Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year In Review

My favourite time of year is the week leading up to the new year.

This is when all the "year in review" shows flood the TV and internet. Why try and keep up with world news, sports and celebrities all year long when I can get a condensed version in one easy bite-size montage?

Best goals in Hockey and Soccer, worst race car crashes, top celebrity self destruction flip out stories of 2008, it all comes out this week. You have to love it, it's so convenient.

Anyway, here is one of my favourite sites . Lots of time waster clips, but these guys are actually quite humorous and inventive. They recently took over the Office Max campaign for "Getting Elfed".

Here is the Jib Jab 2008 year in review.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, I hope you see a spider web in the morning.

Check this out!



Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Today was a special day where I had the privilege of dropping off a truck load of donations our staff had collected for our Adopt-A-Family campaign. This year one of our staff had a relationship with a home that helps support teenage mothers and their new babies. The "family" we adopted was actually a home with a few moms. In the home they are taught how to be great moms and learn how to gather the skills needed to care for their new babies and cope with the mountain of responsibilities that lay ahead. Also the home helps mom learn how to run a house, budget and even build a resume.

Our staff did a great job gathering food, baby clothes, baby toys, highchairs, swings and even a few goodies for the moms like gift cards.

It was almost the delivery that didn't happen also, since we were into a full snow blizzard and even our delivery trucks were getting stuck. In the late afternoon the snow let up and we jammed everything into Sandy's Honda Van and I was able to get within a block of the house. Luckily the house mother was there to help and we were able to "git 'er done" as we say here.



Thursday, December 18, 2008

Supporting the Food Bank

It's nice we can support the local food bank with product from Costless Express during the holiday season. It makes us sure feel fortunate for what we have and what we can do to help others.

All year long, we donate product to the local food bank from drinks, coffee, snacks and even milk. If our product gets too close to expiry dates then our customers will not accept the delivery and we strive to give as long a date as possible when we deliver. So, although we manage our inventory closely there are still fluctuations in our sales patterns and product may get close to expiry. I would hate to see the product go in the trash and are proud to support such a great organization as the food bank. They do a great job distributing the product where it can be used the most.

On a side note - Funny enough, the "best before" dates on most products are there as a recommendation, and don't correlate with the actual freshness of the product. How about Coke in a can? The dates are usually 90 days from the time it is delivered to us from Coke, and we strive to give our customers about 60 days. Now, I'm no scientist, but I'm sure a can of Coke that is basically sugar water will last more than 90 days. Heck, if it will eat thru metal and clean your toilets (urban legends) then I'm sure it will last for years! Just my take :-)



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Party!

One of the best parts of Christmas for Sandy and I during the holidays is the entertaining. Today we hosted our annual staff get together at our home.

As usual we served up wave after wave of those little finger food appies everyone likes along with just about every other kind of snack, meat, cheese, crackers and dessert found at Costco. Yaaaaa the secret is out - I'm a Costcoholic! We also had a fully stocked bar that rivalled any nightclub, but this year it was barely touched, although there were plenty of designated drivers. Maybe it was that it started snowing, or just a sign of the times that booze in a work setting is becoming the exception, not the norm. I didn't mind, since I rarely drink other than wine in a restaurant. Glad to see this though.

The staff had a great time and everyone in the company really gets along well. It's nice to get staff from all our shifts together since we run the company 24 hours a day and the afternoon and evening shifts as well as the drivers don't get a lot of time to visit with the day staff. It was a real treat to have Kathie, our call center manager, bring her new grandchild along with several other staff and their children. If I did a head count, there must have been almost as many kids as adults. We always have some little presents for the kids that come to this party and it is encouraged. Next year I may just have to don the Santa suit. After all the food this year I probably won't need any padding either.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Cards

I remember seasons back when we received so many Christmas cards that we hung them up on strings thru the office. These past few years, the amount of incoming holiday cards has gone from a healthy daily stack from the mailman to just a trickle. What happened to all the cards, I thought. Doesn't anyone love us anymore?

Actually, at Costless Express we stopped doing cards a few years ago to save paper from an environmental point of view. Cards just seem such a waste, use it once and toss forever. We choose to support the food bank instead.

So, what was everyone doing to get the holiday message and spirit out to their customers, suppliers and coworkers? I asked our sales staff this question and got the answer hands down. Email cards have unequivocally taken over for the paper card.

Our sales people showed me everything from simple one liner emails to the more extreme. Here is the best I saw from a customer. They created a nice email and attached a cool game as part of the greeting. All customized and still very personal. Is is a very addictive game - think Guitar Hero but Hockey. I made it to level 10 after much wasted time. Here is a collection off Metacafe that will keep you entertained too.

Amazing how one more industry is forever changed by the internet. Millions of cards are diverted each year from landfills and that's a great this for the environment - not so good for the card business.


From: Cindy French
To: Cindy Sutter 
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2008 09:27:18 -0800
Subject: Christmas Greeting from Cindy French
Hi Cindy!
Hope you are having a wonderful snowy day today! Instead of sending out Christmas cards this year, we decided to make 60 hampers (full of fleece blankets, sweaters, socks and Christmas treats) for the homeless people on the downtown eastside who are desperate for warm clothing in this harsh and unexpected weather. We did not want to let our clients go unrecognized over the holidays however so, in light of the season, we have created our own homage to the holidays to say thank you for all your help in 2008:
Just a warning, it's very addicting! Send it around to anyone you think might enjoy it. Hope you have a safe and merry Christmas and I look forward to working with you in the New Year.

Cindy French
Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
Blow Dryer Christmas Card

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Special Dinner

Tonight was a special night for Sandy and I, as we hosted a little "Thank You" dinner for two special staff at The Salmon House in West Vancouver.

We chauffeured and then wined and dined them for the evening. The restaurant was fantastic as always, and we all participated in their Tasting Menu that paired a wine with each of 5 courses. After dinner, we sat in the lounge for coffee, and were entertained by an extremely entertaining one man piano virtuoso. It was great to say job well done in such a relaxed setting. For me, it was extra special to get some one on one time with both of them, and I felt like I got to know them both a bit better.

Chrissy and Wendy had just completed a long standing project of returning a back log of customer returns to one of our office suppliers. Over the past few years, we had accumulated over $50,000 in returns (RTV - Return to Vendor) that the supplier, under policy, would not return for one reason or another. While I was in San Diego this August for a conference, I was able to negotiate with the supplier for the return of these products, as long as we processed everything by the end of 2008.

In the office supply industry, customer returns can exceed 5-8% of total sales. It's just a part of our business where the customer gets something delivered that is possibly not what they were expecting when they shopped for it online or in the pages of a catalogue. Our industry, including Costless Express, also has a very liberal returns policy for customers. "Return in 30 days in resalable condition for a full credit." It doesn't take long to get get backed up, and since our suppliers have a 30 day returns policy also, so there are many times we are unable to return items fast enough and we take the loss. All we can do is try to resell the items ourselves on a blow out sheet. I'm sure you have seen a few of these from us recently.

It was great to free up the cash and space in our business, and all the credit goes to Chrissy and Wendy for tackling such a large project.

Thanks Girls!


Friday, December 5, 2008

A Customer Email

Received a nice email from a customer today by way of our sales department.

It's nice to know our prices are almost too low to be true! The email reads as follows:
From: James
Sent: December 5, 2008 7:04 PM
Subject: Re: Fair Trade Coffee for Offices

Thanks for sending me this. I'm hoping this week to setup a meeting with a few people from the executive and show my research. Based on what you sent me it looks like switching to Ethical Bean will only be a nominal cost to us, as it's almost the same as we currently pay for our coffee (if we buy from you that is). I'm really excited about this and based on what I've heard from you and Jeff, I feel like your company would be the best fit for us (now all I have to do is convince the rest of my company!).
I am a little curious about one thing and I hope I'm not over stepping my bounds. The cost estimate another company gave us for Ethical Bean Coffee was almost double the price you sent me for the same amount of coffee (I believe it was the same type as well). I'm not quite sure how to explain that and I think my colleagues would be interested as well.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Here Comes Keurig!

Keurig B60 - Available from Costless Express!It was like Christmas early at Costless Express, as we received our first order of KEURIG coffee machines and coffee. We had 4 pallets of machines and over 1000 cases of coffee arrive just in time for a Christmas blitz.

First, for those of you who have yet to hear about Keurig, it is a nifty one cup coffee system. I have one in my house and at the office and we all love the coffee and the convenience.

As soon as the shipment arrived, we launched the news at 10am on our website and sent 2000 emails to customers. Our special cup price of 49¢ each ($12.25 per box) is far below anything available online or in a store.

We are offering customers the choice of two machines - a small brewer for under 25 employees, and a large plumbed in brewer for over 25 employees. Each is available to our customers at no charge when they buy the coffee and supplies from Costless.

Response in the first few hours alone was crazy. Customers signed up and also wanted to purchase for their home. By 3pm when I left the office, we had commitments or sales for about a third of our machines.

Currently we have over 30 coffee and teas to choose from, and look for a few more coffee brands to arrive soon.