Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
June 1, 2014

Question: The other day I reached under the counter for one of our printed logo bags for a customer’s purchase, but the box of bags was empty. I went to the back room and discovered we were all out. When I asked our two sales people, neither remembered taking the last box of bags out of the back or using the last bag. How does this happen? We spend money to advertise our store with printed bags, and it makes me crazy when we don’t have them to give to customers! Do you run out of your bags, and if not, how do you avoid it?

Answer: Even after 20-plus years in business and many “safeguards” in place to avoid this same problem, it still happens to us occasionally, too, but not nearly as often as it used to now that we have a system in place to help alleviate this problem. When we order printed boxes or bags, 10 to 20 boxes may arrive at one time. We number each box we receive “1 of 10,” “2 of 10,” and so on. Ideally, the boxes are used in that order. We also write a description of the contents on each box, such as “flat, card-size bag.” The third step is to fill out a “Low Stock” form we created with the date we received the shipment, from whom, how many we received, and the initials of the person who put them away. This slip is taped to the second-to-last box (or third to last, if that particular item takes a long time to reprint). The person who opens that box submits the yellow slip to our store manager for reordering. This system works very well, but there are still times when someone fails to turn in the yellow slip and/or unconsciously uses the last box. However, that is a much more rare occurrence since we implemented this system.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to