You may notice the signed books are no longer available on the lefthand side of the website. I had to take that feature down before I head off to Australia for two weeks. I hope to have it up soon in an improved fashion, complete with a shopping cart and easier payment options for shipping. However, the price for shipping will be quite a bit more than it has in the past. Let me explain.
I’ve been using the USPS for shipping signed books for several years now. Both in Boone, NC and here in Jupiter, FL, it gave me a chance to get out of the house and socialize. It was also the best chance to get Bella out for a walk at the greenway in Boone or on the beach here in Jupiter. Otherwise, the two of us were cooped up all the time.
Six months or so ago, one of the ladies behind the counter here in Jupiter finally leaned over the counter to see my dog. Bella is unbelievable in public. She just lays down by my feet and waits patiently while dozens and dozens of packages are sent out. This postal worker leans over all smiles and then recoils in horror at seeing a pit mix. This wasn’t the worker helping me, just another down the counter. She said I shouldn’t have that dog in there and asks if it’s a work dog. I reply that she’s canine good citizenship certified and a licensed therapy dog (both true).
The next time I come to the post office, there are signs everywhere. I’m told the dog can’t come in, that there have been complaints. It was a sad day, because it’s too hot here to leave Bella in the car. She had to start staying home for the post office runs.
At the first of the year, the next major bummer. The cost of shipping overseas — even to Canada — nearly doubled. I’ve had a difficult time passing along that cost to customers; usually I don’t. I just pay the difference. I’ve had a few people email me after getting their package and seeing $60 on the shipping label when they paid $25 and ask what happened. I tell them not to worry about it. What’s weird is how Canada more than doubled in price. It’s cheaper to ship to Hawaii than right across the border.
The biggest issue, however, has been the damaged books. I’ve had a handful lost completely and many that arrive dinged up. I watch them behind the counter throw packages into the sorting bins, and I cringe every time. I get emails from customers with damaged books, and I simply send out another. I only make a few dollars on these signed books to begin with (it costs to have them shipped to me from the printer, and I only charge retail plus shipping. The cost of materials, my time, gas, etc. isn’t accounted for). But I’ve been happy to do it. Even with the damaged/lost books and the higher overseas rates and the time that I needed some extra tape and was told that I needed to buy an entire roll from the back wall when I could see the tape gun at the ladies’ elbow.
Until today. So, I’m extremely hobbled right now with some kind of pinched nerve or bulging disc. It’s a chronic problem I’ve been dealing with for a decade. When it comes on, it’s so bad that I sometimes have to get Amber to help me in and out of bed. I normally have a high tolerance for pain, so it’s crazy that my body can suddenly make it difficult to move or perform the most basic of tasks. It’s extremely frustrating, as I hate allowing anyone to help me. It’s one of my many character flaws. I’d rather suffer than ask for a hand. (I get this from my father, and it drives me crazy when he does this, and yet I do the same damn thing).
I went to the post office this morning with a huge load of books. Poor Amber had to load them into the car for me. It took a lot to even ask her to do this. But my plan, since I’m leaving for Australia tomorrow, was to get there and ask one of the postal workers to help me bring the books inside to the counter. There’s a guy there (I think the branch manager) who is quite large and just roams around helping wherever needed (when the line gets long, he asks if anyone is there to pick up a package. He also goes behind the counter to help sort and arrange packages that have been checked in). I know all of the workers at this branch by name, and they smile and wave when I come in. Me and this guy are quite friendly.
And so I wait in line with a small box; I get up to the counter and ask if I could get some help bringing some packages in; and I’m told by the manager that he can’t help me. “We aren’t covered out there,” he says.
I’m stuck. Even with my new back brace on, it hurts to walk and open doors. It takes me a dozen trips, back and forth, carrying a single box at a time, but some of these boxes have twenty books in them. Even though the physical exertion isn’t much, I’m sweating from the pain. It feels like my spinal column is grinding down on itself. My back is spasming at the counter. It takes forever, little shuffling steps, and there’s nothing they can do to help.
Of course, this is what I normally do anyway. I normally can’t bear to ask for help in the first place. If I wasn’t flying out of town tomorrow with all the pressure to heal up and be able to get around on this book tour, I wouldn’t have asked. I would just suffer the consequences and be laid up for the next week.
Maybe it was the pain thinking for me, but I decided at the counter there that I needed to make a change. The UPS store, when I’ve needed to use them, has customer service like you wouldn’t believe. It’s practically around the corner from my house. They have dog treats and love on Bella when she comes in with me. They do copying and have a desk I can use for signing contracts. They go out of their way to help people, and I know what they would have done if I walked in there today. They would have seen how I was moving, maybe spotted the back brace under my t-shirt, and demanded that they unload my car.
I haven’t used them because the shipping is more expensive, and I do everything I can to keep prices down for you all, the customers. I wish I could get signed books to you for nothing but the price of the book. Instead, I’m driving ten minutes further each way, not getting Bella out of the house, and dealing with long lines and customer service that makes zero sense. I’m not going back to the USPS. And I apologize to you all for that.
I’ll make an announcement when we get the new store up and running. It should calculate the shipping for you. Books will arrive in better condition. But instead of $3.50 in shipping, it will probably cost $10+, depending on where you live. Also, I hope to unveil a little surprise along with the new signed books store. I think you’re going to like it. Thanks for your understanding.