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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tips to save on shipping costs - Don't be afraid to ask sellers about alternative options

High shipping costs are on the minds of both online buyers and sellers. Most sellers understand that shipping costs can make or break a sale. Often it is not within a seller's power to offer more than one shipping method. Other times the calculators in place by the hosting site can be cumbersome and USPS becomes the easiest choice even if not the the fastest or cheapest means.

Of course, we can only speak for ourselves, but it is our opinion that sellers in the central US have a big advantage over east and west coast sellers when it comes to shipping cost. Being on the east coast we know that the cost to ship a 2lb package to zone 8 is much more expensive than the cost of zone 1 using USPS priority.

So how can buyers and sellers alike keep shipping costs affordable? In many cases, this can be accomplished by working together. I'm sure you've all seen this before but it's true. COMMUNICATION is the key.

  1. Be flexible! Offer as many shipping methods as possible. If your venue does not support multiple calculators state the alternative shipping methods that you do accept and that you will give an estimate upon request. Provide an email link.
  2. Answers those questions with as accurate a cost as you can with the information provided. Be prompt and polite. If USPS is the only choice because of your location simply tell your potential buyers this politely. Buyers can be very understanding and the way you handle questions can be the deciding factor.
  3. Don't gouge on handling. I know, I know, it costs money and time to package properly and a modest handling charge is reasonable. Our opinion only, in most cases a $6.00 handling fee on a single 2lb item isn't reasonable. And let's face it, that type of thing happens and gives us all a bad rep!
  4. Offer flat rate shipping whenever possible, especially on heavy items. Include insurance and handling in that rate.

  1. Read the fine print and if questions are encouraged, please email and ask about alternative shipping methods, especially on heavy items. Sometimes the selling venue does not support a calculator for FedEx ground but the seller may be willing and able to use that method if asked. Be sure to include your full address in your request, not just your zip code. While an estimate can be given with just a zip, a full address is required for exact shipping cost. Our experience is that FedEx ground is less expensive and has a faster delivery time than USPS on coast to coast shipping.
  2. Please do not assume that flat rate shipping means USPS priority in a flat rate box. Often times flat rate shipping means FedEx ground or UPS ground service.
  3. Please do not assume that the shipping cost of your widget has anything to do with what you paid for your widget. While the large retailers can use the shipping = % of sale method, most of us smaller guys cannot do that. If you paid $10.00 for your 5lb widget, we can't ship it for $5.00 without absorbing the extra cost.
  4. Educate yourselves on shipping costs. We really believe that some buyers (that do not also sell) have no idea how expensive postage is on packages and truly believe that all sellers are gouging them. Go to USPS calculator and do some tests with various weights and zip codes. Compare the differences in zones. You may be surprised. Here are some examples to get you started. 2lb package from zip code 12831(NY) to 93010(CA) , cost USPS priority $8.70. Same package from 12831 to 45458(OH), cost USPS priority $5.75. That's a $2.95 difference between zone 8 and zone 1. Add just 1 ounce and the price difference is even greater, $11.95(NY to CA), $7.10(NY to OH) for 2lb 1oz. $4.85 difference! These example are for USPS Priority shipping and do not factor in that some packages go over their dimension limits.
We hope that you don't find this too negative toward buyers or sellers. Our tips are most certainly geared to coast to coast shipping because we are on the east coast. We also probably sound a little negative toward using USPS priority but we do actually love it and use it as often as possible on lighter packages. USPS is convenient, easy to use, no fuss, no muss. In fact, our mail lady is great! She has never complained about picking up our packages right at our house, we don't even have to go out in the cold. Realistically though, since they changed to zones and dimensional calculations, we cannot ask our buyers to pay so much on heavier items when other options are available. In the near future, we will explain our specific shipping methods on different venues.

Happy Holidays!

Share your shipping tips with us please. Your shipping experiences, good or bad can help educate buyers and sellers alike.

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