“Could you get paper buckets for the offering on Sabbath?” was the question.
“Yes” seemed like such a simple answer—and I suppose it was—but let me tell you, there was absolutely nothing simple about going from “yes” to actually having the buckets.
I knew nothing about paper buckets, so I did what I always do when I know nothing about something—I turned to Google.
“Paper Bucket Supplier in San Jose”—0 matches found.
“Bulk Paper Supplier in San Jose”—lots of matches and aside from a Central Cash and Carry, most were large paper suppliers—jackpot!
So I called a paper company that, for their sake, shall remain unnamed (I actually just can’t remember their name…) They were a bulk supplier of paper products for the San Jose area.
“Do you carry paper buckets?”
“What are paper buckets?”
What is this, a trivia question? I thought I was calling the experts here… “Um… They’re like buckets … made out of … uh… paper…”
“If I knew what a paper bucket was, I could tell you whether or not we have it.”
At that point, I was tempted to ask him to just list their entire stock over the phone and I could tell him if they carried paper buckets, but I restrained myself.
I think it’s a safe assumption that if he doesn’t know what it is, he likely doesn’t have it. So I called another company.
“Do you carry paper buckets?”
“Are you there?”
“Can I call you back?”
Perhaps I should have thought about the size before trying to place the order… So I did some research on paper bucket sizes.
When you go to someplace like Starbucks, you have 3 choices—small, medium, and large. And I had enough trouble with that (because they don’t call them ‘small, medium, and large’, but that’s another rant). As it turns out, unlike many products, paper buckets do not seem to have standard sizes (i.e. small, medium, large). They range anywhere from 8 ounces (I always called these paper cups, but what do I know…) to 180 ounces. The obvious question is “how big is an ounce?”
Is a 180-ounce paper bucket big enough? How much is 180 ounces? Maybe 180 ounces is how much the paper bucket weighs. Now I’m all for acting in faith that God will bless, but passing a 180-ounce bucket almost seems to be presumption. And how practical is that? 180 ounces is over 11 pounds …empty. What happens to the poor people at the back who have to pass it when it’s full? I guess nobody could sneak out with it…
Back to google: “180 oz paper bucket measurements”
Lots of results, and most weren’t related, but I was able to find measurements from which I concluded that the paper bucket didn’t weigh 11 pounds (it’s only 7 in. high). So I called up a paper supplier again:
“Do you carry 180-ounce paper buckets?”
“We have paper buckets—they’re about the size of KFC buckets.”
“uh… ok. How big is a KFC bucket?” I asked.
Ok, I know that sounds really dumb, but I’m a vegetarian, I’ve never been to KFC in my life. I have no idea how big a KFC bucket is…
I actually don’t remember what he said. I just remember feeling really foolish and thinking, “That’s such a dumb question.” He probably met with his coworkers at lunch where they compare stories of dumb customer questions—I have no doubt he won that day. I do remember that they had what I was looking for—FINALLY!
“But we don’t have any distributors in the San Jose area. You’ll have to order online through this website.”
“Actually, I found you through that website—I need these within a week, and I don’t trust UPS to deliver them in time.”
At this point, we both observed a moment of silence. I wasn’t about to hang up after getting this close. Eventually the rep. said, “Let me take down your number and I’ll see if I can have one of our distributors contact you.”
I didn’t hear back from them that day—I began to think they didn’t take me seriously. After all, what kind of fool doesn’t know how big a KFC bucket is? But the following day I got a call notifying me that there was, in fact, a local distributor that not only knew what paper buckets were, they had them in stock. The name was “Central Cash and Carry”—ya, the same place that showed up when I first Googled paper suppliers, and it’s only 3 blocks from the convention center…
Now I just needed to figure out how many paper buckets we’d need.
Things in evangelism aren’t always well-coordinated. Okay, maybe that’s stretching it—they’re almost never well-coordinated. I called the head of my department to get an estimate on numbers. They didn’t know, so they contacted someone else. So through a series of calls, messages, e-mails, and possibly smoke-signals at some point, I was told we’d need 2,000.
“Okay, 2000…” …2000?!”
That seemed a little off to me—especially since we’d only had 4,000 people register. 2,000 is enough for every-other person to have their very own paper bucket! This is GYC, not ASI—two college kids can’t fill a 180-ounce paper bucket with money.
Instead, I made some wild guess based upon seating configurations I’d seen at ASI and GYC previous years. 300 sounded like a reasonable number, so I called up Central Cash and Carry and asked them if they stocked 300 paper buckets.
“Could you hold them until I can pick them up next Wednesday?”
It was that simple—well, almost… The following Tuesday I arrived in San Jose. One of the first things on my list of to-dos was to get an official count of rows so I could estimate the number of buckets we’d need. It was higher than I expected—we’d need somewhere around 500. So I went to pick up the buckets. Turns out 180 ounces is awfully big. So I asked to see the next size down. It was perfect. “I need 500.”
“They’re 100 to a box.”
The guy ran out to the warehouse and got 5 boxes. The total was approximately $550. That’s about $1 per paper bucket. It seemed expensive, and the boxes seemed a bit big, but I was just glad to have paper buckets. So I paid for the buckets and loaded the boxes into the car.
When I arrived at the convention center, I unloaded the boxes at the valet parking and left them there while I parked the car. As I walked back, I found a couple of people I knew and recruited them to help move the boxes to the storage room. And just when I thought it was all done someone asked…
“Why’d you get 1,000 paper buckets?”
Sigh, the joys of evangelism. We now have enough paper buckets to cover GYC’s future growth. And if we decide to gather that faith-offering—there’s enough buckets for that too. I just know I don’t ever want to go in search of paper buckets again.