For folks who are new to shopping indie—or even those who’ve been doing it for a while— the enigmatic “TAT” can be a perplexing beast, especially when you’re waiting for something awesome to arrive at your doorstep.
We know it’s REALLY EXCITING to have an indie package on the way, so we hope this little quiz and the explanations to follow will save you from embarrassing sadface moments at the mailbox.
On to the quizzing!
Question 1: What does “TAT” stand for?
a. Turnaround time. (For the time it takes the seller to “turn around” your order.)
b. Time at tailor. (From the bygone days of the traditional tailor, when dropping your clothes off to be mended was a much more common practice.)
c. Termites and tarantulas. (A builder’s term, meaning “working out the kinks” before a structure is liveable.)
Correct Answer: a.
TAT stands for “turnaround time,” and it means the number of days between the day you place your order and the day your package is placed in the mail. (We made those other ones up; can you tell?)
Remember, an indie company often consists of a single person or a handful of staff. If you’ve ordered a handmade item, it needs to be prepared, packaged, and labeled by whatever means the seller creates. If it’s a custom item, it needs to be created from scratch, to your specifications. Beautiful handmade things take skill, love, and time!
And remember, your order is often not the only one the indie is working on. Even if yours is a relatively simple order, the seller may have others waiting in the queue, and they all receive personalized attention, one at a time.
Question 2: What is a business day?
a. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.
b. Monday – Saturday, because mail doesn’t go out on Sundays.
c. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday—EXCEPT national holidays.
Correct answer: c.
A “business day” is a weekday (not Saturday or Sunday), a weekday that isn’t a holiday. It’s a day when banks and government agencies are open for business. Remember, for many indies, their business is their full-time job; and many have “real” jobs in addition to their indie businesses. You wouldn’t expect to call the bank on the corner and get customer service at 10 pm on a Sunday, and you shouldn’t expect that from an indie seller either. (Though many of us probably *are* working at those odd hours, and many of us *will* respond to messages when the rest of the world is sleeping or partying, please don’t think that’s something we’re *supposed* to do. We’re a little crazy, most of us. )
Indie sellers have real-life responsibilities, families, children, pets, friends, social engagements, obligations, sometimes even part- or full-time day jobs—and they also require sleep! Please be respectful of indies’ personal time. Most indies do what they do because they love it, but they need breaks just like everyone else.
And please remember that TAT does NOT include shipping time. Depending on the service used (post office, UPS, FedEx, etc.) and where in the world you are, shipping time can vary, and that time should be taken into account when you’re estimating when your package will arrive. Which leads us into the next item . . .
Question 3: You purchase from an indie seller whose TAT is 14 business days. This means that:
a. Your package will arrive within two weeks after you place your order.
b. The seller will ship your package within 14 business days.
c. Your package will ship within 7 days; please allow another 7 days in the mail.
Correct answer: b.
Turnaround time does not include shipping! So when estimating the day your package will arrive, first count the TAT in business days (a quick look at a calendar helps immensely), and then add a reasonable time for shipping. Again, depending on the service the seller uses and the distance the package needs to travel, delivery time (AFTER TAT) can be anywhere from a couple of days for domestic orders to a couple of *months* for international orders. Sellers cannot control the time it takes for your order to arrive after it leaves their hands, so knowing what to expect can help ease your mind—and the seller’s, too! Because we stress about it as much as you do. Though we’ve found that shipping services generally are very, very reliable, and cases of packages getting simply “lost in the mail” are really quite rare.
Also, it’s very important to note that every seller is different when it comes to the way they ship their packages and the way they keep in touch. Some sellers may use a service that provides a tracking number; others do not. Some may send a notification when the item ships; others do not. When in doubt, take a look at the information on the seller’s website and/or any communications you receive. (But don’t expect to automatically receive a communication—not all sellers send them!)
And also please note that “14 days” is just an example! Some sellers’ TATs are shorter; others are considerably longer, depending on the volume of orders, the complexity of creating the item, and the seller’s personal schedule. Some sellers may periodically increase or decrease their TAT, depending on how busy they are.
A note for your protection: If your seller’s TAT is *longer* than 30 days, please be cognizant of that when placing your order. A long TAT may be reasonable for a labor-intensive handmade item (for example, a painting, a custom furniture piece or a tailored coat), but your rights and responsibilities as a buyer may be affected by unusually long TATs. For example, if you’re using PayPal and your order is not fulfilled, note that PayPal allows you to file a claim within 45 days of your order, and 20 more days to escalate the claim after that. Don’t hesitate to contact the seller if a discordant amount of time has passed. A long TAT doesn’t mean your seller is slacking off, but it’s something to consider as a consumer.
Question 4: When should I contact an indie about shipping my order?
a. When the indie needs more information to complete my order accurately (i.e., my address is incorrect or I added the wrong product to my cart).
b. When the TAT *and* a reasonable shipping time has passed, and my package hasn’t appeared.
c. If I have a question that can’t be answered on the indie’s website.
d. All of the above.
Correct answer: d. All of the above! Indies want to make sure your package has arrived safely, and they want you to be happy when it does! But please know that asking where an order is *before* the TAT has passed, or while the package is still being handled by the delivery service, won’t help it reach you any faster, and in fact takes away from the time the seller could be using to fulfill your order.
Take a look at the seller’s website before you purchase. Many indies will put their TAT right on their homepage. Can’t find it there? Look in their policies or “About” page. If you’ve received an order confirmation email, read that email—often there will be a note about TAT included in the message.
It’s especially important to note TAT before you place an order for a gift or a special occasion. Sometimes a seller will work with you to rush an order, but you should inquire about that *before* you place the order. Once you’ve placed it, it’s unfair to the seller—and to his or her other customers—to request that the order be rushed.
Question 5: What is the best way to get a hold of an indie seller with a question about my order?
a. On their Facebook page or “@” direct tweet.
b. Via a personal message on Facebook or Twitter.
c. Via email.
d. Via the method the seller specifies on their site.
Correct answer: d. This one’s tricky. Sometimes it’s hard to determine the best way. And some sellers don’t explicitly say what their preferred contact method is. A good rule to follow is, if the question is about your order specifically, it’s personal, and should be kept to a personal means of communication. Facebook pages are for the public. If you want to rave about how awesome the product is, by all means, do that on Facebook! But posting “Where’s my order” on a fan page is, frankly, horrifying for a seller. When in doubt, consider this: “If I were a seller, would I want this message just hanging out there for the public to see? Can it be misinterpreted in any way?”
Some sellers devote specific times each day for answering messages, and many consider 24 – 48 hours a reasonable time for a response. Business days factor into this as well: If you contact a seller on a Friday, it’s not unreasonable for them to get back to you on Monday.
We know that waiting for a response to a message can be haaarrrrrd, *especially* if you know darn well that indie’s online right now! Right now, as we speak! Because you SEE THEM DOING THINGS ONLINE, ARGH. But please, if you’ve already contacted the indie via one means of communication, give them a reasonable amount of time to respond before sending another message or trying a different means of communication. Again, some indies set aside different times of the day for different tasks, so even while they’re posting the latest product on Facebook, they might have a couple of emails waiting in the queue. And that’s okay!
If it’s been a good 48 business hours, though, taking it to Facebook is not unreasonable. Keep the communication respectful and friendly; it’s possible that your message may have honestly just been missed. Try a direct message first, if at all possible.
So! You’ve made it this far!
How’d you do? Did you ace it, or did you learn something new in this post? We hope you’ll keep TAT and its many nuances in mind as you go forth and shop indie. Got any other tips to help your fellow indie shoppers have an awesome experience? Please share them here!