I have no idea what I’m doing, building and running a business for knit stuff. I have nearly 20 years of schooling under my belt, with a bachelors and a masters degree, yet I feel like a baby, learning to walk in the dark, painfully bumping into objects I didn’t know were there, tripping and falling again and again off of my clumsy feet.
Here’s just one tiny example:
A few days ago, I got an order for a pair of my handwarmers from a woman in Wales. I was so excited. I looked up her address on wikipedia and was charmed to find out her town has a population of less than 1000 people. Someone from a town in Wales with a couple hundred people in it had seen and purchased something from me! I wrapped my new customer’s package up with nervous but tender care. Then I headed to the post office.
I hate my local post office. The place is small and perpetually crowded, so that I always feel there’s not enough oxygen in there. This post office does not post up any prices -which I find both odd and immensely irksome, and I always spend my (long) time in line composing in my head the questions I want to ask clerk when I get to the front of the line about what different options will cost. I have to get all my questions right in advance because the poor clerk who works by herself in the oxygen-deprived, crowded heat all day is, perhaps not surprisingly, one of the grumpiest people I ever have to deal with. She will never suggest helpful other options if I don’t already know to ask about them.
On this day, I was prepared, or so I thought. I had weighed my packaged (4 oz). I knew I had to request a custom form. And I was going to ask how much sending it priority would cost, but if that was too expensive, I would send it first class with tracking. (Ever since the post office lost a package I’d sent with a couple hundred dollars worth of books in it a couple of years ago, I’ve been a stickler for tracking.)
Me: How much does priority cost to send this little package to the UK?
Clerk: (raising her eyebrows scornfully, typing a command or two into her computer) 45 dollars.
Me: Wha-? okay, that’s too expensive. What does regular first class with tracking cost?
Clerk: 29 dollars
Me: (my eyebrows are raised too at this point, in shock) I- But it’s so small and light.
Me: what’s the least expensive I can get it to the UK?
Clerk: 9 dollars and 25 cents
I had charged the woman from Wales $6 for shipping and promised her tracking, figuring that was roughly what it would cost. Obviously I should have done my homework more carefully when, after coming back to the states from Germany, I reset my shipping costs. I had assumed weight would matter for international shipping, like it did in Germany. But it turns out, on international shipping, the USPS doesn’t care about weight on the low end. Things over two pounds are more expensive but things only a few ounces in weight are not discounted.
I left the post office that morning without sending my package. I went to the grocery store across the street, hoping to succeed in at least one errand but feeling so stupid, frustrated and oxygen-deprived, that when the lady at the check-out asked me mundanely, “so how are you doing today?” I actually burst into tears. Embarrassing.
In the end, I went back to the post office the next day and sent the package for the $9.25 option, no tracking. I updated the shipping costs and policies on my website. And I realized that it really a very minor mistake, in the scheme of things.
This incident is just one example of how clueless I am about this business of mine. Every job I’ve ever had up to this point, especially being a student, has always had lots of people above me who are knowledgeable and responsible for decisions and policies. I’ve always been a peon. Answering to a boss, or acquiescing to a professor may have felt annoying but it also came with a sense of security, one that I didn’t notice until now that it’s gone. I’m the boss of this business, the end of the line. And I have no idea what I’m doing.
*If you liked this story, or like my knits, or just on a completely separate note -don’t forget to sign up up for a CHANCE TO WIN some Christmas Dolls on this post
, by November 20.