How to fulfill a book order

The starting point might be that you have received an email containing a deep link to the order.  If so, then click on deep link.  This takes you to the Woo shopping cart, directly to the page for the order.  This is very convenient.

Or maybe someone has forwarded to you an email containing a deep link to the order they want you to fulfill.  Again, click on the deep link and it should take you directly to the Woo page for the order.

Another starting point might be that you simply want to click around in the Woo system and see if there are any outstanding orders.  For that, you go to and log in.  Go to “Woocommerce” and “Orders”.

The usual sort order is that the most recent orders are at the top of the list.

You can see new orders.  Maybe you will want to click on a new order.  To do that, click in the first column which has the order number and the name of the customer.

Depending on the situation, you may want to coordinate with other people that you are planning to fulfill the order.  Or maybe you already know that nobody else is planning to fulfill the order and maybe you already know that you are supposed to fulfill the order.

So anyway, somehow you have gotten to the order page for the particular order that you are going to fulfill.  The important thing to realize is that we have a goal of trying very hard to get each order out the door on the same day that we receive the order.  Sometimes are are not able to do that.  But we try very hard to do that. 

Do you have the needed inventory?  This means that the first thing for you to do is figure out whether you are going to be able to fulfill the order.  Look to see what item or items the customer ordered.  Look to see how many they ordered.  Do you have enough of the items to fill the order?  Please figure this out.  If you do not have enough items, please let somebody know so that somebody else can work on fulfilling the order.

Shipping supplies?  Next, look to see if you have the needed shipping supplies.  Do you have the right kind of padded envelope?  Do you have the right kind of medium flat rate box?  Do you have enough label stock for the printer to print the shipping labels?  If not, please let somebody know so that somebody else can work on fulfilling the order.

Other things to check.  It almost never happens, but every now and then you will encounter an order where something went wrong with the credit card payment.  If so, do not ship the books.

If everything looks okay, then load the book or books into the box or envelope, and load the label stock into the printer.  Make sure the label stock is the correct side up.

Then you can click to purchase the shipping label. 

The shopping cart system may propose to modify your shipping address to match a USPTO database of standardized postal addresses.  Or it may sort of panic because it cannot seem to find a match with any address in the USPTO database.  You will have to figure out what to do if it flashes a message about the address.

If there is no proposed change, or if the proposed change looks okay to you, then proceed.  Click “use selected address” if necessary.

The system might propose a label stock size that does not match your label stock.  You will probably be using letter size label stock.  If necessary, change the “paper size” to “letter”.

If you are using a flat rate envelope, hopefully what you are using is a nice strong padded flat rate envelope and not a crummy cardboard flat rate envelope.  In that case, you are going to need to select the “padded flat rate envelope” packaging so that you will be paying the correct postage.  Follow the procedure for padded flat rate envelopes.

Print it to the printer.  

Maybe you will have a half-sheet of the label stock left over from a previously printed label.  Sometimes you can successfully print a shipping label on that leftover half sheet.

At this point you can double-check that you stuffed the correct book or books into the box or envelope.  Seal it up.  Put the shipping label onto the package.  Take it to the post office.  Get it scanned and get a receipt.

Just drop it off?  At the post office you will see lots of people who work for businesses, who just drop off their outgoing commercial packages at some designated place on the counter.  The idea I guess is that they trust the postal clerks to scan in the packages later.  There are also lots of people who work for businesses, who just drop their outgoing commercial packages in parcel drop bins at the post office.  Again, the idea is that they trust the postal clerks to scan in the packages later.  

Every now and then I have for some reason been in a big hurry, or I have been standing in line at the post office and I run out of time, and I decide to take a chance and just drop off my packages or drop them into a drop bin.  Then what has happened about one-third of the time is that I “lose a day” or “lose a weekend” on the scanning of the packages.  The packages do eventually get scanned, but sometimes they languish somewhere for at least an extra day and sometimes they language over a weekend.  This is not in keeping with our goal of trying very hard to get every order out the door as promptly as possible.

But worse, if we do not stand in line and get a clerk to scan the package, we risk that later some clerk will find some real or imagined problem with the package and that it will get returned to sender because of the real or imagined problem.  The label is supposedly not completely legible, or there was supposedly not enough postage on the label, or the package was too heavy, or the package was the wrong kind of package to match the type of label that was paid for.  When this happens there is a delay of at least a week and it makes a lot of extra trouble for us.  On the other hand if we get a human being to scan the package into the USPS system and hand us a receipt, this greatly reduces the risk of having to do a lot of extra work later because of some real or imagined problem.

Marking the order “Completed”.  What we generally do not want to do is mark an order “Completed” until we are absolutely sure the shipment has gotten scanned into the USPS system.  There are two possible ways to be sure of this:

  • we have a printed receipt in hand from a postal clerk, that shows the tracking number and shows that the package got scanned in, or
  • we have tracked the package on the USPS web site and it shows that the package has actually been scanned.  (This is not the same thing as the web site saying that the package is “on its way to the Postal Service”, for example.)

So for example suppose the USPS web site says “Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item.”  Then this is not good enough for marking the order complete.

But maybe the USPS web site says “USPS in possession of item.”  Then yes, that is good enough to mark the order “Completed”.

Marking the order “Completed” at the time of purchasing the shipping label.  When you click to purchase the shipping label, you will see a check box that lets you mark the order “Completed” for no better reason than that you purchased the shipping label.  I think you can guess where I am going with this one.  I think this is not a good idea.  What if somehow you later forget and do not manage to get the package scanned in at the post office?  What if you had all of the best intentions but you get to the post office and it is closed that day?  This will lead to lots of trouble and misunderstandings later.  I recommend not checking that box.

Every now and then I will check that box, but only in very rare situations where I am absolutely sure that I will get to the post office within a few minutes, and I am absolutely sure I will not get distracted and forget to go to the post office.  But in general I think it is a really bad idea to check that box.

See other procedures for the OPLF shopping cart.