What you should know
It’s so difficult to answer every question completely in an FAQ. We’ve been selling school supplies since 1991 and are entering into our 24th season so we’ve learned a lot. Yet every year we’re confronted with new issues that need answers.
Our biggest challenges over the years have been safely delivering product to a school or student’s home. Many things factor into both and we are constantly looking for new ways to provide everything undamaged.
Some products lend themselves to damage. On top of the list is Kleenex. The boxes are made for counter tops and don’t ship well. That’s followed by Ziploc bag boxes and Clorox wipes. All of these are subject to damage, regardless of where they ship.
Truck damage: While all trucking companies do their best in keeping product safe, just the jostling of the boxes on the loading docks, transferring to trucks and finally the ride over bumpy roads can cause boxes to shift and crush products below.
Home deliveries face another challenge. UPS corporate is very concerned about damaged product, however, the people in the distribution center are under time constraints to move packages and, unfortunately, some boxes get crushed as heavier items are placed on top.
So, while we will provide what the teachers are asking for, be aware that some items could come in damaged, however the tissues and Ziplocs are still usable, just the boxes are crushed. We’re happy to replace any unusable item.
Yet we’ve been told by a majority of schools that we deal with that it makes sense to take them out of the package. The packs are safer to ship and also much lighter and less expensive to ship to parent’s homes. Just let us know.
11. What is meant by “Inside Delivery”?
We’ve found a number of different scenarios that arise with inside delivery. We’ve been told by trucking companies that delivery costs are to the school. The truckers are not responsible for the actual removal of the items from the truck. This means that the school’s staff or volunteers are needed. If you have a loading dock at the school that is the same height as the truck (most loading docks are), then the school staff or volunteers need to use a pallet jack to take the pallet off the truck and bring it into the building. The school staff or volunteers would also be responsible for removing off the truck if there is no loading dock.
The trucker is responsible for taking the items off the truck and putting them inside the building if “Inside Delivery” is selected. A separate charge occurs if there is no loading dock or if the dock is too low. This charge, between $75.00 and $125.00, is for a “lift-gate” that brings the items down from the truck to street level. As all shipping companies have a limited number of trucks with lift gates, we need to know in advance or your shipment might be delayed.
Finally, another charge could be added if you want the driver to put the items in a specific place, i.e. the cafeteria (in the basement) or a specific room. At this point you will be charged for this service, the fee based on the total weight of the delivery. Many schools have volunteers to help unload the truck and want to schedule an exact time for delivery. The trucking companies work on a "window" of time for the delivery, for example: Between 9:00am and 12:00pm. Requesting and actual delivery time, like 1:30pm, is available but can cost an additional 20% of the delivery. That’s a charge that the school is responsible for. If this service is requested once the truck arrives, you will be charged for those services.
2. When will the packs be delivered to school?
We will be sending an email to you asking for information about the delivery. We ask for a “delivery window” time period. Trucking companies base their delivery on many factors, including how many deliveries they will be making that day in your area. Once again, if it’s necessary to have a specific time for delivery, the trucking company will charge up to 20% for the delivery. We would pass that cost on to you.
Otherwise, we can notify them that the school is closed after a certain time of day so that they know to deliver prior to that time. We provide your telephone number to them. Here’s how the fees work. If we ask them to schedule a delivery, you will be charged the scheduling fee. It’s important to provide us with an alternate telephone number if you cannot be reached.
3. Why doesn’t School-Pak offer discounts?
The discount structure was originally developed as an inducement to schools to purchase. We had a number of discounts we offered, from committing early, placing an order on time, taking delivery, paying by a certain date, etc. What it really meant was that our prices, as well as those of all our competitors were inflated so that we could give money back. That’s dumb.
What ended up happening was that schools were expecting a 10% discount on their bill (or commission on their sales), and ended up getting only 4% because they missed some deadline. And the companies got to keep the difference.
We’ve also found that the “discount” is used by some companies to pay the shipping costs so it really isn’t a discount.
So we decided a number of years ago to forego the discount/commission structure and offer the lowest price we could. Schools could then add whatever they wanted to the price. If they were used to a 10% commission, they could add 11% to our price and end up with just about the same “fund raising” funds.
The schools then were able to collect the full amount based on their sales and didn’t have to worry about all the contrived deadlines. It’s easier to control and ends up being more profitable to the school.
We offer the parents an upfront discount of 2% if the school commits to a two year contract. In addition, a 5% commission is earned on any extra items ordered online like backpacks and lunch bags. These commissions are paid in one of two ways:
1) a check is written to the school in September, or
2) a gift certificate is issued to the school (you can divide among individual teachers if you like) with a 25% increase. So if you have $150 coming in a check, you can opt to receive $187.50 in gift certificates.
4. How does the online ordering work?
First of all, School-Pak is experienced in online ordering, having taken online orders since 1996. We’ve worked out the kinks in the process and offer MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express and Paypal as payment options.
Parents who place an order online before mid June have two options for delivery: they can have their order combined with the other orders placed and have it delivered to school at no additional charge or they can have home delivery with an additional UPS charge. The school decides which option to offer. Of course, they can offer both.
Currently, over 95% of our schools are doing just the Coordinator Dream Program. Close to 80% of all our customers have chosen the home delivery option.
5. Why mid June for delivery to school?
There are a number of reasons. First, it becomes costly to add a single pack to a completed school once production is done. It means redoing all the weights, number of packages, reports, etc. that have already been prepared for shipment plus the reports that accompany the packs for the coordinator’s use.
Secondly, we purchase our initial stock from manufacturers in April of the year. We need to re-order by the end of June to guarantee delivery of stock by the beginning of August. We order additional items to cover late online orders but reserve the right to make substitutions on orders that are placed in August as we might not have the items in stock and they may not be available from the manufacturers.
6. Why does the price increase after mid June?
Once all the orders for school have been processed, including online orders before mid June, there are additional steps that must be done for the home deliveries. Manufacturers also have different terms for payment during the summer as opposed to the initial order and their prices change. Prices increase by 7% after free school delivery ends to help defray those costs.
We stop taking home delivery orders online on July 10th. Historically we’ve found that product is not as readily available after this date. Orders we have taken after that date in the past have caused delayed delivery to the families. That’s why we encourage coordinators to urge their families to place their orders early. And we suggest that the deadline be posted on the school website and that some parent contact is made so no one is disappointed
7. How do moms know they ordered?
A confirmation email is sent to the customer when the order is placed online. Should they decide to set up an account when ordering, they can come back into the site and login to verify their order was placed. In addition, if the school has offered the free school delivery option, School-Pak will email the parent notifying them of where and when to pick up the package. These typically go out at the end of July.
9. A new family is moving into our district. Can they still get a pack late in the summer?
We continue to make packs throughout the summer, however, we stop taking orders online on July 12th.
due to inventory and staffing issues. While the packs cannot be ordered online, a mom can call us at 262-677-2617. We’ll check our stock to see if we have everything to fill her order.
10. What if we order too many packs and want to send them back?
Our program is based on a pre-sell to the parents and does not offer a consignment program in which you can return unsold packs. All sales are final. Some schools do choose to purchase extra packs in addition to their pre-sold packs to offer them at registration day in order to accommodate new families. Since they are not returnable, we suggest that you purchase no more than 2 or 3 for each grade. You will be charged the pre-mid June price. Those packs not sold can be taken apart and the items can be sold in their school store. One school donates them to needy families.
11. When is our final payment due?
Your invoice for the extra packs is sent to you as soon as it is entered into our system and has a 30 day net term. All discounts are removed if payment has not been received in our office by Sept. 15. No exceptions, so be sure to share the commitment form with your organization. We have bills to pay to manufacturers and don’t want to borrow money and pay interest to do it.
13. Are your prices lower than the stores, like Wal-Mart and Target?
Here’s our challenge:
Go to the Wal-Mart/Target store with your list, give it to the store manager and direct him as follows:
- · Give the list to one of your employees
- · Go through the store selecting everything on the list (exact brands as listed)
- · If you don’t carry it, have your employee go to a different store to find it and bring it back
- · Double pack the glue so it doesn’t leak
- · Package all the items into a handy carrying box
- · Add two sheets of labels with the child’s name, grade and school
- · Deliver the package to the school with no extra charge
- · Don’t charge me for any of the extra service
We will refund the cost of the School-Pak and you can keep all the items.
Here are the two rules:
1. You cannot be related to the store manager nor own/manage the store
2. All the items must be exactly as on the School-Pak list. No substitutions
No one has collected since we began the company in 1991. Target recently ran a survey and found that moms spend more than 4 hours shopping for school supplies. There’s a short template at the end. What does it cost you to shop?
14. What’s your pricing like?
We’ve always believed, since our beginnings in 1991, that Q+S=P, where Quality plus Service equals price. We’ve tried to keep our prices as competitive as possible. However, we don’t want to compromise our quality or service just to come up with a low price.
These are difficult economic times for many families and there’s a lot of pressure to get the best possible value for the dollars spent. When items have to be replaced during the year due to inferior quality, it adds to the total cost of the supplies. Unfortunately, this isn’t taken into account when looking at kit prices.
A number of years ago some of our schools changed from the branded, quality products to non-branded items. Moms were upset that the school had chosen paper folders instead of the laminated folders they had received in the past. They told us, in no uncertain terms, that they expected the brand names and higher quality items from School-Pak and didn’t really think the PTA had the right to decide what was “best” for them.
All non-branded items such as crayons, markers, glue, colored pencils, tissues, etc. have been tested and evaluated for their quality and are well accepted by those schools who have selected them. However, they are not Crayola or Elmers products.
It’s difficult for PTAs, PTOs, Home and School Associations, Schools, etc to select just the right company for their kit business. There’s an underlying belief that the lowest price will serve the moms best. Yet, presuming that the lowest price is “best” for your families may be a mistake. As one parent put it, “Would they want me to pick out their house, car or wardrobe?”
It puts us in an uncomfortable position. It’s difficult to provide a program that meets the needs perceived by the PTA and still answers the real needs of the moms. We’ve always advocated for parents first.
15. How long are prices good?
You need to sign the quote pages with your approval within 30 days of receiving it. We constantly get price increases and enter those into our system. If you decide to add 1 product to the Grade 2 pack, the new quote for all the grades may change, depending upon what increases we have received from the manufacturer. But we will lock in your prices on the date you sign the quote, so it’s important to have it as complete as possible when you’re ready to go.
16. How do you handle problems?
Each School-Pak comes with a listing of what is in the kit. Our toll-free number, 866-231-9573 is at the top of the list and the parents call us direct if there is a missing item or something is damaged. Here is our direct line for you: 1-262-677-2617
17. How often does this happen?
In 2014 we packaged 1,768,468 individual items. We received calls from 122 families and had to replace 167 items, giving us an accuracy rate over 99.97%. It took us an average of 2.4 days to send out replacements. We did find that some of these products were actually manufacturing problems, but we’ll count them anyway.
18. What other kinds of problems should I be aware of?
We do everything we can to minimize production and product issues, however, delivery issues are a shared responsibility. In order to have packs delivered to home prior to the start of school, you need to tell us when that is! Our normal cut-off date for taking orders online for school delivery is June 10th or 3 weeks prior to the start of school. We can’t ship them in time if you don’t give us that information. So let us know when school starts or when your School-Pak pick-up day is. That way everyone stays happy.
There may be a “guaranteed delivery charge” should you choose a specific time for delivery. This charge can be as much as 20% extra of the shipping charge and will be charged to the school.
You should notify parents of the cut-off date through your newsletters, emails, etc.
19. What happens if I help find another school for School-Pak?
We’ll send you a check for $50.00 as soon as we receive a commitment for a school that you have referred to us. However, you need to be the one to send us the supply list so that we know it’s coming from you and not just from the school. We also need the name, phone number and email of the contact for the school.
Plus, we’ll give your school 1% of the new school’s sales for the following school year. That check comes to you in September.
20. How does the Loyalty program work?
If your school commits to using School-Pak for next year (2015-2016), we will discount next year’s prices by 2% for your parents. We’ll send you the current price and then deduct 2% so you can pass this on to your families.
21. What else should I know?
We send a form asking for delivery and billing information. We will default to our regular shipping and billing procedures if we don’t receive a response. Be sure that we have the correct information about your school and who to contact. Mistakes are costly and can be avoided with the school’s cooperation.
Many schools have opted out of providing grocery store items, such as tissues, baby wipes, hand sanitizers, etc. in the School-Paks to help control the costs. These items are usually available on any grocery store shopping trip at lower prices than we can provide. So we give you the option of offering a pack without those items. Parents can then choose the option that fits best for them. By doing this, we’re giving the final decision in the hands of the moms and dads. They can decide based on their preferences. That makes it easier for us and for you. Let us know if you want to do that.
Our goal is to work together with you, in every way possible, to insure a great experience for you, your school, your parents and School-Pak. We pride ourselves on the number of schools that have been with us for over 20 years. And we’re always pleased when a school returns to us after trying another company.
SCHOOL SUPPLY SHOPPING TRIP
HOURS __________________ (We suggest 4)
A. AAA per mile cost of car usage (includes gas, oil, insurance, etc)*.
• Small sedan — Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra and Toyota Corolla. (44.9 cents)
• Medium sedan — Chevrolet Impala, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Toyota Camry. (58.5 cents)
• Large sedan — Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon. (75.5 cents)
• SUV — Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner (75.7 cents)
• Mini-Van — Dodge Grand Caravan, Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna (63.4 cents)
Vehicle charge _________ X Miles ____________ = A _______________
B: Child Care
1. Babysitter ($10.00 per hour)
2. Child Care Center ($10.00 per hour)
3. Take Along (food, candy, etc.)
4. Family (Incalculable) B ________________
C. Average Income (per capita)
1. $13.53 per hour x hours** C ________________
GRAND TOTAL: __________________
*Report is for $3.35 per gallon. Information from AAA 2012 Report 2012 Driving Costs
** $27,067 / 2000 hours per year = $13.53 (Sperling’s Best Places)