Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Mail order

In Musings on Jul 7, 2010 at 00:01

One of the things I was totally ignorant about when starting out on the Jee Labs adventure, was the whole process of running an internet shop. The real physics and mechanics of it, not just some imagined “process”.

Of course it was clear from the outset that it would be about packaging and shipping stuff. But what does it come down to, on a day-to-day basis? Does it add much overhead? What do you need? Is it tedious / boring?

To start at the end: no, it’s actually fun! You get to give something to people. And a surprising number of names on the orders even come back once in a while, which tells me that someone, somewhere appreciated this and liked it enough to get even more JeeStuff. Which is very rewarding: I get to come up with stuff and make it, and then I get to “give” it to people all around the world (of course it’s a sale, but for me it still feels like giving).

So what happens after the obvious assembly of boards and packaging of kits, etc? Well, I pick all the required items, and put them in a padded envelope – with lots of sizes to pick from:

Dsc 1669

Little did I know about how much room all that “sealed air” takes up!

To keep shipping costs as low as possible, I try to always fit all the stuff into one envelope. In fact, I think I’ve only had to ship in a cardboard box once until now, although I do have some extra large envelopes (25x38x3 cm) for bigger workshop packages, etc. And there are limits to this type of frugal packaging, as someone pointed out:


So much for that Carrier Box. What did that postman do? Stand on it?

This is now solved by sending Carrier Boxes in slightly larger padded envelopes, btw. Apparently that gives just enough added cushioning to prevent this sort of damage.

Oh, and here’s a fun detail – check out the Jee Labs postal scale:

Dsc 1759

Seriously. That’s how each package here is weighed, to determine how much postage to apply. I can’t think of a nicer way to honor the makers of roughly a century ago. A timeless piece of engineering, with cast iron foot and all. Here’s a puzzle for you, if you haven’t seen such a postal scale before: try to figure out how it can have two ranges: 0..50 g and 0..250 g – it’s a very clever yet simple trick, as with all great inventions.

The next step is to add postage, which is now done with these state-of-the-art (ahem) digital stamps:

Dsc 1347

The convenience being that I’ve got a whole pile of them printed in advance, for each rate – instead of having to transfer up to 8 stamps.

And then it’s off to the mailbox: a 3-minute walk if I get everything done before 17:00 (5 pm), or a 10-minute walk to a more central mailbox which gets emptied at 19:00 (7 pm).

So there you have it – a peek into the Jee Labs kitchen, eh, I mean shipping department :)

  1. This puzzle is too easy, you can do better than that :-) By changing the moment (of force) the counterweight produces; in this case by varying the distance of the counterweight to the point where the force is applied

    • Heh :) – Yes, but if you’ve never seen this thing in real life, then it might not be so obvious (from just this picture) how that counterweight is actually moved…

  2. Hehe, I love the scales. In the UK any scales of that age would be using the far more fun and entertaining imperial measurements.

    As for the multi-range, very neat… I see a pivot and a stop about halfway down which looks like it lines up with a very convenient notch on the shorter part of the arm…

  3. Maybe it was that easy because of my age or my education then.. That last option is the one i prefer the most :-)

    • Ok, another puzzle (not for Robert!) – how do you zero-adjust this thing?

  4. Hmmmm… Several ideas come to mind… 1) There appears to be a levelling screw on one foot… 2) Does the whole scale quadrant pivot? Hard to see in the black bits 3) Chewing gum on the underside of the brass plate :-)

    I must stop getting distracted by odd things, I have a Jeenode SMD here which needs debugging… And I thought the soldering went so well!

    • Bingo – leveling is correct. Chewing gum could also work, but it gets messier every time :)

      Sorry to hear about the JeeSMD troubles. Feel free to email me a close-up picture. Maybe an extra pair of eyes will help…

  5. No, the postman wasn’t involved in crushing the project box. Here in the US, a small padded envelope might go through a letter machine, which could cause this damage. At 35,000 letters/hour, things can get a bit smushed quickly. The larger envelope would be pulled out automatically, and get processed on a different, slower, bigger machine with larger pathways. With the attempts to eliminate jobs, very little of the mail is touched by people…

  6. I want to Thank JCW for a graet Job. programing,service,shipping, …. everything is done very correctly. I passed the June special, but that is not the fact. JCW makes it evertime correctly, so i wish him a restorative holiday best wishes from Thomas making holiday in Fehmarn-Germany.

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