It's been quite an interesting couple of weeks!
Last week I started selling Stella Amp kits on my website. I even got featured on the Make Magazine blog (http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2011/10/the-stella-amp-a-banned-box-guitar-amp.html
), which was awesome!
Of course, with every awesome, there are a few issues.
First, I almost immediately got terribly sick, which limited my ability to do... anything really. I went from feeling normal to horrible in a few hours. Sitting up and trying to use the computer caused some interesting hallucinations. This made it hard to ship kits. (Fortunately my wife was able to get a fair number of the orders shipped out right away.)
And wow, did we get a lot of orders! A lot
of orders. In fact, after counting up the orders I wound up selling far more kits than I had in stock!
Now, the e-commerce software I use (Drupal Commerce) is supposed to prevent this. But there was a wee little bug, it seems if a person ordered a kit, and paid for it on paypal, and then didn't click the button to bring them back to my website, my website didn't know that the order actually went through. So it didn't decrement the stock. And the order didn't show up in my list of orders. When I discovered this I quickly set the number of kits in stock to zero, but the damage had been done, I already had more orders than I had kits for. Also, the orders kept coming in, because even though the stock was set to zero, if someone had already put a kit in their cart, they could check out.
Fortunately, I had parts on hand to make enough kits for everyone who ordered one (and I had five left over; I sold three more and reserved two just in case anyone had problems receiving their kits). By Saturday I was feeling a lot better so we were able to get everything kitted up. But I had a bit of an issue, I couldn't actually see all of those orders. I got notifications from paypal that people had bought kits, but no address information.
I got my hands dirty and mucked about in the database for about an hour, and was able to produce a list of all shipping addresses. (Actually the first time I did it, I made a mistake and got a list of all of the billing addresses, and almost sent some kits to the wrong address, but I caught myself in time.)
I also discovered that I accidentally was charging 5.20 flat rate shipping once per item in the order, not once per order! So I had to issue a partial refund to the one guy who ordered two kits.
Oh, I also had to figure out how to generate packing slips / receipts. Just a teeny little oversight. First I did this complicated mail merge thing with excel and word that took hours to figure out, and looked really nice, but I quickly realized that it wasn't going to scale. I eventually figured out how to print out invoices from the website, which looks like poop, but has the advantage of being far quicker from a workflow standpoint. (Someday I'll figure out enough CSS to make it look better.)
I had no address label printer, so do you know how tedious it is to label that many kits by hand? And then wait in line at the post office as the clerk prints stamp after stamp after stamp?
Anyway, that did it for domestic orders, but there was another problem. Although I specified on the website that I would do shipping to the United States only, there was nothing preventing anyone from putting any address they liked into the shipping field. So I sold several kits to Canada and one to the Netherlands. Now I had to find a decent workflow for shipping overseas!
I eventually found Endicia. For a label printer I got a Dymo 4XL, which is large enough to let me print customs forms, addresses, and postage on one label that I can stick right on the package (everything is USPS small flat rate boxes.) For now, I'm just printing labels out by hand with their software, I haven't even tried to integrate it (I don't even know if it's possible).
I just finished up printing up the last of the international order labels and slapping them on boxes. Feels good to get all of this out and shipped. Sorry it took so long international customers but the website did say united states only, and I have to eat the extra shipping costs because I didn't charge you nearly enough for shipping.
Somewhere in there I ordered another round of parts for another round of kits and now I have a few more in stock in my store.
Oh, and to top it all off, after shipping kits to everyone on my list, I discovered that my list of shipping addresses included a few addresses which didn't correspond to a paypal payment! These are the guys who put the kit in the cart, entered their address, clicked next, made it to paypal, and didn't go through with a payment! Yet I mailed them kits because they were on my list of addresses. Oh well, what can be done. I hope they enjoy their free kit!
So after taxes, ordering an emergency shipping label printer, re-ordering all of the parts for the kits, not charging enough shipping for international customers, and accidentally shipping out free product, I think I'm about 100 bucks in the hole.
Hah! I'm sure it will all work itself out in a month or two.
At any rate, I have to say thanks Adafruit for having this great kitbiz resource. You guys are amazing, I cannot thank you enough.
I never would have done any of this without you.