Behind the scenes: What it’s like shipping for the holidays during a pandemic year!

Pictured: Two friends help TESA Collective member Brian ship packages from his backyard on a particularly busy day, while remaining social distanced and masked!
Pictured: Two friends help TESA Collective member Brian ship packages from his backyard on a particularly busy day, while remaining social distanced and masked!

We’ve heard from some folks that they enjoy when we pull back the curtain and share some of our behind the scenes work and thinking. So, we thought we’d do that now!

Shipping during this pandemic year has been interesting, challenging, and rewarding (in no particular order, and often times multiple things at once). Black Friday and Cyber Monday were at the start of the month this year, and with the pandemic raging, the entire country saw a massive increase in online orders. And we mean massive. Typically, TESA uses a small warehouse service to fulfill our orders for us. However, we were seeing significant delays in shipping out orders that came in from December 1st – December 6th. We called up our warehouse to see what was going on, and they reported back to us that with the surge in COVID-19 and the need to protect their workers (which we 100% support), compounded by the unprecedented number of online orders coming in, unlike most years, they just couldn’t keep up this year. They told us that on Cyber Monday alone, from all of their customers combined, they received 14,000 orders they needed to ship out!

While we completely understood, we were also worried – we wanted to get our shipments to everyone who had already ordered, and we wanted to be able to continue to sell and ship for the remainder of the holiday season. So we hatched a plan with our warehouse: if they fulfilled the orders that were already in their system, we’d take on doing the rest of the shipping for the holiday season. We’d just need them to get us some inventory we didn’t already have at our office. They agreed and quickly sprung into action. And so starting on December 7th, we begun fulfilling all orders that came in ourselves.

Up until about 4 – 5 years ago, TESA had been doing all of our shipping ourselves. But by that time, our volume had started to become too high for us to continue, so we moved our fulfillment practices over to a warehouse. Therefore, jumping back into shipping for this holiday season didn’t mean starting from scratch; we just had to knock off some rust.

In many ways, doing the shipping ourselves has felt like a blast from the past – but just kind of on steroids. Yet it’s also been a nice change of pace, and we’ve enjoyed packing up and shipping out every order ourselves and seeing how our games are getting to people all around the country, and even the world. It’s also given us a new found respect for the warehouse folks who normally do this for us every day. And it’s also helped us (re-)understand how many people’s work in the shipping world can be made invisible.

When we place an order, it can feel like magic: we press a button, and then some days later a package shows up at our door. But in reality, a person is packaging up that order, a person is taking it to a distribution center, a person is sorting it, another person is loading it onto a truck, another person is taking it off the truck at the next distribution center, another person is then sorting it again, and so on and so forth until it arrives to us. This isn’t the work of robots or wizards; this is the work of an incredible amount of people. And so to them, we say: we’re thankful for everything you do. This will definitely be something we carry and remember more moving forward.

After things settle down from the holiday rush, we’re going to hand the shipping back off to our warehouse. And we’re also going to send them a gift basket to say: “hey, we see you, and we appreciate you. Thanks for everything you do for us.” We’ve been so happy that our shipping warehouse has been consistently putting their workers’ health and safety front and center, and so we were ecstatic to jump into the shipping work and offer them aid during this interesting, challenging, and rewarding time.

And also – we just want to say thank you to *you all.* We’ve heard from a lot of you this holiday season, and the kind words as well as support has meant the world to us. We’ve really got the best community!

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TESA is proud to lead the development of games, tools, and programs for social change. You can support our work while having fun: buy our games about changing the world. TESA can also work with you to build a game, program, or tool for your cause!