The (in)convenience of online ordering

Canada Post Final Notice

I’m often asked how to “order” a pencil or stationery item featured on my blog. Though online ordering can appear to be a great convenience, sometimes that’s not the case. We may simply be postponing our inconvenience.

The photo shows a Canada Post “Final Notice” – more on this later.

Some years ago, sending an item by courier, even to a residential address, was a serious transaction. If the address had a minor error, if you were out, if there was bad weather, it didn’t matter at all. These were the challenges that were accepted as part of the service – the reason one paid a generous surplus over postal delivery.

Today, basic courier services (used by a broad wealth of online retailers) offer almost no “service” at the final stage of delivery. Though they may charge up to $20 (US or Canadian), this includes one or zero visits to the destination, with a “notice” postcard (or similar) left. You then have to go to the outlet/office of the courier to get your item.

For anyone with a day job (possibly a good percentage of those buying online) – this can be the “inconvenience” part. Though the photo shows a Canada Post notice, I equally include Purolator, UPS, and Fedex. Getting one of these notices and being told that I have X business days to appear and claim my package at a remote, out of the way office is always inconvenient and stress inducing.

Preferable is a higher level of service, such as when I’ve ordered items from France or Malaysia, and found a DHL courier at my doorstep in the evening. (“We check if an address is residential, and if it is, try the customer in the evening.”, a courier said. That was enlightening. It should be more common, but it isn’t.)

Or – regular postal delivery – a box of pencils in the mailbox, the value of which doesn’t merit the courier surcharge.

Upfront, click and point ordering is clearly convenient, but all that has happened is that my trip outside the house has been delayed. And the trip is not to a nice local stationery shop – my visit will be to a lineup in a grim faceless suburban courier depot.

The flip side, retail purchasing at a store, has lots of merits. You can see the true colour of an item. You can explore the texture. You can feel it’s weight. If it’s something like a fountain pen, you can dip it and see if you like how it writes! You can even talk with a real fellow human being.

It may be more expensive than buying from an online vendor who has no main street commercial rent to pay, but today we often pay for convenience – and what’s more convenient than this – being able to examine an item in detail – and should it meets your needs – pay for it and walk away with it.

So anyhow, I’m hoping there will soon be a snowstorm free evening here. I just received a final notice for a waiting package.

Happy birthday pencil talk!

This is the second anniversary of this blog.

Two months ago, the web address changed. Today, that change is being consolidated with a new blog title. This aligns the blog name with the domain name, and reflects the fact that the posts about pencils have been the vast majority. (We’ll continue to discuss paper, pens, and other stationery and office items.)

A final step may be the end of forwarding from in January, 2008. An odd thing happened in September – after several months of consistently being one of the top ten results when searching for “pencils”, the blog seemed to disappear from search engines. This is despite forwarding from the old domain. My understanding of this is that multiple (or even two) domains pointing to the same content is a condition flagged by search engines as suspect.

So, please update any old bookmarks or links you may have.

Welcome to Pencil Talk!

This blog has been in a personal domain the last couple of years, but I think it is time to graduate to digs of it’s own. If all went well, all previous links should work, redirecting to the new domain.


Wrapup: New Zealand/Australia pencil month

Some thoughts about the pencils we’ve looked at this past month…

It’s great that Australia still has a pencil manufacturing plant (Staedtler). There were a number of pencil plants in Canada some years ago, but they have all since departed. Going way back, Thoreau’s pencils used Canadian graphite for a while. Today, the Pink Pearl eraser seems to be the only Canadian made pencil item I can find. Papermate sells a “Canadiana” pencil – but it’s imported.

All the branded pencils are offered by German companies – Staedtler, Faber-Castell, Stabilo. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m somehow surprised.

The Tradition 110 would easily be my choice as the best of the lot. Most of the pencils are average.

I like the idea of a series of reviews, but the average pencils were challenging to write about, so I’ll be more selective before trying this approach again.

And for anyone who has read this far – the server stats tell me the blog readership grows monthly, and it is among the top results in many Google searches – but the comments and discussion don’t reflect this. Would anyone be interested in either a mailing list or forum devoted to pencils? Another format might be better at preserving some of the accumulated knowledge and opinion, and encouraging discussion.

Announcement: August is New Zealand/Australia pencil month!

Pencils of New Zealand

It’s with great excitement that I am able to announce New Zealand/Australia pencil month here at pencil talk. Thanks to Dave at Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, I have a nice assortment of woodcase pencils from Auckland, New Zealand. None of them are generally available in North America, so this will definitely be of interest to many readers of this blog.

This is the review schedule:

August 1 Stabilo Othello 282
August 6 Stabilo Schwan 305 & 306
August 8 Generic Pencil
August 13 Staedtler Pacific
August 16 Staedtler 132
August 20 Staedtler Tradition 110
August 23 Faber-Castell Goldfaber 1222
August 29 Faber-Castell 1111