Shipping And Mishandling.

As a freelance graphic designer I do a lot of business on-line. I shop for products that I need for my business on websites like Amazon or I buy software directly from Adobe. It would be a cliché to say that I do this because it’s “fast and convenient” but the truth of the matter is there’s no reasonable way to do this especially when I have to be locked in my office to get work done.

I also do my fair share of shipping and sometime my daily schedule revolves around when the mail arrives, when does the post office open or closes, or if I have to hustle to get to the nearest over-night delivery service depot? There are no excuses when someone needs something immediately; it doesn’t matter how much snow is on the road nor how much ice is accumulating on the tree branches and power lines. Something has to get to where it needs to be when it needs to be there… and since I have a full-time four-wheel drive I’ll deliver something to the printers or a client on my own if I have to.

I know for some people and companies it’s a foreign concept – reliability.

One of my first encounters with problems with shipping was when I first went freelance back in 2000 (wow… it’s been 14 years?) and I ordered an upgrade to my software packages. I ordered them weeks in advance because my wife and I were going to go on a much needed vacation and I wanted to make sure that when it arrived it wouldn’t be sitting on our doorstep for days and nights while we were gone. The last work day before our vacation came and went, and nothing. Saturday came and went, and there was no package.

My wife and I postponed leaving for our camping trip, staying home on Monday to wait for our package to arrive… and it didn’t. The same thing happened on Tuesday. And again on Wednesday… it finally arrived on Thursday and my wife and I were both relieved and angry at the same time. We paid for “express” shipping… to have it arrive a week late? How much longer would we have waited if we didn’t pay that premium?

This problem has almost vanished since package tracking has almost become standard. I don’t care where the package is or how long it’s going to get here (most of the time) I just want to know when it’s going to arrive to make sure my dog isn’t harassing the delivery man or woman. When I need to be at the door to sign something, or am I’m going to be traveling when it finally arrives?

What a great way to spend a vacation; being in Florida with my wife and kids while worrying about a new hard drive for my server that could be sitting on my doorstep. According to the news, back home there are record low temperatures. If the drive survives – I might label and map it as “Polar Vortex.”

I’m experiencing “daja vu” all over again. As of this writing, I’m waiting for a new video card to arrive. I bought two other things for the same legacy machine I’m restoring – the operating system and another hard drive – that already arrived. Since the tracking number doesn’t work I have no idea if it’s just lost, late, or out for delivery as of this moment. There are places I need to go but can’t until I know for sure if I need to be here to receive it.

I paid for premium shipping. I need to get what I paid for and I need to be able to rely on companies like DHL, UPS, Fed-Ex and the United States Postal Service for packages I’m shipping and receiving. If this is going to become a permanent trend am I going to have to start changing my lead-times to accommodate this new standard of performance?

Time will literally tell.

Pet Peeves Knock Knock!

There’s a knock on the door and from my chair in my office I can see it’s a man in a nice suit with the tie slightly loosened. He doesn’t have any brief case with him; he’s not holding any religious literature, nor a badge and arrest warrant for someone who he’s looking for at the wrong address. I have no idea who he is or what he’s here for, I’m at a loss because I don’t recognize him nor do I have any appointments today.

I answer the door and he introduces himself by saying, “Hi, I’m John from the investment brokerage that just opened up a branch office here in your town. I know all about you and your business and I would love to talk to you about some exciting opportunities…”

As I’m standing there, my back is to the wall where I have a piece of paper from the State of New Hampshire signifying that I am registered as a “DBA” which means I am technically a ‘business.’ “That’s great! What’s my name and what’s my business?”

He looked shocked for a moment? “What’s your name?”

“Yea, how did you find out about me? How did you know that I was running a business out of here? Did one of my happy clients refer you to me?”

“Uh, I…” he began to stammer. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“John, you said that you know all about me and my business. I would love to find out how you heard about me.”

“Well, for starters I have a great way to grow your capitol and help you invest in some better tools in the future…” he said, trying to change the subject.

“John, come back when you actually know who I am and what I do so you have a better idea of what you’re talking about,” I said, cutting him off by closing the door.

On another occasion, the doorbell rings at 11:30AM the way it should have. I answer the door and there’s this guy there who looks like my usual type of client and I invite him in. He begins his routine about his faith and how his religion is the only true religion while the world is going to hell in a hand basket while I’m picking apart his pamphlet apart visually and how this violates a lot of design rules such as contrast and typography.

It takes all of two minutes to realize there’s a mix up – he’s not there for my business… he’s there for my soul! This isn’t my 11:30AM appointment… who just pulled in the driveway and is now blocking this guy in. Talk about uncomfortable.

Before I vent any further, let me say once and for all I don’t have a problem with other people’s religion. I have no beef with Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Buddhists, or Atheists. Whatever gives you comfort in the middle of the night during a thunderstorm or times of tragedy; fine. Who am I to say you’re beliefs are right or wrong? By no means am I trying to criticize anyone’s religion.

I also don’t have problems with people who make a living on the road either by making sales calls or deliveries. Whatever it is that you have to do to make a buck that’s neither illegal nor immoral is fine so long as you don’t make it my issue.

This is exactly where I’m going with this rant; when other people’s issues find their way to my front door. I have a problem with people who knock on the door during regular working hours and insist that I deal with them.

What a lot of these people don’t seem to understand that as a freelance graphic designer there are days when my time at home is not my own. If it’s between 6AM and 7PM (why, yes! That is 11 hours) and I’m sitting at my desk there’s a good chance I’m either doing work for a client or for a class I’m taking. This person knocking on my door to give me the latest issue of their religious publication, solicit me for an investment opportunity, trying to unload a truckload of frozen meat they stole, Girl Scout cookies, isn’t just stealing my time but they are also stealing from my clients.

It’s no different than if you went to someone’s work place, got thought the receptionist before literally walking up to someone’s desk and started with a ‘cold call’ sales pitch for whatever they’re offering. Imagine if I went into someone’s church during a service and started handing out my business card while asking “need some new logos? How about a website? I know both WordPress and Blogger! Stationary – I can do that for you, too.”

Does this mean that I only want these people to come knock on my door when I’m not working like on the weekends? The only time I really have with my wife and kids is on the weekends and vacations. It’s the only time I have that I can actually feel free enough to walk away from my desk and actually do something physical outside, or create something that isn’t graphic design.

In short, there’s never a good time for strangers to knock on my door. My driveway is not a thoroughfare to low hanging fruit. As a graphic designer I’m not sitting here for desperate attention from just anyone – silence and privacy is what I need most of all and if I can’t get it here than what’s the point. For a graphic designer, being alone does not translate to ‘being lonely.’ (In fact, I have all the critical voices in my head to keep me company…)

As a result, I have created a new sign to put on my door during business hours – “Forget The Dog! BEWARE OF THE GRAPHIC DESIGNER!” and my hourly rates; knock on my door and you’ll be charged $150 for the entire hour. I’ll let you know how well it works.