Time to Fix a Few Things
Due to a few recurring issues, I've had to make some changes to the way I'm doing business. While I still go through extraordinary lengths to take care of my customers, I'll no longer be able to do so the way I have been. Until now, I've had the mentality of taking care of the customer first, then following up with what I needed afterwards. Typically, that means ordering or sending parts that customers need before asking for payment. Unfortunately, that keeps biting me in the ass. I also had a nice little chat yesterday with a lawyer who called on Aston Martin's behalf due to some trademark infringement. Starting a business is never easy - Redpants has been far from that - and growing pains are to be expected. This is how we learn, right?
Updated Terms and Conditions
I've updated the information on the Terms and Conditions page to reflect the changes in how I need to do things from here on out. To make the update clear, I'll explain some of the key changes.
Shipping costs are non-negotiable and non-refundable
The price paid for shipping is usually an accurate reflection of shipping cost. Shipping involves packaging labor, packaging and shipping materials, and carrier charges. It isn't just the amount of money paid directly to UPS or USPS. Some orders take quite a bit of effort to package properly, and we do put a considerable amount of effort into making sure your orders arrive in perfect condition. If you paid more for shipping that what a carrier charges, the extra you paid isn't profit - it goes toward paying for labor and materials.
Restocking fees apply to all orders, regardless of whether or not they have shipped to the customer
Some items can take a long time to get. That's especially true for the glass switch kits any part made with leather. I've had a set of glass switch kits on order for literally months, and there's nothing I can do to speed it up. When I request special order items like these, Aston Martin makes them for me and I'm on the hook so even if the customer cancels the order, I have to pay for it. Thus, the restocking fee applies to every order, regardless of shipping status.
If the cost of a part has increased, the balance must be paid before the order ships
Speaking of those glass switch kits, I actually lost money on the last couple sets that customers bought. I'm not saying that I made little or no profit, I mean that it actually cost me money to get them to the customers because the cost of them had increased compared to my prices.
It's very, very rare, but this isn't the first time it's happened, either. I didn't say anything to the customers and just bit the bullet while shipping the parts to them. However, Redpants isn't a charity. With a small, self-funded startup like this, every dollar matters and I'll no longer be able to pay out of pocket to fulfill an order in these situations. In the rare event that this happens, I'll contact the customer to explain the situation. If the customer wants to cancel the order, no restocking fee will apply. If the customer wants to continue with the order, the balance due for the price increase must be paid before the part will ship out.
This does apply to shipping costs as well. Although very rare, if an order comes in with a drastically higher shipping cost than was charged to the customer, the balance of that shipping cost will be due prior to the order being fulfilled.
Payment must be received in full before anything ships
This is by far the most painful part of this for me, but it's one of those must-learn lessons about business. I've ordered parts and even shipped parts to customers before ever asking for payment. Most of the time, I do get paid for them - and some of you guys even go out of your way to make sure I get paid (seriously, thank you!!!). But a few people have taken advantage of this and either left me with extra inventory that puts a heavy burden on my balance sheet, or they received parts without ever paying for them.
A couple thousand dollars in unpaid invoices later, it's time to put a stop to that. I know, I should have learned my lesson sooner, but until now my mindset has been to take care of the customer first before asking for compensation. So from this point on, no parts will ship to a customer until payment has been received in full. No exceptions.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I had a chat with a trademark lawyer yesterday. Basically, Aston Martin Lagonda had some concerns about my website. Specifically, I had their 'wings' logo on my homepage. The lawyer explained to me that AML only allows its franchised dealers to use that logo (at least in the USA, not sure about elsewhere), so my use of it was an unlawful usage. Because of its intended use by dealerships, my use of it implies that I'm an authorized dealership as well - obviously not the case. It's an issue they deal with constantly with independent shops and small businesses that use the logo to show the vehicles they work on and the parts they sell (which is why I used it).
The lawyer was incredibly nice and asked that I take the logo down, which I did. But here's the fun part. He then pointed out a few items and said it looked like I had added Aston Martin's logo to them as well - the packaging was far too generic so it appeared that I had made it myself. Specifically, the spark plugs and oil filters. I had to explain that the packaging was in fact Aston's own.
I touch upon this in my FAQ page saying that I do usually add labels or "repackage" (if it even qualifies as that) parts. I do this to keep them organized, to make it clear to the customer what each part is, and because Aston Martin doesn't actually package the majority of their parts at all. I don't add logos to any product or claim them to be something they're not. I do label items so that my customers know what each item is, but that's all. The items I list as being from Aston Martin are in fact the OEM items from Aston Martin. If I substitute an OEM part for a different one, like the bypass filter cover replacement bolts in my 4.3L V8 Vantage oil change kits, I will state that they are not OEM items.
Anyway, the lawyer was very nice and easy to work with, and he understood that I was going out of my way to be careful about managing the balance between my own business, Aston Martin, and Aston's dealerships. I've discussed this before, and it is a constant concern. And, when a lawyer calls you about it, you know it's a valid concern, indeed.
Our second batch of Air Box Deletes have arrived, so they're back in stock and ready to ship!