Yet Another Q&A

Oddly, there’s been another surge of questions lately that have come in often enough that I reckon I should tackle them for the benefit of everyone:

Scott Wegener has perfectly captured me at work

Scott Wegener has perfectly captured me at work

Question 1: “Holy crap, you’re Atomic Robo’s Phil!” – Vernon, Goleta, CA

Okay, that’s not a question but with the current story arc of Atomic Robo, Volume 10: The Ring of Fire, there’s been a hell of a lot of people that seem to have made the connection in their head finally. Yes, that is my ugly mug which Scott Wegener has adapted for the comic page. I also get the pleasure of bullshitting with them about science as the Science/Weirdness Consultant. This mainly consists of sending Brian Clevinger this picture all day long. I could probably set up a macro to do this, but I like the personal touch.

Question 2: “What the fuck is with the $5 shipping & handling charge? It’s bad enough I’m paying shipping without that shit. This coffee better be fucking gold!” – Mario M., Staten Island, NY

I specifically chose Mario’s version of this question because he was clearly the most irate & profane of them; the one that tempted me to just refund his money and add his email to the block list. PROTIP: abusing people while asking a question does not make them more inclined to answer your question.

The shipping and handling is the price you’re paying to get the packaging that will get your item to you in one piece and worth consuming, with a side order of my time playing shipping department. Now, you may ask “Why do I pay this again even on refills when I’m sending it back to you in the original shipper?” That is something that I realized was unfair a while back, which is why the refill discount got cranked up from 10% to 20%.

The next question is somewhat related.

Question 3“Can you sell this through Amazon or some local storefront so I don’t have to pay shipping?” – Amanda K., New York, NY

I understand the desire to pay as little as possible for the thing that isn’t the product itself and there’s a heck of a lot of people that have asked some variation on this question. The short answer is no, though if you’re lucky enough to live in a city in the US with a BBotE Ambassador there you can effectively get it without shipping costs.

The longer version is that Amazon’s supplier relations business model isn’t all that friendly to small producers and their shipping model is based on an economy of scale you have to be Amazon sized to compete with. I, thankfully, am not competing with them but they’ve trained a generation accustomed to a marketplace that provides them with their heart’s desire with one click, overnight, and no shipping costs. You’d think that all this shipping would be saving the USPS’ keister except that economy of scale bit has driven down the margins on postage to the point that it barely covers the wear and tear on the post office’s trucks. Amazon drives a hard bargain in several senses.

And, yes, BBotE has to ship at least at priority mail speeds for domestic orders. Any slower than that, and my faith in it getting to you in a timely manner is weak.

Question 4: “The postal service sucks in around here. Why can’t you ship FedEx?” – John P., State College, PA

You won’t find FedEx as shipping option because, hoo nelly, for all the people that don’t like the price of USPS priority mail you get to pay at least double for the pleasure of FedEx. You also won’t see UPS as a shipping option on the website ever as I have beef with them as a mere recipient of packages, much less trying to ship things with them.

One of those statistics I hear bandied about and I’m inclined to view with a certain level of skepticism is that 3% of packages and letters that go through USPS are lost, damaged or undeliverable. Based on my own five years of heavy shipping experience, their failure rate before implementing their tracking on priority mail was somewhere closer to .4% of my shipments. For the last year and change, my postal problems have mainly been related to people not filling out their address completely/correctly.

Now, that’s strictly domestic mail. Oz Post and I are getting along well as of late. But Parcelforce in Great Britain and Chronoforce in France, oh man, I assume UPS will find a way to merge with those firms to vanish into singularity of abhorrent customer service and incompetence. Really, I have no idea how any package successfully gets anywhere in England and consider it a minor miracle when it happens.

Question 5: “Can you teach me how to make BBotE at home for myself? I promise that this isn’t for sale or profit.” – Matt K., Menlo Park, CA

No, but I welcome you to read the original BBotE posts, glean what information you can and start experimenting. That’s been the most fun part about all of this for me and I wouldn’t want to deprive you of it. If you want my process without the years of effort that went into it for all the various different coffees, well, you’re effectively asking to buy me out of the business and that ain’t gonna come cheap. As the great sage Homer Simpson once said, “Money is exchanged for goods and services.”

Question 6: “Have you considered using your BBotE process on something else, like tea?” – Mike N., Cottonwood, AZ

I get asked this question a lot and had previously answered it here. The TL;DR version is: the pharmacopoeia of “tea” is complex and there sure are a lot different teas in the world.

That said, I did do an experiment a couple weeks back with cascara, AKA the dried coffee cherry or “Bolivian Army Coffee”, from the amusingly named Klatch Coffee just to see what I could see. I was, in short, quite impressed with the result.

The coffee cherry fruit actually has more caffeine in it than the coffee beans do, though the resulting cascara tea that you make typically only results in a drink with about quarter to half the caffeine of a comparably sized cup of coffee. I can’t really call what resulted from putting cascara through my normal processing a Black Blood of the Earth (for one thing it isn’t as dark as the tar entity for ST:TNG) but I like the result. It’s incredibly sweet to me, as if I’d added honey to it or somehow managed to make drinkable raisins with a hint of mint & cherry. Reminded me a lot of Moroccan high tea, minus an entire jar of sugar cubes. It’s quite peppy and I seem to have gotten the caffeine out of the fruit quite nicely.

I’m doing longevity tests on it now. If it works out, I may make it available now and then in the store. Still need to figure out what I’m going to call it though.