sales I’m fortunate to have only gone through this twice and that was two times too many for me! Here’s the system I put in place to prevent it from happening again.

I now use a spreadsheet for all of my orders that has checkpoints on it: item finished, buyer contacted,  item packaged, item labeled, item shipped. I include the buyer’s name, address and user name on the sheet next to the items and have an area for notes about the order. I close a package only after I’ve printed the postage and taped it to the outside. It all sounds so simple and I’m sure many of you have this all figured out, but it took me years to perfect a system that I would stick to when things get busy. I used to try to keep track of a lot in my head, but realized when there are 15-20 orders backed up, I absolutely have to write everything down to visualize what needs to be done.
Every shop has it’s own unique considerations, and what has worked for me in this scenario may not work for everyone. When bad things crop up, I’ve found it’s good to have a game plan so I can keep a level head. I know I’m far from perfect, so coming up with a plan for my potential mistakes has proven worthwhile when I’m able to prevent them.
I’d love to hear about how you’ve handled shipping mix ups or other problems that have come your way while selling on Etsy. Please feel free to share them in the comments below.


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  1. Thanks for sharing! I am too small to have this kind of problems but I find your advice excellent – just in case I become big!!!lol

  2. I’ve done this! It was one of my biggest fears.

    Customer A contacted me. She was very kind but she was in rush. I immediately offered to remake her item and ship it EXPRESS, I also sent her the money to return the incorrect piece to me. Within minutes I also contacted customer B. I was open, honest, and made no excuses. When she contacted me, she said she was in no hurry. So, I was able to receive her item from customer A and reshipped it to her. Both ladies were kind and forgiving. I sent thank you emails and separate thank cards once everyone received their purchases.

    If I’ve learned anything in this past 1st year of my business, if is that my customers are smart women who appreciate honesty. Don’t make excuses, just apologize and offer solutions.

  3. GREAT advice salinda! Thanks so much for sharing your experience, and it sounds like a great model for how to handle such a sticky situation.

  4. Used to, every time I shipped a package, on the way home from the post office (or in the post office line), I had a small panic attack. Like did I leave an item out of that package… did it go to the right person?!? Some of my items are really light so it was hard to tell just by picking up the package. Once I even came home and searched high and low for an item I was sure I left out (which I didn’t).
    Now I have a similar system to yours. I don’t write everything down, but I print off the invoice, put everything in the package including the invoice, stick the address labels on the outside, then check what’s inside based on the invoice and the address with the invoice. It’s probably a little obsessive, but I don’t seal it until it has been checked this way! Once I seal it, I feel so much better. Of course sometimes I double guess myself, but thus far, no problems! Knock on wood…. :)

  5. I sent the wrong item once. I realized it when I was packaging up another item and seen the item that was suppose to have been shipped out the day before. I thought “didn’t I just sell that one?” The two I got mixed up were similar color and pattern. I confirmed my mistake by checking Etsy and sure enough I had a big “OOPS!” I contacted the buyer and let them know I had sent the wrong, and I would be sending the correct item that day. I let them keep the first item as a bonus. I was totally embarrassed. Now, I double check everything before the package is sealed.

  6. Yes, this is a frustrating thing to have happen….twice I’ve put the wrong labels on packages shipping the same day. Once was during my busy holiday season and just a month ago when not much was really happening in my shop….but these 2 orders on the same day. And as sure as I was that they were both headed to the right destination….the one that should have gone to Germany went to Arizona, and…you get it. That was a costly mistake – I let the tile that went to Germany by mistake stay there and shipped the actual tile she ordered at no charge. The other customer shipped back the tile that she got in error without even being asked. It was a total wash in $$, but I do believe I have happy customers!
    And that, my friends is what it’s all about.

  7. I haven’t mixed up orders……….Yet. (Hope I don’t, haha) but I did leave out an item to one customer, which I convo’d and sent the next day. and once I sold an item on Etsy that I did not have! I listed a TON of tshirt yarn and I listed ONLY by looking at pics on my laptop, didn’t have the actual item next to me. WEll, I had taken pics of several items and this particular one wasn’t in my “inventory box”. Don’t have a clue where it is or why I had this picture….but I listed it, sold it and then, it wasn’t there. The customer bought it for her sister. I emailed her, explained what happened, she was super nice, said to just pick another color for her sister and send. Original order was like 18 yards of tshirt yarn, so I sent one that was 39 yards. I felt I needed to send a little more expensive item to make up for her purchasing something that I didn’t actually have. In the end, all were happy.

  8. This is one of my major concerns. It hasn’t happened yet, but there has been many times in the past that I’ve un-packaged a package before shipping to make sure…what a pain.

    I now make sure to only package up one order at a time with the invoice printed out right next to me. Like the author I don’t tape up the box until after the shipping label is printed out. I also jot down the etsy name of the customer onto the box before I fill it.

  9. A tip my Mum used to use when sending parcels and as I’m a real scatterbrain I adopted it and it’s kept me safe so far – identical address labels – one in the package and one on the package. :-)

  10. This hasn’t happen to me yet. That is because I am just starting out. I haven’t had overlapping orders.

    Thank you for the heads up.

  11. Many years ago when I sold stuff on “that other auction site”, I sold two vintage white crocheted ponchos in the same week. After sending them out, I realized I had mixed them up and sent them both to the wrong people.

    Amazingly enough, both customers were from Australia and both offered to forward the packages to the other person when they received them! I was SOOOO grateful they were kind and understanding – and both gave me positive feedback for extraordinary communication and customer service!! :)

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