Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Feast or Famine

I know, I know, the title could reflect my ability to write these blog posts as well.  I hear from many people, either I write 10 in one week, or none for a month.  Yep, that would be me.

Well, things have really picked up in the last few days.  Things were going slow, slow enough that I was (and still am) planning on doing another sale, but in the last few days, had lots of inquiries about chinchillas. 

Been keeping busy around here.  We had the Darien expo a bit ago, sold a decent amount of stuff (very nice amount for Darien), and made $8.50 in donations.  Nothing to write home about, but better than the $3 (over two days) we made at Celebration of Wildlife last year.  Well anyway, few good days, then I went off to work in Ohio and came back and immediately landed myself in the ER because of asthma complications.  So, things ground to a halt for a day or two, I called up people and rescheduled appointments, but for the most part, things are back on track.  Still don't feel well, the pills they have me on for my cold (which is what triggered the asthma flare-up to start with) are making me not feel so great, but I am plowing along and trying to keep things going, cause this is the busy season!

Unfortunately, we missed the Lake County Pet Expo, which was super disappointing for us, as that's the only expo that gives back to the rescues, and every year, each rescue in attendance gets a share of the profits, which is usually something like $200.  As rescues never have anywhere near enough money, that would have been awesome to get, and would have helped out tremendously, but we'll do fine without it.  That was literally the day after the ER visit, and I could not risk my health to spend all day there (and not at home resting).

This weekend, though, is going to be Celebration of Wildlife.  This will be our second year, and we're hoping people come out and see us, it's at Sunset Hill Farm in Valpo from 10-5 on Sunday..... last year, over two days we had no sales, it was too hot to bring the chins, and $3 in donations... so this year is sort of going to be the test year... if it's that bad again this year, we likely may not go next year.  But we shall see.  In the meantime, all the supplies and everything are still loaded in the blazer, and on my to-do list today is to add in a few more items (things we sold out of at the last expo), and then that'll all be packed and ready for this weekend.

But been keeping busy just around here as well.  Chins have been getting adopted.  We had one lady and her family who moved out of the house due to an abusive husband... the thing they really wanted was a chinchilla with everything and wanted to do it for under $200.  And it is do-able, and we made it work.  The key is, they didn't get a baby, they got Chinchy, a 5-6 year old grey male who is super sweet and would do great with their family with kids, plus my handpicking of supplies and cage and shelves and such.  But it is do-able to do it cheaper...(just not with the opinion that you're going home with a baby chin). 

So he went home.  Lee also went home.  Lee actually went home with a buddy!  We had a white extreme mosaic male here who we'd had to spray with blu-kote because he got injured in a tussle with some other chins, and Lee's new family wanted Lee to have a buddy (if at all possible), and so we got the two of them together, and they went home yesterday.

This morning, we had a little violet girl go home.  Had someone email saying they wanted to come by and get supplies and wanted to get a little chin, came by, picked out their girl, and we got them set up with a nice cage and everything they'd need.

Have several other people scheduled to come later on this week, and the one person I was talking to had asked about cages, so I sent her pics and prices.  And she asked if I could go any lower on the cages, and I told her, unfortunately, I couldn't.  I'm sure I've gone over this a million times, but let me one more time.... the large cage which we sell for $120 (without shelves).  I have bought three of them this year and paid $299.91 for those (combined -- the price fluctuates).  That means for three cages, I have made $60.09.  Don't get me wrong, $60 isn't nothing.  But often people look at it and say, "oh the cage is $120, shes making $120."  No, most I'm making might be $20-ish.  If I can't get the cage on sale from the place I get it, the cage may go up to $110 for the cage.  Well, then, add in tax and we're at $117.70 and and all of a sudden I'm making $2.30 for selling the cage.  Thing is, the exact amount doesn't matter too much, the point is, I want to have those two different cage options here for sale so that when people want to get a cage, they have good cage options at reasonable prices.  But it's not like you spend $120 and I make $120.  It's like you spend $120 and I make $20, if that. 

Same goes for the toys.  I dunno how I managed to do it, but I already blew through my last order of loofah.  Yep, cut it all up, dyed it all, and now need more.  And when I order from the place I order, I literally clear them out.  Like I will type in a quantity until it says "only x in stock, reduce amount for checkout" and then I will order the exact amount they have.  Right now, it's somewhere in the 50's.  Anyway, point being.  I made like four halloween loofah toys today, I have more dyed loofah that I need to use to make zany loofah toys.. but I still need to order more, because now I'm fresh out of loofah.  And because I have to ship this stuff, it's not economical to get just a few pieces, so I just put in an order for like $175 worth of loofah.  Now, I can't easily quantify how many toys and loofah bags and whatever that will make, because what I will be using it for will depend on what sells.  I do cut up and dye a lot of loofah at a time, but typically it's to make a certain toy, or bagged loofah, or whatever.  But I get a lot of people who give off the impression that the prices of my toys (and everything else) are solely profit... not so much.  The loofah itself... or wood itself... or whatever itself... it all adds up.  I realized I'm getting low on the 2" x 3" wood blocks I use in all my toys, so I emailed the guy who cuts those for me (I don't have a wood planer, and don't plan to get one).  Well, the last time I got blocks, it was like $150-200.  Sure, the toys go for more money than the parts they're made of, but it's not all free (though that would be nice!!).

So I looked at my list of the things we sold at the last expo, and packed up those items for the Celebration of Wildlife.  Started putting more grommets and hooks on the new hammocks and got some pics of those on my phone, so I can start listing those.

Received an email from Celebration saying to not forget our raffle basket, so I made that up, so that's all ready to go now.  Yay.

Realized that some of the hammocks and cuddle buddies that are on the webstore... aren't here anymore.  Whoops.  Deleted those items. 

So then today I cleaned the critter nation that's set to go home soon, and then that same person wants to look at this one used wheel that we have, so I washed the wheel and the washers and wingnuts are drying right now. 

Cleaned another of the cages that I need to fix up to sell, and started spray painting it... until I ran out of paint.  Guess that will wait for another day.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Shipping of Packages

Wanted to bring this up... you'll see why.

I posted on facebook yesterday about how (in a nutshell), I had scheduled a package pickup with USPS, had put four packages on the porch, and had received email notification that the pickup was complete.  Yet... the packages were still on the porch the next morning, so I called the local post office and they said they would send someone out to pick them up.... yet they did not.  I was out of town for the following two days, and the packages sat on my porch that entire time, while I received mail every day, and yet didn't get picked up. 

So I posted on facebook about this, and about how useless USPS is, and saying sorry that the packages haven't gone out yet.

I noticed, shortly after this, that another vendor had posted on facebook something about, they go to the post office IN PERSON (they used the caps), because it's more personal, and how it's sad everything's automated.  I don't know if that was intended as a jab at me and the rescue store, but I feel like it very well may have been, which is why I'm writing this post. 

Let me tell you why I ship the way I do, and why I cannot do (at least, not all the time), what this other person does --

This other vendor only sells non-perishable items.  As in, no chinchilla food, no treats, no time sensitive things, like when someone is gonna run out of rood and orders more.  They have houses, hammocks, etc etc, but things that can wait.  So, there's no rush for them to get out of orders, cause no one's chinchilla is gonna run out of food while waiting on their non-food order.  AND... they posted that they ship in batches, only TWO times per month.  I ship almost every other day.  A lot of times it's just one or two packages, but it's OFTEN.  With it being that often, it's really not practical for me to run to the post office every time.

The post office touts their package pickup, which is free.  They even have commercials for it on TV, saying the mailman will already be here, they can pick it up.  Clearly, as shown in my example, that doesn't work as flawlessly as they'd like people to think, but it is a service the offer.  And a useful service, because when it works (that's the key, isn't it?), I don't have to drive to the post office, wait in line, drop off packages, and so on.

Now, let's also talk about price.  This other vendor has several hammocks available, and they are nicer (shape-wise... like they're not squares) than mine.  She has for each of them, $6 shipping.  And maybe she's shipping them in a little priority mail box, I don't know.  But for $6 shipping, per hammock, she can afford to go to the post office.  You know what my hammocks are set at for shipping in the webstore?  $3.50.  And at that price, maybe I make $0.25-$0.50 on shipping.  You order two of them, and it'll go up to $6.50, but chances are, you will end up with some of that refunded, cause it really won't cost $6.50 to ship two.  I usually ship hammocks in first class envelopes (assuming the order is only hammocks or other small items), and can get maybe 4-5 of them in there, probably for under $5 total shipping.  I'm not making much on shipping, and that's fine, because I feel that gouging on shipping is ripping people off.  You want to make $10 profit off your item, fine, raise the price so that you make $10 profit, but don't have an item that costs nothing to ship and charge a fortune for shipping.  Packaging just doesn't cost that much.

Anyway, reason I wanted to talk about price is because price is different when you go to the post office versus when you ship at home.  Did you know that?  If you get an account with USPS and print out your own labels and such and stick them on the package themselves... you can save yourself and your customers money.  Lookie dat.  If that vendor is really going to the post office in person, that's great for her, but her customers are paying more than they need to for shipping.  Sometimes it's not a lot, but sometimes it's the difference between $40 shipping and $20 shipping on heavy packages going far, no joke.  Which is yet another reason I use USPS's automated shipping, is because it's cheaper.  Then, once I've paid the shipping cost and sent out the item to be shipped, I can refund the excess to the customer, who is typically happy to get back some money.   

So I'm not doing it because I don't want to deal with real life people, or don't want to support people with real jobs, or whatever else reasons people might say "horrible automation, go away!!!"  I'm doing it to save myself time, which gets orders done quicker if I'm not driving to the post office all the time, and to save the customers money on shipping.  I'm trying to help the customers out, and in no way is it meant to be non-personal or whatever... but until someone wants to volunteer to go for me to literally hand the packages to the mail man at the post office... things will be done this way.  If anyone would like this to change, by all means, volunteer, and you can stop by every time I have a package ;)  haha

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sale Ends & Life Goes On

So, today was the last day of the August Sale, and was rather uneventful.  Which is fine, but almost funny, considering yesterday people were scrambling to get here and adopt.  No biggie though. 

Today was more relaxed.  Which is kind of nice, considering Monday is cleaning day.  For those that don't know, for maybe a month or two now, I've had a local guy come by to help clean on Mondays.  Everyone say hi to Joel (that's Jo-EL), since quite a few of you have met him when you've stopped by on Mondays.  He conveniently lives three blocks away and works at one of the local bars as a cook / cleaner... so fits right in with the cleaning I need done.

So anyway, he was cleaning some of the cages today, and after his cages were done (he does the ones with the pull out pans... everything else is on me), I opted to hang onto him for a bit more labor, and he sanded some stuff for me and then I showed him how to wash water bottles.  Yes, our water bottles do get washed, despite the way they always look.  Once a month.  Moreso, if a chin is sick or if the water bottle looks especially icky (then I'll swap it out with a clean one with new water), but since they are glass and don't breed bacteria the way plastic would, once a month typically suffices.  Well... it's the beginning of the month, and time to clean again.   So I showed Joel how I wash the bottles, and he was highly amused by the trial-mascara-brushes that I swipe from make-up-counters-at-the-mall to clean the water bottle tubes.  He cleaned maybe 15-20 before he had to leave (had already called his ride before he knew I wanted him to stay and work extra), and happily, he cleaned them as good as I would have.  If there's anything I hate, it's having to re-do something after help does it badly the first time (I hate doing double the work), but thankfully, he cleans and washes water bottles well.

When he was leaving, he made the comment of, how do I normally do this all by myself?  I just do.  I told him, even if he wasn't there, I'd just take down a few at a time, wash em, refill em, rehang them.  I use the katadyn filter to filter the water, and since it's not an endless supply, I told him, I'll do as many bottles as I can fill... then come back to it later.  Heck, even right now, when he left, I washed more bottles, and used all the water I had.  Refilled the filter, and came upstairs for a bit, took out recycling.  I wasn't originally going to go back down, but then I realized that I wanted to set out packages for pickup tonight, and I left a package to mail downstairs.  So, I will go back down and get that, and when I do, I'll take whatever water has filtered down in the bit of time I've been upstairs and fill and hang some more bottles.  And then fill the filter, and next time I'm down there, repeat.  It takes longer with just me doing it, but I get it done.  It's just a lot of time spent with the critters.