Friday, February 10, 2012

76 Days-Buying Maps for 38

 Towards the end of January I volunteered to take on the task of organizing a bulk purchase of Halfmile's Pacific Crest Maps (http://www.pctmap.net/).  Halfmile lets hikers have his maps for free—a hiker can print them out, download them to a phone, computer, or other electronic device.  It takes a lot of pages to cover 2,600 miles of hiking trail, roughly 235 pages printed front and back.  A lot of hikers don’t want to print out the maps on their home printer—too much ink will be used up making them very expensive to print.  It is more cost effective to order them from a professional printer so a group of us from the Facebook group PCT Class of 2012 and the PCT-L got together a bulk order.
On the Facebook group we talked about the best way to get our maps.  Halfmile pointed us towards a Portland, OR printer that is hiker friendly.  In the past they had given a discount to hikers for ordering their maps in a group.  After getting a sense of who would be interested in a group run interest kind of flagged off.  We didn’t have a leader for this projects, and while hikers are some of my favorite people, they can tend to have a laissez faire attitude. 
I had the feeling that nobody was going to volunteer.  I figured I was pretty active in the discussion process, I love discounts, I had a PayPal account, and I had the time, so I might as well volunteer.  At that point we had 20 people who had expressed interest which would get us a ten dollar discount.
I sent out a message to the 20 people on the list asking for shipping address and giving details of how the ordering would work.  I figured if I got an address from somebody they actually wanted the maps.  I was guessing I wouldn’t hear back from at least five people on the first list.  I sent out that first message kind of late at night, and the next morning when I checked my email I had 21 messages from Facebook—not all of them about the maps, some general PCT messages posted to the group as a whole. 
Over a couple of days more people joined our group and more addresses came in.  I kept track of our progress publicly—partly so if I missed an address that person could say so, and also to keep our efforts in the forefront of people’s minds (add maybe to put a little peer pressure on).  I also posted our efforts in to the PCT-L—an email group focused on the Trail.  I had a master list of everybody interested on my computer to better keep track of everybody because I had two different groups.
It felt like I was sending the same information to different people repeatedly.  It seemed like every time I sent out a mass message a new person would join the group and I had to get them up to speed.  In all my messages I tried to be very clear about what was going on—address that I needed, price, shipping, how to pay—and very firm—I set deadlines, I had a refund policy if I was charged any PayPal fees.
I know in the past I’ve been thought of as being a little too nice or a push over, but I figured there was no way for the group to know that.  If I accepted the PayPal fees I would have been loosing close to $90.00 dollars and that knowledge made it a little easier to refund money and send a quick note explaining why their money was being refunded and how to send money again.  I did issue quite a few refund while hoping the person who was getting their money back wasn’t going to be grumbling about how horrible and cheap I was being about a two dollar fee—I received many “you rocks, thank you’s, and you’re awesome’s.”  There wasn’t a single negative response—which doesn’t really surprise me because I’m always telling people that hikers are the greatest. 
Every day more money was coming into my PayPal account.  People were thanking me for my organization efforts and I felt like I should be thanking them for trusting me with their money—I know I’m trustworthy, but they were taking me at my word.  It was incredible watching as my PayPal account jumped to $500.00 dollars the first day to over a thousand the second day, then over $2,000.00.  Out of the 38 people only one asked if I was trustworthy.
As the funds grew I continued to post public updates so the group could know what was going on with their money and they could know who hadn’t made a payment.  I liked having the names public—I didn’t want to take all the responsibility for getting people to do what they said they would do. In the end I only had to gently nudge a couple of people to pay.
From the original list of 20 that I started out collecting shipping addresses from only two people never got back to me—much better than I had anticipated.  Many others joined the list—two of those were after the order was placed. 
The maps were shipped out yesterday.  My map should be slowly working its way across the country to me.  I should have them sometime next week.  By the time I’m done with my maps they will have crossed the country twice and traveled the width of it twice, too.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again Faren. Can't wait to get my maps.

    Andrew S.

    ReplyDelete