Friday, March 07, 2008

What Is This Handbasket? Where Am I Going?

Coffee in the New Orleans skyline mug, "Call Me On Your Way Back Home" by Ryan Adams on iTunes. It's a day. I have a big order to ship to a new gallery this morning. Problem is, I don't have their address, phone number, zip, zilch, nada except an email address--and the email I sent bounced. Oh boy. But the Internet is a mysterious and powerful device whose power is only exceeded by it's mystery. I looked up the gallery in Google. Hmmm, nothing there. So I looked up the owner's name in the 411 listing for the town and voila! The complete company address and phone listing was there. I had spelled the gallery name wrong in my initial search. Whew!

Got a note from a client this morning, I have a piece featured in a buy American blog! It's not that I have a problem with people in China making a living, but the problem with the idea of a a global economy is that you don't live globally, you live locally--and that means paying local prices for living. I have to make an American wage in order to pay American prices for food, housing, insurance, health care, etc. So I have to charge American prices for my work (making it hard to compete with the Chinese manufacturer who pays $.25 an hour for his labor).

Another little note on shipping. Bill, I'm not sure people do realize the cost of shipping. We get a lot of mail order stuff from Amazon through their prime service--we never pay shipping. Others who don't use prime (with Amazon) often wait two days to get their stuff with free shipping. My Mom in a tiny town in Montana got a vacuum cleaner shipped to her from Amazon with free prime shipping. I can't imagine what the shipping would have been otherwise on it.

And the USPS is cheap. People who sell on eBay ship through them with low postage and free boxes too. But they are just too risky for business shipping of glass--it's hard enough to get UPS's insurance to pay up (and now I wait for the eventual claim I have to make with DHL to evaluate their claims service). USPS in my experience doesn't even pay up when they LOSE they package completely, so I have to go with a more expensive shipper. It's all a question of risk management. Another artist told me yesterday that he lost a client this year due to his shipping costs (the same one that charges $5 per box).

I do use recycled materials where I have them (thanks for the suggestion Maria!), but I don't go out of my way to get them as volume packing takes a lot of time and goes much faster with uniform materials--bubble wrap in rolls always the same size, boxes in a predetermined set of sizes, etc. Stopping and futzing to get non-standard materials to fit just so takes time--and time is money for a small business. The answer is clearly hiring someone (Stacy the Assistant!) to do all the packing, but the cost of her labor also needs to be built in then--even more than mine. A business owner can work for free, but employees must be paid. (Whip the serfs!)

Storage for shipping materials is going to be a little shed behind the new studio. I'm going to scope one out at Home Depot next week. I had one in our backyard built by a local company a couple of years ago and I'm not going that route again. The yahoo didn't even get the door to hang right. No, it wasn't worth fighting with him about it. I made him fix the gaps, level the unlevel and get the doors to at least close. This storage will also hold old glassware (stock for etching that I no longer do) and my display supplies (tents, tables, etc.). Too bad I won't have it by the time I need to do the photo spread for the Profitable Glass studio profile.

Okay, off to ship and fire. Have a great weekend all.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Look at it this way, hard as it might be to make new contacts, if someone is hairbrained enough to cut you loose because you've charged him a reasonable price for your shipping costs, then you're probably better off.

I guess this is why you've been ruminating about increasing your prices lately. It's probably necessary, due to increases in cost of materials, cost of shipping, and cost of living.