Benefits of the Label-pocalypse (Sale)

If you follow us on Twitter, a few months back you may remember me being in a borderline panic state due to label malfunction.

The most recent batch had been iffy, as far as the adhesive was concerned, and while I’d known that, I hadn’t realized the inevitable result of the issue.

We’d contacted the company’s customer support regarding what we were experiencing, and the response had basically been:

“We haven’t had any other reports of problems with that job lot.  So you must be crazy.”

With an added paragraph or two about how I shouldn’t do any of the things I’d already told them I was not doing, and explaining in great detail that those labels would not stick to anything except paper – though it was phrased in such a way as to make that seem problematic as well, depending on the grade.1

If we’d had our druthers, we would have found a new supplier shortly after receiving that response.

But there are some drawbacks to being a micro-business.  You want to get supplies in enough quantity that you can snag some of those “bulk” discounts, but not so many that you will not use them in a sensible timeframe.

We had restocked our labels very recently, and couldn’t afford to call almost the entire package a loss.

Additionally, not every sheet had the issue.  So we were hoping to make it through the package, and then search for a replacement option.

Then came the day of the Label-pocalypse.

I was merrily chugging along, working through piles of paperwork, printing off labels for orders…

…when the inkjet printer made a horrid sound.  Electronic death throes sort of noises.  And tossed up an error message.  It said something was jammed.

Buzz and Woody with the text "Printer problems, printer problems everywhere."

I’m fine with that.   It is one I’ve seen before.  I know how to open up the printer and get the jammed things out.

Except…  the sheet of labels came out of the printer, so what could possibly have gotten stuck?

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that it took a few moments to take a look at the label sheet.

And realize that what had been a full sheet of labels was now missing two.  Inside the printer somewhere.  Lovely.

So I open up every compartment, lift up every gizmo, hunting through the guts of the printer as thoroughly as possible without grabbing things like screwdrivers.

I send it another print job.  Just a test one.

And get another error message.

So I open it up again, and repeat the same in-depth search.  Nothing.

Samir from Office Space, looking angry, fists up, "Why does it say paper jam when there is no paper jam?!"

This, of course, happened in the middle of a week where I had a lot of catching up to do, due to a traumatic sequence of events for Mister Tea and his family.

I needed those labels.

I eyed the package warily, and read the fine print.  I’d never attempted to use them in anything other than the inkjet and wanted to make sure they were laserjet capable.

The fine print read along the lines of:  “Good in most inkjet and laserjet printers.”

We have Canon printers.  Given the market share they hold, I figured “most” would include their products.

I put a sheet of them into the laserjet, crossed my fingers, hit ctrl-p.

The sounds the inkjet made when it was attacked by a label were birdsong compared to the ones the laser-jet made.

I was mildly surprised it didn’t explode or burst into flames or…

I reminded myself that my partner is a printer guy.  Who works for Canon.  So if anything could be done, it would be, when he got home.

He managed to get both printers working again.  The relief was physical.  Muscles changed shape and tension when he revivified our loyal producers of words.

A big corporation may be able to swallow a $300 – as a conservative estimate – capital expense without batting an eye…  but a small business where that is a noticeable percentage of the yearly income?  Not so much.  I had been deeply afraid that a bad choice in a supplier might have gutted Desert Sage Natural.

As our first customer service experience with them had been so terrible, I consulted with a friend who is better at bureaucracy2and standard peopleing than I am – to get some advice and assistance.

Post that chat, I started taking pictures of things for evidence, and gathering information.

The customer service dialogue began.

Over the course of a couple days it continued, and as it did so, Mister Tea and I were hunting for alternatives.

We did end up finding a couple.  Including one that looked like it would be perfect for what our packaging goals had always been.

We requested samples, crossed our fingers, and waited for those and for the customer service dialogue to play out.

All they were willing to offer was to collect the remaining label sheets and refund us for those.3

Which is something, I will grant.  And it’s not like we wanted more labels from them – neither Mister Tea nor I were particularly interested in having MORE of those particular labels sent through our word-gizmos.

This fiasco caused a few delays, as the box of Evil Labels had been mostly empty…  and there were a few mix-ups on those sample shipments, as well.  I was almost to the point of hand-labeling everything that was waiting, just to get the orders out, by the time we got things sorted.

However, in the end, all the stress and drama was worth it.

The Label-pocalypse led us to our newest supplier – Elevate Packaging.  They have allowed us to ‘graduate’ to a new level of green with all of our non-tin packaging.  Backyard compostable.  I think I may have actually ‘squeed’ 4when I realized that was the end result.

A zip-seal bag with a label indication it is "Watson's Wit" where the ingredients are listed as a series of organic black tea. In front of the bag is a small white bowl, filled with that blend of black teas.

And if that wasn’t cool enough, they also gave us the ability to have bags with a zip-seal, as well as being able to be heat-sealed.  When we’d first gone looking for packaging we couldn’t find bags that were both the level of function that we wanted AND at least the minimum level of eco-friendly we were willing to use.

Even better – we already know for sure and certain that they have good customer service.  They actually seem to run by one of the same protocols we do – “Our Customers are Real Live Human Beings!”

So…  in the end the Label-pocalypse didn’t turn out so badly.

But it did leave us with a dilemma.  We are going to have to transition over to the new packaging, rather than switch everything over all at once.

We’d had steady enough business that the last time we ordered the tin-tie bags, we ordered a thousand of them.  Additionally, when I print label sheets for full batches of tea, I print the entire sheet.  To do otherwise is potentially bad for the printer.

I still have some of both to use up.  Mister Tea and I have decided that we want to clear the remaining tin-tie bags, and then will recycle whatever old labels remain at that point.5

To this end we are running a blend specific sale in our Etsy store6  We will run it to the end of the year, and then see what we’ve managed to clear  I think Mister Tea and I are both thinking “New Year, New Packaging” regardless of the old packaging that remains when the year turns over.

A small white bowl full of a blend of black tea, rosehips, ginger, and safflower. It is set on a green textured stone table.

In the Simply Tasty category we have:  Baker Street Blend, Beauxbaton’s Blend, Black Lemon Frost, Browncoat’s Desperation, Caspian’s Chai, Chaimonade, Chai Tea-Tea, It’s a Magical Cup7,Chapel’s Chai, Chocolate Cauldron, Cooper’s Curry, Cowabunga, Cratakardia, Crowley’s Kiss, Currantly Nuts, Dark City Mint, Darth Apricot, Din’s Vigor, Donatello’s Zen, Dragon’s Enlightenment, Dragon’s Heart, Dragon’s Thorn, Durmstrang’s Draught, Earlderberry Grey, Embers, Enchanted Forest, Ent Draught, Farore’s Valor, Fire in the Sky, Galactic Green, Grey’s Secret Garden, Godric’s Courage, Gysahl Green, Helga’s Loyalty, Hello Sweetie, Inara’s Evening Blend, Jayne’s Cocoa Kickback, Jenny’s Jasmine Grey, Leaf on the Wind, Leia’s Legacy, Leonardo’s Leadership, Love Brew Love, Meditation Mint, Melody Grey, Merry & Bright, The Mintalist, Miracle Max’s Chocolate Elixir, Molly’s Morning Magic, Mom’s Mate, Mother’s Embrace, Nayru’s Knowledge, Orange Chaibiscus, Peaches and Scream, Pearl’s Pizzelle, Raphael’s Fire, Ravendane Chai, Ravensong, Rebecca’s Rose, Red White and Roo, Red Son Chai, Requiem for a Redshirt, Rhapsody in Green, Rowena’s Wit, Salazar’s Ambition, Smoke in the Water, The Smoking Gun, The Smoking Nun, Spindle’s Bite, Splinter’s Brew, Sublime Summertime, Syzygy, Taste of the Summerlands, Tea at Pemberley, Thai-Dyed Tea, Triforce Tea, Type O, Weasleys’ Winter Warm-up, Winter is Coming, and The Wizard’s Tower.8

Close in shot of a small white bowl filled with tea and herbs. It is set on a green stone tabletop, and there are just the edges of a tin and bag behind it.

In the Medicinal category we have:  Achievement Unlocked:  Still Standing, Allerg-Ease, AnTeaInfection, AnTeaInfection Plus, Aslan’s Breath, Back to Breathing, Blackberry Soothie, Edie’s Not Hot, Expecto Coughonum, Fertile Ground, Hershel’s Gift, New Hope, Serene Stomach, Something for the Pain, Stone Cold Cold Killer, and Thyme Bomb.

From our SereniTeas:  Calm Rose, Comfort & Joy, Hummingbird’s Haven, Linda’s Don’t Panic, River to Book.

And last, the Coffees:  Elphaba’s Brew, Istanbul or Constantinople, and Malabar Brew.

Apologies for the devastatingly long list.  There are some drawbacks to having a ridiculous selection of tasty hot beverages.

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  1. The hilarious thing about this response is that they were sticking to our tins just fine, it was the bags that we were having issues with.
  2. Whenever I read, type, think, or scribble this word I always get the image in my head of a ravenous chest of drawers eating paperwork…
  3. The way this company interacted with us gave me a glimmer of understanding as to why people speak to our customer service so frequently.  Then again, the idea of treating any of our customers the way they treated us was physically nauseating, so low bar.
  4. When playing the audio for Mister Tea, he nodded that yes, this was the case.
  5. Technically we could put the old labels on the new bags, but we don’t like the way it looks and my overly fertile imagination thinks the new bags do not deserve to be in close proximity to the Evil labels.
  6. Yes.  Doing something special.  Only in the Etsy store.  Unfortunately, our personal shop’s interface does not have the capacity to do what we want it to without going through and editing every single listing involved manually.  Once you’ve seen the list, you will understand.
  7. When we rebuild these labels I think we may rename it ‘Chai Tea-Tea, It’s a Magical Taste’ because that makes the reference EVEN better.
  8. I know it’s a lot.  A sheet had 12 labels on it.  And we didn’t have the brilliant idea of putting both front and back on the same sheet until recently.

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