Pre-Ordered Emergent Task Planner Pads Now Available!

Pre-Ordered Emergent Task Planner Pads Now Available!

Shipping Cartons

Finally, We Are Shipping!

A few hours ago an email notification sent from fulfillment * thedavidseahgroup.com went out with instruction on how to pay and arrange for shipping of the pads. We are fulfilling pre-orders first. After that we’ll open up the general ordering for the remaining unsold pads. There will be about 100 of them not spoken for. If you are interested in ordering a pad or three, leave a comment! I’m currently only handling the domestic US, but will be adding other countries as I figure out how it works.

If you had placed a pre-order by the original cutoff date and did NOT receive the instructions on where to go to make payment, contact me through the contact form. If you are having trouble with the form (the anti-spam measures are fairly harsh), you find my contact email address at the very bottom left of the page.

I was expecting the fulfillment process to be incredibly difficult and tedious. Or more accurately, I wasn’t looking forward to all the manual labor and accounting. It turned out to not be such a big deal after all.

Handling Packaging and Shipping

One of the most daunting tasks to me was handling the receipt of monies and arranging for shipment. Personally I hate shipping stuff, primarily because it seems to take an hour and a half for me to ship a single package. I’ve got to do the following:

  • Find a box, possibly purchase one somewhere
  • Pack the box
  • Pad the box with something
  • Find some packing tape
  • Tape up the box securely
  • Fill out any customs forms
  • Declare values
  • Weigh the box
  • Find the shipping address
  • Find a destination phone number
  • Acquire the right label
  • Transcribe the address information correctly
  • Double check the address for accuracy, redoing it if it’s unclear
  • Drive to the nearest FedEx, or wait for a pickup
  • Wait in line to drop off the package
  • Pay the shipping fees
  • Drive home
  • Email the tracking numbers to the addressee
  • Cross my fingers

Incredibly tedious. I wasn’t looking forward to doing this for a hundred boxes.

Thankfully, my buddy Scott figured out the postage options, so we’re using flat rate USPS Priority Mail. So long as you’re using their official flat-rate envelope or flat-rate box (provided for free), you can put as much stuff as you can fit in the package. So that simplified postage calculation. This still left the problem of automating the addressing of the boxes, so we planned on using a mail merge to create the shipping labels.

It also turns out that order management and shipping is a lot easier with today’s online tools. Read onward.

Handling Mail Merges

I wasn’t looking forward to managing the email list. I was maintaining an Excel document with all the addresses in it, to use as the data source for the following:

  • Generating shipping labels with name, address, and number of pads per order. These shipping labels, I imagined, would be used by packers to tell how many pads to put in each box without having to look it up on another sheet, hopefully reducing errors.

  • Generating the email blast to tell individual pre-orders where to pay, and reconfirm their address and # of pads.

<

p>Since I wasn’t too keen on doing this, I handed the Excel spreadsheet updating to volleyball buddy Brandy, and then asked The Ultra-Competent Erin to make Outlook talk to Word to talk to Excel to make all that other stuff happen. Whew. Outsourcing rocks :-)

Handling Payment

The new website content management system I’m using, Expression Engine 1.6, has a “Simple E-Commerce” module in it that can handle items and so forth. It also integrates with PayPal, so I figured I would use this to build a simple store to handle the transaction. I already have PayPal, so I upgraded to a Business account and proceeded to build a simple store. It didn’t, however, handle quantities and shipping costs by itself, so I gave up and went directly to PayPal to generate purchase buttons.

It was then I discovered that PayPal actually prints shipping labels and postage. Their simple payment button allows each person placing an order to specify a quantity. The shipper can fill out a template to specify shipping methods AND costs, for both domestic and international shipping. Not only that, but PayPal’s merchant tools track the entire transaction in a simple dashboard. Once a payment is received, you can click a button to buy the postage online through Pitney Bowes, which comes in form of a printable web page that you just tape to the box. The funds are automatically deducted from your PayPal account. You can then print a packing list that can be customized with your own message and logo, and include that in the box. All you have to do then is drop the package off at the Post Office or arrange for a pickup. This did away with the need to print labels too, so there was some work saved there.

The one drawback of PayPal is that they de-emphasize the credit card payment link to make people think they have to sign up for PayPal to use it. I put instructions regarding how this was NOT necessary in the email, and on the secret order page. Plus there is a transaction fee of about 2% or so, but this isn’t too bad.

Boiling down the steps, this is how it goes assuming you are using the US Postal Service’s flat rate priority mail packages ($4.60 for envelope, $8.95 for box, no weight limits).

  • Order boxes and envelopes from the US Postal Service website (free, but 5-10 business days to receive)
  • Get a PayPal account, upgrade to Business Account (free)
  • Activate Web Payment Standard (free)
  • Set up your PayPal shipping quantities/costs and preferred shipping vendor as USPS (assuming you’ll be using their flat rate shipping)
  • Create a “Pay Now” button for your individual item, put it on your website.
  • Let PayPal manage the payment, address, shipping labels
  • As orders come in, print postage and pack boxes
  • Drop finished packages off at the post office or arrange for a pickup

It is all rather remarkable how easy it is. The first package I shipped out with this felt…momentous. The next step after this is to use something like Amazon Fulfillment to handle everything, which includes listing on the Amazon website. There is a $60 monthly cost however, because you have to buy a storefront account I believe…but now I am getting ahead of myself. Gotta sell-through these pads first.

The Adventure Continues

So that’s it for now. On December 31st I will open general orders to the public. In the meantime, if you’re interested in how the project got going here’s all the pertinent blog posts.

I must publicly thank Scott Wright: graphic designer by training, MBA by education, experienced print broker, trusted friend and co-schemer. I wouldn’t have dared try printing anything for real without his encouragement and support. Dude, you rock! Start your blog already!

18 Comments

  1. Fred Schechter 14 years ago

    Thank you Dave, I feel Fulfilled!! Get it Ful,,, never mind.

    Awesome info!  The ins and outs of Paypal told by the most succinct man in the “telling what I’m doing and how I’m doing it” business (can’t tell I just made that up can you).

    Dave again, you’ve opened our eyes to the things we’ve all been thinking/trying/ wondering in vain about.

    My only question is whether or not the route of fulfillment house came up (I’m sure it did, but I can’t remember, if you already wrote why you skipped it).

    I know you had a reasoned reason why you didn’t go with a fulfillment house and I’m trying to remember why that was. 

    Thanks!! Also,,,

    Yayyy!!! They’re out!!! (once my dinero is moved to Paypal), I’ll be getting my Emergent Task Planner Pads!!!!

  2. Matt Joseph 14 years ago

    Hello,
    I am interested in ordering two pads, please.  I didn’t get a chance to preorder, but I can’t wait to get these pre-printed!

  3. Daniel Short 14 years ago

    I’d be interested in buying a single pad to get started…

    Dan

  4. Stephen Dunn 14 years ago

    I would love to order a few of the pads. Please put me on the list for some of the extras.

  5. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Fred: PayPal also accepts credit cards! They don’t make it really obvious, but if you click the link above the credit card logos on the order page, you get the option ther.

    Matt, Daniel, Stephen: Awesome! I’ll make a note. I just noticed that there is an order for 90 pads, so we actually have fewer remaining than I thought.

  6. Bill Peschel 14 years ago

    OK, for my e-mail, you got your money.

    Where’s my pads?

    (Keeding, I’m keeding!)

  7. Luke Wertz 14 years ago

    Dave,

    If there are any left, I would love to get my hands on two pads!!

    Thanks so much!!
    Luke

  8. Jeffrey 14 years ago

    I’ve been following the Emergent Task Planner for awhile now – ETP and I’d love to get a couple of these (for friends and family too!)

  9. Ian 14 years ago

    I know you said no international orders, but I’ll cover the costs as I would really like 3 pads as my home printing versions aren’t that great.  Letter size is OK as I’m not filing it – it’s just a pad to be used.

    Be encouraged that your blog is being read outside of the US, and part of the reason for ordering pads is to show my support for how you’ve help me with my productivity.

    Regards from Cape Town, South Africa

  10. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Ian: I’ll be looking into international shipping after I get more of these shipped here. I have to find out what the options are and see how much paperwork is involved. While I would love to have offered international shipping right off the bat, it have ended up taking an hour out of my day to actually get it packaged with the right customs paperwork. I don’t really know how it works yet, but judging from the 6 pieces of paper I needed to fill out and file to return one video camera to Canada, I have been a little gun shy to tackle this right now.

    If anyone has any experience with this, I’d be curious to hear about it.

  11. Tom Nagle 14 years ago

    Hi David,

    Congrats on getting your first product out the door! I would like to order a pad or two if there are any left. 

    I have been a big fan of your work for a while and I want to support your future empire.

    Just remember, the first product is usually the toughest, so kudos for taking action.  I am sure there were plenty of moments where you would swear that you would never do this again.  There are a lot of tweaks to making it much easier next time, and it takes doing it the first time to realize what they are. 

    I am going to follow the blog a little closer, and I will share what has worked for me in the past (and I am still learning).  One of the first things to consider is having a fulfillment company handle the orders – that has had a profound impact on my business.

    Anyway, congrats again and sign me up for a pad or two or three.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Nagle

  12. Fred Schechter 14 years ago

    Whee!! Order Complete!
    I know I mentioned the whole thing about paypal and transferring (Thanks for the note on the credit cards, that’s a sweet deal there). I still go the standard paypal route (I like keeping just a couple bucks there for tiny things, then if I want to buy anything, I move funds in).  My atm card just got hacked recently, so I’m a tad more paranoid (They caught it and fixed it pronto).

    Can’t wait till I get my Emergent Task Planner(s) in the mail!

  13. Kaushik 14 years ago

    Hi Dave, I really liked ETP. If you are planning to print few more ETP after 12/31 – please do let me know. I will be interested in few copies. Are you planning to upload this new design for 2008?

    thanks, Kaushik

  14. ha3rvey 14 years ago

    I’m not sure how I missed the announcement of your pre-printed pads on the feed, but I’m definitely interested in buying 3 (or 4) pads.

    As an aside, I had planned on taking the pdf to Fedex/Kinko’s and printing some pads myself. I’d rather send the money to you instead.

  15. Peter Falk 14 years ago

    Hello David,

    I’d be interested in buying a single pad to get started as well…

    PRF

  16. Paul Robinson 14 years ago

    I would love to order some pads as well.

  17. Paul Ocal 14 years ago

    Id love to order a few…

  18. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Update: I am going to be emailing the people who didn’t fulfill their pre-orders (the timing of the shipping was very bad with the holidays). After that, I’ll have a count and will post. I’m sorry for how long this is taking…I’ve got a lot of work I am juggling at the same time, and it is turning out that it takes me about an hour to pack and ship just 5-6 packages. It’s quite fascinating.