It's Past Time To Talk About This
I think it's well overdue to talk more in depth about what happened over the last 15 months. This will be part explanation, part apology, and part deep-dive into the struggle of a person with severe mental illnesses. Buckle up, this could get ugly.
There's a little backstory that we need here. I was 14 when I was diagnosed with my first mental illness. Garden variety good old depression. What's a 14 year old got to be depressed about? Well, I had a lot of risk factors. I grew up in a poor household, I was awkward and opinionated so I had trouble making friends, oh, and the genetic thing. It's literally in my DNA. Now, before I get too far, it's important that I don't let you think that I approve of blaming mental illness for the way you treat people. I think it's a fact that can provide a lot of insight for the actions, or lack of actions, a person might take, but ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves, regardless of the barriers in front of us.
So here's the deal, last August, of 2019, I had a minor injury that caused me to have to start some pretty expensive dental treatments. They cost a lot of money, thousands of dollars, that my family did not have, but they were necessary. I had to spend four, almost consecutive, weeks on powerful antibiotics to clear up and avoid infections. Antibiotics make me sleepy, every single kind there is, and that's normal. But what they don't really say is that antibiotics can make a depressed person have a depression episode. Or at least I suspect that's the case. Either way, my brain came to a crashing halt and I could do only the bare minimum to survive. I quickly took a part time job with almost full time hours because I desperately needed to pay these dental bills and my little yarn business wasn't capable to supporting the expenses. Now, sure, if I'd uploaded all my inventory and managed to sell it all immediately, that might have been possible. But that's not how a small business works. In this business I have to constantly make creative content to post on social media and hope that it's good enough to make people want what I have to offer. And when you're deeply depressed, the last thing you want to do is create a 150 shop listings accompanied with the task of photographing them.
I quickly filled as many of the orders that were waiting in my queue that I could, but I accidentally left four pre-orders there, that I didn't know about until much, much later. I say accidentally because the action was not deliberate. I didn't know they were there. With this platform, I can archive shipped orders but they still show up on my order fulfillment page unless I click no fewer than three buttons to filter things, so my system always was just that it was quicker to scroll through and find the ones that were bold and yellow. With pre-orders, they're sometimes shipped out of order from existing stock, so they aren't automatically at the top of my fulfillment list. And when I was spiraling into absolute despair, I missed a few. I f*cked up. It's my fault. I run this business alone. I make human errors.
Eventually, in December, Shopify locked my account. I had a balance with my capital loan (which was not overdue) and forgot to update my billing information when our bank account had to be assigned a new number. (Husband's log in details were stolen, not his card, which makes it harder for banks to deal with stuff, so their solution was to close the account and open a new one and transfer all the stuff to it and issue new debit cards and checks.) Shopify's capital loan terms say you can't not pay your bill and since I hadn't updated it, and I wasn't checking my emails diligently (deep depression, couldn't get out of bed except to wake my kids up for school or go to work, I literally slept every single moment I was at home and not eating) I didn't catch it and Shopify suspended my account. I had to pay the entire balance of the loan before they would give me access to *anything* and that means literally every bit of my store. Front end, back end, every thing.
Fast forward to this January. I still didn't have access to the shop, but honestly, it wasn't important. I thought I was squared up on orders, I had put out the notice to social media that I was on hiatus, I was missing dyeing and I hadn't knit in 6 months. I started knitting again. I started designing again. I felt a little more myself and I was healing mentally. I posted to my personal Instagram account. A customer immediately sent me a DM demanding to know about their pre-order that should have been filled at the end of July. What order? Crap. It looks like I forgot something. Okay. Time to square up with Shopify. Turns out, that's easier said than done. When I say I was locked out from my account, I mean I couldn't even try to pay the bill. Time for email support, which took its time. I apologized and tried to tell this customer that I would refund them or I would try to fill their order but that I couldn't be sure I even had the yarn. I should, yes, but I didn't know 100% if that would be true. They insisted that they'd prefer getting the yarn, so I was grateful they would be patient with me. And then they weren't patient.
Let's continue on with the timeline. I was furloughed from my job the last Friday in March due to Covid-19, about a week or more after the rest of the largest cities in country had started to shut down. Everything might be bigger in Texas, but we certainly don't have the best leadership. Guess what happens to your depressed and anxious brain when there's a global pandemic and your job ends. It just takes a deep dive. In the words of Disturbed, hello darkness my old friend. I tried really hard to stay afloat. I knit as often as I could and I tried to stay in touch with my friends. It was incredibly difficult. I ignored the persistent, what I felt were harassing, messages of this customer. I thought I had made it clear to her that I was still not doing great and I wasn't really ready to be open for business, which unfortunately included her neglected order. She kept on. In late April I started to develop symptoms of Covid, got tested, and quarantined in my bedroom for a week. I saw my husband and children from the doorway in the evening while I sat at the farthest location in the room. I knit and I watched Anne of Green Gables on Netflix. I kept weird hours. I slept most of the day and I felt the loneliest I ever have in my entire life. I got my results that where negative and I recovered very slowly from the symptoms I had, which we think now were new seasonal allergy responses. But I didn't recover from the mental health battle. And eventually I lost my cool with this customer, who would not stop messaging and emailing me. I had already looked in my inventory and one of the skeins out of four was nowhere to be found. I struggled for days turning over everything in my house, areas where inventory never would be kept, trying to figure out what happened to it. I could've sworn I had it, but I didn't.
So after failing to find a record of the payment received in PayPal, I searched back through the email correspondence to find their invoice, to find that the reason I didn't have this was because the entire order was on a voucher. This was a person who had knit a sample for me and had redeemed their shop credit on this order. Wonderful, I felt like an ass but I was still upset. I requested their PayPal information so I could send them the money that was the value of the yarn. I wasn't kind. I wasn't mean, I don't think, but I was abrupt and I told this person I would prefer to not work with her in the future. After I sent the money I blocked her on social media and I went back into my deep dark hole of misery.
In late August I finally started to crawl out of that hole and into an agreement with my brain that we would do our best to be kind to one another. And eventually in late October, I was able to feel good about my creative talents and thought maybe, I'll give dyeing another go. I recovered my email first. My webhost stopped partnering with Gmail business accounts sometime in June, so I had to reactivate that and wade through the hundreds of emails from vendors packaging supply companies, wholesalers and distributors I've worked with, etc. Most of these were marketing emails and were deleted, but I found one that wasn't. A customer had reached out to me almost a year ago about their order. The shame I felt was astronomical. I quickly hit the star next to their email so I wouldn't lose it and continued on my way to recovering my business. I paid Shopify a tidy sum, wishing, hoping and banking on the fact that I would sell enough yarn in the first month to refill our family savings account.
The idea of uploading all those listings didn't seem quite as daunting if I could do it in batches. Worsted weight first. Then the Pride Flag collection. Then I realized a whole storage tote was solely yarn that was already sorted as listing that already existed and I just had to verify inventory counts and update them. Before I activated the first listing, I reached out to that second customer. They had two, kind of large, special orders, also preorders from last Spring, outstanding. I replied, apologizing profusely, tried to explain what had happened, this time insisted on providing a refund and gave an update on the yarn. I was two colorways short of the full collection of twelve on one of the bases she'd ordered, and only have four of the colorways on the other base. I told her I'd like to send her as much of the yarn as I could but would refund regardless.
This customer was so kind, her reply was understanding, almost apologetic in tone, and she refused to accept my refund under any circumstance, even if I never send the yarn. She asked me to take my time, as much as I needed, to send her yarn and to focus on healing and self care. She was willing to wait, because she wasn't even ready to start that project anyway, she said. She said she would hope to be able to buy my yarn again and complimented me on my designs. I was taken aback. This was hard to process. I cried. Tears of joy and hope and confusion.
I stared at that email for almost two hours before I replied. I discussed my timeline for getting ready to dye again, I had enough of the undyed yarn to make it happen and described my plan to make sure her order would be processed as quickly as possible. And then I uploaded my first batch of listings to my site. It was time to get this going. I came back to another reply. This gem of a customer tells me to take my time and prioritize anyone else I needed to. A few days later I upload the second batch of listings. I come back hours later to fill orders and see one from her. No offense to the other three people who ordered from that update, but I packaged up hers first that day. I couldn't not. I'm sure you all have your yarn by now, I dropped them all off on the same day.
All while I was corresponding with this one person and setting up the shop again, I had also found another two orders in my queue from two other people. This is when I found the Shopify doesn't let you give refunds after a period of time. So if you're one of those two people, I've tried to email and reach out to get in touch. I'm trying to cancel orders but I need your PayPal information to send you money. I really want to make it right. I messed up. I'm sorry.
I don't know how to end this. But this is what happened. The whole of it. I'm sorry for the inconveniences I've caused. I appreciate the positive response I've received since opening. I'm restarting a few steps at a time. I need to set up systems that help prevent this entire thing from happening again, and that takes time. But I'm happy to be back. I'm grateful for the support you've all shown me. The forgiveness shown, the love shown, the everything. Thank you. Let's move forward, if that's okay?