What should do if your Drop Shipper stops supplying your products, without warning, at ANY time of the year? Of course, when it happens during the Holidays, it’s worse, but no time is a good time for this to happen!
Sometimes, even the best of Drop Shippers will hiccup from time to time. This is a fairly normal thing, and a good Drop Shipper will get back on track quickly, making good on any problems they may have briefly caused you.
Other times, a Supplier will just quit talking to you altogether. Your orders will not be filled, your calls and emails won’t be answered, etc. When that happens, you’re stuck. If you have customers waiting for orders that they have already paid you for and they’re not showing up, you’re going to start hearing from those customers pretty quickly.
Remember that if you use GOOD Suppliers, this is EXTREMELY RARE. On the other hand, it happens fairly often with those drop ship middlemen you find all over the Search Engines. The moral of that story is that you need to start with good information to begin with, like the information we publish in our Directory at WorldwideBrands.com.
This is the real world. Unfortunate things happen whether we want them to or not. Rare as it is with GOOD Drop Ship Suppliers, something like this IS possible. Wholesale companies that drop ship are run by people, just like everything else. People experience unfortunate things. Buildings get damaged. Accountants run away with company funds and force a business to shut down. Again, however rare, this is the real world, and sometimes, “ship” doesn’t happen. :o)
If your Drop Shipper stops responding to you for some unknown reason, it’s your customers you have to answer to, and how you recover from this problem in your customers eyes is what matters.
So, let’s talk about what you should do if your Drop Shipper suddenly stops Drop Shipping, and you can’t reach them.
The first thing you’ll probably notice, if this happens, is that you’ll stop getting Shipping Confirmation and Tracking Number emails from the drop shipper. That’s usually the first thing you see after you place an order with a good Drop Shipper, and when they stop showing up within a reasonable time frame, it’s time to start asking questions immediately. Contact your Drop Shipper by email first, and ask them to confirm the order or orders they have not confirmed. If you don’t get an email within 24 hours, CALL them and ask the question. Yes, you should be able to call them. You should never work with a supplier that you don’t have a phone number for.
The second thing that will happen is that you’ll get an Email from a customer, asking where their product is. This takes a few days more, since the time between order and delivery is 3 to 7 days. By the time you get your first question or complaint from your Customers, you should already be aware that this situation is happening, because you should have realized that your confirmation or Tracking information did not come through.
Even if you have not heard back from your Drop Shipper by Email or phone yet, respond to the Customer IMMEDIATELY. Tell them that you are looking into the situation, and you’ll get back to them ASAP. Stay in touch OFTEN, even if it’s only to tell them that you are still investigating.
If you’ve been trying to reach your Drop Shipper by email and phone, and you have not been able to by the time your first couple of Customer complaints come in (about 5 business days), you could have a problem. This is the time to take stock of exactly how many products you sell from this Drop Shipper, and prepare to deactivate those products on your site or auctions for the time being. If your entire web site is made up of products from one Drop Shipper (which the majority of successful web sites are), or all your auctions are products from one Drop Shipper, then of course you have a bigger problem.
You should be continuing to trying to contact the Drop Shipper by phone and email, but don’t flood them with calls and emails. Once a day is reasonable for the first few days. Also, don’t leave nasty messages or send threatening emails. That is the mark of an amateur, not a business professional. There may very well be an excellent reason why you can’t contact them at that point. For example, here in Florida, over the early Fall months, we experienced no less than FOUR very damaging hurricanes in only about SIX WEEKS, one right after another! Thousands of businesses lost power and phone service, in some cases for WEEKS. There’s not much a Drop Shipper in Central Florida could have done in that situation. If a Drop Shipper here in Central Florida suddenly got their phones and power back, and got slammed by a series of nasty messages and threats from you, they would not be inclined to do much business with you in the future.
If it’s been more than five days without a response from this company, and nothing is being delivered to your Customers since you first were alerted to the problem, it’s time to stop putting your Customers’ orders through to the Drop Shipper. You can still take orders for a couple more days, but stop forwarding the orders to the Drop Shipper. Most Drop Shippers have automated systems whereby they charge your credit card when you order. The more orders you put through, the more it will cost you out of YOUR pocket to refund your Customers if the worst happens. You need to begin limiting your loss potential.
This is also the time to notify everyone who has recently ordered from you, starting with the first Customer who did not get their shipment, that your Supplier has a shipping problem, and it may take some additional time to deliver their order. Remember, this is about how YOUR business looks to your Customers. At this point you HAVE to notify them whether you like it or not, if you’re going to RECOVER from this situation well. If it’s during the “off season”, most people will be reasonable and will be willing to wait. If it’s during the Holiday Season, that’ll be a little different!
If you end up going ten business days without response from your supplier, or after December 10th if it’s during the Holiday Season, it’s time to pull the plug. You’re going to need to stop selling the products from this Drop Shipper, and refund your Customers who have ordered and not received product.
Now, as much as you don’t want to stop selling products, especially during the Holidays, you will be unhappy about refunding your Customers as well. Why? Because there will be orders that you have ALREADY PAID the Drop Shipper for, in most cases. That means that you’ll be refunding your Customers out of your OWN money for those orders. Aside from keeping your Customers happy, that’s why you have to stay on top of this situation. The more products you’ve ordered from the Drop Shipper already, the more money you’re out temporarily when you begin issuing refunds. (Yes, I said temporarily; we’ll get to that in a minute).
When you do announce to your Customers that you can’t deliver the product, and are refunding them, you need to do it carefully, remembering the following points:
1. Yes, this is the Drop Shipper’s fault, but don’t go out of your way to place blame on them. You can certainly tell your Customer that your Supplier had an unexpected problem, and you can’t deliver the product. DON’T go off on a rampage and say bad things about the Supplier, though! Your Customers will respect you a LOT more if YOU shoulder the responsibility for the situation. Apologize for the problem, and tell them that you will promptly refund them.
2. You may get a few nasty emails back from some customers. DON’T take the bait! People who write nasty emails usually do it all the time, and you need to be the bigger person by not responding the same way.
3. Here’s the REALLY IMPORTANT one. FIND another online location (usually the online presence for a large “bricks and mortar” retail chain) that carries the products, and tell your Customers to go THERE to get them. The “bricks and mortar” stores will usually have a bunch of those products in their own warehouse, and will be able to fill the order. THIS is the thing that will gain you the respect and gratitude of your Customer. Down the road, when the situation is resolved, they WILL remember. Sure, some of them might not come back, but some WILL. I can guarantee you that, having been through this kind of situation myself.
Okay, now that you’ve refunded your Customers and stopped selling the products, keep trying to contact the Drop Shipper. If you get to a point where it’s obvious that they simply are not going to respond, send them a regretful email (not a nasty one!) telling them that because of their lack of service, you are forced to stop selling their products. Give them a list of the Order Numbers that you had to refund out of your pocket, and request an immediate refund for them.
If you get no action on the refunds, it’s time to contact your Credit Card company. Tell them what happened, and let them know you wish to file “Chargebacks” on all the orders not delivered.
A “Chargeback” is where YOUR credit card company will take your money back from the Drop Shipper’s MERCHANT BANK, whether the Drop Shipper has the money or not. Then the Drop Shipper’s Merchant Bank will have to chase the Drop Shipper for the money. YOU get your money BACK. In most cases, you can file a Chargeback with your card company at anytime up to six months of any purchase, and get your money back.
Yes, this is a lousy situation to be in, and yes, it will cost you some business. If you’re careful, though, you will not be “out of pocket” for any money, and you’ll retain the respect of your customers. Even if you have to completely change product lines to work with a new Drop Shipper, you’ll still have your Customer list, and you’ll still have the respect of the people on it. You’ll still be in business.
This situation is not limited to Drop Shippers; sometimes Bulk Suppliers can default on a shipment too, and leave you out of luck if you’re playing the “just in time inventory game”.
Once again, let me tell you that this is RARE. I’ve only seen it happen three times in all the years I’ve dealt with tens of thousands of Internet Sellers, and thousands of wholesale companies.
It is, however, something to keep in the back of your mind, and hopefully reading this article will help you remember to watch your Supplier’s shipping emails fairly closely. :o)