No matter whether you ship only to the US or you ship internationally, at some point you are going to have postal issues, and dealing with customer's postal issues can, at some times, threaten to drive you postal!
Most of them can be summed up as:
- They forgot to update addresses so it got shipped to the wrong address.
- They haven't gotten it and its past the time frame they think they should have.
- The USPS system says its been delivered but the customer says no.
- The product arrived damaged in some way.
So how do you respond to these?
The wrong address I haven't had too many issues with this. There have been a few instances, but the buyer was rueful about their mistake, and often the package was returned to me and I'd send it off to the right address. People are pretty good about assuming responsibility for accidentally providing the wrong address. There was an instance, though, with a customer of my partner's business who left a bad Yelp review because he never received his order. When contacted about it, he essentially wanted what he had purchased resent. However. The reason he never received his order? He provided the wrong address. Now, whenever you order almost anything online, you have a chance to review the details and make a change if necessary. The company sent what the customer had ordered to the shipping address the customer had provided. He was upset it went to the wrong address. The wrong address he had provided. Confused? Yup. It makes no sense. There is no way the company could know that the address provided by the customer was not the right one....it's a head shaker. My partner was able to get the Yelp review removed, thankfully.
They haven't gotten it yet This happens often. However, I have discovered that due to Murphy's Law, the customer almost always receives their package the day they make their enquiry, or the next day. Suggest they wait one more week, and then progress from there...but Murphy's Law usually kicks in.
GrittyKnits on Ravelry corrected me about shipping internationally, so I'm re-writing this to reflect that. Thank you, Gritty Knits! Paypal's seller protection policy states "Please ensure, especially when shipping goods internationally, that your carrier can provide 'delivered' status at the correct address, or your Seller Protection claim may be denied." As she points out, the risk with sending packages must be assumed by the seller, whether or not the customer chooses a shipping method that can or cannot be tracked. So if a package gets lost, it is upon the seller to replace it. Some sellers only give the option of Priority International, because of the tracking. I will say, however, personally, 99% of the time the package usually shows up, although it may have taken the scenic route.
One spectacular case of international mail snafu and Murphy's Law, however. is one I will never forget. A woman in Italy had requested a custom order, which I duly made and shipped off to her. It had been a month and she had not received it yet. Now, First Class International can take a really long time to arrive at various places around the globe; it took about a month for a package to arrive in Hong Kong, for example. I plugged in the shipment number and it showed it had been processed and left the country, and although she had that information available to her as well, should she have chosen to use it, I took a screen shot of it. I'm trying to remember the timeline, but I think it began with her filing a PayPal dispute. She, memorably, said (I'm making her English a little more fluent here) "I've ordered yarn from all over the world and never had a problem. Give me my yarn or give me my money!" Rather than continue down this road that obviously wasn't going anywhere, I accepted the dispute and told her never to order from me again. (I was a little annoyed by that point.) Literally four hours later-- I'm not kidding-- I get a message from her. Her yarn had arrived. That day. So, of course, I told her to please pay me for it, since she'd gotten the original payment refunded. She said of course she would but it would be a week or two because she needed to reload her credit card or something. I sent off an invoice, hoped for the best, and threw up my hands. She did end up paying it, but there's a point to which you just have to let things go sometimes.
The USPS system says its been delivered but the customer says no. This, unfortunately, has happened multiple times, although spread out over the past ten years. Most likely the package has been stolen, or delivered to the wrong address. On your end, there is no way to know. The first time it happened the buyer wanted to split the difference with me. I said no, as I'd done everything correctly on my end, and the system said it had been delivered. Several times the customers discovered their mail person had delivered it to the wrong person or, most commonly, put the package in some nearly undiscoverable place.
What do you do? The customer almost invariably will ask for you to re-dye the yarn, or compensate them in some way, and you have a choice. With that first customer, I said no. That was, however, in the first couple years of my business. However, one customer had been a loyal customer for years, so I told her, "Normally I don't do this, but you've been such a wonderful customer that I will make an exception." I re-dyed the yarn...and for months afterwards made sure she had to sign for her packages.
If it's not a regular customer, then I suggest that you express your sympathies, and offer them free shipping on their next order or a 10% coupon code. Do something to show you care, even though you are not going to resend their order. It begs saying that this expectation of a replacement tends to come up often with a small business, who financially cannot usually afford to do so. People expect replacements because companies like Amazon will send replacements 99% of the time, even though there is no comparison.
The product arrived damaged in some way First, request a picture, so you can see for yourself what the damage is. Either you or the customer can file a claim, but it will take ages. My advice is, if it's something like one or two skeins of yarn, or a braid of fiber, is to ask them if they would like a replacement or refund. I consider it customer chivalry. Was it your fault? Probably not. Do you want this customer to order from you again? Probably yes.
Whatever you do, always be polite. Do not get defensive, even if you feel the customer is being unfair in their expectations. Vent to your partner or friends or to your personal FB page, but always be polite even when the customer isn't. It matters, because think about it. If you are polite, no matter what the outcome is, that customer may buy again, and you will have conducted yourself in a professional manner for all to see should the customer show the dialogue to friends or post in a Ravelry forum. If, however, you are defensive and rude, that customer almost certainly will show that dialogue to friends and almost certainly will post about it publicly. Sometimes you may need to take a loss so that you do not lose in the future.