I enjoyed the recent AskMetafilter discussion about common pet peeves for different professions. I was reminded of it again this morning when I received YET ANOTHER REQUEST from our webmail form looking for us to make one box for somebody in New York.


Why does this bug me? Because there’s no way in hell that having us manufacture one box for somebody across the country is worthwhile for anyone involved. The customer pays more. We make less. It’s lose-lose. Why do we make less? Because it takes more time to deal with the person, we have to go out of our way to ship the box, and the likelihood for error and misunderstanding is higher. I hate shipping cross country so much that I’ve posted the following at the Custom Box Service website, right above the quote request form:

We will not respond to out-of-area quote requests. If you are not located in Oregon or Southwest Washington, you should find a box manufacturer closer to you. Google is your friend.

But still I get several requests a week to make 20 boxes for somebody in Georgia or Vermont or South Carolina. We get more of these requests than real leads. (We get maybe one new local customer a month off the form.)

In the AskMetafilter thread, I shared other pet peeves:

  • People who call and ask for a box using only one or two dimensions. "I need a 27-inch box." or "I need a box that’s a 12 by 12 square." I’m sorry. Boxes, exist in a three-dimensional universe, actually have three dimensions. I’m shocked at how many times I have to ask, "What’s the third dimension?" only to be met by baffled silence or by an "I don’t know".
  • People who call wanting a price quote, but who do not have a pen to write the numbers down. These are the very same people who call two weeks later swearing that I’ve quoted them a much lower price. I have a hardcopy of every price quote I’ve generated. Write the prices/specs down!
  • People who need their boxes in a rush (which is everyone), but who then say, "Oh, can I pick those up next Wednesday?" Or worse yet, people who make me rush to make boxes but then are slow to pay.
  • People who want me to be able to manufacture a box to tolerances less than +/- 1/8 inch. I just had somebody request something in 64ths of an inch yesterday. Dream on.
  • People who complain about price increases. Paper is a commodity. Its price fluctuates all the time. I have no control over that. I’m not jacking up prices to rip you off. My prices go up when my costs go up.
  • People who call up the day they need to ship their Whatzit to Aunt Madge. "It has to be to the post office by three." Well you should have called earlier, then. I can’t violate the laws of physics.
  • People who have to tell me their life story in order to convey what sort of box they need. I don’t care about your cousin Billy. Just tell me what size of box you need and how many.

Basically, my list of complaints can be boiled down to one central problem: stupid people. (Don’t I sound like a jerk?)

The real trouble is, when I have to call business for help (a locksmith, for example), I’m the one who sounds like an idiot…

3 Replies to “Complaints of a Boxmaker”

  1. Cat says:

    Got a solution for the out-of-state problem. Instead of a freeform “Location” field, have a freeform “City” field, and a State drop-down that only shows Oregon and Washington.

  2. alan says:

    That’s no fun, Cat. How about a note next to the one about out of area requests? It could say, “and we reserve the right to republish all of your contact information on our “unable to follow instructions and/or read wall of shame.”

  3. Lynn says:

    In the insurance industry, one of my biggest complaints is people who want free coverage. “Can’t you just cover it for a month?” they’ll ask. Will Fred Meyer’s let you wear a pair of shoes for a month for free? While I understand that insurance is not a tangible object, there is a promise to pay implied. Often, that promise to pay can end up costing the insurance company thousands upon thousands of dollars. Why should this be free?

    I also get angry at the people who don’t understand that price is based on risk. Do this for me – if you were going to personally insure 10 people in your immediate family to drive, think about what you would charge them. Would they all get the same rate? Do they all pose the same risk? My mom is a much better driver than my brother who doesn’t understand why he can’t look at the person in the backseat while he talks to them.

    Thanks, JD, I feel better.

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