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Feast of St. George, Belated Saints Sale, Prize Drawing

ETA: Drawing Winner/s: KD, AL
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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.
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as for the rest of you, who have given me the benefit of the doubt...

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.
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what's been going on and what it means for your order or booked service

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

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an open letter to those considering the chargeback or dispute route

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. 
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Beat The Clock Sale - the sooner you act, the more you save!

Current Coupon Codes:

From now until midnight, April 17 (Central time), use code APRILCOUNTDOWN40 to get 40% off any order placed through the shop.
From Apr 18, from 12:01 am until 11:59 pm, code APRILCOUNTDOWN30 gets 30% off.
From Apr 19, from 12:01 am until 11:59 pm, code APRILCOUNTDOWN25 gets 25% off.
From Apr 20,
from 12:01 am until 11:59 pm, code APRILCOUNTDOWN20 gets 20% off.

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.



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.
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status post: what's going on; phone appts for consults; consult and light setting report queues

Contents:

1. latest updates/events
2. current issues
    a. problems with credit card transactions at online store right now
    b. problems with shipping right now
    c. status of orders placed in the last month
    d. plan for order backlog (orders placed before Jan 31)
    e. orders placed after Jan 31
    f. refunds
    g. current email inbox status
    h. phone appts for consultation clients
3. consultation/service/response queues
4. FAQ/TOS/Shipping and Handling Info/Reminders


I. LATEST EVENTS/UPDATES:


April 17: I have been out of the loop entirely for the last month. As you know if you read this blog or we've corresponded, things have been miserably chaotic since last fall due to an almost unbelieveable string of events combined with bad luck and bad timing that got kicked off when we had two deaths in the family last fall and I lost my assistant (a family member who had to leave to care for another family member). You can read a recent summary of that stuff at this post. Getting caught up proved extremely difficult when I got a string of chargebacks after I foolishly began accepting payments through a new payment processor (because credit card companies debit first and ask questions later, wiping out my business account balance in the blink of an eye on more than one occasion). Various hiccups made getting caught up an ongoing and slow process (training and losing several new assistants, getting stranded out of town due to a bad transmission, not having phone service for a few weeks). Last month, I lost my phone (I since have a new one), my car (I still don't have a car), another family member (cancer), and, basically, my day job that I moved back to Alabama for in 2013 (I am still doing it right now - I teach at a local university, and I will continue to do so until the semester is over - but once the semester is over, so is my teaching career).

I was physically attacked at work, and I put in my resignation shortly after that. While that wasn't the single cause of my decision to leave academia/teaching, it was the straw that broke this camel's back, for sure. I have barely been online since the incident. I am fine, physically, but my emotional/psychic response was to essentially crawl under the bed and hide when I wasn't dealing with crap I had to deal with right away, like police reports, formal statements, referrals and paperwork, etc. Compounded with my less-than-ideal psychic health,the email inbox and the queue of consultations and reports I owed has just felt beyond my abilities to manage. I'm not at all proud of the way I handled this last string of events - I didn't handle them at all, really, I just fell down and broke - and I have repeated "I'm sorry" and "I'm trying to get caught up" for so long now that I cannot reasonably expect anybody to even listen to anything else I say. But my regret for what this has meant for y'all is real, and I've gotten up out from under the bed, dusted myself off a bit, and am now trying to figure out what the hell is going on with my business account and my inbox.

I will be posting more details shortly, since my decision to leave academia has some pretty momentous consequences in my life, and a couple of those are going to have consequences that affect the store and my customers/clients/readers, too, but first things first - getting the current messes cleaned up!


II. CURRENT ISSUES:
A. CREDIT CARD TRANSACTIONS: Right now, as of April 17 at 4 pm, there is some problem with credit card transactions at the store that I am working on resolving; I don't know what the deal is yet. As near as I can tell, the shop is still taking Paypal payments with no problems.

B. SHIPPING DELAYS: My paypal account has a negative balance right now, as of April 17 at 4 pm; I don't know what the deal is yet there either. There are quite a few packages sitting here that are ready to ship, but I can't ship them until the paypal account situation is resolved. I am going to have to do something like a raffle, sale, etc. to get some cash into the account ASAP just so I can have the funds free to ship orders. The nasty Catch-22 is that when people freak out because they haven't gotten their packages and file a dispute or chargeback, they often create the situation that prevents me from filling their order or shipping their package; I can't order supplies I need to fill orders and I can't print shipping labels when I'm having to drop everything to deal with a paypal dispute or chargeback (and of course the disputes/chargebacks always come from clients/customers who aren't actually waiting any longer than usual for their stuff - they just didn't read the shipping/handling info before ordering and they don't understand my normal shipping/handling and notificaiton procedures).

There are a few paypal disputes sitting here; I don't know what the deal is wtih them right now either. I have (yet another) new assistant here right now, as I type, and we are working on the email inbox and these various other situations (but she is brand new, so she is training as we go). I hope to have more info and to have solved some of these problems soon.

C. ORDERS PLACED IN THE LAST MONTH: I have a new/temporary assistant working with me as of right now to help me cross-reference everything that's come through in the last month since I've been basically useless and offline. By the end of the weekend, we should have touched bases with everybody who placed an order in the last month if it looks like something went awry with the automated notification/response system and/or any personalized responses that were supposed to go out (a common "new assistant mistake" often results in followup responses going to the wrong email address due to a quirk in the way my shop's host, paypal, and my email client all interact, so in some cases, my most recent assistant Maggie thought she was caught up on stuff when in reality the message never went to the client/customer). I take full responsibility - she did not sign up for the mess she got handed, and she had to steer the ship herself for a bit under conditions she never signed up for and without adequate training or (any!) supervision or followup. It is not her fault at all. (She got an offer for a full time job in the midst of all this and she took it - I can't blame her - so I'm on assistant number 6 now since last August -- but this one is leaving town next month, so her help is only temporary, alas.)

D. PLAN FOR ORDER BACKLOG (orders placed before Jan 31): We are still following the plan I outlined here in this post.

E. ORDERS PLACED AFTER JAN 31: If your order was placed after Jan 31, then I'm afraid you are still in the normal shipping/handling turnaround window, which -- as I've been trying to warn folks about upfront in every possible way -- has been a bit longer than usual since last fall for the reasons that I've been continually updating about. See the above on shipping delays that explains why these bins I'm standing next to that are full of prepared, packaged orders still don't have shipping labels attached to them, and rest assured that as soon as this insane BS with my business account at the shop host has been ironed out, and/or I find somebody to lend me the money to purchase postage until I get this ironed out, I'll get these packages out to y'all. (Here's the deal: every single time somebody throws a fit and files a dispute, I have to drop everything else and deal with them and their dispute deadline, even though they'd know not to expect their order yet if they read the TOS/FAQ/order confirmation info, etc; and every time somebody files a chargeback, the credit card compnay debits my account *immediately* no matter what, can take up to 90 days to reach a decision about the transaction, and in several cases now never reversed the debit from my account even though I could prove the package had been delivered; when that happens, I can't order supplies I need to fill other people's orders and I can't ship packages, never mind that I can't  buy dinner or pay my internet bill either). As the FAQ/TOS/Shipping and Handling info pages all explain, the minimum handling time on any order is 10 business days, and for items that get customization -- esp. when we're talking about altar work, something being made from scratch, etc. -- it can be considerably longer than that. Lately, the biggest issue (before I was offline for a month) has been my dealing with the repercussions from my stupid, stupid decision to go with another payment processor, that opened me up to credit card chargebacks and has resulted in customers basically stealing hundreds of dollars from me for filing claims for stuff that they have in their possession.

F. REFUNDS: I know some folks who have been waiting on services or items for a while will want their money back instead. I intend to honor those requests in the cases where the order or service is eligible for refund, but it is mathematically impossible for me to honor them all in one sitting, so we are clearing out the inbox, putting queries and issues in chronological order, and cross-referencing stuff in cases where a package has shipped or a report has been typed but the customer hasn't received it. I obviously can't honor refund requests until I deal with the refund DEMANDS that others put in my filing disputes or chargebacks leaving me no choice in the matter, and I am very sorry that this has resulted in a situation that essentially punishes those who do read the directions and follow the rules. It really sucks. I am not taking you guys for granted, and it  is not possible for anybody to say or do anyhing that could make me feel any worse about all of this than I already do. But we are working very hard to touch bases with *everybody* who has a query or concern (and that includes even those who have gotten bombastic/panicky/rude/insane about it -- especially those who have known me for a long damned time now and should know I have never, EVER just forgotten about an order or email or EVER just put my feet up and decided to relax and play Sudoku or clip my toenails instead of tending to my obligations and to my customers and clients; these folks have essentially destroyed my goodwill and trust in them, and it seriously hurts my feelings when somebody I've corresponded with for 5 or 8 years resorts to hysterics and all-caps screeds filling up my inbox and  making it that much harder for me to keep a new assistant and get her trained before she gets scared off thinking that all my customers are rude, abusive nuts). Ahem. So yes, everybody; we are burning the midnight oil to touch bases with y'all this weekend.

G. EMAIL INBOX: Those of you who have written individually will get at least some sort of response as soon as possible, if not answering/resolving your query, then at least letting you know it was received and that you will get a personal response as soon as possible. When Mia sat down this afternoon, though, there were 600 unread emails. She has been sorting, tagging/labeling, filing, printing, responding, researching etc. for several hours now, and we sitll have hours and hours to go before we are even at the stage where we can start handling individual queries/concerns. But you will hear *something* this weekend one way or another, God willing.

H. CONSULTATION CLIENTS - CHANCE FOR FREE UPGRADE TO PHONE SESSION: Those folks waiting in line for consultations/readings for longer than the average listed turnaround time will be offered an opportunity for a free upgrade to a phone consultation; I hope to have the schedule for those available by the end of the weekend. Go down to the section with the consultation queues listed, where I note the individual sessions/statuses, etc. for more info as it's available and for the schedule as I get it ironed out.

In General: Remember that unless you are writing to answer a question in an in-progress consultation conversation, then when you send a new email message in a thread that has a currently unread or unanswered message, your message moves down the inbox queue and is reordered according to the date of latest message. So by all means send more info if it's a burning issue, but if it is not a burning issue, just wait until I get back to you on the last thing for quickest response. My tagging/notification/flagging system ends up rewarding those who wait their turn -- the patient rather than the persistent -- and it is set up to notify me right away if you write on a case or issue that is pending because of info I'm waiting on from you. If you send a response in a different thread and do not follow the directions for contact about your case, your response will not turn up flagged as needing my immediate attention, and your message will go into the very large pool of random or new inquiries that I will respond to only after I have responded to the current things that need my immediate attention.

For God's sake, please don't try to contact me about an existing order or service by leaving a message here. Please just follow the directions in the order or service confirmation email you received - we *will* get to your message/service/order as soon as we can.

We are juggling a ridiculous amount of stuff lately and have not been getting much in the way of breaks lately, so we are relying on your patience borne of your previous experience with us and the decade of rep we've built of working with good will and in good faith, praying that that will count a little something against the immense frustration some of you may be feeling at the time it's taken for me to get back to you wtih a personal response over these last 4-8+ weeks. The financial hits I've taken lately are nothing compared to my personal disappointment in my inability to give my customers and clients the response time and service they expected and the potential loss of faith in me that comes along with that. There is nothing anybody could say that could make me feel worse about any of this than I already do.


III. CONSULTATION/SERVICE/ALTAR WORK QUEUES

Light Settings Booked or In Progress:
**As of 4/17, this list isn't up to date - I am having to cross-reference a few things, and I will update it as soon as I've made heads from tails with these lists of things I need to get through.

YSY (Sgp) - 081R, 021714 - waiting on petition/photos
AT (KY) - 1290-012H-011615 - *RUSH*
KM (SKor) - 1311-5703-021115 - *RUSH*
MW (OH) - 1317-7901-022215

Some special/contracted light settings and runs of lights are tracked on the client calendar instead; basically, if I wrote up a contract for your work, it's not tracked as a light setting but as altar work, so see below for the Altar Work section.

Lights Done - Reports or Summaries Owed:
**As of 4/17, this list isn't up to date - I am having to cross-reference a few things, and I will update it as soon as I've made heads from tails with these lists of things I need to get through and fix the code (the formatting was stripped a while back due to some code hiccups so some stuff like the strikethrough feature went on the fritz and some of these aren't showing what they are supposed to show at the moment .

VN - pro bono**
HK - pro bono**
BR - pro bono
BL (MA) - 1151-971H-082614
BL (MA) - 1187-304T-093014
BS (VA) - 7422-100214 (pro bono)
AN/JS (OR) - 1188-132B-100114
VM (Can) - 1197-2719-100614
TN (Can) - 542D-100814B
EES/TD (GA) - 1209-9150-101314
JR (Can) - 1214-0031-101914
CC (Tai) - 1247-771H-112614

If your report appears here and is not crossed out, I'm working on it. My reports are detailed and take time to type up. You'll get your report when it's ready (review your booking acknowledgment email for details about service turnaround times). I don't ever forget, because I don't rely on memory - I have a system. If you see your initials here and they are crossed out but you do not see your report in a day or so, though, and it's not in your spam folder, THEN you should ask me about it; if it's crossed off, that means I sent it or am sending it within a few hours if I'm doing a mass photo transfer, so we need to find out where it went if you don't have it.

Consultation Queue:
**As of 4/17, this list isn't up to date - I am having to cross-reference a few things, and I will update it as soon as I've made heads from tails with these lists of things I need to get through and fix the code (the formatting was stripped a while back due to some code hiccups so some stuff like the strikethrough feature went on the fritz and some of these aren't showing what they are supposed to show at the moment.
**Those of you who have been waiting longer than the posted turnaround estimate will be getting contacted about how you want to proceed. Once I get all this stuff cross referenced, I'll be offering you a free upgrade to a phone consultation, and I'm hoping to have a schedule set up for those by the end of the weekend.


JM (CA) - 481J, 060814 - working
KY (WA) - *RUSH* - 7530bl-080714 - cancelled, refunded
KL (MA) - 1138-154H-081914 *RUSH*
KJ (VA) - 141E, 042014
GH (FL) - 1047sh, 052714
SS (Can) - 3349, 052914
BL (MA) - 1063-641S-061014
AW (FL) - 1157sh-082914 - canceled/refunded, blocked, and reported
SL (Ind) - 1080-025R-062914
KL (MA) - 1104-570C-071914
VM (Can) - 1072-5215-062414
JM (CA) - 882T-071214A (followup to 1016sh-705E-041214)
TN (Can) - 8944, 052514
AR (HK) - 1129-9510-081514
KY (WA) - 1155-6019-082814
FN (Aus) - 843761bl-101914 - canceled/refunded at client request; no reason, never replied to intake: blocked
MB (Aus) - 1165-354Y-090214
SB (IN) - 472S, 112013 -
DA (NY) - 1843, 012414 --
MW (MD) - 8158, 030814 -
AH/AJ (CA) - 5405, 022114 -
SG (FL) - 8602, 030814 -
BS (VA) - 210D, 041714 -
WT (NC) - 584Dbl-062014
KL (MA) - 1160-7258-083014 -
BS (GA) - 971L-062614 --
SS (Can) - 3549, 052914
EG (UK) - 884Ra-093014 -
DB (NC) - 1032-sh, 050414 - working
ML (NY) - 1083-734A-070114
CK (Sng) - 1110-420J-072914
VO (AZ) - 1183sh-092714 - canceled, refunded
PM (IN) - 1208-9547-101014
HW (IA) - 1218-293N-102514
RV (TX) - 1241-870V-112014
HD (NY) - 1262-A690-121614
MS (NJ) - 1281-0713-010115 (mini-consult)
JS (UK) - 1286-8046-010915
BP (OR) - 1296-730C-012615
VO (AZ) - 1308-740P-020415 *RUSH* - working
LC (CO) - 1306-050U-020415
JM (NY) - 1310-892D-020915 (mini-consult w/ product prepped and shipped)
JM (NY) - 1313-035D-021215 (mini-consult w/ product prepped and shipped)
SR (WA) - 1316-892C-022115


Reading Queue
*Jan 2015: Please keep in mind, if you booked a rush reading during December/Jan, that the turnaround times / guarantees apply to *BUSINESS DAYS*, not calendar days, and that there was a hefty chunk of "holiday/non-business-day" time in Dec/Jan. As of Jan 8, I am actively focusing on getting the queue formatting here fixed and the list updated, making sure all the orders are in the right place after playing assistant-musical-chairs, and getting caught up on readings
* April 17: See the update for consultations, above, as that applies here as well.


KY (WA) - 0424-090913 - working
BL (MA) - 1167-832E-090314 - waiting on new question/issue
EM (UK) - 1260-105N-121014 - working
SS (Can) - 1270-6709-123014 - *RUSH* reading (booked on 21st) - working
EM (UK) - 1276-262E-123014 - *RUSH* reading (booked on 23rd) - working


Altar Work Booked or In Progress:
*Jan 2015: I am behind on anything involving typing for the reasons outlined at the start of the post.
April 17: Ditto - see the updates at the top of the post here for why my head hasn't been in the game and what I'm doing about it.


BL (MA) - 070214C - pending decision re petition/remainder
KY (WA) - 1256-8022-120814a

Altar workings booked or in progress, including special light settings or series that are arranged via contract, are tracked at the client calendar through Google Calendars (see next par. for more info), and you can see the status of your altar work in more detail there.

Altar Work Reports, Updates, and/or Photos Owed:
*Jan 2015: I am behind on anything involving typing for the reasons outlined at the start of the post.
**April 17: Ditto - see the updates at the top of the post here for why my head hasn't been in the game and what I'm doing about it.

WH - uncrossing - delivered, then blocked and reported for dispute/chargeback/TOS violation
SS Jan bottle/jar reports
MC -- Jan bottle/jar reports
BL -- Jan bottle/jar reports
KY - 1256-8022-120814a photo
GR (TN) - 1259-8521-120914 *RUSH* - report and photos
TM (GA) - 1174sh-091114

NB: If you have an ongoing contract for runs of lights or honey jars, and you have NOT gotten access to the online client calendar I made so you can check the status of your work (on gmail/google calendars), then write me and I'll investigate why you didn't get one. If you already have a Google Calendar account, you will not get an invitation - it doesn't let me send one. You only get an invitation if you do not have a Google Calendar account. Once you have an account and/or the invitation, you should be able to log into your Google Calendars account with the email address you used to pay your invoice, and it should be available for viewing as "Karma Zain's Calendar" or something like that. If you have questions, please inquire in the current thread dedicated to your altar work instead of sending a new message. (The booking acknowledgment email now explains how this works in more detail, so see your booking email first.)


PHONE CONSULTATIONS SCHEDULE

I will be updating this over the next week as I get things set up.


4. FAQ / TOS / SHIPPING & HANDLING INFO/REMINDERS

The FAQ page is here.
The TOS page is here.
The summary of the above that has to do with Shipping and Handling specifically is here, and here are the highlights:

Handling Times: Bottom line: Handling times start at about 7-10 business days. For some items involving lengthy altar work, the time may extend beyond 45 days. ***These are estimates only and these estimates are NOT guarantees of when any given order will be completed; an order's handling time will vary depending on a number of factors, including how many orders are ahead of it, the size of the order, and the level of customization required. But because all items involve custom-finishing, if not full scale custom creation, I *cannot* provide a ship date for an order before or during processing. Customers writing to ask when their order will ship will be sent an info letter advising them that this shipping/handling info was sent to their inbox in their order confirmation email, directing them to reread this page and the FAQ, and reminding them that they agreed to the site Terms of Service by checking out (terms includes indicating understanding of and agreement with the shipping/handling time and processing procedures).

We cannot give you any more information beyond the estimates posted here, and customers who do not read this info before checking out are still bound by the Terms of Service. I make, pray over, bless, pour, blend, sew, paint, and usually package nearly every single item in my shop myself, and personal attention takes time; this is what you are signing up for when you order from me (and why I post the handling times involved for custom-finished spiritual items all over my web real estate so customers have many chances to read about them before ordering and know what to expect). My returning customers value the handcrafted and personalized nature of their items and enjoy the payoff for their patience: fresh blends and fresh products, made the old fashioned way, by hand, by a rootworker blessing, consecrating, and praying over their items, using their names and petitions, just for them.

Unless your service/item has a delivery date that we agreed upon prior to your placing your order, then I cannot provide a shipment date until the order is ready to package, BUT as soon as the order is ready to package, we package it and generate a label, so you know *immediately.* The bottom line is that orders are packaged as soon as they are ready: my formulas are not pre-made and pulled off a shelf when you order, and I handle every in-house aspect of your order myself, personally, rather than some customer service staff member or part time employee. ***Thus, my posted estimated handling times (of 7-15 business days for most items) vary considerably depending on the item and should be understood as an estimate only.*** Not every altar is free at every moment, and most items need to be prepped before they are ready for the altar portion of the work anyway. And if you order more than one item that needs customization or altar work, it may not be possible for me to make them all simultaneously, so please ask before placing your order if you are in a hurry.

Shipping Process: Our shipping software will send an automated email to the address associated with your Paypal account immediately when your shipping label is generated. The email will contain a delivery confirmation number and tracking link. Please note that we ship and print labels in batches; a label may be paid for and printed several days in advance of the actual ship date, so your receiving a notification email does *not* necessarily mean your package will arrive 2-3 days later.

Orders in Transit: Please note that we ship and print labels in batches; a label may be paid for and printed days in advance of the actual ship date, so your receiving email notification does *not* guarantee your package will arrive 2-3 days later, and you should not worry if you get a notification email and do not see updated info at the USPS track/confirm link right away. Delivery confirmation is *not* the same as tracking and the online info is *not* real-time. The USPS does *not* scan priority mail packages at every hub, and the online system is not designed to track priority mail packages at every stage during their travels. Finally, a package status is often updated only after it has been delivered (we explain how this works in more detail in the FAQ). We do not have ANY further information about your package, or any way to locate your package, other than the USPS link which you get as well, so we can't tell you anything more than that website is telling you. However, if your order has not arrived within 20 business days from the label ship date, which is highly unusual, then see the below paragraph on Package Tracing.

Package Tracing: If 20 business days have passed from your label ship date, we can put in a trace inquiry with the USPS, and we will let you know as soon as we hear back from them by replying in this message thread. A response takes several business days on average, but in over ten years of business, the package has ALWAYS arrived before the USPS could provide any useful additional info, 100% of the time for domestic packages. Please note that we ship and print labels in batches; a label may be paid for and printed several days in advance of the actual ship date; the label *print* date is not always the same as the label *ship* date. See your notification email and/or tracking link for specific details about your particular order's shipment.  As of 2013, no domestic package has been lost in over ten years of our doing business online (though they often do not show up by USPS estimate dates, as these are only average estimates).

***

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.  
stabat mater dolorosa

plan for order backlog; response to queries about order status; latest status update

IF YOU PLACED AN ORDER FOR TANGIBLE ITEMS BEFORE JAN 31, HERE IS WHAT IS HAPPENING:


  • If you placed an order for tangible items before January 31, someone will be going through to 1. verify that the order was fulfilled and shipped; 2. verify that the shipping info was uploaded to Paypal and/or Shopify; 3. verify that the package was delivered; 4. if the package was not delivered and if 20 business days from the label ship date have passed, put in a trace request; 5. if the trace request does not provide satisfactory reassurance, reship the order (if possible; for OOAK items that cannot be replaced, we'll contact the buyer directly to see what they want to do).


  • Folks writing with shipping queries get a standard info letter in reply, reminding them that the FAQ/TOS and payment confirmation emails all outline how shipping notification and queries about in-transit status work. This has always been shop policy. Since nearly everything in the shop is custom-made or custom-finished, we are not and never have been able to provide customers or clients with a specific date of shipment or delivery, either before or after an order is placed, other than that info that is emailed to a buyer by our shipping software when a shipping label is generated. Nor can we provide personal updates on order status, aside from the shipping notification, while an order is in-house or in transit, unless/until 20 business days from the label ship date have passed, in which case we can put in a trace request. In short, if you write to ask "When will you ship my order," you'll get a form letter. Nobody can tell you any more and I do not have the staff to answer things like that individually anyway, even if I wanted to. As soon as I know when it will be ready to ship, I'll ship it. That's all I can say, and that's always been part of the shop TOS.


  • Although I try to make this clear ahead of time by explaining it in the Terms of Service, FAQ, etc., I realize that this is frustrating to those who want to know when their orders will ship and/or arrive, esp. when they have been waiting longer than they expected. But especially given the backlog, it is simply beyond my ability to send individual replies to individual queries about shipping and package status.  I am actively working to get an assistant on board who can work set hours and become sufficiently familiar with all aspects of the shop such that she can provide more personalized responses to customer inquiries, but we just aren’t there yet. I am sorry that this means that in cases like the current one, that people have to wait longer than usual for their stuff, but unfortunately this is a risk with custom-finished work. A business like this cannot operate like Amazon; it's impossible. Those who want Amazon-like customer service will have to shop at Amazon and forego the personal attention they'd get from an individual craftsperson or artisan.


  • A trace request is a required first step before we can talk about repair, replacement, or refund; as a very small business focusing on custom-made and custom-finished stuff, I CANNOT just replace or refund customers out of pocket on demand; I'd be out of business in a week. I have to put in a trace request and follow the rules of the shipper/payment processor in order to file a claim for lost/damaged shipments. And a trace request can't be put in with USPS until 20 business days from the label ship date. So I CANNOT do anything until 20 business days from the label ship date have passed.


  • I RELY on my customers acting in good faith by abiding by the TOS, and I act in good faith by proceeding to prepare and ship their custom stuff; I am counting on the fact that they will abide by their agreement to follow the TOS in case of problems. Once people start ignoring these and putting in chargebacks, it destroys my ability to fill other orders in accordance with the TOS. This is the nature of custom and custom-finished work done by a one-woman shop.


  • Normally, with a backlog like this, I would have closed the shop for a week or two LONG before now so I could get caught up. Because of the chargebacks that a few customers have put in, however, I can't do this; I have to stay open so that I can continue to receive new orders so that I can afford to fill and ship the ones I've already got in-house. As I've explained elsewhere, normally a Paypal dispute is not a big deal; since I operate within the terms outlined by Paypal's buyer and seller agreements, I have never lost a Paypal dispute in over ten years of having an online shop; my terms are clearly outlined in multiple places and are in accordance with Paypal standards, even if buyers don't read/understand/follow them, and Paypal has always found in my favor for this reason. But chargebacks through credit card companies are a different matter entirely, as I explain here and here. Twice now I have been debited the amount of an order PLUS fees from my payment processor *for orders that I could prove had been delivered.* Even in cases where the credit card company eventually finds in my favor, which can take 90 days, I still have the net loss from the fees assessed by the payment processor and I still have to operate without that money in the interim; since custom and custom-finished work can require a significant outlay of cash on my part to fill an individual order, chargebacks quickly become crippling. The nature of my business demands that I act in good faith and assume customers will not put in chargebacks, and it demands that customers act in good faith and assume that I will fill their orders. Once that principle of good faith is out the window, the ship starts leaking. The actions of a few customers affect *all customers.* And that's what I'm dealing with now, still.


  • So if you send/have sent a message asking "Where is my package," it will get the response that the TOS/FAQ/order confirmation email explained it would get, which is an info letter reiterating how this works and, in addition, pointing you to this blog for more details on what's going on. *IF the window for putting in a trace request is open, then we will put in a trace request. If your package is lost, then we will either replace it or contact you about refund or store credit.* It is not necessary to send in an individual request - I am going to follow the outlined plan for ALL orders placed before January 31. I do have a system, and even when the system gets screwed up, I have redundancies built in so that no order can simply disappear. But I cannot do any of this overnight. As a customer, you can help me to work more efficiently and quickly by NOT sending unnecessary emails and reminders, which just clog up the inbox and take time away from my being in the work room filling and shipping orders.


  • I do value every single one of my clients and customers and I will make sure that all orders are filled and verified. But I cannot do it in a single weekend by waving a magic wand; so I beg just a little bit more of your patience if you are still waiting on an order. Your order HAS NOT BEEN LOST or forgotten about.



Most recent updates:


  • I have been phoneless. A combo of bad luck/timing and my misunderstanding some fine print meant that, just as I was figuring out how to carve a couple days so I could offer some phone appointments to consultation clients who've been waiting a long time, I had to be phone-less for nearly two weeks.


  • I had to go out of town for a sudden family obligation with no phone and thus no reliable internet, and then I got stranded so there was no car either to top it all off and to extend the out-of-town-ness.


  • I am now back in town and again have a phone but I now have no car and no immediate solution for that problem on the horizon.


  • This means slower shipping on top of the fact that orders are still going out more slowly than usual, anyway, due to the other issues I've been covering in blog posts/status updates. I have to rely on the local post office to pick up packages right now since I have no transportation; this is not ideal, since they just didn't show up at all on Friday, for instance, and today they showed up at a time other than the one they gave me when I called to ask wtf so they did not pick up the packages I had for them. So I have several bins of packaged orders, ready to go and complete with labels, that I've been trying to get to the post office all week.


  • Order fulfillment is currently delayed beyond the ordinary/ongoing delay due to the backlog that I am still digging my way out of for the reasons i've been covering in blog posts/status updates. We have had a spate of unusually cold weather/freezes, as have other spots in the country, and this has contributed to delays in order prep. For instance, some materials I need to fulfill orders that should have been here Monday still aren't here. I have about a dozen 2-dram bottles left, for example, and I'm waiting on soap-making materials and candle wax in addition to some essential oils. One package, for example, has had a shipping status of "picked up" but no further update since Monday, so those of you who get upset when USPS Track/Confirm doesn't accurately give you package whereabouts? I feel ya. As I've covered elsewhere on several occasions, though, just because they call it Tracking doesn't mean they have an obligation to give you a play by play on Priority shipments while in transit; Priority mail comes with delivery confirmation ONLY and package status is often updated only AFTER the package is delivered.


  • Predictably, this most recent assistant solution hasn't been much of a solution. At the moment, I'm relying on whatever pinch-hitting help I can get, which hasn't been much lately, at least not for the stuff I really need it for. I really need somebody on top of the email inbox on a daily basis, but that seems to be the real sticking point that scares off people who offer to help. I have been concentrating on trying to catch up with the order backlog. It sucks, but since I have greater liability for disputes and chargebacks over physical items than over services, I have had to spend more time on physical items lately. As soon as I get caught up there, which means getting out all orders dated 31 January or earlier, I will focus on catching up on light setting reports and consultations.


  • As I've said here before, I am gradually making my way through everything from last fall/winter to manually double-check it. Obv. this takes time, esp. when I'm behind on orders and reports anyway, but it's the only way to be sure everything ended up where it was supposed to given that some human communication hiccups combined with some website/domain/notification hiccups to screw up my auto-responds, order and service notifications, and message forwarding setups. But I will eventually manually verify everything, and I do have built-in redundancies to ensure that nothing can simply get lost forever.


  • In the midst of the too-many-half-trained-cooks-in-the-kitchen + holiday closure dates scenario of Nov-Jan, there was a huge snafu that meant some shipping labels got printed before they should have. This created a mess that has been beyond my ability to handle in a timely matter with individual emails (even after I became aware of the full extent of it, which wasn't until last month). That is a major reason why I am enacting the plan outlined at the very top of the post, to manually verify shipment and receipt of every order placed before 31 January.


  • On the other hand, now that I have a phone again, I can do some phone consults/followup sessions here pretty soon, and I'm going to start trying to set those up as soon as I get this other plan in motion and get this current backlog of stuff out the door.


  • See the current service/report queue here.

stabat mater dolorosa

status update (what I'm sending out in reply to inbox messages I haven't gotten to yet)

First, a quick note to acknowledge your message and apologize if you have been waiting longer than usual for a response, if you got the wrong auto-respond or received a message twice, if the message I'm replying to concerns something that has been resolved or is being discussed elsewhere, or if your communication with us otherwise had something weird happening with it. [1]


Short version: I've been working feverishly to get caught up, but it seems it'll be a while still before I am, so I wanted to at least assure you that your message has been received and is in the appropriate queue for applicable response/action, which it will get as soon as humanly possible. Everything is still going more slowly than usual -- given the volume of email here on a daily basis, the recent problems with internet connectivity and finally the new ISP/equipment we had to resort to, the assistant situation, the unprecedented number of chargebacks since I foolishly tried out a new payment processor, and the continuing fallout from the events of last Fall and Winter -- all on top of the normal December backlog resulting from holiday closure and slower-than-usual USPS -- and I've simply never faced anything quite like this in over ten years of the shop being online. [2]

I am very sorry if you've been waiting/are still waiting on me or an assistant to respond. If you are still waiting, I am working as quickly as I can to sort, triage, and respond to everything and you will get a followup response from me if your message contains a question or issue. [3] Please remember, per the FAQ, that sending "reminders" or responding again in a thread before you have gotten a reply to your previous message "resets" your place in the queue according to the date the most recent message was received, so it's generally a bad idea if the only reason you're writing is to ask why you haven't gotten an answer yet. Messages appear in the inbox by date received and the general principle is that I tackle the earliest first. If you last wrote two weeks ago and then you write again tonight, your message will now appear in the queue with a date of today, but I will still be working on messages from January so you'll have removed yourself from your original spot in the queue. And at this point, a two week response time is NOT cause for alarm - quite a few folks have been waiting longer than that, unfortunately.  (Remember, also, that if you have a consultation or other service booked, you are in a special queue tracked separately and this caveat does not apply to you - you'll get your response when it's your turn in the queue.)

If, however, you are concerned that your message might have been misunderstood or misfiled during the Great Assistant Trainwreck of 2014 -- particularly if it dates from September/October and you haven't gotten any response at all -- then feel free to write and let me know you are still interested in my response after all this time (I will often assume you aren't and that you've found assistance elsewhere if you were looking for help and I wasn't able to assess or take your case in time, so if I know for sure you *are* still interested, it might ultimately save time if you just give me a heads up and maybe catch me up on whatever has happened in the meanwhile that pertains to the case).

But eventually I *will* get to everything - I am personally, manually checking every single order/service booking and any substantial correspondence that came through between September through the New Year -- and while this will obviously take time, I *will* get to it all in due time. [4] So it is not required that you do anything at all if you are just waiting on me to answer your last message. And if the matter you wrote about in the message I'm replying to has been resolved or is being discussed elsewhere, please ignore this message; there is no need to respond (thought you are welcome to if you'd like to let me know that you gave up on me or found help elsewhere!).

Remember I keep status updates of any issues affecting response and turnaround times at the blog.  If you want to see the current queue/status post which I update regularly with whatever progress I can make, and which tracks the queues for many types of report/service, visit the blog here. You can visit there too if you want the details of what's been going on, exactly what led to the various issues, how a chargeback in October started a chain of events I am still dealing with and initiated a financial cycle that I will be feeling the impact of for a long time, and what those events and that cycle mean for you as a customer or client (in other words, how one impatient customer -- who didn't read the description of an item before he bought it -- initiated a situation in which I was not able to purchase the raw materials I needed to fill many orders in Oct/Nov or to purchase shipping labels for many international orders and meant I had to take a personal loan to stay in business). [5]

If you've asked a question that an existing  info letter can shed light on, then I've appended an info letter for you below.  If you have questions that are not covered in the below info letter/have not already been answered, then you'll hear back from me or my assistant with a personal response as soon as possible. In the meanwhile, remember you can always visit the blog for info, education, tips, news, sales, and announcements.

Please know that I am incredibly grateful for your patience and I am not taking it for granted, especially not after the number of times I got to see people acting with a total lack of good faith, trust, or understanding over the past few months in dealing with all these chargebacks. I've never been more keenly aware of how lucky I am to have so many clients and customers who are so very understanding and who treat me like a person rather than a hoodoo vending machine.

May 2015 hold only the good kind of surprises for you, and may all your works be crowned with success,

Karma

[1] Since our recent string of snafus involved problems with the settings and email forwarders associated with our domain and website services (among other things), many of our auto-respond and confirmation message systems went down. That means that many of the inbox and contact form settings that I rely on to correctly direct and flag incoming correspondence and in many cases to send responses, info letters, and confirmations, quit working.  Well, let's just say "messy" is an understatement, and I have honestly never seen anything like this before and never had to work *this long* to get caught up before. Nobody could possibly make me feel any worse about it than I already do.

[2] I am trying to get through a first complete pass of the inbox just to determine what can be filed/closed and what still needs further attention from me; this is part of my "recovery" process from the backlog and crossed wires that resulted from the events of the last couple of months. So if a substantive response to your message requires a chunk of time or typing, it might be a few days yet before I send you a personalized response -- on Saturday night, I had 280 messages in the inbox (and that's after Maggie worked on thinning them out all afternoon), and among those are four active chargebacks/disputes I have to deal with on short deadlines (from customers who decided I must be ripping them off since they didn't get their mojo bags within two weeks), so I'm still pretty far away from being caught up. But in case you didn't get the "we got your message" auto-respond, and it appears that most of our confirmation systems went down at least once over the last month, so I wanted to let you know what's up in the meantime rather than risk your joining the ranks of the disaffected.

[3] As of Sunday, Feb 8, we are finally back online with a reliable connection (we had to switch ISPs after several weeks of increasingly frequent and serious connectivity problems - got the new cable service connected Saturday the 7th). So I am resuming my plan of personally going back through everything order-related, service-related, or otherwise involving substantial communication from the last few months, since there have been some crossed wires with procedures over the last few months given the small but ever-changing herd of assistants that have been through here since September.

[4] Once I realized the extent and nature of some of the crossed wires, I was able to identify some patterns and likely places to double-check for error, oversight, or omission, but I can't be totally sure everything has ended up in its proper place until I check it myself. Unfortunately, as you can probably imagine, this is taking considerable time *and* it isn't exactly helping me get caught up on *current* stuff since I'm still putting out fires from December. (It esp. doesn't help when customers treat the "send" button like my doorbell and keep pushing it, assuming (I guess) that if I didn't answer the first time, I must answer eventually if they just  keep pushing the button, and then it REALLY doesn't help when they then decide that the only way to get a response from me is to file a dispute or chargeback. The only thing that will get you is blocked - if I was finishing up your order and filling available spaces with lagniappe by way of apology for the delay, I'll be pulling out all that lagniappe and closing your shop account before I seal up the box. You won't get a refund if I've already begun working on your order, because everything is custom-finished at the very least by being prayed over for you, so that's why the TOS state that all sales are final and orders cannot be changed or cancelled.

[5] If you read it now or if you regularly check in to see the status queues, you'll know it's been back to back trouble around here for some time now with everything from family crises to internet problems and I have made *very little progress* since I lost my only trained assistant (my sister Mary) after we had two deaths in the family in September and many of our generation in the family had to take on some new caregiving responsibilities. Mary took on more than anyone and it requires her attention full time, but it was all kind of quick and I did not have a "backup plan." I have tried (three times now) to replace her and it hasn't worked out yet, so I haven't had an assistant for all intents and purposes since August. And honestly I was getting more behind on many things rather than getting caught up, since training an assistant is enormously time consuming.

I'm still feeling repercussions from that chargeback crap. In one case, a customer who put in a chargeback guaranteed by doing so that her order couldn't ship; the payment processor debited the total amount of the order plus a $15 fee, which depleted my balance to about $2. I couldn't ship her order and I couldn't ship a lot of other orders that were ready either. Since international orders *start* at $22 and often cost more like $60 to ship, I am paralyzed when someone puts in a chargeback and international buyers suffer first for this. I can't ship packages that are ready to go, and I often can't order the materials I need to fill custom orders that require things I can't keep a huge inventory of (like single whole roots, human bones, or mercury dimes) or restock materials that I have to buy in bulk (like candle wax, containers, and the various butters and oils I use to make soap). I just don't run a big enough business to let several hundred dollars worth of buffer sit in the business account 24/7 - I try to keep enough in there to ship everything that's in house, but even for things like herbs, I have to meet a certain minimum when I order from many of my suppliers; if I go with suppliers with no or smaller minimums, I have to either sacrifice quality or else pay more, which means higher prices for everybody. And guess what - when you don't pay assistants, they get a lot less inclined suddenly to help you get caught up on the world's messiest inbox while dealing with a seriously stressed-out "boss" - go figure! This has, to put it bluntly, *sucked.*