Z Beans Origin Stories Part 30 - 40,000 Cups
Carter and I have been looking for ways to purchase branded paper cups for a while now, but everyone we talk to requires a large purchase quantity. For those that don't require a large quantity, the price point is outrageously high. We've been stuck, running in circles.
I can't take it anymore. Jessica Shurman, our incredibly talented graphic designer, has designed us 8oz, 12oz, 16oz, and 20oz cups, but we still have yet to find a supplier.
With a 15-day lead time, I purchase 40,000 cups.
Why in the world did I purchase 40,000? Well, the more I purchase, the better the price point. And, to be honest, I didn't want to deal with this again for a while!
It's been 15 business days, so I reach out to the cup company.
"How are the cups coming along?"
"We have not started printing..."
It's been 20 business days.
"How are the cups coming along?"
"We've started printing. Everything should be done forming this week. I'm hoping to ship out the cups on 11/13/18."
I reach out to Carter and tell him to hold off of purchasing the white paper cups, as our branded ones will be in next week.
11/12/18 - 11/21/18:
All of a sudden, I can't get in touch with my contact from the cup company. While we've purchased a small amount of cups from this same supplier before, it was completely different. It was different cups, and it was a much smaller quantity.
I go back home for Thanksgiving, hoping to relax and remove myself from the stress of this cup situation. I tell my parents about it, and immediately, they are concerned. They offer me many pieces of advice and ask multiple questions, but one specific question lingered:
"Are you being scammed?"
I can't stop thinking about this question. I look up the business' address online, and Google Maps brings me to a random pasture in Ohio.
I find the invoice I paid, and I see a different phone number than the one I had originally saved in my phone. I call it...
"This is Shane Buerster from Z Beans Coffee, I'm hoping to receive an update on my cup purchase?"
"Oh, Hey, Shane, yea. We should be shipping them out here soon."
"When is soon? I was told they would ship out the week of the 5th."
"I'll check with our production team and get back with you Friday."
Friday rolls around - no call.
It's really weighing heavily on my mind now. While I want to spend more time in Pooler with my parents, I can't. It's like I'm there with them, but I'm not.
Starting a 10am, I call both numbers over 15 times and receive no response. In the meantime, I'm looking on Google for any information to help me invalidate my mother's question, but unfortunately, I have no such luck. I read the entire terms and condition on their website - I search their name on the Better Business Bureau, I zoom in on Google Maps.
By now, I am 100% convinced I have made the biggest mistake I've ever made.
I call again, and this time my contact finally picks up.
"Hey, Shane. I was just about to give you a call. Production said the cups have finished forming."
"I need proof. I need proof these cups actually exist. I'm going to be honest with you: I feel like I'm getting scammed."
"Shane, we wouldn't scam anyone. We just print cups."
"That's good to hear, but I want proof. I want pictures from the 'production team.' I want to see my cups."
"I will reach out to them and get you some pictures."
We end the phone call, but my mind never stops racing. For some reason, I feel even more skeptical.
I pick back up the phone and call again.
"Sorry to call again, but this is really bothering me. I have a small business and these 40,000 cups mean a lot to me. I've taken a gamble by making this investment, and I really need for them to come in. I know I ordered these online, so I can't meet you in person, but I'd like to get to know you. If this order comes in correctly, you will have my business. I've price checked everyone around, and you guys have the best price. But, I need better customer service."
"I understand your concern, Shane."
"I want to learn more about you. When did you get into the cup business?"
"Well, I started about 10 years ago when I imported 1 million blank, paper cups from China. I took them to printing manufacturers across the US, showing them the quality. Since, I've partnered with the printing manufacturers, helping them find customers. I have multiple different websites that are tailored to different customer segments. Some people need branded paper cups - others want branded plastic cups."
After a very solid 30 minute conversation, we end the phone call. I am at ease.
Why didn't I do that before? Business is all about relationships and purchasing something online doesn't change that notion.
Before Monday ends, I receive a text with the image of the cups and a promise that the cups will ship Tuesday.
As promised, I receive a tracking number from UPS Freight.
I call Dad - "Dad, my cups are shipping UPS Freight.... Do I need a pallet jack and a loading dock?"
I'm sitting inside the coffee shop, and a big UPS truck comes by the front of the store.
I run out the door.
"Can you back your truck up to the back door?"
The driver gets out the truck, and we walk around to the back.
"There is no way I could get in here. The electrical wires are hanging too low."
"Okay. Do you ever deliver around here?"
"I drop some things off to the bookstore."
"Where do you park for them?"
"Along the side there."
"Go ahead and do that. I'll meet you over there."
Thankfully, the UPS driver had a pallet jack and a lift gate. So, I backed my truck up to the UPS truck and we put the pallets in my bed. It wasn't the safest thing we have ever done, but we got our cups.
As I have been told all along, experience is the greatest teacher in the world. This scenario is no different. It doesn't matter what business you are in, you need to know the person you are working with. Knowing that person stems deeper than knowing his or her job title. It's knowing what motivates them - what interests them - It's knowing their WHY.
If you walk into the coffee shop today, you will see our branded cups, designed by Jessica Shurman. While you may never appreciate having those cups as much as I do, you may appreciate them a little more now that you know the story behind them.