Thursday, December 20, 2012

The third stage of holiday grief

December 19, 2012

The 3 Stages of Mail Order Holiday Grief
1. Hiring grief: will we get enough people
2. Order grief: will we get enough sales
3. Shipping grief: will we ship them all out the door on time

The third stage has arrived. You can tell it's in effect when someone (Riki) says something like "Thank God it's Tuesday. It was Monday for three whole days."

We're now quickly rolling through the signposts of the last phase of holiday grief. The deadline for shipping a box to arrive with UPS ground shipping has passed. The deadline for 2 day shipping is gone. The deadline for overnight packages looms. Then there's overnight with Saturday delivery on Friday, select zip codes only, sorry!

This year Christmas falls on a Tuesday, the absolute worst day of the week for us mail orderers, especially those of us in the food business. Perishable foods don't like to travel over the weekend. It means the last day for most folks to ship for Christmas is today, Thursday, for delivery on Friday, five full days before Christmas. Bah humbug!

OK, now for the crazy numbers. We've been packing orders at a rate of one every 9 seconds 24/7 the last 10 days (with a short break for breath on Friday). Nine per second means 400 boxes per hour. Back in 1992, the first year I did a mail order Christmas, we shipped 113 boxes total on the biggest day. (It almost broke me.) This year it was 12,000, the week will total over 30,000 boxes. To put it in perspective, that's equal to what we shipped in June, July and August combined. 

You might have noticed I didn't mention much about grief. That's because we kind of skipped the grief part of the third stage this year. Outside of our order releaase computer that refused to work the night shift (it crashed in the evening and started back to work each morning) most everything hummed along. We're hand wrapping bread, cutting cheese to order, and making every gift one at a time just in time.

Friday afternoon it will go ghost quiet, a holiday cliff we cross every year and whose predictability does not make it feel any less eerie. The phones will go quiet. The boxes will be gone. The food will be absent. The shelves will be empty. Most of the crew will have left. Until then we hum with the sound of a hundred  people gathering food and stacking boxes into an endless stream of fifty foot UPS trailers.

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