Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vintage, handmade, antique, and overall awesomeness- right to your door!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to Get Started with Shipping (Shipping for Dummies Series)

New to selling online and wondering where in the world to start with shipping?
This post assumes that you have no experience whatsoever with shipping. Hey, we've all been there, right? We'll keep adding more and more topics relevant to shipping as time goes by! Please connect with us in the comments or on Instagram if you have any additional questions regarding shipping. There is a lot to cover, but we have to start somewhere right?
...Let's start at the very beginning.....
Basic Shipping Supplies You'll Need to Ship from Home
1. A postal scale. You can order one of these for under $20 on Amazon. In fact, here's a link to the postal scale
that was just delivered to us today!
2. Packing tape. We buy ours in bulk here in Indiana, but you can order it online too! Be sure you get a tape dispenser, it's a cheap plastic thing but it will make your life so much better! (The Amazon link is one that I ordered last summer and we still use it.)
3. Scissors. I'm guessing you already have a pair!
4. Boxes. You can order plenty of Priority boxes from the post office, but we'll talk about that in another post. Please don't use boxes that had food in it. The cardboard is not strong enough to resist any impact and some practically dissolves with a drop of water. You can also order them or get them from Staples. Recently we got a deal from some Pratt 6x6x6 boxes. We've used Pratt brand quite a bit and these are great to ship item via First Class Mail.
5. Bubble wrap. We buy a ginormous roll in bulk to save on money, but you can pick it up almost anywhere.
Calculating a Shipping Cost for an Item over 13 Ounces
First, go grab your whatchamacalit. Then get a box to put your whatchamacalit in, add some bubble wrap if needed, and fire up your postal scale.
Jot down the weight of your item.
Ensure you have the destination zip code for your item.
The easiest way to initially estimate a shipping cost is to head on over to the USPS website.
Click "Calculate a price" on the left side.
On the next page, skip to #2 and input your zip code and the destination zip code.
Skip to #5 and select package. (I'm doubting you will be sending anything huge yet. Also, flat rate boxes are generally a rip off and you want to save money, not waste it!)
A #6 will drop down where you can enter in the weight. Plug in your weight and hit continue!
Next you'll be facing a page that looks like this and can be overwhelming. Don't freak out.
Click on Priority Mail options if your item weighs over 13 ounces. This is what you will see:
You want to focus on where it says "Priority Mail 1-Day"- this is what it will cost you to send your item in your box to your destination. Note that this changes based on location/zip codes! Usually you can click on "Other Options" and obtain the cost to send your item Parcel Select. However, the website is being wonky for me today so I can't. Sorry about that!
Shipments Weighing Under 13 Ounces
If your box with packing material and item weighs in under 13 ounces, congratulations! You can save money shipping via First Class! Unfortunately you can't ship First Class through usps.com, so here's a handy dandy chart to go by instead. (Chart snippeted from Pitney Bowes' 2014 Postal Rates Chart.)
You can ship First Class through Paypal and stamps.com, so all is not lost!
What Next?
Assuming you have payment, you can print postage through USPS.com, stamps.com, or through Paypal. Those are topics for another post- this is just to start out, remember? However, I'm sure you can figure it out. If you can't, just holler! If you are shipping a super duper heavy book, Media Mail MAY be a better option, but you have to follow the rules or you'll end up in a hot mess. (Again, another blog post!)
Again, this is a very minimal introduction. Did it help? Let us know? Have more questions? What are they? We are here to serve!
This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through to some websites and make a purchase, we may obtain a small portion of the profit from the sale of the item or other items because we sent you to the website. We only link to products that we have personally used- we can prove it!

Friday, March 27, 2015

How to Deal with Getting Behind as an Online Seller

Recently I had a really bad knock-down drag-out reaction. Silly me, I thought I could go to a grocery store. Nope. I barely made it out of there, despite wearing my standard mask and gloves.
It was a week for which I had high hopes. I had reclaimed food candles to make! Special order custom paper flowers! Personal vintage shopping! Vintage Lover's Club boxes to buy for, wrap, and ship! A sale at @uniquelyleanna on Instagram! I had the week's meals planned out, my to do lists for every day ready for action, and I was feeling positive about things.
Then I went to get groceries. Stupid, I tell ya!
Well, there went my week. So what's a small business owner to do when her other half has returned to working outside the house?
Here's my secret:
I was honest.
Shocker, right? The business world is dog-eat-dog and all about perception. Look big so you can compete with the big dogs.... Right?
Well, that may be the path for some, but not for my honey and I. We believe in honesty and doing the right thing even when it hurts us to do so. Every time we have taken a hit to keep a customer happy we have been blessed in return like crazy. But that's not why we operate like that- we just believe in the truth and doing what's right, no matter what.
Since most orders were from Instagram, I posted there. I had 40 outstanding orders there at the time, and I felt wretched, so there was no way I would be able to DM every single person. I felt badly about that as every single order means the world to us- but it just wasn't feasible.
Most people who had purchased something saw it and commented something nice, because, let's face it, the vintage community on Instagram is just plain amazeballs.
I barely made it out of bed all week, but I did do a sale on Friday of stuff I had on etsy forever- all I did was screenshot and copy and paste, easy peasy from the comfort of my bed!
Anywho, I did manage to get Amazon orders out as Amazon will put me in time out if I don't, but etsy peeps are generally pretty laid back and understood as well.
In apology I offered a cupcake tart to some who had already been waiting for things, and all late packages are arriving with a discount coupon. I could sit and write apology notes, but my time would be better spent getting those packages out the door!
Generally speaking, I know I am way more upset about this than any customer. If anyone is upset they haven't given any inclination that they are, but I of course am ticked off, disappointed, and feel incredibly guilty. It's me, I am my toughest critic. I am, however, working really hard to not be so stinking hard on myself. I'm a work in progress!
As of today I'm down to 13 packages- woo hoo- including 3 custom orders that should be finished over the weekend. Considering the backlog I had and the fact that I just had a sale, adding more packages, I'm pretty pleased with my speed of getting it all done when I'm not busy being hard on myself about it. I know when I'm caught up I'll move on to feeling bad about the fact that I've barely cooked or cleaned in two weeks.
In summary, if you have a delay: be honest, do something to make it up if you can, and don't be like me- try not to beat yourself up. Life happens to us all, just 'fess up when it does, and if someone is a jerkbutt about it, ask them if they had a rough day. The answer just may have nothing to do with you. ;)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How to Be Sensitive to Allergies as an Online Seller

IMG_8542.JPGAs many of you know, I'm allergic to so many things I have to carry a binder around to keep track of them all! Since I'm the queen of all things allergies, I was recently asked about how to be considerate of the allergies of potential customers as an online seller.
Here are some guidelines and considerations to keep in mind:
~ Smoke
Do you smoke? Does anyone in your home smoke? While you may think that keeping your items in a separate room where there isn't any smoking will be sufficient, smoke doesn't see a wall and stop. It permeates through walls, doors, and WILL permeate your product. If you smoke, you will not smell it. I've been smoked out of three apartments. Walls will not keep smoke confined.
If you personally smoke, the chemicals are released through your pores. Simply touching items can contaminate them and cause problems for someone who is allergic, especially if you smoked within the past 24 hours.
The best solution for dealing with smoke of any kind as an online seller? Quit.
If you thrift something that has even the faintest smell of smoke, regardless of the material, the smell will never come out. We have had so many belongings we had to trash! The only thing that can really remove (some) smoke is an ozone machine. Those are both cost prohibitive and don't always work. So if you can, sniff things when out thrifting. I would if I could, but I'm in a mask!
If anyone in your household smokes, please disclose it to your buyers.
~ Pets
Many people are allergic to cats or dogs, so it is important to disclose any pets in your household as well.
Not too long ago a new-to-us customer purchased a troll doll and a sheet, and mentioned that she was allergic to cats. Since we have cats, I offered to wash the sheet again (she declined, as she was going to put it directly in the washer anyways), and I wiped down the troll doll with witch hazel. While it was clean and wasn't actually dusty, some witch hazel on a cotton ball would have snatched up any errant cat dander. There wasn't much I could do about the troll doll's hair, and I said as much to the customer. If it is a hard, non-porous material, a witch hazel wipedown is the way to go.
For washable items and stuffed animals, be sure you store them in closed containers after washing. We use lots of plastic totes for this purpose.
~ Washable Items
Many people are sensitive to scents and laundry products. The best bet to prevent any issues with this aspect is to make your own, homemade laundry soap. Not only is it extremely effective, including as a stain remover, it is remarkably economical. It costs under $5 to make a batch, and it last us for 3-6 months! With a hubby who works in landscaping, we wash some filthy dirty clothes. This stuff works! (I'll post a laundry soap recipe here soon.)
The next best option is hypoallergenic or sensitive skin laundry soap. Unfortunately this is often quite expensive, which can reduce your profit margin.
If both of the previous options are out, using your regular laundry soap, with an extra rinse cycle and using vinegar as a fabric softener cleans your items and helps to rid them of the chemical residue left behind by traditional laundry detergent.
Obviously my most highly recommended option is homemade laundry soap! Fabric softener isn't necessary, but white vinegar will help decrease static cling.
~ Sanitizing Spray/ Fabric Refresher/ Etc.
If we receive something in the mail that my hubby reports smells of fragrance, I am immediately suspicious. What is the seller trying to cover up? These products are for hiding smells, so what lies beneath the chemical-laden layer?
Skip them. Not only am I not the only customer to have the above thoughts, many people are allergic to these. Who needs more chemicals in their lives?
~ Latex Allergies
Soapbox time! Latex allergy is so mis- and under- diagnosed it absolutely infuriates me. With every exposure to latex making a minor allergy closer to being airborne anaphylactic, and every exposure to latex for the "average" person increasing the likelihood of developing a latex allergy, it is critical to be on the safe side here.
Handling things with latex gloves, at any point, is risky. This includes rubber kitchen gloves, unless of course they are nitrile (in which case, kudos to you!). The form of latex used to make latex gloves is especially prone to "shedding" particles all over, so much so that any room in which a latex glove has been used is immediately contaminated.
If you have to use a rubber band, use latex free rubber bands. However, there really is no reason to use any when shipping items. Small items can always be corralled in a Ziploc baggie. (Ziploc is latex free by the way!)
~ Cleaners
While I am personally allergic to all dish soap and cleaners, and I can only use baking soda, vinegar, running alcohol, and witch hazel to clean products, the good news for you is that you really don't need to make any modifications in cleaning items such as dishware.
As long as you rinse items well in the sink after cleaning, you should be just fine, unless of course a special request is made. A good rinsing is generally standard anyways.
Of special consideration is Pyrex. Some use coconut oil to shine Pyrex. If you do so, it is extremely important to disclose this when selling- not only due to coconut allergies, but also as a responsible, honest business owner.
~ Little Extras
It can be fun to add in little extras such as candy, perfume samples, pencils, and such. However, it is also extremely risky. I personally have friends who have gone into anaphylactic shock because of little extras included in a package such as something as seemingly innocent as a pencil or eraser. Do you really want to be responsible for this? Shock is potentially fatal, so I'm going to go out a limb and assume that you don't!
Would you include a bag of peanuts with an order? Likely not, due to the common occurrence of peanut allergies. Latex allergy is actually more common than peanut allergies, so it is of utmost importance to take both into consideration. Latex is in over 50,000 products, so if you are wondering if it is in something, please feel completely free to ask me!
Chocolate and candy can also contain allergens, but I've known sellers who have received nasty feedback for sending a piece of candy. Wondering why? It melted all over the product!
Personally if I am going to add something extra in, I either ensure that there are no allergies on the receiving end or add in something similar. For example, if someone purchases ephemera and I have some similar pieces, I may add those in.
My handmade upcycled paper flowers have sticks as stems, so anyone with an allergy to trees may have issue with them. The only scents I can tolerate are my candles- but others may not. So if I add in either of these things, I ask beforehand. Sometimes a customer doesn't want one- and that's just fine!
The customer will still be pleasantly surprised at the little bonus token of appreciation, they will not be receiving something they don't want (no one wants more clutter!), and you'll be ensuring the transaction is a happy one!
Blow your customers away with fantastic customer service, ninja shipping, and reasonable prices. Little extras are nice, but let the core of your business speak for itself!
As you've read, there are a lot of considerations to take into account as an allergy-sensitive online seller. If you have any further questions on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact me! This is a critical topic that I am passionate about, so I am always happy to address any concerns and help you keep your customers happy and, more importantly, safe!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ten Ways to Be an Awesome Instagram Shopper

IMG_3683.JPGIf you haven't already learned for yourself, shopping on Instagram is pretty stinking fun! From fashion accessories to Mid Century Modern decor, you can find just about anything you want here!
1. Follow the Shop Rules
Since IG shops all have their own rules with no regulating authority, it's important to remember to check out an individual shop's rules post. While most rules are fairly standard, you can't assume that the rules are the same across all shops. If you are following a sale and think you might spot something to purchase, it's a good idea to read through the shop rules at the start of a posting.
2. Pay on Time
You may be surprised that some Instagram shop owners may rely on your payment to pay their bills, so be sure to do everything you can to pay your invoice on time. If you don't see it in your inbox, be certain to look through your spam folder. Contact the seller if you still can't find it.
In cases in which you may not be able to pay for a short time, be sure to contact the seller before you claim (or as part of your claim) to ask if you can't still claim.
3. Communicate
Life happens. Sometimes it simply can't be avoided. Unexpected bills come up, credit cards get hung up in snafus, and sometimes you just plain change your mind. Whenever something happens to hold up your payment, be sure to let the shop owner know as soon as you can. Most are incredibly understanding and will be more concerned about you than than the money. Assume the best and remember: honesty is always the best policy!
4. Share!
One of the most important ways Instagram shops gain more followers is by word of mouth. Sharing a picture of your Happy Mail, a new favorite item at the shop, or sharing a business card with a friend helps more than you know!
Posting a picture tagging your favorite Instagram stores will make shop owners over the moon happy!
5. Be Respectful
While some Instagram shop owners make their living selling online, most do not. They have families, kids, work, hobbies, and housework just like you do. As such, it's good to keep in mind that their time is limited, and an Instagram shop is a lot more work than it looks like!
6. Be Friendly
Compliment the shop owner, stop in and say hello, or send a direct message asking if an IG shop owner is feeling better after sick. Just as you would talk to a friend, don't hesitate to cultivate friendships with IG shop owners!
7. Understand Shipping Is Expensive
Shipping quotes do take time to calculate, so asking for twenty shipping quotes on things you know are heavy when you only have $5 to spend probably isn't the best idea. Shipping can be very high, but the closer you live to an IG shop owner, the more reasonable shipping costs will be.
Simply stating something such as "Thank you so much for the shipping quote! Unfortunately that prices it out of my budget right now, so I'll have to pass" after receiving a shipping quote is a great way to let a shop owner you value their time but can't make the purchase at this time.
8. Be Understanding
Just as you expect understanding from an IG shop owner if something comes up, offer that same understanding yourself.
9. Ask Questions
We all forget things now and then, and that includes shop owners! Key information is left out of descriptions, detail pictures fail to upload, responses don't go through, and tags are missed sometimes. Assume the best and simply ask! It never hurts to ask, and no one can catch all of their mistakes!
For purchases that are gifts and must be shipped within a specific time period, don't forget to ask if the package will arrive in time before you officially claim. Some people are only able to ship once a week.
10. Have Fun!
Shopping and selling on Instagram is an experience! Crack jokes, play around, and comment when you think something is pretty. Reminisce about your childhood. Just have fun! You never know when someone may need that little extra something to help get them through the day.
As you can see, there are all sorts of things you can do to be a fantastic, and valued, customer on Instagram. Doing some of these things just might land you some little extras in your Happy Mail, or the chance to get a chance to purchase a sought after item before anyone else. Instagram shop owners don't get rich off of what they do, so showing them some love is always appreciated! After all , love makes the world go 'round!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why We Stopped Using the FOMO Method- Sort Of

Why we stopped using the FOMO methodThe FOMO method has allowed use to ship hundreds of items at an affordable cost. This method of shipping breakables essentially consists of bubble wrapping a mug or fragile item, cutting cardboard to wrap around it, then popping it in a Padded Flat Rate Envelope for under $6.
It saved us a ton of money on shipping! We never had any breakage... Until we moved to our new home.
All of the sudden we had 3 or 4 items broken. When you consider the fact that we have shipped thousands of items and have had perhaps 6 broken items ever (including these), that's a crazy high rate of breakage! Something wasn't right.
Naturally we refunded immediately and filed claims, which the USPS summarily denied for no good reason. So insurance with USPS... Pfft. We won't be paying extra for their insurance ever again.
Anywho, Mr. Uniquelyleanna chatted with the local post office head dude who investigated. He found that an employee was placing all Padded Flat Rate Envelopes in the wrong machine, which was munching on the envelopes and breaking anything in it.
While we are happy that the issue was addressed, what would prevent this from happening somewhere else?
Nothing would prevent this from happening in any other post office. Nothing.
The only thing we can do about it is to stop using the method. While we use a variation of the method to pack things for safety, we now send almost everything in boxes. It's not worth the risk, and now that the USPS has proven to us how worthless their insurance is, breakage would leave us with even emptier pockets!
It's a very disappointing turn of events, but as small business owners who take responsibility for the mistakes of others and for events completely out of our control, it's a necessary step to ensure our customers receive happy mail- not sad mail!
So before you ship breakable items FOMO, I strongly urge you to consider which is more important to you- saving a few bucks now, or the happiness of your customers. We choose our customers. We ALWAYS choose our customers!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Vintage Personal Shopper at Your Service!

IMG_1739.JPGMy most absolutely positively favorite thing to do is to serve as a vintage personal shopper! There really isn't really a specific job title for this aside from "pickers," and we generally don't go rummaging through people's houses (see note at the end). We thought about what personal shoppers do, and that really is what we do, simply with a vintage twist and within a given budget!
In a nutshell, people give us lists of what they are looking for. We call these "ISO lists." Some lists are super specific, while others are more vague. We have some customers who collect one item, and other customers who collect a laundry list of items.
Still other customers are mixed media crafters who prefer to buy their materials through us so they can focus on what they love best- crafting! Those lists change with the wind, and that's just fine!
Flea market vendors and antique shop owners often struggle to keep particular items in stock. We understand you need to make a profit in this case, so we offer vintage items at wholesale prices as well! From old medical ephemera to antique tins, we will find it for you!
As we all know, some vintage and antique items can be very hard to find. Some are simply priced sky high. In these cases we often ask for a budget to keep in mind as we may find these items at a flea market but would, naturally, have to charge more since we would pay more!
Once we find something we think you might like, we forward pictures, prices, and information such as any imperfections to you. If it's not exactly what you are looking for, then we simply offer it to someone else. Pictures of your home, collection, or store always help us get a better idea of what you are looking for and tend to speed up the initial getting-to-know-you process. We really do enjoy getting to know our customers and celebrating their passions!
Whether you are a collector, a crafter, a busy executive looking for unique and personalized gifts for employees, or a stay at home mom who wants a few special items within budget, we are here to serve you and ensure you get exactly what you are looking for at a price you can afford!
Interested? Contact us at uniquelyleanna@gmail.com, call/text, or find us on Instagram!
Note: While I am sure that would be super fun, I'm allergic to everything! If there was cigarette smoke or a pile of tires we would be headed to the ER after using an epi pen. I can, however, go to some thrifts and flea markets in what I refer to as my combat gear- nitrile gloves and my latex free respirator mask!