Backorders... pre-orders... I think most online fabric shops don't allow them but we do.
And as long as our customer is in the US, it's not a problem. It's not *that* awfully expensive to ship a second envelope with the backordered items.
But our issue is with international orders. We love our international customers and it is fun to send fabric to exotic destinations in places we will never see. And we want to give good service to our far-away customers. But today our brains are all tied in knots. Four of us have been discussing this puzzle and cannot figure it out so I'm asking for collective wisdom from the forum.
Suppose Jane places an order for four yards of "fabric A" that are in stock now, and four yards of "fabric B" that are not coming for another few months. We base our international shipping rates on the number of flat-rate envelopes that are needed to hold the order; each envelope can hold up to 8 yards. In Jane's case, all her fabric will fit in one envelope, so she has been charged for one envelope. But not all the fabric is here.
So the puzzle is how to get the fabric to Jane and keep shipping costs and other fees reasonable and fair.
- If we cut and set aside "fabric A" to wait until "fabric B" comes in, there are two choices. Either we charge for "A" now, or we don't. If we don't, it is essentially a fabric that is "on hold" for several months, unpaid. (Not good from the seller's perspective, as by the time "fabric B" comes in the customer's credit card could no longer be good, or she might change her mind about the yardage or cancel the item.)
- If we don't physically set aside "fabric A" then we'll probably wind up selling it before "fabric B" comes in. (Not good from the buyer's perspective.)
- If we send "fabric A" now (and charge for it) and then send "fabric B" later, we would have to charge a second round of shipping (not good for buyer) or send "fabric B" for free (not good for us).
- Space does not permit setting aside "fabric A" on the bolt for months.
Here are some of the ideas we have tossed around among ourselves and I'd really like to know what you think of the:
- We could just send what we have in stock and say, "Sorry, but we will just have to cancel the backordered fabric; please order again later when it is in stock."
- We could ask permission to charge for the "fabric A" now (plus the shipping), and then send everything together when "fabric B" comes in. (Since "fabric A" would already be cut, we wouldn't want to accept a cancellation on that item and that's why we'd be inclined to want to also have the shipping charges paid for too.)
- We could wait for a short period - say two weeks - just in case "fabric B" came in sooner.
Complicating issues: there could be several backordered fabrics with different arrival dates.
If we send in several shipments, customers might have to pay more in fees - or less in duty/taxes - depending on their individual country (and there's no way we could possibly keep up on this level of detail).
If we make several charges to the customer's credit card instead of just one, they might wind up paying extra fees (or not).
And... while our first choice would always be "Contact the customer and ask!", sometimes customers do not reply to e-mails or phone calls, and of course e-mail doesn't go through 100% of the time.
I'm trying to figure out a reasonable policy that works for both our customers and our business here. At the moment we're "over-thinking" trying to figure it out.
Wisdom, suggestions, different perspectives, and suggestions would all be appreciated! (And thank you already.)