Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sending Packages to Your Customers: When Green Isn't Great

I so pride myself on using everything in my home for another purpose in life, right down to the cereal boxes and shoe boxes when packing Etsy items.   I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi, who prides themselves in being green- and inexpensive.  By not offering plastic bags, and offering generic alternatives they can sell for less.  They also pride themselves in using less cardboard in their product line...such as this brand of Fit and Active cereal , or Millville--both generic lines. 

I use these boxes which are thinner such as the granola, fruit bars and cereal box items for non breakable goods.  In my several stores on Etsy and "that horrid other site not worth mentioning" prior to me selling on Etsy, I have shipped several thousand packages. I've shipped to international locations and with the exception of one lady upset that I used a  Dog Food Bag as packing material, I've not had any problems.  Until now. 
This was my package when it arrived to my customer, I was mortified!
I sent something made of polyethylene plastic (pretty much unbreakable) from Baltimore to California with free gifts like a tiny stress foam football (how ironic) which only provided extra support within the shoe molds to keep form, tied with an upcycled string.  There was nothing to support the box itself from being caved in.

In case you can't see, the package is marked "Damaged in Transit" in red stamped in several places by the USPS. The side is ripped open.  Based on my "track record" I immediately blamed the post office, as it surely didn't look this way when it left my home.  I then gave the customer a full refund because I wanted her to be happy . Her items weren't broken, just very bent, but a refund didn't fix the issue.  You see, it was my choice to use this flimsy box, (with good intent) and had it been sturdier, the customer's experience wouldn't have been ruined. 

Customer did not get a warm and fuzzy feeling when seeing this.  Would you?
I had some thoughts of my own....at first until I was enlightened.

I'm sharing this article with her permission of course, as we all may have to rethink how and when to use upcycled packing materials to a point.

1) Obviously some of these boxes are 35-50% less cardboard, and contain up 35-50% recycled consumer waste impacting strength and quality.  Thinner boxes are more prone to damage even if you feel your item is not damageable.  Think again.  Refer to the photos above.  It only takes once.  Why double, triple, or quadruple them when you can find a heavier alternative that may withhold normal delivery abuse? 

2) The Shopping Experience (start to finish.)  The warm and fuzzy "ohhhhhs" and "ahhhhhsss" of when your package arrives.  There's a process of anxiously awaiting arrival of your goodies, checking the lovely wrapping or business card, or freebies inside your package when you get it.  Satisfaction.  Smiles. Happiness. Repeat Business.  What should have been a fun and lively experience arrived looking like something out of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I cringed when I saw those photos, and was honestly surprised the items were still inside after viewing those photos. .

3)  Use of these thin boxes (aside obvious vulnerability to damages as stated in #1) do require more tape.  More tape on thin boxes means people are less likely to take the time (or be able to) remove the tape, therefore instead of the box going into their recycle bin it may go into the trash.  I hadn't thought of that.

4) Cereal boxes, fruit or nut bars may contain trace allergens. How would I know if her son, or her husband or even she was allergic to peanuts and I'm sending my item per se, in a nut granola box?  I hadn't even remotely considered that.  Have you?

So thanks to a customer's communication and ability to share this story and photos, and for several tidbits above I would not have thought of prior to this happening.  I will be rearranging and redoing my packing area when I get home.  No more food boxes for this eco chic! I'm going to make sure no one has to go through this experience again, in some cases once is too much.

When "sorry" isn't good enough, perhaps we can learn from our mistakes..........


Joan said...

I still use these kind of boxes to ship out smalls in my online antique site and have not had any problems like this . Thank you for alerting me of this issue I will be more cautious.

LizzieCaye said...

Great information!! incredibly nice to have. Thanks so much for sharing!!

Melody said...

I had never considered using food boxes before, but it's a good article to read just the same.

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