Candy Japan shipments paused

Candy Japan ships surprise boxes of Japanese candy to subscribers around the world on a twice-monthly basis. On this blog I share behind-the-scenesy stuff about it, and this one is about how the coronavirus situation has affected the site (spoiler: not positively).

International shipping halted

Twice a month we prepare a batch of boxes, then haul them to a nearby post office for shipping. This time after finishing the batch, for the first time ever, it's the hauling part that failed. When trying to send them off at the post office we were informed that because of the coronavirus situation, mail could not be sent out at all by the shipping method we use (SAL). Besides this, the more expensive airmail option was also shut down for 100+ countries.

I took this to mean that international shipping has basically been turned off, and acted accordingly.

I informed customers of the stoppage, and refunded around ~$3500 in prepaid orders since it was unclear when shipping could resume. My hand-crafted subscription system wasn't built with this in mind, so it took about 10 hours of work just to send refunds and pause the service, including hand-customizing hundreds of emails.

Stuck with hundreds of boxes of candy

Up to this point I was only concerned with telling everyone about the situation quickly and promptly issuing refunds. What I had tried not to think too much about yet was what to do with the ~200 boxes of candy we had already packaged, now sitting in storage, unable to be sent.

I do have a way to resell it in Japan, but at about a quarter of its original price, and now the work put into packaging it would become more work of unboxing everything again.

Not wanting to waste perfectly good sweets that I had already paid for, I started to look more carefully about how many of them I could ship out, only including the countries with working postal systems for airmail. While I had already refunded everyone, if I could get some of the shipments through, I could at least adjust their accounts such that I would owe them one less box in the future.

I guess one option would have been doing an epic hours-long joke "unboxing" video where someone unboxes two hundred boxes with exactly the same contents every time. Maybe not.

Some shipments can still be sent?

The list of stopped countries I received from the post office had over 100 countries on it, but actually cross-checking this list against subscriber countries, I discovered that I could actually still ship to about 80% of subscribers.

With most shipments still possible, perhaps I overreacted by stopping everything. I could have just temporarily suspended the affected 20% and taken the hit for the increased shipping cost for the rest. But thinking it over it felt like the right choice, as shipments might be unreliable now and the closures would still likely expand to more countries.

After sending out the shipments, exactly that happened. Except much sooner. Between revising the batch to include only the people with functioning postal systems and then handing only those boxes to the post office, the list had already expanded, now standing at 124 countries. I discovered this by having two large bags full of boxes delivered to my apartment, with the mailman regretting that actually, they could not be sent.

It's just a flesh wound

I don't really feel too bad having to pause the service for a while, as this is the first time I've had any kind of break from running Candy Japan in close to 10 years.

I also got to discover that all of my customers are incredibly cool people, being nothing but supportive when I had to inform them of the candy they now wouldn't be receiving. Some even showed personal concern for us having to pause the business (don't worry, we'll be fine).

One reply noted that the timing for the pause was good, as the subscriber also just lost their job as well.

Thanks for reading

If you find the idea of getting random Japanese sweets interesting, please subsc... oh yeah, you can't right now. But you can put your email address in the little box on the front page and I'll get back to you when subscriptions are open again.