What Are Dropshippers?
Dropshippers are companies that print designs uploaded by artists on a variety of objects, usually home goods and wearables. The deal usually is, the artist uploads one of their images in a resolution that can be printed on fabric, mugs, prints, etc. For the use of this image the artist can set their royalty or mark-up. These are usually about 5-10% of the item's final price. Not a lot of $ for sure.
The attractions are:
artists can offer their followers images they've grown to like on inexpensive goods, which is a way to stay connected
once the image is uploaded, the artist doesn't have to create or ship the product - a sort of 'no muss, no fuss' deal for the artist.
This has been a really nice bonus for me as I live in Mexico and most of my clients are elsewhere around the globe. Because the Mexican post is expensive and not as reliable as we would hope, using several carefully tested dropshippers through the last 6 years has allowed me to offer some products I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Unfortunately, my last offering has turned into a bit of a disaster. The company I have come to love for their wearables, artofwhere.com, has let some of my recent customers down BIG time! And while I try to carefully convey the process to my customers and help them understand it's not me who has fallen behind in producing and shipping their items, it is in fact ME who they ordered from. So in their minds, despite my explanations, it is ME who is letting them down.
The people at artofwhere.com are not responding to my voicemails, emails or messages. I'm guessing because they are swamped. But some of my customers have been waiting a month for their fask mask with my design on it. Not cool.
So while they paid me, through Etsy, and I placed their order with the dropshipper paying the invoice there minus my 10% markup, artofwhere.com is sitting on the funds and not sending out the merch! So far I have had to refund one disappointed customer, which means I paid both for her order through artofwhere.com and reimbursed her Etsy payment. So, not only did I not make the $2 profit from her mask, I lost the $14 plus shipping charges I had to pay the dropshipper! The potential to make $2 on this order has ended up costing me about $40.
Who Takes The Risk?
So who takes all the risk in this situation? Me. I'm responsible for the items getting to the customers who ordered through me, but the dropshipper is ignoring my reaching out! They aren't responding to inquiries about late shipments or the shipment that seems to have been delivered to the wrong address. Guess who gets to pay to reimburse the customer? Yep. Me. That one stings because I had to pay for the order to the drop shipper (about $85 with shipping) that I'm out, and reimburse the customer about $95. Plus, she'll never trust me again.
I know there are more cancellations coming. So I will be out a lot more soon.
But here's the thing, I'm ok with making these payments because it aligns with my ethics and integrity. And it's just money. In the end I bet I'll end up spending at least half of my US stimulation check on these reimbursements. Ouch. What bothers me more is the customers who end up being disappointed will never trust me again. I have lost them for life. All for that dinky profit. SO NOT WORTH IT!
My Etsy store is currently just artofwhere.com items with my designs
Here's the exact text I sent to artofwhere - it is similar to all the others I have sent, messaged and phoned in with no response!
June 25, 2020
Dear Art Of Where Team,
I notice you are not responding to any of my inquiries through your online contact form, Facebook Messenger or via telephone voicemail. This has gone on for several weeks.
This causes me a lot of unnecessary stress as I have no idea how to respond truthfully to my customers who ask me when they can expect their orders. I do follow your blog and read any updates you send out - but it has been over a month since you sent an update on your process expectations. In your previous updates though you promised you would work with us, your customers, to help negotiate slowed production. But so far, I have yet to reach anyone who can help.
Speaking of stress, we’re talking about items that need to be sent that my customers are relying on to keep them safer during a global pandemic that the US is handling unbelievably poorly. Talk about stress, right?
I have already lost one order to a very angry and unsatisfied customer and have had to send out several updates to the all my other customers with rapidly aging orders that I hope are true as I base my guesses on how I’ve noticed orders trickling out. But there are still several SMALL orders from the end of May that are still being “processed”.
Your lack of communication with me and failure to deliver as expected - even using the new extended timelines you said you could follow - has tarnished my reputation. Yesterday a customer told me she can “never trust me again”. And let me reiterate, I have reached out to customers with gentle explanations and encouragement to wait a bit longer as these are exceptional times and my producer (that’s you folks, Art of Where) is doing the best they can. Are you though?
Here are the current issues.
Tracking info via USPS
Package ‘delivered’ but not received.
Florida, United States
Was marked as delivered but the customer did not receive. She lives in a single family home in a ‘nice’ neighborhood (Google Maps) and has a personal relationship with her mail carrier, so there is no ‘funny business’, just a missing package. How do I deal with this? Will you research the delivery or send a replacement?
Will I be reimbursed for the order the customer canceled?
When will these orders go out?
I’m bearing the brunt of your problems vis a vis my customers. Please help me salvage my relationship with those that are still waiting. And TALK to me please. This ongoing silence or actual ignoring my genuine inquires is terribly disrespectful. I have repeatedly offered to HELP you wade through what must be a backlog of customer inquiries. I’m not a crank. I’m a real person, a nice person, just like you guys. You need to reach out and see how we can create solutions.
Long time customer
For the record, the products they are managing to make and send out are being received quite well. The items are well made.
If you are looking for a good dropshipper, you may love this company as much as I have for 6 years but my advice would be to know going in that their delivery timetable is spectacularly slow. For most people it is worth the wait. For others it is not.
I now mention quite clearly in my listings that there will be a long wait for items to arrive.
Not sure what I can do about the missing package. I'm guessing I'll be reimbursing the customer out of my own pocket.