"Why would you be different?"
That's a question we got via email a few days ago, from a person who'd seen some other retail businesses in Berkeley providing service via curbside pickup. "Why can't I buy some puzzles and safely come and get them?" It's not the first time someone asked something like that, and with the shelter-in-place order now extended to late May, I figure it's a good time to address the issue.
I won't speak to the activities of other businesses, because everyone's situation is different -- financially, emotionally, societally -- but I will explain the factors that went into the decision about our current state of retail operations.
The Dispassionate Analysis
The City of Berkeley has its own Health, Housing, and Community Services Department separate from Alameda County's Public Health Department, but the entire Bay Area has been operating under very similar guidelines since March 17th, with language that is shared between them.
- All of them allow for a certain measure of home delivery for purely luxury goods (such as the games and toys we carry), from inventory that already existed at the time of the order.
- None of them mentions curbside service as an acceptable means of sales fulfillment.
- Moreover, once that existing inventory has been sold, it is not allowed to be replaced with new inventory until the order is lifted or amended.
So by those criteria, we could presumably be shipping product to customers. HOWEVER ...
The State of California uses THIS DOCUMENT as its guidelines for what kinds of organizations and employees may be working during the state's shelter-in-place period.
- Luxury retail establishments do not appear on it anywhere.
- In areas with jurisdictions that cross over, the more restrictive order is what one is supposed to follow. THE STATE'S FAQ says that, as does THE CITY OF BERKELEY'S FAQ.
So, since the State of California does not allow us to ship/deliver and the City of Berkeley does not allow curbside service, the items we're offering for sale from our own inventory will not be available until the city and state allow us to return to business.
Over the past few weeks we've requested clarification or updates from a variety of state offices, in the hope that they will let us know sooner rather than later that shipping and deliveries are allowed -- or failing that, confirm our interpretation. Thus far our requests have gone unanswered (or misinterpreted, which amounts to the same thing).
The Totally-Not-Dispassionate Conclusion
It is extremely frustrating to be sitting on a vast inventory and not be able to get any of it to you. It is extremely frustrating to not be able to put my employees to work. It is extremely frustrating to be sitting in my tiny living room six weeks later having received literally zero of the direct financial aid efforts that have been promised or that we've applied for, whether for the business or me personally. And it is extremely frustrating to see the permanent closures that many of my fellow business owners are having to face.
But for the time being, this is the situation we're in, so we're meeting it where it is while we still have the means to do so. We absolutely understand if our decision not to deliver or sell stuff now means that you're going to look for a different supplier.
As soon as we're able to expand our operations again, rest assured that we'll publicize that everywhere we think it'll do some good. Hell, I might go out into the street and scream it to my neighbors.
I hope you and yours are staying safe and healthy, and that we'll see you again soon.