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As if free shipping today wasn't enough...
Nov 29th, 2010 by Nancy
"Uh, Johnny?  I've been meaning to talk to you about the packaging in your lunch."

"Uh, Johnny? I've been meaning to talk to you about the packaging in your lunch."

If you’re reading this you’re already probably digging around in the website for more information on the wonderful Lunchsense lunchboxes.  To this I say, “Yay! ‘Happy to have you here!”

You might also be looking for any other deal on top of cyber Monday free shipping.  I’m happy to oblige – here’s a 10% off coupon code to use any time between now and December 9:

BLOG10

Of course, if you use it today, you’ll get free shipping AND 10% off.  Sweet deal, that is.

Last chance for 20% off Lunchsense!
Nov 17th, 2010 by Nancy

Hey, lunch is on me!

Last day for 20% off deals!

Just a quick note – I’ll be inching back on the seasonal deals tomorrow night, Thursday November 18, by changing that 20% into a 10%.  If you’d like to get the best price around on the best lunchbox around, go here now, then at checkout use the coupon code…

BLOG20

HOWEVER, if you’re still looking for deals, come on back on Monday, November 29 – cyber Monday.  On that day only I’ll be offering FREE SHIPPING on top of the 10% deal.  You’ll be the world’s favorite aunt, uncle, wife, husband, mom, dad, brother and/or sister, AND you’ll reduce packaging and food waste at the very same time.

Nice!

20% off everything at Lunchsense!
Oct 25th, 2010 by Nancy

One great looking lunchboxI was setting up for a trade show earlier this year – always a fun, if sweaty and laborious, day because we biz owners get to catch up with each other since the last show – and had a welcome exchange with an old friend.  She (another retailer) and I were comparing notes about the economy and how we were weathering this “Great Disruption.” Her outlook?

“Flat is the new growth.”

I had to agree with her – the last two years have been brutal to most small businesses – but I’m pleased to say Lunchsense is beating the odds and actually growing, slowly but surely.  It’s a lot more work spreading the waste-free lunchbox message these days, though, and I’ve been trying to find that sweet spot of deals, offers, promos, whatever, to keep sales hoppin’ and still stay in business.

I’ve avoided many typical promos (buy one, get one free; spend $X.xx with me and I’ll send you a free, um, food container!; send a friend my way, and you’ll get a coupon for another purchase) because I’ve found that they have one thing in common: if you buy enough stuff, you will get even more…stuff.

But what if you don’t need more stuff?

This drives to the heart of my business philosophy.  I AM in the business of providing you with an effective solution to a long list of lunch-packing problems, but I am NOT in the business of pushing stuff on you that you don’t need or want. After all, I got started on this whole love affair with a durable, washable lunchbox because I hated throwing away half a dozen baggies a day, not to mention the leftovers in them.  So I chafe at being asked to buy more in order to get the best deal – it just feels wasteful.

If you don’t need it, I’d really rather you not buy it, at any price.

You, of course, are absolutely right when you say, “thanks, but I can decide for myself what I do and don’t need.”  Yes.  True.  I wholeheartedly agree.  I also agree, wholeheartedly, that “need” can be defined many ways: I am absolutely certain we all “need” art and music and beauty in our lives, for example.

But to hold that which you need hostage  to a “if you buy just a little more, I’ll throw in free shipping!” sort of teaser just doesn’t sit right with me.  I’ve been tempted by – and succumbed to – promos like these.  But even if the bargains are good, I don’t like feeling that my relationship with a company is defined only by how much I buy, not by what their products do to improve my life.

And yet, I still very much want your business, and I know that it’s risky to invest in a lunchbox (a lunchbox!) especially if you really have to count every dollar these days.  For me, there’s only one way to sweeten the deal without tainting the exchange:

Everything at Lunchsense is 20% off, now through November 18. Coupon code is BLOG20

(Note that the coupon code is case sensitive, by the way.)

That’s going to be the best (but not the only) discount on Lunchsense through the end of 2010, and for the sake of transparency I’ll share those other deals with you now:

After November 18th the sale doesn’t go away entirely, but the 20% turns into 10%.

And everybody with a US address (including, of course, APO/FPO) who orders up on the website on November 29 (the Monday after Thanksgiving, also known as cyber Monday) gets free shipping.

I’m not tinkering with the deals to be a meanie.  I’m only trying to smooth out the seasonal rush, thereby increasing the likelihood that I’ll get everything shipped with plenty of time to spare for the gift-giving holidays.  If you figure out what you want, then find that you’d save more by getting the ‘10% discount + free shipping’ than the ‘20% discount + shipping’, then…I’ll see you on the 29th, yeah?

So yes, please, get your order in when it makes the most sense for you, and check that off your list.  If you see the need, that is.  And yes, please, tell your friends about this deal if you think they’d like a lunchbox too!

About that “tell your friends” thing – I do feel immeasurably grateful to you for doing so, and I’d like to show that gratitude – what do you suggest?  What is a useful, meaningful expression of gratitude to you from a company you do business with?

“Changing the way we think about lunch,” indeed.  How ‘bout changing the way we think about stuff?

Nancy's Yogurt: what customer service should strive to be
Oct 20th, 2010 by Nancy

nancys_logo_wstarsI wrote a few weeks back about how and why I gave up my fax number, and mentioned that I’d have a nice customer service story as a follow-up.  Here it is:

Awhile back I bought a small tub of sour cream (Nancy’s brand – a local dairy) and, upon opening it found it was laced with grainy little bits.  The sour cream tasted fine but the texture was unsettling, so I pitched it and dropped the Nancy’s company a quick email explaining the problem.  I didn’t have my receipt, and it was only a couple of bucks’ worth of sour cream, so my highest expectation was that they’d write back and say “thanks for letting us know” and maybe they’d send me a coupon.

But no.

I did get that email, which explained that the grainy bits were protein something-or-others, and the writer asked if I could tell them what I paid for the sour cream so they could reimburse me.  They also mentioned that they taste-test every batch of sour cream before it gets packaged and shipped.  Overall it was a very nicely penned note, and I was satisfied.

I wrote back to tell them that I didn’t know what I paid, and a coupon would be fine if they had one, and I envied them their taste-testers job.

Then about a week later I received a big, bulky enveloped from none other than the Nancy’s yogurt company.  In it was not one but three coupons, and a beautiful canvas shopping bag, AND a HAND-WRITTEN NOTE from Elaine Kesey, owner of Nancy’s yogurt herself, thanking me for my support.  The postage alone for that package far exceeded what I paid for that grainy-but-otherwise-edible sour cream in the first place!

As a small-biz owner I’m confronted daily with one of the hard facts of business life: expenses.  Customer service is just one of many, and happens to be one expense that (unlike rent, payroll, taxes, etc.) we are not beholden to pay just to stay in business, or at best we pay “in-kind”: we reimburse our dissatisfied customer with just what that customer paid.

But the problem is that we can’t put a dollar amount on dissatisfaction.  Nancy’s yogurt demonstrated exactly what I hope Lunchsense will always offer: a genuine, heartfelt, personal response to every customer.

Please, let me know how your experience with Lunchsense turns out.

Life and times of a small biz: what's a fax number worth to me?
Sep 24th, 2010 by Nancy

fax machineA couple months ago I eliminated my fax number.

Although I wasn’t going out of my way to get rid of it, I am now no longer reachable by fax.

I guess it isn’t accurate to say I eliminated my fax number.  Actually, it was taken from me.  Here’s what happened:

I subscribed to a service called eFax that assigned a telephone number to me that served as my “fax” number.  If someone wanted to send something to me, they’d dial that number then eFax would email me a digital file (like, though not, a pdf) of the sent pages, and I’d be good to go.  Best of all, it was free, simple, and seemed a good environmental choice – no trees were killed in the conveyance of information to me.  eFax did offer several other “premium” plans that came with a monthly price tag, but since I’d receive maybe one fax every other month, the free option was absolutely sufficient for my needs.

Recently, I worked with a customer that apparently didn’t have my email address, but did have my fax number, so he sent me a handful of faxes – about six in all, each about three or four pages in length.

What I didn’t realize (or more likely since I’d had this service for a couple years, what I didn’t remember) was that if I sent or received more than 20 pages in a single month I’d not qualify for eFax’s free service any longer.

So I was a bit surprised to get a notice from eFax stating that because of my recent activity I no longer qualified for the free option and in order to continue using their service I’d have to upgrade to the premium plan.

SO – Does $17 a month seem a bit steep for a biz to pay for a service that it uses maybe 6 times a year? To send or receive information that can also be conveyed – in better form – via email?  Which, ironically, became my only choice not because I sent a bunch of faxes, but because someone else sent just barely 20 pages in a 30 day period?

‘Seemed that way to me, but I wanted to find out if eFax felt the same way.  I called them several times, and was given the same answer several times – in order to keep my fax number I had to cough up $16.95 a month.

After mulling it over, I realized that (even though it feels otherwise) THIS WAS NOT BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.  The eFax phone people were cordial, honest, and straightforward. The 20 page limit was there in my original plan, I exceeded my free limit, and I was shown the door.

THIS IS ONLY A REALLY LOUSY BUSINESS MODEL.

The fax number just sat there in my signature block, quiet and safe and staid: address, phone, fax, email, website.  It wasn’t really doing anything except adding one more line to the block, and maybe adding the perception of one more nugget of legitimacy to my operation here: “see? I’m a REAL biz – I have a fax number.”  Now that it’s gone, though, I realize it won’t be missed.  While I feel for the people that have my contact information but don’t know the fax number isn’t live anymore (although so few of them fax anything I’m not losing any sleep over it).

But as a small biz owner, I am somewhat more concerned to think that eFax considers this a viable way to do business. Yeah, they weren’t making any money off me, so why should they care?  Here’s why:

They hasten the demise of their own services by kicking me out.  They weren’t losing any money on me either, but they did lose a whole lot of goodwill.

I hear it said that bad customer service stories are repeated nine times by the “victim”.  I don’t want that kind of storytelling about Lunchsense, ever.

It’s actually not been that big of a hassle to get my fax number off my “collateral” (that’d be the name for all the paper stuff that has my biz information on it), as most of it I print on-demand – for example, I have the file with the letterhead, and when I need to write a letter, I write it and print it (or, more often, email it).  Invoices, packing slips, carton inserts, whatever – most of it either didn’t have the fax number to begin with or I only print in small quantities.

I can also email printer scans for someone who has to have my signature, so the ONLY THING I’m now left without is the ability to receive a fax.  It is no significant loss, frankly.

Please: do you have a similar story?  If you were me, what would you have done?

Next week: a customer service tale that I strive to emulate.

It's a wrap
Sep 17th, 2010 by Nancy
Actually, I'm really not that into southern rock.

Actually, I'm really not that into southern rock.

We’ve all had bad weeks.  This one is no exception.

Lunchsense is my “full time” job, which means I attend to it every weekday after my two boys get to school (8:15) and before they get out of school (2:35).  This isn’t nearly enough time to keep all the plates spinnin’, so I often return to work in the evening after dinner.  Since I work at my house, to keep it – work, house, kids, laundry, groceries, dinner, whatever – all together I try and keep to a pretty tight schedule.

With the start of the school year I’ve tried to get a steady supply of playdates to keep my kids busy (and happy) so I can avoid having to shlep over to the grade school at 2:30 and lose an otherwise very productive hour (or more).  Ideally (so the plan goes) at least half those gigs would be at someone else’s house, and the perfect storm would find both my boys going somewhere other than our house so I don’t have to kill that hour going to the school only to say that yes, they can go to their friends’ houses.

I’m Oh-for-five this week, though. Ouch.

I’ve had a houseful of “spares” (as in kids – also known as “strays”) all week long, which would be fine (we call it “subtraction by addition”, this bringing-in of kids to keep mine out of my hair) except several have been the recalcitrant types who don’t WANT to be here, and to prevent them from breaking out and trying to walk home I’ve had to keep a weather eye on them.  I actually did have to chase one four blocks and carry him back.  It is, sadly, not a great way to work.

We’ve also had houseguests.  I really like houseguests, and as members of couchsurfing.com we have a steady stream of fascinating, generous, kind, complete strangers staying overnight here.  Of course we have complete control over who stays and who doesn’t, but when we agree to host a couchsurfer we have no idea what life will have served up in the interim.  Our most recent guests were delightful – among the favorites of everyone we’ve ever hosted, in fact – but haven’t we all had that night of “I am having an absolutely wonderful time with these people, which is only slightly ruined by the recall of the huge pile of work I should otherwise be doing”??

I’ve also had evening meetings.  Again, they are for groups I absolutely love and wouldn’t dream of giving up, but the end result is that I haven’t been able to carve out even an hour or two for work most nights this week.

Did I mention that one of my boys misplaced, in a record-setting 48 hours’ time, his glasses, his shoes, two sweatshirts, the family camera, and his school binder?  All were eventually found, but you know how it is.  Just one more thing.

Same boy, different day: he brought to me (to his credit, sheepishly) three food containers for his Lunchsense lunchbox that had been waylaid under his desk for…weeks? I have no idea.  And I had just ‘bought’ (from company inventory) three more of the exact same containers that very same day.

So here it is, Friday afternoon, and my to-do list for the week is not only NOT shorter, it’s way, way longer.  Simple things – what the &^# do I do when a printer has “print skew”?? – have completely shut down my productivity.  THE WHOLE WEEK has been a testimonial to bad customer service: technical issues that should take 5 minutes to fix have taken 30; Thirty minute problems have taken 90. To top it all, I’ve spent over an hour on customer service hold lines every day this week, and every day has been for a different problem.

Speaking of “customer service,” I’ve created my very own disaster, all by myself, by shipping an order meant for Malta…to Malaysia.  Seriously.  (Therein lies the great downside of autofill. Type M-A-L and hit return, yeah? Um, no, Nancy.)   Another hour went down the rabbit hole trying to un-disaster that beauty.

So, to all who care to hear, I’ve dug down deep and found a refuge from this week’s frustrations.  Here it is (Forgive me, in advance, for showing my age. Note, though, I highly recommend this to them of any age):

Lynryd Sykynryd.  Freebird.  Really, really, really ear-bleedin’ loud.  (I have to acknowlege – painfully – that it’s not loud enough.  Have I finally wasted my hearing?)  Nine minutes and nine seconds of escapist bliss. I’m on about my seventh time ’round and it’s exhilarating, liberating, and exactly what I need to scrub out the memory of this wretched week, and I highly recommend it to anyone with ears and a bad day in the rear view mirror.

Next up: Inagaddadavida (Iron Butterfly).  Frankenstein (Edgar Winter Group). Hold Your Head Up (Argent.  First line: “And if it’s baaaad, don’t let it hold you down, you can take it”  Aaahhh, pearls of wisdom).   Sunshine of your Love (Cream).  Hocus Pocus (Focus). Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress (the Hollies).  Bungle in the Jungle (Jethro Tull).  And, of course, Stairway to Heaven (Led Zep).

And I’m not even going to try and fix iTunes, which seems to unable to find over half the music in my library.  That’ll be Monday’s problem.

Looking for Lunchsense coupons? Ecobunga! (as in www.ecobunga.com)
Jul 7th, 2010 by Nancy

Greetings, all!ecobunga2

Hot enough for ya?  How ’bout cooling off with a nice ice pack…and a great lunchbox to go with it!  Stroll on over to Ecobunga! and find a coupon code for a sweet 25% discount on Lunchsense purchases over $35.  Dig a little further and you’ll find a boatload of other great green coupons, giveaways, sweepstakes, discounts and more.  Check it out!

Free passes to the Chicago Green Festival!
May 18th, 2010 by Nancy

Chicago-GreenFestival-Free-Ticket-2010-web-imageIf you’re in the greater Chicago area (and what part of the Chicago area isn’t great, eh?) and you don’t have weekend plans yet, come by Navy Pier for the Green Festival!  Hear the speakers and the music; enjoy the good eats; learn a dozen new things you can do to make the world a better place, from packing a waste-free lunch (that’d be my suggestion – booth 832) to buying fair-trade jewelry to learning about renewable energy, to building your eco-home.  If those options don’t suit your fancy, there are hundreds more to choose from, so come on by and spend the day – I guarantee it will be time well spent.

What’s more – I have a link here for FREE PASSES to the show!

I’ll see you there….

Chicagoans and Seattleites: How to get a free lunchbox
May 4th, 2010 by Nancy

GF-Chicago2010_EventGuideIf you live in or around Chicago or Seattle and you’d like to score a free lunchbox, you’re in luck!  I’ll be coming your way for the Chicago Green Festival May 22-23, and the Seattle Green Festival June 5-6, I need a few people to help me in the booth.

In exchange for 4 hours of booth help, you will receive:

  • free entry to Green Festival (good both days – a $15 value);
  • cash for lunch ($10)
  • a free Lunchsense lunchbox (up to $48 value)
  • the chance to ask an entrepreneur ANYTHING about running a biz (priceless)

While in the booth you’ll be talking to visitors, demonstrating the features and benefits of the lunchboxes, and completing the transaction should they decide to buy.  I’ll be in the booth at all times (less restroom breaks), so you’ll never be without backup assistance.

No hard sell here – since most of my sales are online, shows are the best place for me to meet customers face-to-face and to get feedback.  While I’d certainly like to sell everything I bring, I’m not strident about it.

If you’re interested, please send me a note at moreinfo@lunchsense.com, and be sure to include your contact information.  I’ll get back to you within a day or two.

If live in the area but you can’t help out, that’s fine, I understand, but please do come to Green Festival if you get the chance – it’s a venue chock-full of resources, ideas, cool stuff, and very friendly, very smart people about all things green!

Come see a trade show from the other side!


It's everywhere: BPA on credit card receipts
Apr 21st, 2010 by Nancy

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.  credit card receipts

The following information hit the presses last autumn (here is the report), and I’m only now finding it and passing it on to you, my fine readers.  The gist of the story (which warrants its own read, as it’s full of information and additional links) is that credit card receipts using  thermal imaging processes – the slick, shiny stuff that creates prints from a chemical reaction when heat is applied to the paper, as opposed to traditional ink-printed papers – are coated with bisphenol-A, the endocrine disrupting chemical.

I regret to say that the jury is still out about a definitive link between BPA and human health – google “BPA health effects” and march down the links, and you’ll get just a sampling of the spectrum  – but I’m comfortable saying it is implicated in a host of troubles.  It’s the same BPA that has plenty of people concerned about use of any plastics; the same BPA that compelled Canada to ban polycarbonate baby bottles and Japan to ban it outright; and the same BPA that is NOT found in any Lunchsense products.

One unsettling (and instructive) point in this most recent report, however, is the quantity of BPA we’re talking about.  The amount which may leach from a polycarbonate bottle or a can liner is measured in nanograms, while that which shows up on a single receipt is 60 to 100 milligrams.

That’s a thousand-fold difference.

Now for a shorthand science lecture:  We all believe in a linear relationship when we think about toxic materials and health effects.  In other words, a small dose of some material has a small effect, and a larger dose of the same material has a larger effect.  Here’s the rub: This dose-response relationship may not hold true for hormone-mimicking chemicals – the greatest effect may occur with a small dose, and our bodies may not respond at all to a large dose of the same material.

So where I can say “that’s a thousand-fold difference” for dramatic effect, I admit it may be meaningless.

The bottom line: we don’t know what’s going on.

If you find that this post is all over the map, then you’re perceptively picking up on my sentiments about the topic.  I DON’T know what’s going on with BPA, but in the meantime I’ll be sure to keep it out of the Lunchsense lunchboxes, food containers, ice packs, and drink bottles.

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