[2010] jumblebag.com


This is a fun story you’ll wanna read…

woot.com is known for it’s “bag of crap,” which was a mystery-surprise bag. woot.com usually sells cool stuff, but occasionally they end up with junk they cant sell – either because it’s left over, defective, a returned, or whatever. After enough of this junk pools up they do a special sell called the woot bag of crap. Usually these sell out instantly. The idea is pretty tantalizing – for just a few bucks and free shipping you can have your very own mystery bag of crap!

I was a little disappointed that I always missed out on my chance to grab one. Then I realized: these are popular. What if I made a website that only sells random bags? After a few weeks of marinating on the idea I came up with jumblebag.com. There would be three flavors:

  • Original: contains any random household item, including tools or toys!
  • Tool: contains a random tool. How practical!
  • Toy: contains some sort of random toy!

The idea was brilliant – I already was an active ebay seller, so I was used to dropping packages off in the mail. The great thing about jumblebag.com is that it was like ebay sales except I didn’t have to stock anything at all. I could literally fill the order with … whatever!

The front-facing site was pretty basic. It was just some simple PHP / JS pages with some pay-with-PayPal buttons.

However, the fun part was my private backend. I learned how to use the PayPal API and I set up a system for myself to log into and get my sales reports. Everyday the script would scrape PayPal for sales and then push them into my MySQL database. I then wrote a few php-files to read through my sales data and generate shipping labels. I went to the office supply store and got some sticker paper so as the orders came in I could just print the labels and I was good to go.

I decided to pick-up a barcode scanner from Fry’s, and I found a php-library for generating barcodes. Now I had the unique order-id printed as a barcode on the labels. I built a custom interface to help myself pack. I could scan a package after it was packed, and that would “mark it as shipped.” I leveraged a database of all my orders so I could know exactly which ones had shipped and which hadn’t. It was really cool.

I was getting a handful of orders every month, and then this happened:


After that review, I got approximately 1,600 orders over 2 days. That was a little quicker than I was ready to scale. I had about 300 items in stock to ship, and… well I shipped all 300 of those on the first day. I still needed to fill 1200 more orders. I found a super sketch warehouse in Oakland, CA that sold goods in large lots. The unit price was typically $1 or less when buying bulk, so we went there and got a bunch of cool goodies. After stocking up, my friends and I spent the new few days back-to-back doing endless packing. Luckily the barcode scanner was a life saver for keeping track of what had been packed and what needed to be packed.

The orders did slow down, but they didn’t stop. Soon we had run out of our large batch of products. It was the weekend and the warehouse was closed. We decided to tour local dollar stores and buy more stock 99 cents at a time. We also went to Fry’s and bought a bunch of higher-end items. Part of our gig was that we would occasionally send out something more expensive than the average item.

After about a week of packing we finally had all the orders packed and stuffed into giant 50 gallon trashbags. They were piled in the back of my friends pick-up and off to the store to ship.  At this point, I hadn’t really considered a drop-shipper or any kind of professional shipping method. Up to this point I was handling shipping like I did on ebay – just dropping a few orders at a time at the postal store. The look on the employees face was priceless when I came into the store with 1,500 packages to send out.

Unfortunately, there were some flaws with my master plan. First, I talked to the shipper beforehand when I was figuring out the business. I was quoted $1.5 – $2 shipping. We offered free shipping on the website, so the price of shipping was critical. As it turned out, the quote prices was only for packages thinner than 2 inches. Many, if not, most of the packages we were sending were at least 2.5-3 inches wide. This added an extra $1.5 to shipping. For this reason, I opted not to get tracking numbers on the packages – most of the profit would be gone.

The important thing was that I kept my end of the deal. On jumblebag.com the F.A.Q. stated that I would put them in the mail up-to one week after the order was placed. I was at the deadline, but I dropped them off 1 week later. Unfortunately, that’s not how people read the text. They thought they would receive the packages 1 week later. Because of the discrepancy, a handful of complaints were filed with PayPal. If you know anything about PayPal, you’ll know that they side with the buyer. I had to explain both to my customers and to PayPal that my shipping policy was to ship 1 week after the date of order, not that they would receive. It didn’t help – paypal wanted tracking numbers and would only accept tracking numbers. If you remember the shipping issue earlier: I didn’t have tracking numbers for any packages.

PayPal froze my account for 180 days and… that was JumbleBag! I updated the website to say “Sold Out” and it never came back. I occasionally got emails about people asking for it to come back. Unfortunately now I’m banned from PayPal for life. So there’s that. In the end, when considering the number of people helping me, and the time spent sorting and packing – we made about minimum wage. Totally not worth it.

I still have a copy of the front-facing website here!

Check jumblebag.com!

June 9, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Websites


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