Tag Archives: loss of a spouse

How To Handle Your Online Business In The Face of Personal Tragedy

Despair.

Despair.

These events unfolded in such a ridiculous way, my life is on hold until I can explain them. I looked for a guide to help me during this time and did not find one. This is not a typical blog post for me. Perhaps this can serve for someone in the future.

Despair. Ludicrous events. Unbelievable.

The customer service end of my online business is probably the most challenging. It can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to craft the proper response to a customer inquiry or complaint. It needs to be concise, very brief and to the point. Easier stated than crafted.

The beginning of this sounds like the segue for a joke: we just paid off our car a couple of days before and it wouldn’t start. It would start again if we left it alone for a few hours, sometimes overnight. I was convinced through my Googling that it had something to do with the car’s anti-theft system or electronic keys. As it was, the car couldn’t be trusted and, if it started, needed to be left on wherever it went – less than ideal. Since it was likely a security issue, it would need to be taken to the dealer. The dealer always means big bucks. We milked it until it stopped for good on Christmas Eve 2009.

Everything we were supposed to attend, forget it. We didn’t even have food in the house. The only thing there was to do was tweet. In my tweets, I did not want to bring others down, so barely mentioned my situation. We had to wait until Christmas was over to get the car into the dealer. And on December 26th, the car started to go to the dealer! Well, it saved us money for towing. It turned out to be the starter, something my husband could have fixed, instead it was over $400 at the dealer. While the car was in the dealer and during all of this, shipments were getting delayed and I got word that my father was in the hospital and it was pretty bad. I should find a way there. Shipments were delayed and stress was mounting.

The dealer remarked to my husband that the brakes were going to need work very soon and that we should plan on that or just get them done that day for an additional $1,200. He told them he would do them himself. We figured we had another month to get the parts and tools needed for that job. We were wrong. The brakes were quickly starting to fail and we had to consolidate shipping days.

I didn’t get to the hospital at all. That’s ok. It will be alright. Dad will be fine and I will get up there in a day or two.

By New Year’s Eve, the brakes failed completely. The car could not be driven at all. Both the front and rear brakes as well as the two rear wheel cylinders were out.

And we JUST paid the car off.

It was frigid in Michigan during this time, below zero with wind chills and in single digits without the help of the wind. We had blowing snow and no garage to shield the car or the man working on it who happened to be my husband.

I didn’t get to the hospital at all. No shipments were going out.

This process took days. And the days became longer and longer. There was little I could do to actually help. My husband literally walked a mile to the parts store to make sure he would get the right parts.

You’re probably wondering why someone didn’t drive us, etc. In Michigan, during the winter, people really do not see each other much. If we needed to ask for a favor, it better be a big favor. From what my sister said, that favor was going to need to be a ride 60 miles to the hospital. My husband assured me that I would not need to ask anyone for that favor. Shipments were delayed. I can still feel the stress.

I like to ship same to next day. I wanted to see my dad.

I began to realize that I was very behind and put my eBay and Etsy stores on vacation, putting the reasons in the space provided for notes to customers. I also noted my situation on my Me Page at eBay and tweeted it for good measure. I wasn’t sure anyone would see anything. Orders still came in, God Bless them.

Finally! On January 8th, 2010, we got to the hospital to see my dad, shipping just before going.

My dad was far worse than I imagined. He couldn’t even look at me, speak or anything except an almost imperceptible hand squeeze. I held his hand the whole time I was there. I wasn’t sure we should leave, but my husband had been under a car in horrific weather conditions for days. We needed to rest. The stress had been exhausting, too.

I never thought that would be the last time I would see my father alive.

The next day, January 9th, 2010, my dad let go at 6:30 am. I had been planning to go see him later that day, but he was already gone. Everyone said he held on to see me.

In this blur of emotion, this raw suffering, I still had to think about what to do with my business. I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew this would delay or further delay shipments and that I needed to address the public. I updated my vacation store status on eBay and Etsy, changed my Me Page and finally sent each person a copy and paste note about what was going on. It took a long time to write the note, but the copy and paste was therapeutic in some way. It was something I could manage in between helping with the funeral service and arrangements.

Talking to my friends was especially helpful during this time. Kelly (not on Twitter 😉 reminded me what I would do in a situation like this – I would contact everyone, of course. @PowerSellingMom listened to me and advised me on the morning of the funeral. She calmed me down for 20 minutes, allowing me to go over my checklist of things I needed to do for the business. I am eternally grateful to Danna for that time. She also suggested I do this blog post.

I made sure I emailed or messaged everyone personally. I gave the option in the note to simply request a refund. I think that was pivotal. Of all the orders, only one opted for a refund and I was able to do that swiftly and without any hard feelings. Here is the note:

Hi,
My father passed away yesterday after struggling through the holidays. Your prayers are greatly appreciated. All shipments are delayed. Please request a refund through eBay messaging if you cannot wait. Talk to you soon. Your patience is BEYOND appreciated.

Thank you again for your order.
Anita @ModelSupplies & DNAshopper

So far, no one has left me negative, neutral or nasty comment. My customers are truly the best.

It is my hope this information will be useful to someone during a time when they find it difficult to think. It may sound strange that I would be so worried about my business during such personal tragedy, but there is not much separation between my personal and business life and I love it that way. I am still grappling with the loss of my father and still get delayed a couple days here and there. I cannot predict when it will happen, but knowing my customers care for me like I care for them has kept me going. Grateful cannot begin to describe my feelings for you. Thank you so much for standing by me during this time.
x0x
Anita Nelson @ModelSupplies

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