We’re looking for feedback. If you have an internet retail business, let’s talk.
One of the suggestions that has been made many times in the comments was creating a WOLF STREET coffee mug or beer mug. That sounded like a fun idea, but I have neither the time nor the talent to create things like this and deal with the logistics. So I approached our iconic commenter, WOLF FEST name-tag creator and writer-cartoonist-artist Kitten Lopez.
In our preliminary discussions, I said that we should do a coffee mug because it’s simpler and a good place to start. But she instantly put her foot down and said, no way, it has to be a beer mug. The theme on WOLF STREET is a beer mug, she said, including the donation button at the bottom of each article, where you can send “beer money” to support the site. End of discussion. Kitten Lopez is now in charge of the entire project, from design to execution. I just kind of nod and smile in amazement. And this is the design (click on the image to enlarge it):
The design has two colors: white and black. The brown you see in the image represents the beer in the mug so that you can get an idea of what it might look like while the mug is still full. The design will wrap around the mug. To see the whole design, you have to turn the mug, which is part of the fun.
This is the beer mug she picked out, a big (15 oz) sturdy glass stein with a large base for added stability if things get a little iffy:
But the logistics are not fun…
This beer mug weighs quite a bit, and it can break during shipping. Packing is going to be an important issue, and so are all the aspects of taking orders, receipting payments, fulfilling orders, dealing with state sales taxes however tiny they may be, and dealing with the fallout when a mug breaks during shipping, or when a buyer tries to return the 10 mugs after the party.
Here is the problem: I don’t run an internet retail business and I have no infrastructure in place to handle any of these issues.
The main purpose for this project is to have fun – not to make a ton of money. So far, we have come up with two potential solutions to the logistics issues:
Solution 1: Arrange fulfillment with an internet retailer.
This internet retailer would take the orders, receipt the payments, fulfill the orders, deal with returns, and handle sales taxes. We would like for this retailer to be someone other than Amazon. It would be great if we could keep the business in the community.
If you have an internet retail business that can fulfill these types of orders, and you would like to discuss it, please contact me either in the comments below and/or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Solution 2: As a token of gratitude for large donations.
In this scenario, the mugs would not be sold at all, but would be treated as a “gift” for people who donate a large amount to the site. By large, I mean, for example, $100. Every donation is immensely appreciated. And most donations are in the range you would expect. But there have been readers who donated $100 and more, which is very generous and wonderful. But there is little I can currently offer as a token of gratitude. The WOLF STREET beer mug would be my token of gratitude.
In this “Solution 2” scenario, I would keep the beer mugs in the garage, and every time such a wonderful donation comes in, I would contact the donor via email to verify the shipping address, then I would pack the mug myself, take it down to the UPS store, and ship it.
Obviously, I don’t have time to do that every day. But donations of $100 or more are not frequent, so I don’t think I will spend a lot of time dealing with the logistics of sending the mugs.
This solution – the mug as a token of gratitude – would avoid some internet-retail issues such as sales taxes (there is no sale) and returns (if you don’t like it, just give it away or dispose of it properly).
I will probably do Solution 2, even if we can get Solution 1 worked out. So in this case, we would have in effect both solutions running in parallel.
However, if we cannot get Solution 1 worked out, the mugs will not be for sale. They will only be available as gifts – because I simply don’t have the time and expertise to start an internet retail business.
What do you think?
Please use the comment section below for ideas and thoughts on this. Nothing — other than the mug itself and the design — has been decided yet. At this point, we’re trying to get our plan together. And we’re hoping to get some feedback.
And if you have an internet retail business and are interested in working with us on this, or if you have specific ideas or advice, please let us know!
Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? Using ad blockers – I totally get why – but want to support the site? You can donate “beer money.” I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer mug to find out how:
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