Thoughts on Fulfillment

Each time I do a new project and we get to the fulfillment stage, at least a few people tell me, "You know, it would be so much easier for you to use a fulfillment center to get the decks out!" 

I agree, it would be easier, and as a collector myself I think that the reason people tell me that is we all want our stuff as quickly as possible. However, I think there are a number of factors which, from my perspective at least, are far more important than pure speed and have driven the decision for me to handle packing all these orders myself. I thought it might be helpful to list some of those out so those extra few days of waiting are a tiny bit more bearable. :)

If I handed off fulfillment to someone else, a number of things would be impacted:

  • As a collector and appreciator of the "serial number hunt" I make it a point to pack up orders in the order they came in. If you were dedicated, waited on the site and made your purchase 15 seconds after I make the decks available, I think you should get the lowest number decks as a little 'thank you.' This is a lot more work in fulfillment though, because I don't "batch" all similar orders. If I handed this off to a fulfillment company with multiple employees packing orders, there is no good way they could accommodate that. 
  • As I pack decks, I give each one a quick glance. With modern production there will always be some damaged or marked ones, and for each order I make a decision on whether the decks are ok or not. I always weed out decks that I feel are over the threshold of damage or otherwise aren't good enough. No one else can make that determination, so a fulfillment company is just going to put stuff in packages as quickly as possible.
  • Since I pack everything, I can control how decks get wrapped and protected. After hand packing nearly 10,000 packages I've learned what works and can vary the approach depending on the individual order. Two decks going to the US? That goes in this box, wrapped this way. Two decks to Europe? Well that needs a different package, and decks wrapped another way. I am always adjusting how things are packed, but a fulfillment company with a set procedure is not going to intuitively adjust based on the order.
  • I know a lot of my customers names now and often will include little notes, extra things, or maybe send out a package a little sooner or later based on a personal request. You'd just be another order number with a fulfillment house.
  • Signed decks would be impractical or impossible to do with a fulfillment company. How many decks would I need to sign and send to them? What if they ran out? How would I communicate what gets signed, whether it should be on the cellophane or on the box? That only works smoothly when the creator is in charge of the process.
  • Personal requests can't happen unless I'm doing the work. Sometimes a long time customer needs a little something special. Maybe they want to gift a deck to their friend and give them the number that matches their birthday. I get little requests every project and do my best to help people out and make things special. 
  • Customer service when things go awry. Once in a great while things go wrong, a package is lost, or something got confused. Since I do all the work I generally know what is going on and understand the issue and can take care of it (and I don't think I've ever left a customer hanging with no solution).

I could go on, but you get the idea. It is a real pain to pack up these orders, I'm not gonna lie. When you worked all day at your normal job, then took care of your kids until their bedtimes, then face the prospect of sitting in your office again for hours, it's tough. But since I started Encarded I felt that to make things right, and make them the way people deserve, that I have to control everything from start to finish. That does take a little extra time but I hope you agree that in the end it's worth it. 

Thanks, as always, to everyone that has supported the work over the years!