When the HairBoutique.com's Marketplace was launched in the Summer of 1999 we had no idea that one of our biggest challenges to running an Internet hair and beauty site would be shipping. Huh? Did I say shipping? Yes indeed.
Never mind that HairBoutique.com has grown from a tiny hair focused site to thousands of pages of published hair and beauty content with thousands of related products in our e-store. Or that we now are bulging at the seams of a large warehouse complete with separate picking, packing and postage stations.
Even with all our progress over the past three years, shipping still has the HB.com team members turning gray and pulling our hair out. HairBoutique.com is my passion, so I take these various and sundry shipping challenges very personally.
One thing I had to learn, the hard way, is that no matter how carefully we bubble wrap and peanut pack every box, we can't personally carry the finished package to our customer's doorstep. Trust me, if only we could adopt Star Trek technology to beam the boxes into the homes of our loyal customers, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Alas, we still have to depend on our friendly UPS and US Postal Service employees to get our carefully wrapped treasures to our Marketplace customers.
Although they try very hard, as one bumper sticker proclaims, "Stuff Happens". And indeed it does.
While we have learned, the hard way, to minimize some of the shipping related problems, there are secrets that I would love to share with anyone who has suffered through their own shipping disasters.
Knowledge Is Power
Although 2nd Day UPS appears pretty straightforward, it is not as simple as it seems. Second Day means two business days (not counting weekends or Holidays) after you place your order. For example, is you place an order before 2:00 pm Central Standard Time on a Wednesday, you should receive your order Friday. There are exceptions to this rule.
At HairBoutique.com if you place your order after 2:00 pm CST on a Wednesday, and you select 2nd Day UPS, you will not receive your order until the following Monday. This is because weekends and Holidays do not count as part of the 2nd Day timetable.
UPS 2nd Day is only available to Continental US addresses. When in doubt, ask.
Plan In Advance
Maybe your sister Jane announced just last week that she is getting married in 7 days. However, more brides than not plan their wedding at least a few months in advance. If you know that you are going to need a special hair gem for a wedding that is weeks or months away, please order in advance. If you need a hair relaxer for a special hair appointment in 3 weeks, please order as soon as you can.
Even though HairBoutique.com has implemented a three person checking process to try and minimize our own pilot errors, once a package leaves our HB.com dock, there is nothing we can do to guarantee that your shipment will arrive on time.
Yes, we pray, we chant and we burn Happy Shipping incense, but even with all that metaphysical help, packages can, and do, get lost. Which accounts for our gray hair and nervous stomachs.
If you can order in advance and something weird happens, --and boy do I have stories -- you have time to have another package shipped out and still be properly jewel encrusted for your special event.
Being spontaneous is wonderful but not when you are dealing with planes, trains and ground shipping companies.
Cheat Fate When Possible
We love UPS. In fact, our UPS guys have become part of the HB.com family. However, even UPS knows that even in the best possible circumstances, packages disappear. Maybe there is a race of aliens that love opening snatched UPS packages. Or maybe there should be a new Murphy's Law for UPS packages left unattended. While I am not pointing any fingers, I do think that you can minimize your risks of losing your precious cargo.
Never try and ship a UPS package to an APO, FBO or US Postal Service locked box. No matter what, UPS will not deliver to those types of addresses. In the best case scenario UPS will leave a slip in your PO Box telling you that they have a package for you. Worst case, your box will be shipped back to HairBoutique.com.
Although we try very hard to pre-screen all outgoing UPS packages for forbidden addresses, we do experience random pilot errors. Even worse, UPS will deliver to a commercial postal center like Mailboxes Etc., Sometimes we have a hard time differentiating the two types of box addresses.
When you do a phone order, be sure and tell the operator that you are shipping to an APO, FBO or US Postal Service box. They will be able to make sure that you have the best possible shipping option. They will also use a bright yellow marker on the shipping information to make sure your package gets where its going.
When it comes to shipping, anything can and does happen. The key to success with shipping is to research, research, research and ask when you are not sure. Pick up the phone, send an email or call the shipping companies to get as much information as you can. Especially when you are in a hurry.