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A Small But Significant Milestone

A lot of things had to come together before I could start mailing my free CDs.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
mdcrawford@gmail.com

April 18, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

This afternoon I mailed the first batch of free CDs that I offer from my website. There were ten of them: six to the US, two to Germany and one each to Pakistan and the Philippines.

It shouldn't have taken me so long - some people were waiting for months for their CD - but a lot of things had to come together first:

I found that the shipping envelopes at Staples were too expensive; Working Software's old production manager recommended I buy my shipping supplies from ULine, who I must say I'm impressed with. I bought a case of self-seal bubble bags and three cases of Self-Seal Stay Flat(TM) Mailers. They delivered overnight from LA for just a few bucks.

ULine Stay-Flat Mailer

The ULine Stay-Flat Mailer Used To Ship CDs

I registered Ogg Frog as a business by publishing a fictitious business name statement, obtaining a resale license and a business license. I also got a business checking account; I now have a debit card and checks that each say "Ogg Frog" on them.


I didn't want to give out my home address so I got a Post Office box to use as the return address.

The two final hurdles were address labels and the cover letter. I wasn't sure what size label to use; I wanted to have the Ogg Frog logo on it because it looks really cool. Finally I just made one up in Illustrator to get an idea of what size would work, then picked out a pack at Frys that came close. It worked really well.

And finally late last night I wrote my cover letter. This afternoon I mailed the first batch at the Sunnyvale Post Office.

Sheet of Printed Avery 8253 Labels

My Return Address Labels

Web Application Programming - Or Not

I have an automated PHP/MySQL order form almost ready, but it's not quite done yet, so I'm accepting orders via email It seems to be working well.

Harmonized System Codes

Customs declarations from businesses need to list the Harmonized System Code for the contents. I couldn't find any for audio compact discs; I finally settled on 852490, "Other Recorded Media for Sound or Other Similarly Recorded Phenomena".

It was hard to find because I was searching for "audio" rather than "sound", and for "compact disc", which doesn't seem to have its own entry.

I was fortunate to find the free database; the Harmonized Codes are published by the World Customs Organization, which charges 180 Euros for six-month subscriptions to its database. I only wanted to use it once!

Back To My Old Ways

I rather boldly whored the link to my free CDs at Slashdot, leading an Anonymous Coward to say:

Do you WANT the Slashdot effect on your postal box?! ARE YOU INSANE?!

But I was serious - and I got fifty orders in just one day!

This One's For Jobst

Jobst asked me a while back to tell him how much my postage was, as he works for the post office in his country.

Part of my hesitation was that I didn't know how much the postage would be. And yes I could have just had the post office weigh a single pack, but I'm afraid I'm just not that organized.

The ten orders I shipped today were all the requests I got before I posted my link at Slashdot. I finally decided there weren't so many that I couldn't afford to ship them all. I brought a notebook to record the postage for each country I was shipping to. That way in the future I could budget my drops more carefully.

The packets were all either 3.7 or 3.6 ounces. I think the scale at the post office just isn't very repeatible. You'll have to convert my English units to the Metro System yourself.

I was shipping from the US. Postage to the US was $1.64. Postage to Pakistan, The Philippines and Germany was all $3.60.

I don't know the distribution of the orders I haven't shipped yet, but if they have the same distribution as the first ten, then to ship the remaining fifty should cost me about $120.

I don't know whether I'll ship all those before I get my next paycheck; I have to consult my budget.

I expect I'll put a PayPal donation button up on my page eventually. But I didn't want to hit up any of these first customers to cover the postage because they've all had to wait so long.

Labels

OpenOffice doesn't allow graphics in its Avery label printer, just text. So I print the Ogg Frog return address labels from Illustrator.

I entered all the recipient addresses in an OpenOffice database, but then didn't want to figure out how to do a mail merge, so in the end I used Illustrator for the recipient addresses too, which was a real pain. This weekend I'll figure out mail merge.

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