California Mailers Dodging Wildfires

As wildfires wreak havoc on California’s San Diego County, several catalogers based in the region have been prepared for the worst. But as of press time, none of the catalogers reached by Catalog Age this week had sustained damages to their operations.

Spring Valley, CA-based children’s books and educational supplies cataloger Chinaberry was prepared to evacuate its warehouse at a moment’s notice, says human resources manager Nancy Jacobson. Located just five miles from the flames, the company marked the computers and phone systems that it could get up and running in another location. On Monday, Chinaberry managers filled a rented U-Haul truck on with the most popular Christmas-related merchandise, such as ornaments and Advent calendars so that it would be able to get some orders out if the distribution center had to be evacuated.

Phone reps called customers to let them know that their deliveries might be delayed by a day. A notice was also placed on the Website with the same warning. “We had no UPS pick-up on Monday and no mail delivery,” says Jacobson, who explains that all of the surrounding freeways were closed because of the fires.

But Chinaberry’s facility was luckily spared from the flames. The cataloger’s warehouse employees worked overtime to catch up, Jacobson says, filling 2,000 orders on Tuesday. Chinaberry is still feeling the effects of the disaster, however. Jacobson estimates that about half a dozen employees had their homes damaged or destroyed.

Loma Portal, CA-based Soviet Union era-inspired products cataloger Sovietski deciding to close on Monday, says manager of customer care David Parker, but it was able to keep its phone lines open by diverting all calls to its Oregon-based off-site location. The company’s facility was not affected by the fire, Parker says, “but we’re still a little short-handed on staff. We’ve had employees with health issues because of the high amount of soot and smoke–you can’t go anywhere in San Diego without feeling and smelling the smoke.” Sovietski did not have any employees who lost homes, but Parker says many employees have taken time off to help friends and relatives who have lost homes.

Santa Barbara, CA-based travel supplies cataloger Magellan’s was not directly affected by the fire, but it is concerned about its customers in the affected areas. To aid local customers, the company has added a $69 smoke hood and a $12.85 facemask to its Website. But chief operating officer Robert Manning says Magellan’s is not trying to take advantage of a tragic situation. “We’re not really trying to leverage this thing. It’s a little bit too much of a sensitive issue.”

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