Allen J. Hall

Materials Science & Engineering, Productivity, and Life

Quick One: = Slow (Update – not that slow)

Quick one for today.  Social shipping/retailer company ShopATron seems like a great way to sell things with minimal hastle.  Why?  Because you’re not actually selling them- little shops around the country are filling the orders for you.  There’s just one problem- today’s consumer is used to fast and smooth transactions with good and fast communcation between seller and buyer.  If that’s what you want as a consumer, it sounds like ShopATron may not be the way to get it.

To read the story about my experience and a post by a Faber-Castell representative, read on…

After not being able to find a Faber-Castell product for sale in the country (online at least), I contacted Faber-Castell for overseas retailers who spoke English. I was contaced by F-C USA, and they mentioned that I could order the item in question (quite cheaply) via their WebStore. Little did I know their WebStore is really a virtual store with absolutely nothing owned by Faber-Castell USA, but a social shopping sale-point for their retailers via ShopATron. F-C probably likes this because they can farm out the buying love to their retailers and never worry about consumer interactions on the individual level.  That’s good for them, not so good for me: I ordered the item Sunday, and it’s just now “ready for shipping”  on Friday morning!  Meaning, that it has been 1 business week since I purchased the small item (can be in a padded envelope by way of USPS), and it still hasn’t shipped. If it was available local, or through a major etailer, I would have purchased there instead. In the future, I’m going to avoid ShopATron as much as possible, except for the extremely hard to get items that are not available anywhere.

For more good detailed information about the new ShopATron virtual business model, and another purchaser with similar experiences, read here: Interesting to note that the author mentions the “stock” information via ShopATron pages is virtual also- they have little way to know which retailer has which stock on hand, and therefore getting extremely hard to find items may also be a crap-shoot. [We'll see when my items actually ship, and when they actually arrive.]

Sorry for the non-Science post. Hopefully others will find this useful also.

An update is well past due. I’m sorry it took so long to add this note ( I should have thought of a post edit earlier):

ShopATron fills a niche. It helps companies (like Faber-Castell) serve individual consumers products that they would otherwise not sell to individuals. And for this, I thank Faber-Castell for selling to individuals when they may otherwise not. So, I’m somewhat heavy hearted that my post frustrated Faber-Castell, when in reality it is not a reflection on Faber-Castell at all. Merely a comment on ShopATron itself. Given the option- which would I rather- not being able to get an item I needed at all, or being able to get an item slightly slower than the fastest shippers online? I definitely pick the latter- In fact, I’d even be purchasing if it would take a month or two to ship. The question is really a matter of when to expect shipment. I think most internet consumers are fine with waiting for something, as long as they know it may take some time. I know I certainly am willing to wait for something I really want. [And I really wanted Faber-Castell's product- it's fantastic. I'm working on a post about it (work gets in the way sometimes), with some updates with a photo of the very well used perfect pencil.]

BTW, ShopATron is not the only fellow to have the problem of disclosing when something will be shipping. One of the biggest – Amazon itself, often has serious problems determining true leave-the-door times. I once waited over half a year- yes, half a year (it was maddening) for a book that I really wanted. In the end, I had to contact the Author, who luckily had a few books left, one of which he was willing to sell me directly (thank God for kind people!). Oh, and of course I couldn’t get a single human response from Amazon regarding the book, so we cancelled the order since every 2 weeks we’d get a “will ship in 2-4 weeks” notice for a handfull of months!

So, in the end, Faber-Castell and ShopATron shipped my item within 1 week. In fact, to Faber-Castell’s credit, the item was shipped 2-day DHL, if I remember correctly. So, it took 5 days to ship, but arrived in 2 days! So, that is quite fast, and finding it was in a 2-day envelope definitely came as a surprise after hearing it shipped only 2 days ago [at the time of the writing, I thought I was in for a week's wait again]. In the future, knowing an approximate time-frame about when to worry about the shipment would be appreciated, but that’s the only frustration I can point to. [The item I bought, the perfect pencil is completely awesome- so I really appreciate being able to purchase it online.]

I hope that updates everyone on the shipping issues I had with ShopATron, the pro’s and con’s, and my final feelings about the matter. I was happy to receive the item with fair promptness, I only wish I knew when i was to expect it to arrive or at least when it was going to ship (since it was 5 days before I heard from the company once purchased). This is all in the past, however, since I carry the perfect pencil in my pocket every single day and love it to death! :) Thanks Faber-Castell for an awesome product and being able to buy it online since I couldn’t buy it locally!


  1. Posted October 2, 2008 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you for posting this blog regarding Faber-Castell, Shopatron and your online purchasing experience. As manager of Faber-Castell’s Consumer Relations department, it is always good to hear what Faber-Castell consumers experience while purchasing products from our website I would like to take this opportunity to post a reply and provide you with information that will hopefully shed some light on the ways in which our online business is conducted. In 2004, Faber-Castell USA made a variety of our products available online because we were receiving many inquiries from consumers who were not able to find the products from local retailers.

    As the manufacturer and distributor of Faber-Castell products, we are not in the business of selling direct to the public as is the case with many manufacturers. However, in an effort to help alleviate the consumer’s frustration and provide a solution for consumers to purchase online, we needed our retail partners to join us within the Shopatron system to provide this secure online service. Shopatron is a reputable company that assists manufacturers in making products available to the consumer who prefers to purchase online and/or who are unable to find products in local retail stores.

    The Shopatron system enables our retail partners the opportunity to fill the orders that we receive from our online catalog on our website Shopatron assigns the order to the retailer that is closest to the shipping address and that has the item in stock. If there aren’t any retailers that are able to fill the order, Faber-Castell will fill it. This is beneficial to the consumer as this helps to lower the percentage of back orders and ensures timely shipments as well. It also helps to build relationships between our consumers and local retailers that carry our products.

    Faber-Castell USA believes in a personal approach when providing assistance and service. As a result we have established many relationships with our consumers that we have helped along the way and continue to strive for excellence in our service practices. Shopatron sends every customer that places an order a customer satisfaction survey. We closely monitor that feedback and address any issues directly with the consumer regardless of whether or not Faber-Castell or one of our retailers filled the order. We do this because we accept full responsibility for our customers’ satisfaction both with our products and our service.

    I have reviewed your order and found that we, not one of our retailers, filled your order. The processing time and delivery time did not seem to be unusually slow. Your order was received by you within a week of you placing the order. I apologize if you found this unreasonably slow but our normal turnaround time policy is to ship within two days of receipt as ready.

    I appreciate your interest in Faber-Castell and certainly value your feedback. As manager of our Consumer Relations department, I would like to assist you if there is a problem that you encounter with our products or services at any time.


    Renée Lamb
    Faber-Castell USA, Inc.
    Consumer Relations

  2. Posted October 2, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Hi Renee,

    One thing is for sure, I believe anyone should have the right to reply to a question/comment on a blog, so your comments here are approved in full. I’m completely swamped with my work right now, but I will be replying as well very soon.

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to reply to my post, it proves that Faber-Castell cares about its customers.


    ps- I need to check when my actual order was placed, but I found that the order was not shipped for at least 4 days. In the current economy, 4 days is quite a long time before shipping a product that is in stock. I’ve been meaning to post a second blog post on my receiving the product, along with product images. Due to my tight time currently, I have been unable to do the blog post the justice it needs. I love your product, and I wanted the post to reflect that, hence the loner time required to edit and post it properly.

    pps- Thank you again for dropping in and posting. I hope to post in the next few days.

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I'm a graduate student (PhD Candidate) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I've studied and researched in two fields of Materials Science and Engineering (Polymers and Semiconductors). My interests are as diverse as my musical tastes and I usually have my hand in some crazy project during my free time.

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