Hidden world of shipping and returns

If you’ve ever sent something back to a big company, you’ve probably engaged in some kind of process where you fill out a form with bar codes on it or include a RMA or other kind of authorization number. I can see why companies have these kinds of systems set up to help with their logistics. For a small business like mine, when things are sent back they come to… well, me

We’ve developed some systems to handle things a bit more efficiently, mostly focused around making sure customers are refunded or exchanges are processed. For example, now that I have someone helping with some customer service and operations, I started sending them photos of the return addresses. Initially I did this by taking photos with my phone, which would get synchronized through iCloud. I would then send an email with screenshot snippets of each one. Now we’ve somewhat streamlined it by having a shared Evernote file. If I create a new note in that file, I can add photos to it directly with the mobile app and everything is synchronized between us. It’s not super fancy but it works.

The majority of the returns we process are actually ones that bounce back to us from the post office. This can be for all kinds of reasons ranging from typos to a person’s name not being listed as an official receiver at an address. (I never new that was a “thing" before doing this!) That results in us having a perfectly good wallet on hand but the volume of these just doesn’t warrant the extra work of categorizing all of the different models and sending them back to our fulfillment house very often. So they basically pile up for a few months while we send out replacements from the main inventory to folks once any address issues are ironed out.

With the new Tyvek print run still under way, we’re receiving emails almost every day asking about when the items which are currently out of stock will be available. Meanwhile, I had these new wallets that just needed to be categorized and sent to the fulfillment house. It turned out to be a good push for me to get it done and I’m pleased to announce that they’ve all been processed and are now available for sale! That means EVERYTHING IS IN STOCK at this very moment… but it won’t last long since some items only have a handful remaining.

So head on over and pick one up.

On a side note, it’s pretty fascinating to see some of the wallets come back from having gone around the world and not being deliverable for one reason or another. They often times have cryptic stamps in other languages or a variety of hand-written notes either from errant receivers or foreign mail workers. While some do get lost completely, it’s cool to hear from people all over the world who receive their wallets quickly and are loving them.

So what happens when something can’t be delivered but can’t be returned either? There was actually a pretty fascinating episode of 99% Invisible recently about this very topic. Without giving too much away, there is a mysterious place where it all goes to be taken care of.

After hearing the episode and seeing some of the mail that has come back to me from all over the world, it makes me wonder how other countries handle this kind of mail? Perhaps they too have mysterious lost mail centers?

The bounced mail that’s most memorable for me was one I sent to Zimbabwe and appeared in my mailbox almost a year after I sent it! I had already sent the customer a replacement, but I still have the returned envelope as a keepsake with wallet inside and everything.

Rest assured it's probably less than .5% of wallets that come back to me but I thought I'd share the story behind the ones that do...


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published