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April 2, 2020. Are you hesitant to sell your good food in these times or even buy food from individuals? In an effort to promote the safe exchange of food and compensation, I share below our process for delivering our Alaskan salmon to homes and to people at outdoor markets. Since 1999, I’ve been direct marketing my family’s salmon in a variety of ways, mostly by shipping it around the country. For the last seven years, we have focused on selling in Boise, Idaho, mostly to individuals with some wholesale to restaurants and stores.
The pandemic became ‘real’ for me on March 17 with the loss of our wholesale markets and the sudden bulk salmon requests from individuals. We immediately filled and delivered these orders to people’s homes; many folks had started working from home at this point. With each of these early deliveries, we learned new ways to conduct this exchange. We studied the virus for hours to further understand how to exchange salmon for money as safely as possible –and if indeed it was even a good idea. On day four, we delivered to a physician who helped tighten up our procedures (thank you Lonnie)! After a bunch of trial and hopefully not error, and learning things like the virus can potentially contaminate nonporous surfaces such as credit cards for three whole days and porous surfaces like cash and checks for one day, we do the following when delivering to homes:
- Arrange ahead: I communicate the customer’s total to them before delivering so they can be ready with payment (we prefer check as it is only one piece of paper/possible contaminant, or exact cash; we can take cards over the phone)
- Delivery: At the house, one person brings the order to the door, sets it down by the door, rings the bell if needed and steps back at least six feet
- Payment: We ask they leave payment outside the door or that they put it nearby, step back at least six feet so we can pick it up safely
- Celebration: Thanks all around!
- Clean: Use hand sanitizer right away (this is precious stuff around here)
- Clean more: At home, thoroughly wash your hands, spray cleaner or CDC-recommended bleach solution into a paper towel and wipe down everything you touched during the whole delivery process like the car door handle, steering wheel, cooler. Wash your hands again.
We do the following when selling at a market-like space:
- Preorders: Take as many preorders as possible to minimize handling and potential virus spread; email/call/tell customers their total beforehand so they can be ready with payment
- Six Feet please: At the market location, use chalk or something to mark off 6-foot lines or blocks on the ground; I make blocks to encourage people to stand in a single, long line
- Table: Set up a table or two to help with the distancing and staging of product/money. Have a hand sanitizer pump for customers and yourself
- New rules: Don’t set out products for customers to touch. If they want to look at something, you’ll have to show it from afar/at least six feet. If they want to buy something or preordered, set it on the table, step back and they can pick it up. Talk your customer through these steps. If someone isn’t complying, be assertive and stick to your safe processes
- Payment box: Cut a big slit in a small cardboard box and put it on the table so customers can put their checks or exact change in the box without touching anything; when you get home set the whole box aside for at least one day before opening
- Other payments: We bring our regular till to market and make change but ask customers to put their money into the payment box so all the potentially-contaminated paper stays together
- Credit cards: I ask customers to set their card on the table and step back so I can reach in and pick it up; I grab a gob of hand sanitizer and smother the card and my phone with it (not sure how many times a phone can handle this treatment), run the card, set it back on the table, and step back so the customer can safely pick up their card and salmon order
- Celebrate: Thanks all around!
- Sanitize: Sanitize the table with CDC-recommended spray and paper towel, throw the paper towel in your small garbage can and tell the next person to “step on up”
- Clean/sanitize: When it’s all over, wash and sanitize everything thoroughly as above
This all still feels a bit much but our customers are more accepting of it each day. I believe that as food providers we have to be vigilant with our safe practices. Tell your customers what you are doing before you do it and if someone isn’t complying/keeping you and others safe, say something. It is strange to ‘talk strongly’ with the customer who won’t take a step back or isn’t following the rules but you must speak up –let’s assume that customer will respect you later if only because you stay healthy and continue to provide him/her with your high quality food. To quickly summarize: Come up with safe practices ahead of time and talk your customers through them; stick with your safeguards; keep everything clean and sanitized.
I hope this proves useful! If you have anything to add or share feel free to contact me! If you’re looking to start marketing your own seafood, please check out my e-book below.
Have you ever wanted to sell your own catch but need help getting started? I designed the following Guide for beginning direct marketers or those wishing to expand their business. It includes worksheets, links and helpful tips. Just $30 to download.
–Patrick in AlaskaView All Testimonials
Consulting Services for Commercial Fisherman
Cynthia can meet with you one-on-one to address your specific needs for starting and growing your direct marketing business. Specific services include:
- Business planning and evaluation
- Finding markets
- Events and promotions
- Processing and shipping strategy
- Paperwork assistance
Direct Marketing Guide
If you are fairly new to direct marketing, this ‘How to’ guide will help you understand what’s involved for starting such a specialized business and decide if direct marketing is for you. The Guide’s contents include:
- What is Direct Marketing?
- Is Marketing Directly for YOU?
- Do it Legally
- Marketing: It’s a Process
- Get Your Boat Ready
–Patrick in Alaska
For questions, consultation and more information contact Cynthia at 208-995-7400 or firstname.lastname@example.org