Friday, April 06, 2012

who's the boss?

I received this seemingly innocuous email this week:

Hello Whitney,

Please provide a tracking number for PO 666.

Currently the ETA on this PO is 4/10, which means it would had to have shipped on Tuesday to arrive in time.  We need to know the status of this order immediately.

Thank You,
Annoying Fulfillment Manager of Very Large Store

Why did this email put my teeth on edge? Potter types already know. The not-so-subtle pressure to get an order out according to a retailer's own fulfillment schedule.  And I say "their" fulfillment schedule because I never promise hard ship dates, and in this case the 4/10 arrival date is a figment of some body's imagination. I always keep fulfillment dates loose to give myself the space I need to create these wholesale orders.  When planning orders with wholesale clients, I always say, "about 3-5 weeks" or whatever the time frame is, the key word there being "about."  Also, please note the "-" which means there is a 14 day leeway.

This makes me difficult to work with, yes, and I like it that way.  It filters out the riff-raff.  Also, I have a secret weapon, and this is what it is:  I don't give a shit about getting wholesale customers, or keeping them.  It's a defense mechanism that keeps me from losing my mind with wholesale clients. Wholesale is a pain, and I only work with people who I really like and who I think respect what I do and how I do it.  The most important clients to me are my own retail customers, the people who come to me directly and pay my full retail price. They are the ones who give me 85% of my income, and who have helped me build my business into what it is today.  They are also the ones I will turn myself inside out for to get an order to them on time.

The most stressful periods of my work life have been because of difficult orders with difficult wholesale clients, and I developed PTSD-like symptoms because of my experiences with them.  So reading this email, as mild as it may seem to some of you, sets off a stress reaction that is out of proportion to the situation.  I woke up at 4 this morning, burning with resentment, remembering that this retailer has already been put on probation after they were being ridiculous about an order a few years ago.  I told them at that time I would not be filling their current order or any orders in the future, and they actually pleaded with me to re-consider and promised to straighten up, which they have until now.

These stores want to sell the best stuff they can get their hands on, and find people like me to work with so they can deliver a unique and special item to their customer, yet they can't wrap their heads around the fact that I'm not cranking out a widget in a factory. And this person is clearly under the illusion that they are my boss or something, and I'm going to respond to pressure, or rush their order, or somehow work faster.  I'm the boss. I respond negatively and even passive-aggressively to pressure, and I do not work any faster  than I am already.

Dear Annoying Fulfillment Manager,
The status on your order is the same as when I first responded to the order: it will take 3-4 weeks to make and ship immediately thereafter. At this time I expect your order to ship sometime next week.  I do not commit to hard ship dates, as you should be well aware of after working with me for 3 years. Please keep that in mind when making status inquiries in the future.
Thank you,