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What would you do? An introduction

Back when I was writing this blog for a network instead of independently, I wrote a series of articles that I titled What Would You Do?   It seemed to me that many of the same issues came up over and over, things that concerned my readers and me, especially those of us who sell our work, even if we only sell it occasionally.  Well, that network is gone, and since those posts are now gone gone gone, I feel completely fine about reposting them ;-)  That's ethical dilemma at all.  But keep reading...

In this series, I'd like for us to explore certain ethical issues that we commonly come across as jewelry and bead artists. Not questions like "Is it ok to spend the rent money on beads?" That is clearly ok, and no one with any sense could fault you for it. Except perhaps your landlord. Ahem.

No, I'm thinking more about the sticky little situations that we come across where there may not be one-size-fits-all right answers. For example:
When I was on a vacation recently, I received an online order my first day out (of course). I wouldn't be back home and able to ship the piece for a week. It was for a wedding. The wedding was in England. If I shipped the day the order came in, I was pretty sure it would make it there in time. But since I had to ship a week later, it was uncertain unless I sent it high priced priority mail. What would you do?
I'm not going to tell you what I did until you get a chance to think about it and weigh in. Some of you might actually remember, but please don't give it away, ok? ;-)   My answer isn't necessarily right...just the right one for me. So tell me, What would you do?

Added February 5, 2011: My answer
I always use an "I'm on vacation" notice when I leave town, but since this trip came up quickly and unexpectedly, I forgot to put up the notice! My fault completely. So when the order came in and I learned that it was for a wedding, I wanted to do everything I could to get it to the customer on time. As I said, the timing would probably have worked out if I'd been able to mail it right away, but since it was going to be delayed by a week, I was afraid it might not make it on time. I decided to eat the extra expense to send it fastest way, as long as the customer wanted to take a chance on it. It cost me more than $20 in extra postage which cut very nicely into the small profit on the item.

You know what? I don't care about the profit on this one any more. It got there on time (just!), and she was thrilled. That means a lot to me. My answer might not be right for everyone, but I can live with it. And next time, I won't forget to put up the "on vacation" notice.

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Shirley said…
Wow. That was thought provoking, but I was pleased that it didn't take me long at all to come to my decision. I would ship at the higher rate postage, and eat the extra cost. If I chose to sell my jewelry, I am choosing to put my customer first. Period.
Of course, that's why I haven't made that step yet. :)
Paul said…
Two weeks in advance of a wedding? That's a bit late for that sort of thing.

First, a short note to the requestor stating the fact that you can only promise to get it on time for the important date if you send it priority, and it would be a shame if it didn't get there on time.

If the requestor insists on the cheaper shipping, repeat that you cannot guarantee anything, and request payment based on the following two points below:

How large is the order/What is the profit margin. Is the order big enough to allow you to eat enough of the priority shipping to get it there on time and still make a reasonable profit?

Do you think this will be repeat business. If so, eat the cost, or a portion thereof as goodwill.
sue said…
I think the answer depends upon a few things...
My two cents of course is from my perspective including my life, reasons why we bead and sell, etc
the answer is simple for us - we would try to get that piece to the customer while on vacation (b/c this would be huge - a piece that someone wanted - for a wedding? We would be honored to even be in that position, let alone be on vacation. Those are basically impossible for our medical history. Once again, our story is different - very different. Not to say that I wouldn't be on the phone for hours specifying how to wrap - how to send - etc.
I am anxious to hear what you did....
Cyndi L said…
From Chris Murphy via email:

That is a tough one and I guess there are about three ways in which I would have handled it – hard to make a choice.

First choice, I would have immediately contacted the customer and advised that I was out of town and unable to ship the order until such and such a date and give her the choice on whether to look elsewhere or take a chance that the order would arrive in time.

Second choice, since I was just starting out and if I was concerned that this was a source for future orders, then I might just suck it up and pay the high shipping to make sure it arrived on time, especially since it was for a wedding and the bride picked a piece of my jewelry that she wanted to wear on her special day. The additional shipping would just be the price of doing business and promoting my business. I would not do this often but in a special circumstance like this, I would probably consider sucking up the cost of the additional shipping if the situation warranted it.

Third choice – Based on being an honest person, if I thought there was no chance of the piece arriving on time, I would immediately contact the customer, apologize and advise her that there was no way that at this time, due to personal circumstances and the distance of shipping, that I was going to be able to ship the piece to arrive on time and although I appreciated the fact that she chose my piece, I regretfully could not make the sale and take a chance of ruining her big day. I would hope that she would consider me in the future for any of her jewelry needs.

I think the main thing would be to communicate with the customer and let her know I was out of town and find out what would serve her best interests. After that discussion, I would then choose which of the three options would be best. Open and honest customer communication in this case would be the most essential thing in my opinion