Made $5K in 2 Days and Lost $10K in 5 Days
Updated: Feb 27
Back in April 2022, Copper and Brass was growing immensely and we had two large storage units plus my home was jam packed with overflow inventory. We were literally bursting at the seams. So I had this "brilliant" idea to move all of our inventory into an ever larger storage space that could house EVERYTHING. This was a huge undertaking for our small business because this would require movers, time and loads of patience...none of which I had. See the conundrum with a small business is you have to make time for the important things to scale the business but you can never take your foot off the gas too long.
Shutting down business was not an option meaning content creation, social media marketing, packing and pulling orders all had to continue.
Then the next "brilliant" idea hit me. I decided to run the biggest sale we've ever hosted...40% Off EVERYTHING. This sale served two purposes...1) Clearing out inventory and 2) Making Some Quick Moolah (which is always good in the small business world)! So I posted the sale and we hit the ground running. Within two days, we hit over $5,000 in sales. I never set a goal for the sale because this was a spur of the moment decision (not a good idea in business). Despite my poor planning I was pleasantly surprised with the sales and clearing of the merchandise!
Now that's the fun part. The not so fun part is the shipping but it is a necessary step in the process. BUT first I need to back up and tell you about what happened the week prior to the sale.
Since Copper and Brass was founded I've had the privilege of having really nice and helpful mail carriers. The sweetest carrier, Lady K., was super nice, hardworking and considerate. She became a friend and I appreciated her hardwork. Lady K. would text me if she was running late or if her truck was filled to capacity. She even let me know when she was out sick. Unfortunately for Copper and Brass Lady K. soon moved on up the ladder. I was thrilled for her but selfishly missed her dependability and kind nature. Shortly after Lady K's promotion we saw a myriad of mail carriers. Many of these carriers were less than enthusiastic about their new jobs and even less moved when they'd arrive at our location and see anywhere from 20-100 packages daily awaiting their arrival. Some carriers just shook their heads, others passed by the location and pretended not to see our packages and some begrudgingly stopped to pick up the mail. Pretty soon the rotation of carriers would skip our DAILY pickups at least 2-3 times each week.
As a business owner, I pride myself on shipping orders out quickly so missed postal pickups were harmful to our business practices. I did what I thought was right and contacted the local post office about the pick up issues. At this point, I thought the issue would be resolved and we could move forward but it just so happens that the day after I contacted the post office was the same day that the sale merchandise was being shipped out. The male carrier, whomI recognized as the guy who passed up our mail on several occasions, picked up the mail and made very little eye contact with me. This should have been a red flag but I was oblivious.
Within a week of shipping all of the packages I started to receive emails from customers every day regarding their orders. The emails read like this, "I received tracking numbers from your company but the postal service has no record of my order being received." I was initially very calm and simply told customers that USPS may be bogged down with shipping and tracking will update in 2-3 days and I'd say "No worries". LOL LOL LOL! Actually, I should have worried. Soon customer emails turned into claims from PayPal, AfterPay and even our own payment processor.
ALL OF THE ORDERS WERE MISSING
This was my worst nightmare. In this moment, I realized I shipped $5,000 in merchandise, customers were complaining, I was trying to explain and no one believed me at all. I literally cried! I called my mom crying, I told my husband while in tears and I tried to explain the situation to my customers but no one seemed to care. I think a lot of people cared but I was just too overwhelmed to realize it in the moment. After I cried for 2-3 more days, I immediately started issuing refunds to customers. I then followed up with an email explaining the situation and asking that if they received the order to please ship them back to me.
I must say this: I'm not sure if the angered postal worker threw all of my orders away or if they were misplaced even though only about 10 out of 100 orders every materialized but I learned a few valuable but expensive lessons.
As a small business owner, always keep adequate cash reserves. Had I not had cash reserves I would not have been able to refund my customers. So essentially I made $5k but loss over $10K after refunds.
Be up front and honest with customers. I really think most of my customers understood but there were some who thought I was a thief and demanded their refund. I think when I ended emails with "No worries" it didn't calm customer concerns but instead heightened their fears. It hurt our account to honor those refunds but it was the right thing to do. It was our responsibility.
Follow up. Normally, I'm pretty diligent about follow ups; however, I was so defeated, so sad and so hurt I never reached back out to the postal service to explain what happened after I called to report the missed pickups. I believe 90% of the packages were insured as I purchase priority mail for most orders; however, I was so worked up and in my feelings that I just took the loss and never pursued a refund from USPS. I would never not follow up again.
Plan out sales and big events for your business. When you rush the process it tends to have lots of hiccups. I think with better planning I could have prevented this situation. I think leaving 100 packages for pickup with a new mail carrier was insensitive. What was I thinking?
Be considerate of others. Maybe I should have spoke with the mail carrier and asked about his day or how he was enjoying his new route. Not really sure about this one but a tad bit of kindness goes a long way.
In the end, Copper and Brass survived to see another day and I learned a lot of what not to do in the future. Business is hard yall but it so rewarding. And it's so easy to quit! We have to be relentless in our pursuits and keep going. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn!
If you own a small business have you suffered any huge losses? If you care to share I would love to hear about them.