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Portlanders: Better Living for you!
Mar 17th, 2011 by Nancy

BLS posterDo tell, oh neighbors-to-the- north: does the new program Portlandia change the way you refer to yourselves? Are you now Portlandians, or do you remain Portlanders?

My husband and I lived in Portland for about 7 years.  Our daughter was born in there (okay, Milwaukie, technically). We moved to Bend for a lovely 18 month period, where our first son was born.  We moved to Eugene thereafter, where our second son was born.

We’re not moving anymore.

I will be making the trek at the end of this month to the Expo Center in Portland for the Better Living Show, which (if the last couple years is any measure) is bound to be a great time.

Many good reasons to go….

Food samples!

Admission is free, and here’s why: the Better Living Show organizers want to counter the impression that “green = expensive.”

A wonderful kid’s pavilion!

The weather will not improve, so while you’re waiting for a break in the rain to mess about in the garden, you can pick up some new gardening tips and ideas.

1,001 ways to green your home!

I’ll be having my annual drawing for a free lunchbox in any size and any color, but you have to stop by the booth to enter.

More samples!

Enjoy a 20% discount on every Lunchsense lunchbox set purchased at the Better Living Show!

You can train, bus or bike to the show, but if you must drive you get a buck off parking if you carpool (3 or more).

If you don’t make it to the show but do “like” us on Facebook, you will help your friends who order later – if we reach our goal on Facebook we will offer $5 flat rate shipping for all of April!

Fashion!

Lots of other presentations!

Did I mention food samples?

Last but not least, a fabulous lineup of lunchboxes!

Check here for a slideshow of last year’s event, stop by booth 529 and say hello, and maybe even walk away with a marvelous new lunchbox while you’re at it.

‘Hope to see you there!

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.

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