In my last post about the Baltimore Craft Council show I wrote about shipping.
That was post was misnamed. It was really about getting ready to ship.
The shipping part came after UPS came to my home and picked up all of my boxes. And that is where the promised “really great UPS story” begins.
I shipped all the stuff for my booth vis UPS – lots of art, booth walls, tools, business cards, step ladder, etc etc in 11 big boxes weighing nearly 500 pounds.
Regular UPS ground shipping charges for all of this would be pretty cost prohibitive – but the folks at UPS agreed to give me a hundredweight contract without requiring that I switch my account to a daily pickup account (the usual requirement allowing one to ship with hundredweight rates).
What is hundredweight? Essentially I pay a flat fee for each 100 pounds of stuff. So the total charge for all of my boxes is a bit less than $300. Pretty reasonable. Combined with my choice to use Art in Motion (read about that in the previous post) I was pretty sure that I’d solved the shipping dilemma with a stress free solution.
The Reality is Not So Pretty
Due to some miscommunication from UPS and my naive “this is so cool it will all work out” attitude – my boxes entered the UPS system with no tracking labels.
Which, to give an analogy, is somewhat like throwing them off the golden gate bridge and hoping they will arrive safely. Essentially if you don’t have a tracking number, you don’t exist.
I was first alerted to this situation the morning after shipping when UPS called me to say “we have a box here and no idea what to do with it”. Great.
Or maybe not so great.
After many phone calls we managed to determine that they had rounded up 6 of my 11 boxes and had them on trucks, with tracking labels, headed towards VT and they were scheduled to be delivered on time.
Noone had any idea where the other 5 boxes might be but the guess was they were on the truck and that probably that truck was headed to Chicago. Where the boxes would be rejected and sent back to me.
There wasn’t much to do but sit and wait.
Which as you might well imagine, was pretty hard to do. I’ve just invested HUGE sums of money into this show and now I had a lot of artwork floating around untracked, not to mention my booth walls and all the stuff would need to set things up.
Did I just waste thousands of dollars?
Dealing with Uncertainty
I tried my best to not think about it and to just proceed as normal. I knew eventually the boxes would be found and I had to trust it would all work out one way or another.
I have to admit that some days I was more successful than others in dealing with this. I was able to catch up with my teaching tasks, make new art for the booth, do more preparation for the wholesale show, etc.
Other days I am sure I was unpleasant to be around. Yesterday being the worst of those days. Being a pair of loud and happy teenagers in my house yesterday didn’t work out well.
I thought for sure I’d hear something by monday, 6 days after the boxes were picked up, but no. All I knew for sure is that 3 of my boxes were in Massachusetts. The rest: a big unknown. Not even the folks at UPS could track down no more information.
Things felt bleak.
By some amazing fantastic alignment of the planets, this morning all 11 of my boxes arrived safely at Art in Motion. Everything was there. Not a single box unaccounted for.
Woohoo – the show will go on!!!
I received this news first from UPS, in a personal email from an employee here in Denver, minutes after all the boxes were delivered. Within the hour it was confirmed by the folks in Vermont.
While I say miracle, it wasn’t all miracle, some intervention and hard work and mostly just caring by the folks at UPS made this happen.
Once they discovered the 1 unlabeled box, they were able to track down 5 more based on the delivery address. They put tracking labels on these boxes and then a few employees here in Denver worked overtime hunting through the warehouse for the missing boxes. They really went above and beyond trying to find the boxes.
They also called ahead to the distribution center in Vermont and let them know that it was possible the boxes would show up there and if they did that they should label them and deliver them, which is what happened.
The miracle was the snow storm – I suspect they were so busy at the distribution in Massachusetts catching up from the delays resulting from the most resent storm that they just passed the boxes along without looking to scan them so they never noticed the missing tracking labels.
I put great big huge address labels on these boxes and that was all that was needed to get them there.
Lesson learned from this: everything I ship through UPS or Fedex will have a great big huge address label that can’t be missed.
And a tracking label – which is really a “well no, duh” sort of comment.
In retrospect I do wonder what the heck I was thinking. But it ended well – so hurray.
The Final Lesson
One thing I didn’t do the past week is tell people about the shipping mishap. I wanted to keep things as light as possible so I could sleep at night. I didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to hear other people’s shipping dramas.
Sometimes we think we should share everything since it is so easy to do so now on facebook. But really, we don’t need to.
Instead I posted the following on facebook:
Here is my request today – please envision my booth set up as planned in Baltimore at the end of the month. The shipping and UPS gods all need to be aligned for this to work and you get to help by thinking about how lovely that booth is going to look :):)
I got lovely supportive comments in return.
And that was way more helpful than churning drama.
PS – American Craft Council show details are here.
Retail days – please come say hello in booth 1207!
Friday, Feb. 22: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
The Baltimore Convention Center is at One West Pratt Street in Baltimore, Maryland.