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Karma Zain
27 May 2015 @ 12:04 pm
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Karma Zain
As of today, I have a positive balance in my business account again (thank you to those who have continued to invest trust in me). This morning, I ordered the candle-making supplies I need to fill the backlogged orders containing candles; with luck they'll be here by the end of the week and I can start catching up on those.

I'm starting to catch up on soap orders today, as the first new batches since I was able to restock the soap making supplies are now cured and ready to ship, and I have been steadily making soap since last week to get those caught up.

I will be able to ship some packages this afternoon. As of right now, the business account balance is *not* sufficient to ship everything that's ready to go, but I'll start with the oldest stuff first and get it out the door, and as funds are available (God willing) I will continue to get packages shipped.

As I've outlined previously, I'm aware of the snafu with a batch of orders mostly from around December for which the label was generated but the package not delivered. It's a long story, and I take full responsibility: assistants can't be expected to do things they aren't properly trained to do and it's my fault for not realizing the error for so long after I got back into town. I am still in the process of manually checking delivery status of *every order* from the time period during which I was not personally doing or overseeing every step of the packing and shipping process, and in cases where orders have not been delivered, I am getting the packages out in cases where they didn't go and getting them reshipped in cases where they were returned to sender/not accepted by the shipper. It is not necessary for you to do anything except in the unlikely event that your package was shipped and simply disappeared, in which case we might need some paperwork to go through the post office for reimbursement, but this is very rare (I haven't found a domestic case like this yet) and if it does end up being the case, I will initiate the process and contact you, so you still don't need to do anything to initiate this. One way or another, you'll get your order.

Please know that, even in the worst case scenario, if no further orders come in, I get one more paycheck from my old job, so if it comes down to it and cash flow continues to be a problem, I will use funds from that paycheck to fill and ship the orders that are backlogged and/or waiting for labels. (I will shortly thereafter be in the food stamp line and applyling for whatever minimum wage paying slow death I can get, if income from this endeavor simply ceases, but I don't expect that to happen. I do not expect it to get back to where it was, say, last spring anytime soon - I've damaged too many client/customer relationships for that - but I should be able to stop operating in a nearly constant deficit once I can get these backlogged orders out and the damned chargebacks stop coming in.) For the first time in many years, I'll be able to give this work enough time - it's been a long time since I've *had* enough time to give it.

So please, be confident that one way or another, your order will ship/be fulfilled. Once the backlog is cleared up and I can finally stop hemmorhaging money due to chargebacks, I'll be moving consultations and reports to the front burner and can start getting those cleared up (and yes, I do still intend to offer phone sessions to those who have been waiting longer than the quoted estimate - I have to get these fires put out re. disputes/chargebacks on orders first, though, before I will be able to definitely dedicate protected time to scheduling phone sessions with no risk of my having to cancel or rearrange bookings - to see my game plan for those, see this post -- but I will set up a way for y'all to book your spot via an online calendar).
 
 
 
Karma Zain
26 May 2015 @ 12:03 pm
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Karma Zain
*DOMAIN/NAVIGATION ISSUES: There's some sort of hiccup going on with some users navigating to the Karma Zain Spiritual Supplies site for reasons as yet unclear to me. My domain karmazain.com has NOT expired - it's registered through 2017. This probably has something to do with a change that Shopify made to how their domain forwarding/pointing works, and I'm still investigating, but in some cases users have arrived at a page that looks like my domain name is up for sale or something. The registrar may have screwed up, I just don't know yet. If you have the site bookmarked and are getting a blank page, make sure the address bar contains WWW.karmazain.com and not just karmazain.com; you may also need to clear your cache. I am currently investigating this but in the meantime/ if all else fails, you can always navigate directly to the Shopify location of the store, which is actually http://karma-zain-spiritual-supplies.myshopify.com/ - I just have www.karmazain.com set to forward to it, and it's apparently this forwarding where something has gone awry.

*CREDIT CARD CHECKOUT: If the Shopify platform tells you that you can't use a credit card to make a payment, just choose Paypal as your checkout; you can check out with a credit card through Paypal. Shopify is referring to itself as the payment processor when it says credit card payments cannot be processed, but you don't have to use their payment processor (even when it's enabled, which it currently isn't) - you have a choice.


Current Coupon Codes:

From now until midnight on Tues, May 26 (Central time), use the following coupon codes at checkout, good for any item or service in any store category/collection at all:

code memorial40
to get 40% off any order totalling $60 or more (before discount, excluding shipping).
code memorial30 to get 30% off any order totalling $40 or more (before discount, excluding shipping).
code memorial20 to get 20% off any order totalling $20 or more (before discount, excluding shipping).

For instructions on using coupon codes, see the applicable heading in the FAQ.

***
Drawing for Free Gift: "Mojo Plushie"
In addition, you can enter to win a drawing for a free adorable thing that I don't have a name for, so I'm going with "mojo plushie" right now. Just type "plushie drawing" into the "Notes" box during checkout to enter; you can enter with any order at all placed now through the end of May (midnight Central time on the 31st of May). More detail below.

My daughter definitely inherited the family crafty gene, and although she is more interested in physics than rootwork and was already a dyed-in-the-wool cynic by 13 or so, some of her creations lend themselves to spiritual ends, like these cute little plushie... bat things:



She makes these and sells/gifts them, so I can't guarantee that she still has the specific plushies in the photo anymore, but she has a herd of these already sewn up in a variety of color schemes, so the winner can give me a couple of preferences for colors or color schemes and I will try to meet one of them.

When she sews her little plushie bats and fills them with hypoallergenic pillow stuffing, she leaves a little segment of seam unsewn so that you or I can add appropriate herbs, personal concerns, etc. suitable to your petition/intention. We can talk details via email once the winner is identified, but you could either send me things for inclusion or I can send you instructions for how to do the personalization part yourself.

Your plushie could have protective herbs and a St Michael medal added and be your Safe Travel car mascot. You could add your own personal concerns and/or petition and give him/it to a loved one after a light dusting with appropriate powder or censing with appropriate incense, so you'd stay on your target's mind or have your target gently swayed to take certain action or be open to certain influence. Add herbs suitable for a loved one who needs some good juju but wouldn't carry a mojo bag or doesn't believe in "that stuff," so you're giving a subtle gift of spiritual benefit. Or keep for yourself. Your little plushie friend can even be named for and baptized as you or your target as a whimsical, modern take on a voodoo doll or doll-baby/poppet. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Whether or not you use the Memorial Day coupon code, you can enter to win this customized mojo plushie by simply placing any order at the shop, no matter the amount or product/service type, and typing "plushie drawing" into the "Notes" box. On the first or second page of the Shopify checkout system, you'll see a text box that says something like "Notes." This is the one I'm always telling you NOT to use when you want to give me more info about your order, because what you type won't print with your order and so I generally won't see it. (So you should never use it to give me customization info or leave me a note about an order or a question you want an answer to - I will NOT see it if you do this in ordinary cases.)

In this case, though, I have set up a quick and dirty workaround that will flag me when a note exists, so even though the contents of the note will not print, when I see that flag during this sale/offer, I'll manually go into the system the "back way" for the order processing rather than through the normal workflow, and I will check to see what the "note" field says. If you type "PLUSHIE DRAWING" there, then I will manually mark your order printout and, once, all entries are received, it will join those "in the hat" and I'll draw the winner at random and contact him or her for customization details.

Winner will receive ONE customized mojo plushie, not necessarily the one pictured, and I can make no guarantee of a certain color. Please be aware of handling times for customized / custom-finished items per FAQ/TOS.

***

Terms of Service re. shipping/handling and prep times apply.
Read the FAQ here, including instructions on how to use coupon codes if you need them.
Read the latest status updates, including matters affecting shipping, communication, etc. here.



Your use of this site constitutes your acceptance of our Terms of Service, including your understanding of our posted shipping, handling, and turnaround times; guidelines for contacting us about a current order or service; and instructions for how to request a trace on a shipped item.
 
 
 
Karma Zain
And of course LJ ate my finished status post after I decided at the last minute to add a photo before hitting save (like a genius). Let's try this again, but the shorter/bullet point version without all the nice little links to previous posts with more details and such:

If you didn't read this update, start here; it explains where things are at and this is where I'm picking up from in terms of updates. As previously mentioned, I decided this last semester to resign my university teaching position -- my "day job" -- and leave academia. Over this past week, I finished up all grading and other semester obligations and got everything semester-related tied up. While I still have to sort out and organize some files and records to turn over to my supervisor when I turn over my office and keys, the semester -- and thus the related activity that was consuming 80+ hours a week for the last couple of years -- is behind me.

I had to spend most of the remainder of last week doing some freelance/pinch hitting work in order to get together the money to get my car with its "new" transmission out of the mechanic's. As of Friday when I got home with my car, I have spent every available waking hour working to get my bearings with the info and lists Mia compiled for me while she was helping me out (she's since left town for her summer plans, so I am again without an assistant, but she organized a lot for me while she was here).

As I've outlined previously, I have a greater liability for tangible items than for services/reports, so unfortunately I have to get caught up on these orders/packages before I can turn to devoting my full energy to readings/consultations and reports I owe. I have spent a significant chunk of time getting caught up on orders this weekend, but as I also outlined, there's a Catch-22 going on that means I have two large USPS bins full of packages that are ready to go but that I can't ship right now (and this cycle is what I have to escape to stop the ship from leaking): my account has not been very far away from a negative balance for more than a few hours for months now due in large part to the way the chargeback situation works with the payment processor I signed up when I moved the shop to a new platform.

As soon as I get a positive balance, I first have to deal with refund DEMANDS that I have no choice about because the customer/client went the dispute/chargeback route; to make it worse, I have to prioritize these ahead of everything else b/c of the payment processor's and/or credit card company's deadline. Then I have to juggle often competing priorities with the remaining funds: 1. refunding customers/clients who are eligible for refund and have requested one; 2. shipping labels for packages/orders that are ready to go and need labels purchased and printed; 3. ordering supplies/materials i need to fill in-house orders or fulfill in-house services. Over the past few weeks, I have managed to ship a couple of packages a week, restock the materials I needed for soap-making, refund a couple of consultation clients, pay my assistant for her much-needed help, and restock the containers and bottles I was out of or running low on.

But as of Sunday night, the 24th, my business account is again in the negative (due to yet another panicked dispute that resulted in the processor reversing the charges despite my having uploaded shipping information and a copy of the TOS that buyers agree to by using the site even when they don't bother to read it). So while I've shipped a few packages, refunded a few orders/bookings, and am getting caught up on orders that were waiting on soap from when I was out of soap-making materials, I still have a lot of packages sitting here ready for labels that I can't ship, I still have customers/clients who have asked for and are waiting for refunds that I can't process right now, and I'm out of wax for votives and tealights (so orders containing those candle items are still processing more slowly right now).

The longer these packages sit here, the more likely it is that another chargeback will come through because a customer hasn't gotten his or her order. The longer it takes me to get these packages out and deal with all the red tape associated with the payment processors/customer claims, the more likely it is that another client will request a refund on a booked service. I have to get my head above water and catch up on *all sides,* but the situation forces me to focus on physical items first. Until I get caught up on all sides, the ship keeps on leaking with additional problems.

I've already borrowed money from family twice since last fall to ship orders and/or order supplies I needed to fill existing orders, and esp. given the expenses associated with the illnesses, travel, caretaking, and funerals that my family has incurred over the last few months, nobody is in a position to lend me any more even if I were comfortable asking (and I'm not). I can't just shut the shop for a week or two to get caught up, which is normally what I'd do at the first sign of an emergency or backlog, because the money to fill and ship existing orders *has* to come from the shop; there's no other source for it right now. But first, there's a hole that any incoming funds have to fill before I can use any of the money to ship packages or order supplies, and once that negative balance is taken care of, I have to use whatever amount of money as strategically as possible, since it's pretty damned unlikely I will see a sudden influx of sales netting sufficient funds to cover *everything* that needs covering in one fell swoop.

Then, of course, I have to eat. Obviously, I haven't drawn a paycheck from the shop for myself in a long time now, and the way things have been going, it could be a while before I will actually see any income from it again. All incoming funds are immediately absorbed by operating expenses. That's why I had to pick up some outside/freelance work last week to pay the mechanic, since the hours I sink into the shop/orders/correspondence don't directly/immediately result in money in my pocket right now. So until I have the funds to get caught up, I have to do additional outside work too since I'm no longer being paid by the university and I do need at least some of the hours I sink into work to result in cash so I can feed my kid and pay bills. I also have a looming deadline for paying a fairly significant tuition bill to my PhD institution so I can get re-enrolled to finish and submit my dissertation and finally graduate; while I finished coursework a long time ago and got the job I just resigned from without the PhD in hand since I was nearly finished (and had even published a chapter of the dissertation in article form already), I do need to formally finish the degree before it's too late. So the sickening irony is that when I finally have time to put all of my attention into the shop and the backlog, I can't actually afford to do that.

It isn't out of the question that I end up being forced to take the shop offline for a while or even go out of business, but I am still going to try to avoid it in the hopes that if I can just get caught up, it can be a viable business again (and perhaps, finally, even grow in directions it couldn't when I was in grad school full time and then teaching full time). But I have to survive all of this mess and clean it all up first, before I can even start to actively pray that I have any readers, clients, customers, etc. *left* who are interested in giving me another shot down the road and before I can even think about turning any of my time to writing actual content, finishing any of these books I have had on the back burner for so long, developing any of the new lines or formulas I was working on at various points in the past, or trying out new models for handling scheduling and conducting sessions for clients. It's conceivable that I could in the near future actually have time to do some of these things, but what I need now in order to get caught up is cash: the cash to order supplies I need to fill orders and to ship these orders that are waiting on shipping labels (and those that will be joining them in the "ready to go" bin shortly).

This, of course, at a time when my old clients and customers have had their patience strained beyond any reasonable limits and I have done virtually no work to cultivate new client/customer relationships or give folks any reason to want to get to know me or my work better! I am trying to encourage customers to make purchases in the midst of my explaining that I really need them to because otherwise I can't ship stuff they (or somebody else) already ordered last month or the month before! Without my explaining how the situation got like this, it would sound insane, like "hi there, thanks for reading, please order something that you might *never get* because I am always playing catchup with old orders and still haven't caught up after promising for five months that I was working on it!" Even *with* my attempts at explaining how some of these events have been (blessedly) unrepeatable and that things in my life have changed sufficiently such that I have about 500% more time to put into the shop and customers/clients now, it's still not a very reassuring proposition, I imagine! (See here for the blessedly unrepeatable and here for the plan of attack on fixing this mess.)

This has been a year of so many ironies; I only hope I can laugh about at least some of them one day. I'm explaining all of this not in an attempt to make excuses -- I freely admit that I have not handled things ideally and have not been a model of good emotional, psychic, or spiritual health and hygiene these last months, never mind a model of even remotely imitable business practice. I've handled a lot of things very poorly and if I've done anything well at all by way of making an example, I've been an example of what not to do (maybe, at best, I've demonstrated that I am in fact very human and can fall flat on my face and be overwhelmed and depressed despite my supposed experience and knowledge with navigating rough spiritual and emotional waters -- but that's not actually a quality most folks are looking for in a rootworker; not surprisingly, most folks would usually rather trust a worker who isn't out there flailing around in rough waters with them but in fact has found some firmer ground to stand on and from which to help them navigate....)

So I imagine I've done myself nothing but damage in explaining all of this. But this has been an absolutely unprecedented, very longstanding backlog and I feel like I owe you guys an explanation even though I can't possibly expect people to just take my word for it that things are clearing up and there won't be any more problems. I don't know how many times I've said "Well, things have to start looking up now, after that!" only to face yet another challenge this year, so I'm not going to keep tempting fate by making any promises.

But I do want to at least explain what has changed and how I can now put more time into things, and to explain how things got like this in the first place so you guys don't think I just suddenly stopped giving a damn and that I don't care about you, your orders, your concerns, your faith in me, or your own challenges and situations that you're seeking to apply spiritual remedies towards. I do care and I'm very sorry, and I know that nothing but my proving it through actions and consistency in the future will serve to reassure; all these words aren't worth a lot by themselves, not until I back them up. But I do feel like I need to explain the admin side of this mess at least a bit so folks can understand that it's not as simple as my just turning all my energy to the shop and the backlog now that I don't have such a time-consuming day job, such that I can just ship all these in-house orders, catch up on all the consultations and reports in a week or two, get to the bottom of the inbox in a few days, and then be back to business as usual. Getting caught up is going to require a lot more than just my having more time to put into it now.

To this end, then, the most realistic strategy I have at the moment is a sale, and my next post will announce Memorial Day coupon codes offering up to 40% off of any items or services at all. For some stuff like condition oils, a 40% off coupon means I'm selling the item at no profit to me at all; but a bird in the hand, as they say.... I have to stop the vicious Catch-22 of chargebacks/disputes by getting the backlog shipped ASAP. Focusing on services that don't require consumable materials would seem like a good strategy, since the fees for readings or consultations are not absorbed by the cost of shipping or materials. And doing those via phone or chat would seem ideal, since I can do them more quickly that way and since readers charge more and clients pay more for the short turnaround on phone sessions. But the queue of already-owed consultations is so long that I couldn't book any new ones for phone or chat before the queue was taken care of, so while I still plan to schedule some of those for clients who've been waiting as soon as I can sort out the logistics of scheduling and conducting real-time sessions, that isn't a short term strategy for increasing cash flow. And I'd love to be able to finish some of these nearly-finished new shrines and altar bottles/altar items and jewelry to make available, but I have to prioritize on the backlog mess right now and so I can't afford to put my energy into anything that isn't definitely going to turn into available cash in the short term and thus help me get these packages shipped; if I work on these for a couple of days and they don't sell right away, it will get me deeper in the hole.

You can see the kinds of decisions I have to make about where to put any available money and time. And you can possibly imagine, if you've been reading these past months, how easy it has been for me to get to a point where I'm just plain not sure what the best decision is about where to allocate available time and energy. At the very least, I hope you can see at least a little of what's on my plate, enough to be assured that despite my poor handling of some stressors and tragedies (that has fed into my poor management of my business and my customers' / clients' needs), that none of this has been about contempt for my clients or their lives or concerns, or lack of interest in them or their situations. I have not stopped caring. I just stopped functioning very well for a while, after functioning at burnout levels for too long. I spread myself too thin and when I stumbled, I fell. I am dusting myself off, and I intend to get my feet back under me and take care of business. If you are still around when I do, I'll be grateful beyond measure for your patience and faith. But even if you find that you aren't so inclined to trusting me for your spiritual goods and services, thank you for giving me a chance to at least try to explain.

I'll provide more updates when I have them. In the meanwhile, watch for a second post with sale/coupon codes and details. While it's quite likely shipping will continue to be delayed beyond the ideal minimum of about 10-15 business days since I have to get older orders shipped out first and there are quite a lot of them, I can definitely assure you that I have a whole hell of a lot more time to put into my shop, my altars, my inbox, and my customers/clients now, as of this week, and I am working like hell to prioritize available time and resources to get caught up, track down and resolve every outstanding issue, and make every order and booking right with the client/customer, one way or another. It will take time and it's not going to be simple, but nobody is going to get lost between the cracks.

Happy Memorial Day; blessings to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to their country and defense of our freedom; and peace and healing to those beloved they left behind.
 
 
 
Karma Zain
24 April 2015 @ 12:03 pm
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Karma Zain
Today was the Feast of St. George, and I'm posting late, but I've had "post something that isn't whining or apologizing" on my list of things to do for so long that I'm going to post it anyway.

Dragon Hill is a large mound with the top lopped off, and like the surrounding area that's home to the Uffington White Horse, there's natural chalk under the surface of the grass and soil. Steps have been carved into the side of the hill and you can climb up - when I was there, it seemed to be prime kite-flying real estate. It was one of several spiritually significant sites I was determined to visit when I was in England a few years ago, and I think I hiked a total of about 15 miles that one afternoon to get to all of the ones that were accessible from the Ridgeway. But it was worth it.



Legend has it that this is the site where St. George slew the dragon. The dragon's blood spilled and poisoned the soil so nothing can grow on that scarred patch of white chalk showing in the photo. Like many popular saints, George lived and was martryed during the reign of Diocletian, who had a real thing for killing Christians; lots of martyrs were made during his reign. George was a soldier in Diocletian's army and was tortured before his death in an effort to get him to renounce Christianity, so medieval iconography sometimes included a wheel of swords. The most popular image of George, though, shows him slaying a dragon. A legend grew around him in the centuries after his death, apparently, in which he killed a dragon threatening a woman (in some versions, a maiden who was being sacrified to it so it would spare a city, and in some versions the wife of Diocletian himself, though of course the dragon is also allegorically held to be Satan and/or a suppressed pagan cult/religion).

Crusaders brought the dragon legend back to England with them from the Middle East and over time there were various versions of it. All good medieval romances have knights battling fierce and even monstrous enemies, so this tale circulated along with those of King Arthur and the giant of St. Michael's Mount and the various escapades of Lancelot and the like, which is how a hill in medieval England came to be associated with a solider serving in the Roman army in the 4th century.



  • reproduction of a medieval Byzantine icon of St. George

  • CC BY-SA 3.0: orlovic


For a long time, St. George was the most popular of the military saints in the English-speaking world. Over time, St. Michael's popularity eclipsed George's among the so-called military saints, but he remains a popular saint petitioned by those who need assistance in spiritual or secular warfare or battle. He's also the patron of Boy Scouts, horseback riders, horses, and farmers, and is petitioned by those with disfiguring diseases such as leprosy, syphilis, and herpes.

Sale covers anything in the Saints sale collection, and I've included stuff related to prayer and blessing in general in addition to stuff that is strictly saint-related. In addition, anyone using the sale code during checkout will be entered to win the drawing for a relic of sorts - some dirt taken from Dragon Hill in Uffington and a hand-painted St. George holy medal. I don't have one photographed already, but you can get the idea of what they look like from the below collection of previously painted medals.



(C) Karma Zain

Current Coupon Codes:

From now through the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena on the 28th, take 20% off anything in the Saints Sale category by using code aprilsaints20 at checkout.

For instructions on using coupon codes, see the applicable heading in the FAQ.

***

Terms of Service re. shipping/handling and prep times apply.
Read the FAQ here, including instructions on how to use coupon codes if you need them.
Read the latest status updates, including matters affecting shipping, communication, etc. here.
 
 
 
Karma Zain
The squeaky wheels always get the grease, and thus most of the airtime around here when I'm deailng with the consequences of the actions of a few and how those affect the many in addition to affecting me...

but you guys who have (more or less) patiently waited, and assumed there was probably a reason why you hadn't heard from me, and assumed that my MO was not to rip people off, and assumed that I would make things right as soon as I could? Well, I appreciate you guys more now than I can say. It goes without saying that y'all are why I even do this stuff - trust me, I do not get rich doing this. In fact, I'm not the greatest business-person and as soon as the accountant gets hold of this mess, she's going to have some stern words indeed for me. (And she's going to have them soon, because in addition to all the stuff I've told you about, there is a good bit I haven't shared too, and some tax issues are among those things.)

There are simpler ways to make money, ways that don't require me to invest so much *of myself* into every transaction and every order, ways that don't mean my income stream shuts down when my personal energy levels dip (or crash completely). So while I can't do this *without* money, I don't do this *for* the money. Most of you realize that, and most of you have exhibited levels of patience and understanding I would never *dream* of asking a customer or client to exhibit.

I'm going to make all this right and clean up this mess. It's going to take some time, esp. since I'm not quite running on all cylinders just yet, but I did want to take a sec to say "thanks" to those of you who did not think the worst of me and jump to the wrong conclusion. Now more than ever, I am deeply grateful for your trust and faith, and I really, really appreciate you.
 
 
 
Karma Zain
What's been going on:

After I updated the blog about the latest episode in my nightmarish year -- my transmission crapping out while I was out of town tending to some ongoing issues with family care that have been consuming more time than usual since last fall -- I had what I hope to God is the final set of crises of my year. This a blog post being written with no regard for how well we know each other, so I don't want to rehearse all the details here, but I'll give you the brief version:

I was the victim of a an attack at my day job (I teach at a local university).I am physically fine, but I've barely managed to do anything -- even daily household management stuff like shop for food -- since this crap at work went down. For a while now, my head and/or my schedule have not always been in the best shape to allow the clear, uninterrupted time I need to stay on top of my inbox, never mind to give my reading/consultation clients the kind of service they deserve, with my attention and mind unclouded by my own emotions and anxiety. Reports and consults have been slow, slow going as a result, for a while now.

But the work situation pretty much "broke" me for a minute. It was such that it involved police reports, a run pretty far up the "chain of command"/management, a bunch of administrative BS that was incredibly time consuming and had a bunch of short-term deadlines, and ultimately, my finally finalizing my decision to leave the job in academia that I moved back to Alabama to take in 2013. Considering I spent ten years in grad school training to be qualified to do this job, that academic jobs are scarce and incredibly hard to get, and that leaving this job virtually guarantees I'll be leaving academia too, it's an understatement to say that it was a massive and agonizing decision, and one that will be requiring adjustment long after I've gotten over the events immediately leading up to it.

I haven't really gotten over those yet, though, either; while admin/student affairs/campus security removed the individual who attacked me from any situation where our paths could cross, the legal stuff could take a while, and we aren't even done with all the initial paperwork still. I'm working to get my head back on right, but honestly, I was useless for a few weeks, and this made what was already a horrible backlog into something that has felt positively crippling. I basically crawled under the bed and hid. I wasn't physically injured -- it was assault in a legal sense but not, I suppose, actually battery) and it really wasn't about the physical aspect of it at all; it's really more about the plain fact that this even happens, that I have devoted so many years of my life to a career in which it could happen, and that I have to call the police to be able to do my job (a job that is supposed to be about teaching people who want to be there and who want to learn, although it hasn't really been about that in a long time, in many public universities). In a way, then, it's really about the job itself, and about how I'm having a hard time seeing the last ten years of my life as anything but a colossal waste of my efforts, resources, energy, time, and let's not forget money (grad school is not cheap).

So I spent a couple of weeks virtually paralyzed after so many months of moving at the speed of frozen molasses. To be honest, there have been some days I could barely get out of bed because I've felt overwhelmed and emotionally/psychically exhausted. Then I felt guilty about not taking care of all the pending things and giving my clients and customers the kind of attention they deserved, and that guilt just made me feel more overwhelmed. If you have been a reader/customer for a while, you know I'm a member of a very large, close-knit extended family spanning multiple generations, and so my life is often very rich and rewarding. There are lots of benefits - including the fact that if I just fall down for a minute, somebody will make sure my daughter has food and clean clothes. But the downside is that events affecting members of that family can be quite consuming for its other members, and when so many of the older generation are really *quite old,* illness and death are not infrequent occurrences. The backlog got started because of two deaths last fall and my assistant leaving to help care for some family members as a result. And we had another death in the family in March. While it wasn't totally unexpected -- there was a long battle with cancer involved -- these things are always taxing and it further contributed to my wretched emotional state.

It also contributed to my sense of paralysis - frankly, at this point, if I were my customer and I got another email about how my order would be late because of yet another emergency/death/etc., I'd probably stop believing me. I'm beginning to sound like some of my freshmen, who seem to have a neverending supply of grandparents and whose grandparents always conveniently die right when major projects are due.

And of course Maggie, my latest assistant, was not sufficiently trained yet to handle everything that needed handling, was largely left without guidance for a couple of weeks, and frankly didn't sign up for the mess she got handed; she tried her best for a bit but when she got another job offer, she took it, and things have really piled up since then, since I haven't had an assistant to handle new things, tidy up on the things that got messed up while my attention was elsewhere over this past month or so, or catch up on the considerable backlog that we're still facing from the stuff that started happening last fall.I can't honestly expect any of you who've waited months for a consultation or report to want to invest any further patience in me.

That makes it a bit ironic, then, that my leaving academia after this semester is over (in May) means that my attention will be turned almost wholly to my shop and clients, finally, and that the shop will be my sole source of income, at least for a while. I don't expect I'll have many clients and customers left at that point. Anyway, I can't imagine many of you really care all that much about these details, so let me get on with what all of this means for you right now and what you can expect.

Orders In-House

My paypal account had a negative balance as of April 17 at 4 pm -- a rather significant one -- because of chargebacks that I didn't respond to in time due to being under the bed/out of town for a funeral/basically useless. I still don't quite know all the details surrounding the chargeback and the other disputes that are currently pending, but I have to figure those out before I can do anything else (including ship packages that are waiting for labels, since when somebody puts in a chargeback, they force me to move their order/situation/query to the top of the list and deal with paypal's deadline).

As of noon on April 19, I have a positive balance again, so here's what is going to happen:

  • I will figure out what's going on with disputes/chargebacks

  • I will refund the orders that are eligible for refund and upload shipping info to the orders that aren't

  • assuming there's any money left in the paypal account, or as soon as I have the money to do so, I will order the wax and oils I need to fill pending orders requiring that wax and those oils

  • assuming there's any money left in the paypal account, or as soon as I have the money to do so, I will ship the orders that are ready to go

  • I will get back into the order queue and get orders completed, starting with those that have the earliest order date, shipping them as soon as I have the funds available

  • I will continue to include "lagniappe" / extras / gifts along with the items ordered in cases where the package shipped later than it should have


Consults In-House


  • I will refund the bookings that are eligible for refund, in the cases where clients have requested refund

  • for those who have been waiting longer than the estimated turnaround time they were given when booking, I'll be offering an option of either a free upgrade to a phone session or a free followup (it will be a coupon/gift code for the amount of a followup, so you could use it for anything, actually)

  • I will set up a schedule for phone sessions for those who want to do a phone session instead, and we'll start getting those scheduled. I will be able to do a couple of those a week for now, and as soon as some of the dust is settled and I'm not struggling with a close-to-negative balance that requires juggling, I will be able to do more of these

  • this is going to take a while to sort through and get set up, and I am going to need help, but I have some help in the form of (yet another) new assistant, Mia, for the next couple of weeks (yes, she's temporary, but about the time she'll be leaving is about the time my last semester teaching in a university will be over and this work will be my full-time job)

  • I will get back in the queue and start tending to email consults in the order that the booking came in (though this will not happen overnight, obviously, so if you know you can't wait a few more weeks and you know no work has begun on your session, you might as well request a refund now)

Light Settings In-House

  • I will refund the bookings that are eligible for refund, in the cases where clients have requested refund

  • I will get booked settings set this week

  • I will begin catching up on reports I owe for settings already concluded (there's still a pretty hefty backlog of these so this is going to take a while)

  • in cases where a client waited longer than expected for their report, I will be sending along a coupon/gift code for a free service, such as a followup setting

 
 
 
Karma Zain
Before you put in a chargeback or dispute, please ask yourself this:

I have been doing this online shop thing for over ten years now -- actually, it's been more than 13 now. 7 of those were on ebay with a grand total of perhaps 5 negative ratings over the entire 7 years and thousands of transactions; every single one of those negative ratings was resulting from an instance in which the buyer did not read the item listing before checking out and expected an item to be shipped long before it was going to be ready.

I am and always have been a one-woman shop. I have help doing things like staying on top of the email inbox - since I do educational work, do pro bono work, write, and have my name listed at AIRR and thus get lots of non-shop traffic, it's impossible for me to route, prioritize, and respond to all incoming messages by myself. But I do nearly every aspect of the shop and altar stuff by myself; this is what separates me from me other shops and suppliers that can offer quick shipping, customer service via phone, a storefront with already-prepared item on the shelves, etc. I can't compete with those folks and I have never tried to - it wouldn't be possible. What I offer instead is personal attention to your order every step of the way, and I make or finish each item when it's ordered rather than taking it off a shelf.

After 13 years and thousands of repeat customers, why would I suddenly decide to start ripping off customers? And why would I start with you and your $20 or even $100 order?

If thousands of buyers are happy with my services and products and you are hysterical, isn't it more likely that you may have misunderstood or skipped some of the information about when you could expect your order to be delivered than that I suddenly changed my mode of doing business?

If you don't get your order when you expect it and you *have* read the info on shipping/handling, isn't it much more likely that something unexpected has come up and I am *not able* to ship your order or fulfill your service at that exact moment?

And since I maintain a blog and keep mirror versions of it at multiple places online, isn't it likely that I have publicized any issues that have come up that might contribute to an unforeseen event/delay?

The nature of this business, in which nearly all tangible items are custom-made or custom-finished, demands that I operate on a principle of mutual good faith. I have to assume that customers will read the available info and not put in chargebacks, so that I can proceed to make the outlay of time and cash needed to make custom items. It requires that customers act in good faith and assume I will uphold my end of the agreement and fulfill their orders. Once that principle is out the window, the ship starts leaking; the actions of a few customers affect *all* customers. If a buyer ordering a $400 altar item (that cost me $150 in supplies and 30 hours to make and requires $60 to ship) puts in a chargeback, I am at sea - I can't ship their order, but I also can't ship the orders of other buyers either. If it sounds like a foolish business model, well, from where I'm sitting right now after the last few months of chargebacks, it is. However, it worked quite well for TWELVE years. The only thing that changed (besides a string of things in my personal life that God willing cannot possibly be repeated) is that I accepted payments through an alternate payment processor for a while, thus allowing a few customers to essentially steal from me. Once that started, it had a ripple effect and impacted other orders and other customers. But if you think about it for a minute, assuming I'm not acting in good faith and am here to rip people off doesn't make a single lick of sense - how much could I possibly get before being shut down by paypal or some other agency? A few hundred dollars? Since chargebacks and disputes insure buyers can get their money back -- in some cases, even after their items have been delivered to them - then it's unlikely I'd get even that. It just doesn't compute.

So please, please think before freaking out. It is not possible for me to answer every single message I get every day - half of them are from people wanting a spell to grow their breasts or other appendanges or get something for free anyway, and every second I spend answering emails when the information being asked about in the message has *already been provided to the email author* is a second that I am not in the workroom fulfilling orders. Some of the events of the last few months have been absolutely unprecedented, but are also unrepeatable. I can only lose my aunt to cancer once, I can only leave my job in academia once, and I can only be assaulted in front of a classroom full of college freshmen once.

So please give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I will continue to do what I've been doing for over ten years now until I announce otherwise and pull the shop offline - and that's working to the best of my ability to fulfill my customer's orders with personal attention to detail and to the situations that they are trying to remedy or influence by using my products and services. Putting in a dispute or chargeback is not necessary; nobody is ignoring you, you order, or your email. If you get the impression that you or your order or email are being ignored, try checking the blog where there's a post maintained *expressly for customers with in-house orders,* just for the purpose of giving them a heads up about anything that might change the estimates they were provided when they checked out. If I were trying to rip people off, this would be an incredibly stupid way of doing it.

As it is, I'm not entirely sure at this point if I'll be able to keep the business open -- it only takes a small handful of people throwing hissy fits and freaking out to utterly ruin me financially. I can't stay in business without my customers having both faith and patience in me. But if I can't, you can be sure that won't be a silent decision you'll have to make assumptions about, and you can be sure that I am aware of how hard my customers work for their money, because I work like a damned dog for mine. I haven't put in less than 60 hours a week more than four times in the past ten years, and I often put in far more than that. So I am not just going to keep anybody's money without fulfilling their orders. If you just don't care about the effect your panic or cynicism or impatience is having on me, then that's your prerogative, but I beg you to consider the effect it has on other people just like you. Please don't screw them by trying to lash out at me.