Weekly Store Update: 2 October
We begin the transition from summer to winter and fall cleaning is part of that. We've given everything a good dusting, had the carpets cleaned and finished rearranging everything on the shelves. Looking good! Hey, we do more than clean up well - don't miss the launching of our October game giveaway, and we have several other items to discuss too, so why not check it all out?
Welcome to our weekly newsletter! For our new readers I'm Eric, and Wendy and I run Stone Valley Games. This newsletter is our way to share both local and world-wide gaming news of interest that popped up last week. It also provides our subscribers, both local and remote, some information on the going's on around here so everyone feels like part of the action. At the bottom of this newsletter we show you the restocks, new items, and preorders added to the store last week. All in all it's not too difficult to navigate, so let's get to it!
OCTOBER BOARD GAME GIVEAWAY
Our favorite time of the year is upon us! The hot days of summer are waning, and the leaves are quickly changing colors. It's that happy place where the weather is pleasant, and the yard work is easy. At least until the leaves fall... We don't know about you, but Halloween is the highlight of our October, and in that spirit we're giving away a brand-new copy of Legends of Sleepy Hollow. What's more Halloween than that?!
In Legends of Sleepy Hollow, players take on the roles of four residents in a cooperative, miniatures-based campaign game full of secrets and twists. The players will have to work closely together to overcome their fear, unravel the mysteries of the glen, and become true Legends of Sleepy Hollow.
For your chance to win, simply CLICK HERE to go to the sign in page and check it out. Our giveaway is open to everyone in the United States. The winner will be drawn on 22 October 2022 and contacted via the email address they provide.
Don't forget to share this link with your family and friends - the more...the merrier! Thank you and Good Luck!
HERE COME THE SHIPPING RATE HIKES
Some things are eternal. Taxes, cooler Fall weather, arguments about how good Mage Knight actually is and... the United States Postal Service's end of year price hike. Known as Holiday Pricing, the USPS is raising prices across all of their domestic services. International pricing remains unchanged.
The prices take effect from 3 October 2022 until 22 January 2023. Even with these price increases though, USPS remains an amazing option for items weighing in the 5-to-6-pound range and less - especially for customers who live close to us.
Oh, while I'm thinking about USPS shipping rates, I wanted to let everyone know an internal process we don't tout anywhere on our webstore - but probably should. If a customer chooses Parcel Select when checking out, we will automatically upgrade them to Priority. The primary reason for this is, even though Parcel Select is usually the cheapest option, it also takes considerably longer to ship. In some cases, it's two to three weeks slower than Priority. We were facing dozens of unhappy customers complaining about the shipping timelines after they selected Parcel Select. We tried to explain that Parcel Select is just that much slower, but they still took it out on us.
I initially thought about eliminating Parcel Select as a shipping option, but after some back and forth just developed that internal process of automatically upgrading to Priority. It's generally only a few dollars more, and in the end the customers are generally both unaware of what we did, and happy things are moving quickly. Ever since implementing this process the complaints have dropped away completely. Happy customers, happy life.
PUTTING SOME MORE LIVE IN OUR LIVELIHOOD
Running a small store in today's environment is not easy. Well... to be fair, running it is pretty easy, keeping it profitable is where the difficulty lies. Customers have so many options available and the almost instant availability of so many games across so many platforms, it doesn't take much stumbling on our part to see customers move on. A few things popped up last week that impacted our livlihood in just that way. While we turned them around quickly, we're always unsure of just how impactful the issues really were. After all, we're fairly sure folks running into problems on our site generally just moved on.
Both of the issues revolved around the webstore backend. In order for the webstore to operate we use a few dozen different software plugins all working "harmoniously" to keep everything going. Of the many issues inherent in this setup, each of these plugins is updated on its own schedule (since so many different companies are involved and each is on their own schedule) and some updates influence or impact other plugins. It's just the way these things work.
We had an interesting situation where someone from D.C. put in an order for pickup. As we were prepping it, they wrote us back that they really need it shipped and would try again. In the meantime, I was running the store here, customers coming thru and all that. When I checked the computer again, I noted he hadn't reordered so did a few quick checks. Sure enough, for whatever reason, the District of Columbia had 'fallen out' of the available shipping locations during a recent software update. I have no idea how long it's been like that, but quicky fixed it and reached back out to the customer who then did dropped their order. Saved that one!
The second was a bit more dire. Early in the week we saw some strange PayPal codes on the backside of a few orders. I did some poking around and didn't see anything off and it seemed to clear on its own. Then, in the middle of the week about half of the PayPal orders were off. Many of them went thru, but others didn't. It was like some kind of disconnect between PayPal and our store, but with no rhyme or reason. I dug thru again, and this time saw something selected in the software options that I hadn't noticed was selected before. It's also something I know shouldn't be checked. I simply unchecked it and minutes later everything was humming along again as if nothing was ever wrong. This is also not the first time I noticed things checked or unchecked after software updates. Talk about messing with our livlihood!
Let's just say I've gotten pretty good at running thru the plugins options in a live environment and how things 'should' work. I have also gotten pretty good at troubleshooting once things aren't working properly. It's definitely not something I expected running the store, but since we do have a webstore I guess it's only normal. It's just unfortunate how disconnected all the software plugins are and how they can really throw things off. I guess 'Do No Harm' is not an IT motto. Pity.
BORED ONLINE... BOARD OFFLINE!
As we started discussing a few weeks ago, we have begun to sponsor the Board Online...Bored Offline channel. We'll start to talk about Baker and the gang's efforts here in this very newsletter and highlight the videos they are working on. Here's their logo:
I'll continue to use that logo for their section going forward. And here it is, the very first sponsored video!
(134) How to Play A Game of Thrones 2nd Edition - Part 1: Setup & Key Concepts - YouTube
It's pretty neat to see our name out there again. We're quite happy with the quality of these videos and we encourage you to check them out. Much more to come in the future!
THE NEXT FEW MONTHS
Just to keep you aware of what's going on around here, let me catch you up with the latest. October will see us closed for the middle of the month, 9 - 23 October. Well, the webstore will still be open, but the storefront will be closed. As an interesting note, when I close the storefront it also turns off the online advertising - like Google, so our presence diminishes quite a bit.
So, what's going on? I'll be off on a business trip that first week, and then we'll be heading to the ocean for the second week on our vacation followed by our wedding anniversary. We'll have a skeleton crew taking care of product influx and web orders from day-to-day while we're out, but that's about it.
November is a whole different matter. It's fair to say I treated my body as if I wouldn't make it to military retirement age. Maybe that's a bit morbid, but I can say that I didn't leave anything on the table during my military career. A bit beyond 'fair wear and tear' for sure. No one was shocked more than I that I made it through. However, things I did in my youth are quickly catching up with me. As a perfect example, I will be undergoing hip replacement surgery in late October and am told that it will be a 4-to-6-week recovery period before I'm capable again. This is problematic because our store is on the second floor and while I'll be walking with the help of a walker the same day as my hip replacement surgery, it may be some time before I can climb those stairs again.
I will keep the storefront closed until I can again climb those stairs. Like I've mentioned in previous newsletters, Wendy is our logistician, but she does not handle store operations. Even if she wanted to take that over for me, her role as Nana has become a vital aspect of our family's overall health. So, it'll most likely be a few days or so of completely closed and then the webstore opening up again once the part-time team and I are situated.
That recovery timeline also puts our next planned sale in jeopardy. We were prepping for an amazing Black Friday sale...but if I'm not ready to go we're going to angle for an end of year sale instead.
In all that down time we definitely don't want you to feel neglected. I will continue to try and push out newsletters keeping the interested up to date in my recovery. We'll also keep up with correspondence and weborders the best we can. After all, those timelines I just mentioned are hinging on my recovery speed. We appreciate everyone's attention and support and know that in the big picture this is just a blip in time. It just feels like a long blip while going thru it.
THE WRAP UP
Okay, enough news for this week! Below are the Restocks, New Items, and Preorders added to the shop last week. You can click on the item to learn more, and many of the products have review and gameplay videos so you can see the game in action. If you're visiting our page and you'd like to keep up with our giveaways, sales, new products, and articles like this one just create an account here. Once created you will be subscribed to our newsletter and become enrolled in our loyalty system, instantly earning 50 Stones that you can use on your very first order. A Stone? One Stone is equivalent to One Cent. That doesn't sound like much, but you earn 2 Stones for every dollar spent and 5 for each product review, so though it may seem small, those savings add up fast! Redeem your Stones upon checkout, and they can save you up to 10% off your cart total. Loyalty Matters!
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Any sneak peeks into Black Friday offerings? 😀
Unfortunately – no. Considering the tenuous recovery timeline, we may not be able to support that sale. So, we’ll play it by ear and see how things go. What we were planning, at least at a high level, was the minimum discount on games we’d put on sale is 30% with some even up to 90% off. We have not yet refined ‘what’ exactly will be on sale. –Eric
Your health and recovery is the #1 priority!! We will support you in whatever way we can!
Thanks so much! –Eric
Eric, just wanted to wish you a speedy recovery for your upcoming operation. You all have been a jewel of a find I appreciate you all as my FOGS (friendly online game store). And I always appreciate the personal touch with each order.
Thanks for being part of a lot of fun gaming hours I’ve had with my family
Much appreciated, thanks Dustin! –Eric